Cloth Diapering – Pros & Cons
It all started at a hippie baby store in Indiana. On the top of a display on adorable cloth diapers there sat a basket full of disposable diapers. For the first week of a baby’s life, the basket included 50 diapers (about 7 a day). My husband took one look at that and was like, “nope.” I looked at it and thought, “wow that looks pretty easy to clean up!” You can tell who is the environmentalist in this relationship.
After some back and forth, we finally settled onto a 50/50 cloth to disposable ratio we are both happy with. Generally, for nighttime, traveling, babysitters, and going out for a full day, we use disposables. Every other scenario is a cloth diaper.
Our little guy is five months old and I feel like it took about a month to settle into this routine. We’ve had some wins and some losses, but all in all I’m happy both destroying the environment and saving it.
Here are some of the basic supplies we have on hand for cloth diapering just to give you a better idea of how we cloth diaper:
Front of diapers
Inside of diapers
Disposable liners with a super cute dispenser my husband made!
Here are the pros and cons I’ve worked out. Every mom has her own reasons for choosing the way she diapers her kids. This is just one mom’s opinion. Take it for what it’s worth!
- The Newborn Stage – For the first few weeks, there was NO WAY I was going to cloth diaper. Black tarry poops are not something I looked forward to washing. This is a pretty common reaction and why many moms don’t start cloth diapering until their babies are a week or so old.
- Seemingly Confusing – I watched a zillion youtube videos, joined a few online communities, and read tutorial after tutorial. Once I figured it out it turned out to be way simpler than I had thought (see below), but that initial stage seems like a steep learning curve.
- Nighttime – I guess there are ways to cloth diaper all night, but honestly, I don’t feel like buying a bunch of extra liners and going through the trouble of trial and error. My little guy sleeps for 8-10 hours straight with a disposable diaper SO I WILL NOT CHANGE A DAMNED THING! I’m as superstitious as a baseball player when it comes to messing with my little guy’s sleep routine. NO CHANGES WHATSOEVER.
- Frequent Changes – I find myself changing my little fella’s cloth diapers about every 1.5-2 hours. Disposables stay dry significantly longer. This gets kind of annoying for me.
- More Laundry – I wash my cloth diapers every other day. For most people, that’s a big con. I don’t mind it.
- Up Front Cost – Yes, cloth diapers cost a lot up front. We buy the Chinese knockoffs on Amazon though and are really happy with them. If you want the premium diapers they sell at Buy Buy Baby & etc., you’re going to be paying a lot more than a box of disposables.
- Out and About – I’ll be honest, disposables are WAY easier when running errands or going out for the day. Carrying around a wet bag in my diaper bag with every wet diaper weighs more and gets heavier and heavier as the day goes on (as opposed to getting lighter and lighter with disposables).
- Finding the Right System – We used pre-folds with snappies and covers at first and that almost made me chuck the whole idea altogether. Once I settled on our current system, it was much better. Unfortunately we lost some time, energy, and money in the process.
- Babysitters, Grandparents, and Daycare – Not everyone is on board with cloth diapering. Some babysitters, grandparents, and daycare facilities just give a flat “no” when it comes to cloth diapers. That’s there prerogative. My mom doesn’t really care, but swears she has too delicate of a septic system to handle all the laundry. This could be true or a polite way of saying “nope.” I don’t make my babysitters use cloth diapers because they are cleaning up enough messes with this fella.
- Getting The Right Fit – I don’t think any diapering solution is 100%, but it took longer for me to figure out the proper fit for my cloth diapers than for disposable diapers. I have leaks with both, but I find the cloth diapers can get just slightly more leaks.
- Not That Confusing – Once I got into it, my system is so simple. It’s kind of become second nature, and I don’t even think about it. I’m also getting much faster at changing his cloth diapers. I would describe cloth diapering as “so easy” at this point.
- As Long As I’m Doing Laundry – Honestly, my clothes and my son’s clothes are so much cleaner these days. I’m doing diaper laundry every other day. I’m hugely blessed that my washer and drier are right next to the nursery so it’s not a big deal to do laundry. I’ve gotten into a pattern and the laundry in my house is way more organized and tidy than it ever used to be.
- Ongoing Cost – SO. MUCH. CHEAPER. Now that we’ve settled on our pocket diapers, we are good to go. The only cost I really have is detergent, but I don’t even use that much. Plus, coupons. Our water bill is per sq ft, not by usage, so that means my water bills haven’t changed at all. If we have a tight grocery budget one week, I don’t have to worry about adding a case of diapers on that bill. For us, that means it’s pretty much free from here on out. I love that. I am cheap.
- Out and About – Ok, it’s not that bad. I prefer disposables when I’m out and about for a long time, but it’s not difficult at all. I was surprised the first time that it didn’t bother me at all.
- Finding the Right System – Once you get into whichever system you’re going to use (prefolds with covers, pocket diapers, all in ones, etc.), you’re good to go for the remainder of your baby’s diapered life.
- It’s Not Gross – This was something I was concerned about to be honest, but cloth diapering is just as gross/not gross as disposable diapers for me. So I guess it’s a wash.
- Cuteness Factor – The patterns and designs are seriously adorable. This probably doesn’t matter at all, but I really like it. We also like a brand free life for our fella, so we buy cute but brandless diapers. Who cares that there are Disney or Sesame Street designs on his diapers? I certainly don’t. My Chinese diapers make a way cuter fashion statement.
- Saving the Planet – Ok, you can probably find conflicting evidence if you’re really looking for it, but the simple fact is that I throw out way less stuff than I would with disposable diapers. Some estimates put the disposable diaper load at 18 BILLION diapers thrown into landfills a year. Wow. I feel better knowing I’m not contributing to that portion of the waste in the world. Even “hippie” brands of disposable diapers add to this number. I also am not dumping harsh ingredients into the water table with the dyes, bleaches, and treatment chemicals companies use for the manufacture of standard disposable diapers.
- Chemical Free Life – We try to at least mitigate the unsavory chemicals our son is exposed to. I did mention that we use Chinese diapers, and I’ve been to China so… we’ll see about this. But I like the idea of using cloth against my baby’s delicate skin. I also like that there are no mystery filling ingredients spilling out on my baby’s private areas (this has happened with heavily soaked disposables). I like the idea of putting cloth against his skin over hugely absorbent materials. Is that just me?
- Earlier Potty Training – Ok, this might be a myth. We haven’t gotten to potty training yet, but I’ve heard talk that the feeling of cloth diapers encourages kids to start potty training earlier. I’ll let you know!
What do you think about cloth vs. disposable? What fits into your life? What pet peeves do you have for either method? Let me know in the comments below!