Cloth Diapering: NOT a Big Deal

baby cloth diaper

While reading a(nother) parenting book recently, I came across a line that I couldn’t decide whether it made me angry or made me want to laugh.

The author said something along the lines of, “Cloth diapers are such an enormous added burden that I recommend using disposables until the child’s first birthday.”

You guys. That is just so laughably untrue.

I can personally attest that cloth diapering is not a huge deal. Seriously!

Before I had Lydia, I had already long established I would use cloth diapers. Disposables were out of the question. I just couldn’t justify the expense and the atrocious damage to the environment, especially now that there are so many easy cloth diapering options.

My family was supportive, but I could tell my Mom wasn’t so sure at first. She didn’t want me to overburden myself with work.

Her memory of cloth diapering is very different from mine, of course: she remembers the big sheets of flannel that had to be meticulously folded every day, the diaper pins and the plastic pants. I remember her having to slosh those sheets of stinky, poopy flannel around in the toilet before tossing them with a wet thump in the diaper pail. Ugh.

Remembering this, probably, she’d subtly hint every once in a while that maybe I should give disposables a chance.

You guys, I repeat: cloth diapering today is not the way it was for your mom.

But a lot of people still assume it’s too much work. A friend of mine recently laughed and said, “I’m too lazy for cloth diapers.” But the good news is: I’m pretty lazy, too! And it’s still not a big deal.

I thought I’d walk you through my cloth diapering cycle, to help you see how simple it really is.

Actually, I’ll cover that in my next post; first, I wanted to briefly explain why I find that cloth diapering is really not that big a deal.

 The Hardest Part: Choosing!

Just a few of the options: Prefold-and-Cover; All-in-One; Fitted

By far, the hardest part of cloth diapering today is deciding what system to choose. The dizzying plethora of options can be downright debilitating.

Just surveying all the various choices was almost enough to make me want to give up before I even started. Do you want to go with fitteds, pockets, prefolds, or all-in-ones? Sized or one-size? Snap or Velcro? New or used . . . or even homemade? Do you buy from a brick-and-mortar store, or online? Some people have diaper services available to consider, too.

Once you’ve decided those things, you have to choose the material – cotton, organic cotton, or hemp? What about prints? What brands are the best? Do you want to add disposable liners or inserts to make cleanup easier?

Goodness! It is OVERWHELMING.

But please, don’t let that stop you. If you want, just start with a small batch to get you started, until you’ve figured out what you like best.

I have a couple of initial tips, when it comes to choosing diapering systems:

  • Don’t go with cheap-o department store brands (available at places like Wal-Mart, Sears, or Babies-R-Us). They’ll leak, they won’t last, and they’re poorly designed. Just don’t. Trust me.
  • Cloth diaperers invariably LOVE talking about cloth diapers. So if you know someone who uses them — even if you barely know them — talk to them about it. Ask for their advice. They’ll love it. You might not be able to get them to shut up.
  • If you’re doing E.C., you probably want the least absorbent diaper, so you can feel the wetness and change your baby’s diaper right away. I know this goes against common wisdom. (Prefolds are good for this, BTW.)

Why Cloth Diapering is Not a Big Deal

Okay, a lot of people don’t know this, so I want to spread the word: for the first six months, while your baby eats nothing but breast milk, cloth diapering is a cinch. Here’s why:

The urine of breast-fed babies is odourless. The poop has a bit of a smell, but it’s not offensive. And the best part? The poop of breast-fed babies is completely water soluble, meaning you can just toss the dirty diaper into the diaper pail as is. This takes no more effort than a disposable diaper. Later, you dump the whole pail into the washing machine without any special treatment. Done and done.

(The runny, yellow poop of breast-fed babies does tend to stain quite a bit; but just because a diaper is stained, doesn’t mean it’s not clean. No one’s going to see the inside of your baby’s diaper. Don’t worry about it. You can bleach them in the sun when your baby has outgrown them, and periodically in between, if you want.)

After you introduce solids (at around 6 months), the poop needs to be removed before washingStill no big deal (mostly). Sure, it’s stinky now. But it can usually just be plopped into the toilet and flushed. (Technically, you’re supposed to do this with disposables, too. It’s pretty sad to wrap up that totally biodegradable waste in non-biodegradable wrapping, to go sit in a landfill for a few millennia). If you need a little extra oomph to get it off, you can easily install a diaper sprayer onto the side of your toilet (more on this in my next post). But you don’t even need that for the first 6 months or so.

Diaper sprayer. Holiday toilet. Boo-ya.

And if you practice part-time elimination communication, as we do, you will have to deal with very few poopy diapers. Except during her newborn stage, I have probably had to deal with, on average, one to four poopy diapers a month.

I also want to highlight the fact that blowouts are a lot less common with cloth diapers. Anyone I’ve talked to who uses cloth diapers can attest to that. You know how everyone has a story about how their baby blew poop all the way up to their necks? Yeah. That has never happened to me. The TWO times Lydia got poop on her clothes, I was using a disposable diaper.

And finally: diapering is diapering. One is not grosser than the other. Either way, you’re dealing with poop. But I must add that I find cloth diapering decidedly less smelly than disposables. They get washed every other day (instead of sitting in a garbage can for a week), and there are no plastics or chemicals or weird scents involved (IMO, disposable wipes = the ultimate stink).

