As most of you know, I work part time at a fantastic little boutique in the west end of Ottawa called Belly Laughs. Or rather, I did before starting Mat Leave. I started there when L was just about to turn 1, and had my mind blown by Cloth Diapering. We had exclusively been using disposables until this point. I had lots of friends who used cloth, but it never seemed like a good fit for us. Oh, silly Heather. I had no idea what lay ahead of me.
So, as part of my training in my new job, I was sent home with a cloth week long trial package and I attended one of our free cloth diaper workshops. I was shocked at how much I liked it and how little it actually effected my laundering. I was convinced. We officially started using cloth part time shortly thereafter. Pat is (and was) still very much unconvinced, but that’s ok. Part time suited us just fine. Since then, I have been immersed in the fluffy cloth world through work and friends and love it. So, now that I’m talking about Baby M and everything we have to prepare for him, it’s only right that I talk about cloth.
I am by no means a cloth expert. I’ve only used some brands and some kinds (flats still scare me) and I’m still really a newb when you consider how many bum changes I’ve actually done. That said, I am passionate about sharing what I’ve learned, so here we go. So, let’s start with the basics.
So many people have asked me why they should bother with cloth, especially when we live in a time of many disposable choices. Many of our parents didn’t have a choice and had to use cloth, so why should we? Well, it really depends on your family. I am a strong believer in every family having it’s own needs, dynamics and solutions. While I love cloth, it doesn’t appeal to everyone and that is ok. You are no less a great parent for using sposies. At the end of the day, we are just talking about something to catch poop and pee. So, this is why I dig cloth:
- We are on an extremely tight budget. Like, reaaaaalllly tight. There are some amazing cloth options that are SO MUCH CHEAPER than disposables. There are a ton of blog posts out there that really get into this (here are two for you: The MintLife Blog and Cloth Diapering Myths), but I will say that there is a significant difference, even for those who buy no-name brands or discounted bulk boxes. Aside from the initial cost for the first year being less, you also benefit from being able to use your stash again for any future kids you have or you can sell them and get some of the money you invested back! This is huge for us, as I already have a decent stash acquired while money was better and I had a good discount at the store. You can also buy cloth used for even cheaper, so really, you can make cloth work with any budget.
- It’s better for the environment. Yes, this has been debated a bit as people point out the added cost of water and hydro to care for cloth, however when you compare that to needing hundreds of years for sposies to decompose in the trash…eep! Also, some cloth diapers, such as flats or prefolds can be repurposed as house hold cloth for cleaning, burp clothes, whatever. Then there’s the fact that you can hand them down or sell them when your done with them, rather than tossing them. Oh, and if they get damaged? They can often be repaired.
- Some people believe it is safer for babies. Now, I am no doctor. I don’t have science to back me up, but I can see where people are coming from. There is a bunch of chemicals in sposies that sit right against a baby’s body, for a year. With cloth, you have the ability to buy safe fabrics and safe detergents so you know exactly what is touching your baby.
- Some people believe it makes for easier potty learning. Because babies in cloth actually feel when they are wet, it is believed that they have an easier time transitioning to a potty than kiddos who where disposables.
So, what are some of the things people worry about with trying cloth?
-Poop. All that poop. Well, yes, it is no secret that babies and toddlers poop. A lot. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t freak me out to turn a diaper upside down over a toilet or use a scraper to get the bigger bits off before washing. I have had pets my whole life and have been picking up poop for as long as I can remember. Baby poop isn’t bad, and seriously, no matter what you put on their butt, you will be coming in contact with poop at some point (Interesting fact: Cloth Diapers actually allow for a better fit if worn properly, which lessens the risk of poopsplosion/blow outs.) Unless you are insanely lucky, poop will touch you at some point on your parenting journey. I have had friends who have had middle of the night butt explosions that splattered nursery walls (My poor BIL), friends who had to deal with poop soup in the tub, friends who have had their kiddos remove diapers during the night/nap and paint themselves and their surroundings with poop. It happens. Kids are gross. So, if poop is the only thing holding you back, it may be time to prepare yourself for the poop you will be facing, no matter what kind of diaper you choose.
-But poop! In the laundry!! Yes, there will be poop in your laundry. Here’s a secret: This will happen with or without cloth. Once again, kids are gross. Poop in clothes is going to happen. Some people throw poopy clothes away. Cloth diapers are not really a good fit for these people. For me, that was never an option. Water and soap have been cleaning poop away for as long as we have been caring about hygiene. Washing machines are designed to clean up clothes from all sorts of messes. This includes things that come from the body. If you’re really worried about it, run a super hot cycle after each diaper load just to keep things sanitized. There are also cloth diaper services where they drop off clean diapers and take away the dirty ones for you. They do all the cleaning!
-So much more work. Doesn’t have to be! There are cloth diapers out there that are as easy as disposables. All in ones, pre-stuffed pockets. Really, it’s not time consuming or hard unless you make it so. Laundry is going to happen anyway (see the above “Babies are gross” statement), so it’s really not that crazy to have to clean some diapers every few days. Cloth, like anything else, can be made as easy and quick or as difficult and time consuming as you make it. It’s really up to you.
-So many more changes! This is true. Cloth doesn’t have that snazzy gel stuff that disposables do, and they don’t sag like disposables do, so you do have to change your kid when they get wet or you run the risk of them having a rash. That said, there are fiber options out there to give you better absorbency if you have a frequent or heavy wetter to give you a bit more time between changes. In most cases, cloth diaper users still change every 2 hours or so, which is what you should be doing with disposables anyway.
-They stink! People are used to throwing away sposies in special diaper buckets that seal with special odor eating bags and get very cranky when they can still smell a dirty diaper. The reason that disposables stink so much is because they are plastic and never dry. They are little pockets of stink that stay stinky, so of course you need special methods of disposal. With cloth, even the waterproof lining still allows air in. Wet bags, which is where you put your dirty cloth, are breathable as well. Why? Because air dries everything out, which controls the stink and keeps bacteria from growing and adding to the stink. Also, because you wash your cloth every few days, you don’t have as many diapers sitting around stinking the place up, so really, it’s not stinky. For those that are still super sensitive to stink, there are products to help (sprays, deodorizers, pails, etc),
Ok, so. Clearly I am pretty biased towards cloth. I admit that. Still though, I recognize and respect that they aren’t for everyone. Some people just don’t want to deal with them. It just makes more sense to pick up a box of diapers at Costco and throw them out when they are dirty. You know what? That’s ok. I’m not here to judge you. I just want you to know that there are other options out there. Cute options. Like, really cute options. Really cheap options too. For us, that was the big thing. I hope to save our family a bunch of money by using cloth during the day. Every little bit helps, right?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and found it helpful as you consider starting your cloth diaper journey.
The rest of the Baby Basics Series: