I learned about modern cloth diapering on the internet. My mom used cloth diapers back in the day (flats) but these days things are much different (though flats are still an option).
I have read many pro/con lists about cloth diapers. Very rarely is there much on the con list. This is not because there are no cons to cloth diapers. I suspect it is because cloth diapering mamas feel that they are constantly defending their choice to people who think cloth diapers are gross. They are reluctant to admit that there are any cons to cloth diapers lest the skeptics get an upper hand in the debate.
Here is cloth diapering from my perspective. It is long, so I will highlight the main ideas:
Cost (pro – cloth is cheaper)
While a 2 day supply of cloth diapers costs way more than a 2 day supply of disposables, said 2 day supply of cloth can be washed every other day and reused over and over and over again.
We were given some cloth diapers, and we bought some used. A lot of people gave us gifts of money for Ben’s birth, which we used to buy diapers, the only thing we really needed for him since we still have all of Nate’s baby clothes and gear. What we actually spent out of pocket was about $150.
If we were to buy all of our diapers up front, the route I’d take:
For small size:
- package deal of 12 KaWaii Baby one-size diapers: $76.99
- 4 KaWaii Baby Goodnight Heavy Wetter (also one-size): $31
And these can be used for more than one kid. "They" estimate that using disposable diapers on one kid costs about $1500.
Cuteness (pro – cloth diapers are cute, if you’re into that sort of thing)
Not that it matters, they're just a catcher for poop and pee.
Green-ness (pro – it is more environmentally friendly, not that I know anything about the environment)
Disposable diapers go into landfills. A single baby uses TONS of them.
Pee Leaks (neutral – we have less leaks at night but more during the day for Nate; same leakiness for Ben)
We started using cloth diapers at night. Nate had been overflowing his diapers every night. After some experimentation, we found a cloth solution that he rarely overflows at night. He does still have leaks during the day.
Ben has pee leaks equally in cloth and disposables. He has a knack for peeing out the front of the left leg hole and the back of the diaper at the same time. I’m not really sure how he manages those two in combination, but he does – in every kind of diaper.
Diaper rashes (neutral – no difference for Nate, no difference for Ben compared to certain brands of disposables)
Nate had his first diaper rash at 18 months, in disposables. He has had that same kind of rash in cloth as well. Ben had some blisters caused by Up & Up diapers when he was newborn, but did not have that rash in Huggies or cloth.
Most diaper rash creams will cause problems for cloth diapers. There are creams that are cloth diaper safe. Ben has not needed them so far. Nate has.
Grossness (con – cloth diapers stink and there is lots more rinsing of poop)
Many have told me that cloth diapers do not smell bad. I’m not sure at what point cloth diapers are supposed not to stink, perhaps only when they are clean. When we first started using them, I could tell (by smell) as soon as Nate peed. I had to hold my breath while loading the washing machine because the stench is so strong. Poop smell escapes from them much more strongly as well. I have adapted, though. I don’t smell them as much now.
Then, there's the poopy diapers. Before starting solids, baby poop is water soluble, and some people just through it straight into the washing machine, no rinsing. I can't do that. I rinse all of Ben's poopy diapers (as well as Nate's of course). The argument is that I'd be having to rinse poop out Ben's clothes if he were in disposables because of poop blowouts, to which I say: a) not every day (much less a few times per day) and b) not after he starts solids and his poop becomes more firm. I'll be rinsing poop out of at least one cloth diaper every day until Ben stops pooping or is potty trained.
Laundry (con – twice as many loads per week)
Each week, I wash one load of towels, one load of sheets, one load of light clothes, and one load of darks. Add to that a load of diapers on Tuesdays, another on Thursdays, and two on Sundays (three days’ worth is too much for one load). Using cloth diapers doubles the amount of laundry I do each week.
Time (con – using cloth takes more time than disposables)
Someone said that washing a load of diapers doesn’t take much more time than running out to the store to buy a box of disposables. I say, it takes a lot more time. I’m at the store at least once a week anyway and would pick up diapers while I’m there (thus it takes no extra time). Plus, I have never had to buy diapers three times in a single week. And, we always bought diapers before running out. There were never any late night trips to a 24-hour store just to buy some diapers. Even if there were, it would take far less time than doing a load of laundry, especially cloth diapers which require a pre-wash, extra rinse, and the very absorbent materials take time to dry, then pocket diapers need to be stuffed.
Bottom Line (pro – I like cloth diapers)
We did not choose to switch to cloth because of pro/con lists. My mother asked me if we were going to take cloth diapers with us to Kenya since there are no landfills there, they use more of a trash-heap-in-the-middle-of-town method of waste management.
I remembered our trip to Kenya when Nate was six months old. We often had to carry dirty diapers with us until we found somewhere to throw them away. The locals would expect us to throw them in the street. To pack lighter, we decided to buy diapers when we got to Kenya rather than take all we needed with us. I hate the Kenyan disposable diapers. They only come in two sizes, and they just aren’t very good.
Considering these two things, I suggested to Rodgers that we switch to cloth when we move to Kenya. He trusts my judgment very much and didn’t question me at all, but said that if I thought cloth would be best then that’s what we’d do.
We got a few hand-me-down diapers from some friends to give us a sample and find out what we liked. We ordered a few diapers here and there to try some other kinds. And we did start trying them. Then, I surprised myself. I started to like using cloth diapers. I like the fact that I’m not throwing away $20 x 2 every three weeks to diaper two kids with disposables. In fact, I like that so much that I don’t even use disposable wet wipes anymore. In fact, I like it so much that I’ve stopped using tampons in favor of a reusable alternative (the Diva Cup). Not to mention the fact that I had need of those our last trip to Kenya as well, but there were none to be found. Not to mention the fact that I gave it a chance and found it to be revolutionary. Throwing things away is so much more convenient than washing and reusing, but I am loving the $aving$ (see what I did there? Clever, right?) of reusables.