Saturday, February 23, 2013

cloth diapering: the good, the bad and the ugly

i've had many people ask me about cloth diapering (CD'ing) in the past few years, so i feel like its about time that i write my thoughts down.

esther at 28 days old sportin' the cloth!!
i am no cloth diapering expert, but i have cloth diapered four children and i have used five different brands of diapers as well as numerous other cloth diapering supplies.

so, here are some of my thoughts about my experiences thus far in the CD world.

the good - i LOVE cloth diapering.  love love love it.  yes, there are some drawbacks (see below) but over all i much prefer it to disposables (and i have plenty of experience with those too).

the main reasons that i love cloth are:
1. we are saving *so* much waste from the landfill by CD'ing
2. we have saved so much money in the past few years by using CDs (like i said... FOUR kids in diapers... thats a lot of diapers!).  this site estimates that you save $20 per month with cloth.  that means if you use one set of cloth diapers for two children two years each, that means a total savings of almost $1000!!  i'll take that kind of money any day!!
3. fewer harsh chemicals next to our babies' skin.
4. less diaper rash.
5. fewer "blow out" diapers (i feel like just about EVERY messy diaper with disposables is a blowout).

the bad - some people ask me if CD'ing is a lot of work.  i would say that it is more work than disposables, but it has become so much a part of my routine that i don't even notice it.  in practical terms, it means that i do an additional load of laundry every week and diaper changes take a bit longer (because you have two layers to put on baby... absorbent diaper layer and diaper cover) and every once in a while swish a dirty diaper (more on that below).

another drawback is that sometimes babysitters/husbands/grandparents or other care takers can be nervous about cloth.  fortunately we haven't had much resistance from people in our lives about cloth, so this hasn't been an issue for us.  it also helps if you use a type of diaper (such as an all-in-one or pocket diaper) that are very similar to disposables.

another drawback (this one is pretty minor in my opinion) is that most baby clothes these days aren't made to fit "fluffy" bottomed babies, as disposables are much more trim.  i have found that often times babies pants will have to be a size larger than their shirts to account for the extra padding.

the ugly - some people are nervous about CD'ing because you come in closer contact with unwanted bodily fluids.  this is a valid concern.  but lets be honest, with babies, there is no avoiding bodily fluids, whether you use cloth or disposable.  in fact, when it comes to these things getting on babies' clothes, cloth actually does a much better job at containing mess than disposables.  any time one of our babies has had a messy disposable diaper, i just automatically assume it will mean i have to change their clothes as well.  this is rare with disposables.

exclusively breastfed babies' poo is similar to yogurt, and doesn't need to be rinsed.  but the diapers of formula-fed babies or babies eating solids do need to be rinsed briefly in the toilet before getting put in the diaper pail.  this is one of those things that is so routine to me that it doesn't even phase me.  i don't love doing it, but i also don't mind it.  just one of the many tasks of motherhood.  if this is a concern to you, you could look into diaper liners.  we used these for about a year.  they are basically really thing pieces of papery cloth (hard to describe... kinda like a dry disposable wipe?) that you put in the diaper and when the baby messes, you can just throw the liner in the toilet and flush.  it does make it easier (and like i said we did use them for about a year) but right now esther has most of her bowel movements on the toilet, and its just too much work to remember to put the liner in every time we change her diaper, so we don't use them any more (and baby girl is still exclusively breastfed).

so that's the good, the bad and ugly of cloth diapering from my experience.

what are your experiences with cloth diapers?  what do you love and hate about disposables or cloth?

[read the next post in this series here]


  1. Hey! We started off using them part-time, and that has worked for us for the most part. early on we used prefolds and covers because they are a lot less bulky (and someone gave us a few thirsties size one) now we use a combination of flip and bumgenius 4.0. I totally agree that caregivers and others are hesitant to use them, but dan didn't mind as much when we started using the liners and there was a lot less mess.

    Anyway, your review is pretty much spot on, and to anyone lookinv to CD, i suggest to give it some time to get used to, and like you said, cleaning them just par for the course...


    1. hey beth! i am glad you mentioned part-time cloth diapering. it definitely doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing deal. even at points in our life when we were exclusively cloth diapering, i always had disposables on hand for an emergency. right now, we use cloth about 90% of the time, and disposables the rest of the time. we have had issues with ammonia burn, so we almost always use disposables at night.

      even if you only use cloth a couple times per week, you are still saving money and saving diapers from the landfill :) its flexible for all lifestyles.

  2. I would've NEVER considered it until talking to you about it before my little girl was born last year and now it's so easy, it's just second nature. We use disposables at night, or when traveling- but otherwise CD all the time. You should write a blog on the kinds you have tried and your thoughts on the different types out there. :)

    1. actually i am in the middle of writing one about the different kinds/brands. it should post some time next week! :)