The Neverending Story of Diapers

Little Miss is napping, the builders are busy next door, and I’m stealing a few moments to write….for the first time in weeks!

I’m a cloth diaper kid. My mother used a diaper service when we kids were tiny and we lived in the big city. She continued cloth diapering even when we moved to the country and no longer had access to a diaper service. Mom claims she didn’t feel comfortable putting us kids in disposables back in the 80s. When I was pregnant with Little Miss I decided cloth diapering was the way to go purely for financial reasons. I do use disposable diapers at night (Little Miss is a heavy wetter at night) and when we go out, but that is purely for convenience sake.

The “right way to diaper” debate is huge and sometimes heated when you read the various blogs, discussion boards, and articles online. I don’t care what you do as long as your kid is clean and happy. However, for those who are considering changing to cloth for whatever reason, or those who are newly pregnant and trying to figure out what they want to do, here is my 2 cents.

prefold diaper
Image source: Google/Amazon.com

Please note: I use prefold cotton diapers with snappi’s and waterproof covers so that’s what I discuss below. Friends of mine use pocket diapers of which I have a few and love (they are great for daddy if he’s like Mr. Fantastic and not keen on learning to fold a diaper). For those who are completely flummoxed by which cloth diapers are which, this blog post has a great description of what each kind of cloth diaper is and how they work. Really, it’s the best and easiest to understand explanation I’ve read.

Upside to Cloth Diapers

  • Savings: This is a fairly obvious reason to use cloth. Yes, you may fork out some $150-$400 bucks at the beginning for diapers and covers. But when you “do the math” on how much you’ll spend each year on disposables the savings are clear. Especially if you plan on having more than one kid! Some diapers are sized, other types/brands are not sized but can be adjusted to fit newborn through toddler sizes. According to clothdiaper.com you can get a starter pack for less than $200 that will last you from newborn through 30lbs that includes diapers and covers. (After a very rough calculation based on a rough estimation of Little Miss’ current diaper consumption, using disposables would cost me $700-$1000/year!)
  • Cute-factor: Depending on which type of cloth diaper or waterproof cover you buy, you can get some really cute prints and solid colors. A far cry from the classic white plastic pants my mother used for us, Little Miss has waterproof fabric covers in plaids and fun solid colors that I can coordinate with her outfit if I so desire. These covers don’t have to be washed every diaper change. If a cover gets damp, I let it air dry then use it again.
  • Fewer Diaper Blow-outs: This may just be personal experience, but when Little Miss was an infant and wearing disposables (it took me a while to get fully into cloth diapering as a new mom), she could and would blow out her diapers frequently. I have heard that some babies have very regular…uh…schedules. Little Miss does not. She poops or doesn’t as she feels like it. Once I switched to cloth diapers, got the hang of folding them properly, and got good covers (Rumparooz for the win!), Little Miss’ attempts to blow out her diaper and soil her outfit were stymied.
  • Diaper Rash Avoidance: Once I got the hang of washing cloth diapers properly (I’ll write another post on that soon), Little Miss hasn’t had a case of diaper rash. At all. Because my prefold cloth diapers don’t hold as much liquid as a disposable, I have to change her more often which also cuts down on the chance of diaper rash. Plus, no allergies, reactions, or irritations from disposables to worry about.
  • They Don’t Make That Much More Laundry: Really, they don’t. It’s no worse than buying a new 12-pack of socks except that you don’t have to sort and pair up diapers. I throw Little Miss’ dirty diapers into the wash with my lights/whites loads and haven’t noticed a massive uptick in laundry duties.
  • Environmental Benefits: This is an obvious reason. Cloth diapers get washed and reused instead of clogging up landfills. Nothing more really needs to be said.
  • Trash Can Stinks Less: The one upside to cloth diapers no one seems to mention is the load on the trash can. Unless you have a diaper pail with a self-sealing lid, your trash can will stink after a couple of days (yes, I do know about the Diaper Genie. I had one and it stunk). If you have more than one kid in disposable diapers at a time, your trash can will fill up faster and need to be emptied more often. This means you’ll spend more on trash bags too.
  • No Pins: Yep, you read that right. You don’t have to use the classic, slightly scary, diaper pins to fasten diapers on to baby. You can use Snappi’s instead, or just fold the diaper in three, lay it in the cover, and snap it on baby. I did this for a while and it worked great, but I had to wash the covers more often because the poop wasn’t caught in the diaper like it is when you fold the diaper and close it with a snappi or pins. This article has great visuals on various folds for prefold diapers.

Downside to Cloth Diapers

  • Poop: You have to rinse the poop out of the diaper before washing it. This can be a bit gross, but it also gives you a good chance to see how your child’s system is handling the foods you’re feeding him or her. Mr. Fantastic doesn’t care much for this step. “My dear, I don’t know how you do this every day.” was his comment as he rinsed out a particularly full diaper the other day. Rinsing out a soiled diaper isn’t all that gross for me. Everyone poops. It’s just a fact of life.
  • Expensive at First: Yes, cloth diapers are more expensive than disposables…at first. Depending on what type of cloth diaper you choose and how often you plan on doing laundry, you may shell out somewhere between $150-$300 for diapers and covers that will last from infancy through toddlerhood. Especially if you find out the diaper type you chose isn’t as awesome to use as you thought it would be and you decide to switch. Or if you buy sized cloth diapers and have to buy bigger sizes later on.
  • Smell: If not stored properly between wearing and washing, cloth diapers can stink up your house. I used to just dump dirty diapers into the washer and leave them there until I had enough for a load. Let’s just say urine-soaked diapers reek. Add the stench of formula-poop residue and you’ve got an aroma you won’t soon forget. I found putting dirty diapers into a small (15qt size works great) plastic storage bin with a locking lid traps the smell and fixes the problem.
  • Stains: Depending on several factors including your water (well, city, hard, or soft water), cloth diapers will stain or get dingy. You can bleach them, but bleach “eats” cotton and will cause your cotton diapers to deteriorate faster (or it will turn the beautiful snowy cotton a yucky yellow color). Other types of cloth diapers can’t be bleached due to waterproof coatings and such. However, hanging cloth diapers outside to dry on a sunny day will “sun-bleach” the stains without weakening the fabric.
  • Prep-work: You can’t use cloth diapers straight out of the box. New cotton cloth diapers they have to be washed and dried a few times before they are ready to use. This “opens up”, so to speak, their absorbency. It’s like using new cotton kitchen towels. The darn things won’t soak up water until after they are washed and dried once or twice. I don’t know if it works the same way for other types of diapers, but my mother taught me to always wash clothes before wearing them so I wouldn’t use cloth diapers right out of the box anyways.
  • Daycare: Not all daycare facilities will work with cloth diapers. You will need to check with the daycare to see what their policy is.

Okay, I think that’s everything. I’m sure there are other pros and cons to cloth diapers, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Happy Diapering!!

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