I recently got an invitation to enter a contest for “a year’s supply of diapers”. This invite featured a baby sitting in front of stacks and stacks of disposable diapers. The fine print specified that the winner would receive 2,500 disposable diapers. My jaw just about hit the floor when I read this number. That is a CRAZY amount of diapers.
I took this as a sign from the universe, that I should share some basics about cloth diapering. In my career(s) as a doula, preschool teacher, care provider, and Mom, I learned that lots of families have thought about using cloth diapers, but in the end they have found the process to be confusing or intimidating, or they don’t feel that they have the time to try different types or do the research.There are so many products, and if you’ve never put one on a baby, or never thought about the logistics, I can see where you might get overwhelmed and just buy the disposables. Easy. However, cloth diapering is not rocket science. And there are lots of benefits that make me feel so happy about the choice to use cloth. That’s right. I’m happy about changing diapers.
I would love to de-mystify the process and share what I’ve learned and what works for me, and hope I can answer any questions as I go. Maybe this will help you feel confident enough to give it a try. Because there is so much information and I want to present it as clearly as possible, I will be doing a series of posts addressing the ins and outs of cloth diapering. Today, I want to talk about why I made that choice in the first place.
Why choose cloth diapers for your baby?
Here is a short list of reasons that people, including me, choose cloth diapers… ok it actually isn’t a short list. There are just SO MANY great reasons:
- Cloth diapering is better for baby. Cloth diapers do not contain the chemicals found in disposable diapers. Every diaper is different, and there are some brands that are more natural or “better” than others. They are all made with chemicals. Wood pulp, bleach, dye, corn, plastics, perfume, etc. Cloth diapers are made of… well… cloth. Cotton, hemp, or synthetic fleece, you have many choices. When you pick up a baby wearing a cloth diaper, it smells like a sweet baby. Your baby won’t crinkle like when you squish a plastic and paper diaper, and it doesn’t smell like corn or perfume.
- Temperature. Although some people may consider them to be bulkier, cloth diapers actually keep baby’s bum and body slightly cooler than disposables. It makes sense when you think about it, since a disposable diaper essentially wraps your baby in a layer of insulation and plastic, as opposed to natural fibers.
- Cloth diapers are cute. They really are. Gone are the days of bulky plastic pants. Today’s diapers are trim and fitted. They come in tons of colors and prints, and there is nothing cuter than a little baby with a tush wrapped in fun fabric. And ok, I admit, there is very little that’s exciting about changing a terribly messy diaper- but choosing a new fun color at least jazzes things up a bit.
- Cloth diapers are less wasteful. Let’s talk numbers. If you cloth diaper 100% of the time, and you don’t want to do laundry every day, you might need a set of 30 cloth diapers. That will last from the newborn stage, until your child is potty trained (let’s just say that happens sometime around age 2.5 yrs… although many of us know that it can be later than that). If you use disposables 100% of the time, your child will use around 6,000 diapers in that time period. When a disposable diaper is full, it at least doubles in size. Let’s think about how much space 6,000 dirty diapers would take up. I don’t want to use up that much of our planet to store my kid’s poop and pee.
- Cloth diapers are better for the environment. Aside from the issue of disposing of those 6,000 dirty diapers- disposable diapers are created in factories. Every single diaper that is created results in some level of industrial waste. It takes water, chemicals, human labor, and excess material waste to make each diaper, as well as the packaging it comes in. This is something most people don’t think about. Industrial pollutants are terrible for our planet, and for the communities where factories are located. Even if your cloth diapers were made in a factory, they don’t contain as many chemicals and harmful components as disposables. And you are buying 20 or 30, not thousands. The carbon footprint in so much smaller.
- Cloth diapering is more economical. Yes, a set of cloth diapers is expensive to buy at first, and you have a nominal recurring cost of extra laundry. But in the long run, if you use disposable diapers on one baby for a little over two years, you spend much more buying disposables week after week than you do on a set of cloth diapers. The cost is just spread out over a longer period of time.
- Other people can buy all of your diapers for you, saving you additional time and money! I registered for cloth diapers, and I received almost a whole supply. As a result, I didn’t have to purchase very many at all. There is no way someone is going to give you 6,000 disposables. And if they did, where would you put them?
- Cloth diapers are the gift that keeps on giving. You buy one set. Your baby uses them, and one fine day, after you’ve done sticker charts and baby sign language and clapped and cheered while looking at toilets full of pee, your baby doesn’t need diapers anymore. Congratulations, they are potty trained. Now what do you do with the cloth diaper stash? Well, if you plan to have another child, or more children, you can keep using them. Instead of saving you from using 6,000 disposable diapers, your stash can be re-used. I know families who have used a set of BumGenius diapers through three children. That saved 18,000 disposable diapers! (Even if you got a good deal and those 18,000 disposable diapers cost about 30 cents each, that would be a total diaper cost of 5,400 dollars). All done having babies? Guess what…those cloth diapers are STILL going to give back to you. You can sell them. Lots of moms are really into collecting different types of cloth diapers to try, or getting more of their favorite brand. Some people even specialize in refurbishing used cloth diapers and reselling them. These people will scoop up your used stash and pay back some of your initial investment. Depending on the brand, print, and condition, you can easily sell them for 30-50% of their initial price, and you might even be able to get back 60-75% of what you paid. You can sell them on craigslist, or through a variety of facebook groups and online diaper swaps.
- You are always prepared. I will never “run out” of diapers in the middle of the night, or have to run to the store just to grab a pack of diapers. I have all the diapers I will ever need, in my house. If I am close to running out, I can wash some.
- Cloth diapering is easy. And it gets easier all of the time. In the past ten years or so, the process has been made simpler than ever before. You don’t have to use pins or fold fabric into a special shape. Putting a cloth diaper on your baby is just as simple as putting on a disposable diaper. And there are handy tools that I will get into later, that solve some of the problems people have had in the past.
Have I convinced you yet?
The Many Types of Cloth Diapers, Where to Buy, and Which Ones Work Best
The Nitty Gritty Details: How to Launder Your Diapers, Cloth Diaper Gear, and Common Issues or Problems