Cloth Diapers

I always knew I would use cloth diapers on my baby.  My parents and most of my extended family had, so I was used to the idea and saw it as a sensible choice financially and environmentally.  Also, I had babysat for disposable-diapered babies and found their diapers hard to tolerate aesthetically; they just feel so fake and crinkly, not something I’d want wrapped around my body!  When I tried cloth menstrual pads and found out how much more comfortable they are than the plastic kind, I was even more convinced both that I wanted my baby in cloth and that I could tolerate the extra work involved.

However, before I became a parent, I couldn’t mention cloth diapers without a lot of people leaping to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  I’d never cared for a baby long-term or washed diapers myself, so I couldn’t possibly know how unbearably disgusting they are and how very necessary it is to wrap them in plastic and put them in landfills.  It was true, I had never cloth-diapered my own child.

Okay, now I have.  Nicholas wore cloth diapers for two years and eight months before he was toilet-trained.  I know what I’m talking about now, and I don’t ever want to hear “disposables are just so much more convenient” ever again from anyone who has never tried cloth!

When you use cloth diapers:

  • You never have to run out to the store for more diapers.
  • Your baby is less likely to spring a leak that requires changing his entire outfit.
  • You have much less trash to haul out to the curb.
  • The odor of your baby and your home is normal, instead of a blend of poop and chemical fragrances.
  • Your child can feel when she’s wet and may toilet-train earlier as a result.
  • You have more money to spend on things that really are convenient!

The other thing I never want to hear again is that I’m some kind of saint or “brave, brave woman” for having used cloth.  I mean, I’m glad people think so highly of me, but for pity’s sake, we’re talking about just two extra loads of laundry per week! The part where I had to deal with my child’s waste more than a disposable-diapering parent would (putting the used diapers into the washing machine) lasted about 30 seconds per load.  One whole minute per week of handling poopy stuff!  OH THE HORROR!!!!!

We did use disposables a few times (two packages over two-and-a-half years) so I have some basis for comparison.  We bought the Seventh Generation disposables, but there were a couple of times when Nicholas ran out of diapers at childcare and was sent home in a typical, chlorine-bleached, fragranced disposable.. .and suddenly we understood why most modern parents think used diapers smell so bad!  The stench created by urine mixing with those chemicals was astonishing!  We had to find a way to take out the trash immediately, whereas our cloth diapers were able to sit in a bin with a simple non-sealing lid without offending us, except in extremely hot weather or during digestive illness.

Another thing many parents seem to take for granted is diaper “blowouts”–sudden disasters when a young baby poops.  We often hear giggling, eye-rolling stories about how parents had to change baby’s outfit and their own, give baby a complete bath, and get the sofa steam-cleaned.  Nicholas never had a blowout.  Never.  He’s loved beans and fruits since he first started eating solids, and he certainly produced some messy stuff, but he wore real diapers with adequate containment abilities! Sometimes stuff got out of the diaper, but at least it stayed inside the diaper cover.  His only notable leaks were caused by “user failure”, i.e. a sleepy parent forgetting to tuck the edges of the diaper into the diaper cover or snapping his bodysuit over the diaper before pulling up the diaper cover!

Another phenomenon I hear parents taking for granted is toddlers wetting the bed while wearing a diaper because a disposable can’t hold as much as their bladder. With cloth diapers, you simply add extra layers for overnight. It’s a far superior system!

I think disposable diapers are a big, big scam.  I don’t mean any personal offense to those who use them.  Just, please, think about it.  Give cloth diapers a try!  Read more about their many advantages (and the many problems of disposables) at Mothering Magazine and The Diaper Hyena and Born to Love. Read all the details of our method here.

Now that Nicholas is toilet-trained, I actually miss washing the diapers.  In theory, the loss of that chore gives me a little more free time (not that I’ve noticed), but I’ve also lost the pleasant moment when I’d go down to the basement and open the machine and, like magic, it was full of clean diapers! They are so cute and feel like clothing, not like biohazard containment devices.  Laundering diapers was just part of taking care of my baby, something I miss now that he’s growing up.

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About 'Becca
author of The Earthling's Handbook, about the environment, parenting, cooking, and more!

27 Responses to Cloth Diapers

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  15. Meg says:

    Ok, I’ve heard the same things about cloth diapers that you mentioned, which of course is the reason I haven’t used them. After reading this I think I’ll give it a shot. I really hate the chemicals in diapers and I’ve always felt guilty about using them not to mention the cost. Thanks for this!

    • Figo says:

      I use both cloth and disposable. Cloth when we’re at home, disposable for over night and when we are out/travelling. I decided to use cloth for my first because it’s cheaper and diapers sitting in a landfill for (potentially) hundreds of years kills me. Yes, cloth uses a lot of hot water, but I feel it isn’t a significant as the landfill issue.I put all the waste down the toilet, whether it is in a cloth or disposable, and that is the yukiest part, so throwing them in the laundry isn’t a big deal. The cloth ones I use are the flat ones with liners and covers and I’ve been very happy with them for both my little ones.When I go back to work we will undoubtedly use disposable most of the time, but at least I know I did a little something to help.

      • 'Becca says:

        Using cloth for any amount of time does help, and I can understand that you might not have time for the extra laundry once you go back to work…but I did not find it all that difficult to keep up with the laundry or to find childcare that would use cloth diapers on my baby. Details are in the article about our diapering system.

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