Want to know our family’s super-simple diapering system? Stay tuned!

This post ended up being uber-long, so I decided to give you the details of my diapering system in a separate post (coming tomorrow).

Also, in case you weren’t already convinced that cloth diapers are a better choice in terms of cost, environmental impact, and your baby’s health, check out this post: Why Cloth?

I also really appreciated this FAQ page from our local cloth diaper store, Sweetheart Diapers.

Any thoughts or questions? Are you a cloth-diapering queen, and want to add your own suggestions for choosing a diapering system?

(Note: this post was included in Your Green Resource at SortaCrunchy.)

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  1. For someone who is childless, this post was really informative! I am honestly very out of touch with anything baby-related.

    To whiten whites naturally I’ve used Borax in the past with good success (if that’s an issue.) It also makes for a great floor cleaner provided you don’t have pets.

  2. I love my CD’s (my husband doesn’t as much, so we do keep disposables around). I’m not sure what’s a “department store brand”, but we’ve had good luck with all the ones we’ve tried except one. However I’ve fallen in love with simple cotton (not too absorbent) fitted diapers with covers – they have to be changed a little more often, but I think that’s good and they’re less bulky than the all in ones/all in twos or flip type stuffers. My bumgenius all-in-one have been good too, but I just picked up another stack of basic white cotton fitteds at our local kids resale store so that I now have a complete newborn thru toddler set ready for number #2 (or maybe 3, etc.)

    One warning they should come with – Cloth diapers make you want to have more babies!
    Molly recently posted..How to Have a Simpler Holiday Season {Without Being a Wizard}My Profile

  3. YES! I didn’t cloth diaper with my first two. I was way too freaked out by it. When I got pregnant with my third I knew I wanted to do it. The information out there was overwhelming–so many options/opinions. So I just jumped in head first, bought a few to give it a try and I haven’t looked back. I have joyfully been cloth diapering for 16 months and have loved (seriously) every minute of it. I have converted two friends in the last year! So that is at the minimum three babies worth of disposables not in the landfill. YAY!
    Jamie recently posted..Friday FavoritesMy Profile

  4. Ha, and boy will they talk your ear off! I loved that line :)
    And while I tend to think maybe each child is different in terms of blowouts, I completely agree that they have happened less to me with our cloth diapers compared to what friends and family have talked about! AND I think disposables smell worse too! Like, an unnatural, rotten, soggy food/poop smell that differs from the cloth diaper smell (which has its own distinct scent).
    I do wish someone would have been real with me about what it takes to wash them though. Oh wait, they did and I was just so excited to cloth diaper that I didn’t care. Luckily, I would have done it all anyway and despite some initial washing difficulties in our hard water we have clean diapers on the regular now!
    Alison recently posted..Letters to my unbornMy Profile

  5. I totally love CD too. I think CD is easier and less time consuming than disposables. I never have to run to the store because I’m out of diapers. Just dump them in the wash and go about my day. No biggie. No giant trash bags to continually take out or keep the cats away from (a friend threw out a disposable in our trash and the cats would not leave it alone until we took it out). CD, especially homemade like ours, are waaaaaay cheaper than disposables. Love it! And yes, we will talk your ear off if asked about CD! :D. Great post. I look forward to part two. I’m always interested in the CD solution other people have found.
    Michele recently posted..Motherhood Reality – Life In GeneralMy Profile

  6. Yes! Admittedly we’ve only been CDing for two weeks, so perhaps I’m in the honeymoon stage, but I LOVE using the cloth diapers. Seriously, it’s fun and makes me a little happy every time I change a diaper (I mean, it’s still a grody chore, but the warm fuzzies I have about using cloth makes it better ^_^).

    We used disposables the first week or so because you have to keep the circumcision wound vaselined and vaseline doesn’t play well with cloth. But seeing how quickly we went through the diapers people had given us in just one week, I am so so glad to have switched to cloth! I think the disposables smell worse, too.

    So far we have a few pockets and a bunch of prefolds and covers, which so far are my favorites. I’ll admit I’m not looking forward to the non-EBF poop, but for now it’s so easy it’s ridiculous. The DDH is totally on board and has no problem changing even the prefolds and covers–if it had turned out that cloth was really that much more work on the changing front (admittedly I do all the laundering of them), he would have refused to use them. So yay!

  7. I am also childless but intending to start trying to have children in the near future, so I found this post very informative! I was wondering, is a diaper rash less likely to develop using cloth diapers vs disposables? I’m a newbie to baby information :) Thanks!

    • Hi Chrissy! Thanks for stopping by! According to this article, diaper rash is indeed less likely to develop in cloth diapers.

    • We started using Cloth Diapers about 50-60% of the time (part-time daycare doesn’t use them) and immediately saw huge decrease in diaper rash just using them part time. Even though we changed him in disposables on a very regular schedule (no trying to stretch on the diaper to it’s max capacity) he was still getting rash on a regular basis. Since March (when we start CD part time) we’ve only had minor occurrences of rash (a little redness and usually not enough to merit a cream) and usually occurring during times when he wears disposables more than cloth.

      My cure for rash isn’t cream anymore it’s more time in cloth!
      Molly recently posted..Meaningful and MemorableMy Profile

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