Milk or Cereal? Cloth Diapers Then vs Now

During my time in the “cloth diaper industry” I’ve been witness to an explosion in new brands, new styles, new prints, new everything!  I came onto the scene just as this explosion was happening and things have only grown from there (something I can’t take any credit for).  I’ve often wondered if this growth and the limitless options parents face today has been a good thing or if it makes it harder.  Explaining the different types of diapers to my sister who just gave birth a few days ago I again realized how confusing it really is to a brand new cloth diapering parent.

It’s kind of like Milk or Cereal…

In the earliest days of cloth diapering up to about the 1990’s there were very few choices.  Looking at your milk section you can find just a handful of options- Whole Milk, 2%, 1%, Skim.  And in those “styles” of milk you only get to choose from 2-3 brands.  Do you want the organic or the generic?  Hmmm… it doesn’t take very long for you to make that choice and usually you know already what you want before you get there.

Milk by Teakwood on Flickr
Milk by Teakwood on Flickr, cc

Similarly before the renaissance of modern cloth diapers you had one option- flats.  Later prefolds came into the mix.  As for covers you either went without, used wool soakers, or sparingly used a boater or rubber pants but only for special outfits or car rides.  If you went to a larger store/catalogue you may even get to choose the brand, otherwise you just have the one option or you make you own if you’re handy.  Having fewer options made diapering simple though I’m sure parents then were hopeful that there would be an easier and more convenient way.

1915 baby layette catalogue
W&H . Walker Co. 1915 catalogue

The milk era is gone… now we are in the “cereal” era.  Today at any grocery or convenience store you will enter the cereal aisle thinking “I just need one box…” and wind up standing there for 10 minutes making a decision.  Even ss an adult I wind up weighing my choices based on the cost, any sales they may be having, what I think is best for me, or maybe that day I’m really going to ignore the sugar and go right for the good stuff even it costs twice as much as other options.

Cereal Aisle byFlickr User Jeepers Media, cc
Cereal Aisle byFlickr User Jeepers Media, cc

Online or shopping in store for cloth diapers today is the same way.  You know what the diapers DO- they catch pee and poop.  Just like you know cereal will stop your hunger.  But the variety, the choices, the range of prices… why is one diaper $5 and another that looks the same $35?  Is it just the “name brand” like the $5 “Lucky Charms” and the $2.50 “Marshmallow Stars?”  You can shop the bottom row for the “good for you” cereals… with cloth diapers you can also shop the bottom “healthy” row of organic prefolds that are cheap and work great but lack the pizazz of the higher up items.

Shelves of cloth diapers at Diaper Junction
Shelves of cloth diapers at Diaper Junction

 

Keep looking higher and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with even more options- there are so many styles of diapers that you aren’t even sure how one simple item could have so many different names.  Yes- they all do the same thing but how they go about it is slightly different depending on the brand you choose.  And the colors!  One glace at a well stocked diaper store and you are struck by how many colors and designs diapers come in now.  Even if you know the style or brand you want, how can you possibly pick a color?  You kind of want to try one of each.

So… with all of these choices do parents have it better or worse than their grandparents did?  I think that depends on who you ask.

Would you rather choose diapers from a milk-sized selection or cereal-sized selection?

  • Amanda Hearn

    Babies come in so many shapes and sizes that I think the cereal selection is good, but I do worry that it makes it all a bit too overwhelming for some people to make the switch to cloth. Learning about washing, rash creams, night diapers, and styles can be a lot to take in. Throw in dozens of brands (some with their own diaper styles) and I think it can just make it a bit too much.

    “A confused mind says no.”

    Thankfully there are great websites like yours, and stores with educated staff, where people can learn more about specific options in a way that makes sense, breaks it all down, and may help them decide if it will work for their baby. It is still a lot to take in, but it’s not as overwhelming as standing in a store aisle and being clueless.