Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cloth Diapers are easier than Rocket Science

To preface, this post is meant to be educational, not judgmental. Rock on, disposable diaper families :O) There are bigger fish to fry in the world of parenting.
Here is a long-overdue post about my beloved cloth diapers! 2.5 years after we started, I am so in love with them, and Hubby is too. Hubby even comes back from vacations and says, "I'm so relieved we're home and get to use the cloth diapers again!" I'd like to share why we like cloth for our family!

First of all, if you don't know me personally, I spent 5+ years working for zoos, which means 2 things:
1. I try hard to practice what I preached about conservation. If I didn't use cloth diapers, it would be akin to a personal trainer who doesn't exercise or a gourmet chef who eats TV dinners. That said, not everyone needs to use cloth, and I am vigilant to state that my using cloth doesn't make me a better parent or a better person.
2. Baby poop does not bother me. Human poop is nothing compared to kinkajou poop.

So when we were waiting for our first child, cloth diapers were just what we expected to do. We vowed to give them the old college try and if for some reason they were just terrible, we would switch to disposables. Our philosophy was that any time we could use cloth, we would, but that we accepted that we'd use disposables too. Just like we carried cloth bags into the store, but if we want to use a plastic one on the rotisserie chicken - no biggie. Every little bit would help, but we wouldn't guilt ourselves for the occasional Pampers backup.

Luckily, at the time we lived on the West Coast, where cloth-diapering is fairly common. (Now here in the Midwest, people look at me changing a cloth diaper like I've either mastered cold fusion or I have lobsters sprouting from my ears, which is the reason behind this post!) It was easy to find information and compare products. It was still hard to find them in retail stores, but you could usually find a local family using a particular product and grill them about the pros and cons. We settled on one of the most economic options - a prefold diaper and a velcro wrap. I decided to do the laundry myself to get the most savings.

Some benefits:
1. Eco-friendly - despite you having to use water and electricity to wash them, disposables, besides sitting in landfills, also take water and electricity to manufacture, plus fuel to deliver them to stores, plus your fuel getting the to store for diaper runs. So I don't take the claim that they're "equal" very seriously, especially since that big study everyone always cites was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble. I think that's a big conflict of interest!
2. Cost - conservative estimates are $1500 savings for the first child and $2000 for subsequent children. There is also a good market for used cloth diapers and covers, while the prefolds will get another life as cleaning rags after the kids are potty trained. Although we love feeling like the diapers are helping the planet, the cost is the biggest treat for us and the issue I point to most often when people ask me about cloth.
3. The Nugget knows what wet feels like, which I hope will help with potty training.
4. The Nugget has never had a diaper rash, which I realize could be coincidental.

But how hard is it?? It's super easy!
1. Fold diaper and lay it in the center of the wrap.
2. Bring the wrap up and fasten it just like a disposable! It takes just a teeny bit of practice (about a week) before you learn how to get it just right on a wiggly baby. THERE ARE NO PINS REQUIRED in the modern world of cloth diapering.
3. Wet prefolds go in a waterproof laundry bag, no rinse or soak necessary.
4. Dirty dipes get a dunk in the toilet or if you're squeamish, you can buy flushable liners, then into the same bag.
5. Wash in your regular machine. Today's laundry machines are totally capable of sanitizing diapers without special settings or bleach. If you want to run separate diaper loads, you can. There are some detergents that leave a filmy substance on cloth dipes that reduces absorbency, so check with your cloth diaper supplier before you pick a detergent. Our favorite so far is Charlie's. It's economical, works great on all laundry, is HE compatible, and is fragrance-free for our eczema-prone menfolk.
6. My mom made us some wet bags we use to tote our wet dipes home when we're out. If you're not lucky enough to have a seamstress in the family, here's a cute option.

When we use disposables:
1. Anytime the Nugget sleeps - a 7th Generation for naptime and a Huggies Overnite for bedtime. He's a heavy wetter when sleeping, and cloth just can't hold him.
2. When we travel to save on luggage space and laundry. Although this latest trip, we did take our small stash of hand-me down pocket diapers and used them with the pack of disposables we'd purchased.

Cloth won't work for you if:
1. You are grossed out to the point of nausea by dirty diapers.
2. You hate laundry

If you want to give cloth a try without dropping too much money or if you've had a bad experience with one cloth brand, here's a $10 trial (technically you put down a $150 deposit first to ensure that you won't take the diapers and run, but when you return them, you get $140 back).


  1. What exactly DOES kinkajou poop compare to? Haha. Thanks for the info. We've often talked about it. But I have to agree with you. Out here in the East people look at you like you're crazy if you even mention it.

  2. Kinkajou poop is eau de rotting garbage and vomit.