I always give the option to my clients of talking about cloth diapering and for those that have never cloth diapered before, one of the first responses I get is:
‘You mean I have to touch poop?’
I grew up in a family of 7 that used cloth diapers along with disposables on occasion, so the thought of cloth diapering and ‘touching poop’ doesn’t seem to phase me much. When you factor in that being a parent means you end up touching and attempting to clean a lot more than just poop from a diaper (you might find yourself cleaning it from walls, cars, your baby’s siblings, etc) it doesn’t seem so tough in the end.
I tend to forget that not everyone has knowledge or experience in cloth diapers and won’t consider them as an option for various reasons:
Washing Diapers In Your Washer
Too Busy/On The GO Parents
Childcare Doesn’t Know How to Use Cloth Diapers
I would like to state for the record that I am a full-time working mama, my husband is also full-time, we travel often to see family, and we are on the go most days. We cloth diaper our baby and we love it for many reasons. But there are days where we definitely whip out the disposables, because life happens.
For those of you weighing your options or on the fence about cloth diapers, here is my Pros and Cons List for those fluffy poop pants.
THE GROSS FACTOR
You won’t have a stinky diaper pail of dirty diapers you walk past every day begging to be destroyed. There are even Diaper Washing Services (kind of like the milkman, but instead they supply your diapers for the week, pick up and wash the dirty ones at the end of the week, and replace them with very clean new ones). It doesn’t stop the poop disposal that is needed, but it does take out the wash time. There are also flushable poop liners that you can lay on top of your diaper to completely eliminate the need to scrub poop out of a diaper, as well as toilet sprayers to keep you from getting your hands all up in there.
Yes you will touch poop. Sometimes, you will fold a diaper in half and scrub poop away into the toilet before you can even begin to wash your diaper in some high-powered detergent. When your kid poops on the go you have to keep your dirty diapers in a bag and carry them with you until you get home, which can stink. Fortunately, you may get the pleasure of gradually increasing your poop tolerance with that buttered popcorn scent of newborn baby poo before they move to solids. And once they do get to solids… Hey, at least it’s solid.
Once, when our babe was a newborn and had a hard time fitting into his cloth diapers, we used the mass amount of newborn disposable diapers that had been gifted to us. We were out of them in a week. So we went to the store to buy some, filled up our closet, and then we were out a week later and also out of storage space.
I use this story to emphasize the stress of having to travel to a store with a newborn human (and even now with an older human). It is difficult to pack up and go while you are still wearing a pad the size of your arm and waddling like a penguin. It is difficult to calculate how many diapers you need to get down to before you have to rush to the store to buy more. It is much easier for us to say, “Oh, we are on our last cloth diaper of the day. I better throw them in the laundry and have some fresh ones in an hour.” We don’t have to pack up for a diaper run. I don’t have to put on pants. And we don’t have a huge closet filled to the brim with diaper boxes.
In addition to the time spent not shopping for cloth diapers, most brands are adjustable so they fit all sizes of baby. Your babe has moved up to 9mo clothes? Great! Same diaper. 18mo? Cool! SAME. DIAPER. Cloth diapers are also super cute and can really double as another outfit. Especially in the hot months when all a baby wants to wear is a whole lot of nothing.
Travel is tough with cloth diapers, not gonna lie, so that brings down the convenience a little bit. I tried to make a weeklong trip work once. It was fine, except for the fact that I had to pack up all of my diapers, detergent, and laundry bag. Not to mention that if we stayed somewhere that didn’t have a laundry accessible in the space, we were driving to a Laundromat and spending the next couple of hours glued to the washer and dryer. It wasn’t the best choice for a short trip and now we bring disposables. The bonus of the disposables also being that you only need to pack for your day of travel and you can pick up more disposable diapers when you arrive.
Another note on convenience is that if your baby is in daycare, it might also be difficult to find a daycare that will take cloth-diapered babies. It isn’t always a RULE, per se. But you might have to take the time explain how to prepare a cloth diaper or have fully assembled cloth diapers or all-in-ones ready to go.
The average cost of disposable diapers (the cheapest brands) is around $750 per year, per child. This would be closer to $1,080 per year, per child for a higher quality brand like Honest Diapers or Seventh Generation. The average cost for cloth diapers, including detergent fees and energy costs, is around $150 per year, per child. The major bonus being when one child is done with them, you have them all ready for the next child. Pretty much ALL of the cloth diapers I use come as hand-me-downs from my mother who used cloth diapers for the last 4 of her 7 children. YES, I DID NOT SLIP UP; MY BABY IS WEARING CLOTH DIAPERS THAT ARE ALMOST 16 YEARS OLD. They have been stripped and sterilized every time, so don’t gross out. Instead look at that bulging wallet that you can now use for your kid’s college education………
……or your next vacation when that kid finally leaves your home.
Unless you have been gifted some cloth diapers, you do have to purchase yours upfront. This cost can range from $300 to $1000 depending on the brand you buy, which is a pricey cost when you are considering all of the other necessities of child rearing. In the long run, though, you are looking at some serious cash savings.
There are a lot of chemicals that go into disposable diaper production. Not to mention that around 92% end up in landfills (4% of our solid waste) and contributing around 60x more solid waste than cloth diapers. And that they take HUNDREDS of years to decompose. When it comes to the environment and waste, there is no doubt that cloth diapers kick all of the booty.
I have no cons. (SEE ABOVE FOR THE BOOTY KICKING)
And speaking of the baby booties..
THE BABY BENEFIT
Babies tend to have a more tolerant reaction to a cloth diaper than to a disposable one. The reasons being that the cloth diaper materials are simpler (cotton, bamboo, etc) so less risk of a chemical skin reaction. They are also changed more frequently which helps with the prevention of diaper rash. Studies show that there isn’t a difference with the amount of diaper rash that occurs between cloth diapers and disposables, but personally I have noticed a major difference on my babe’s booty with redness. There have also been great results with early potty training when it comes to cloth diaper wearing. The biggest reason being that babies can feel when they are wet, get uncomfortable, and want their diapers off. From experience, I think another reasoning for that is that since you have to change cloth diapers more frequently, it encourages children to enjoy having a dry diaper.
YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THEM MORE FREQUENTLY. This might be more of a con for you than for baby, honestly. But on particularly neglectful days (when you are in and out of the car, on that one last errand before you go home, ANYONE? ANYONE?) I have gone, at maximum, maybe 4 hours with a disposable (pee) diaper on and not had an awful diaper change experience. But cloth diapers do have to be changed usually every 2 hours (pee) before you start to feel that they need to be changed as they have soaked through. This can be a challenge with night sleeping. I know some folks will double layer their diapers before putting their little one down for the night, but I have a particularly relaxed child who tends to release all of his urine in the middle of the night and the double-layer has not helped. We use disposables in the evening because mama needs her sleep and baby needs to pee.
So there you have it, folks: my pros and cons of cloth diapering. In all honesty, I love cloth diapers. They are cute and stylish, double as swim diapers, I don’t have to spend money on new diapers constantly, and I don’t feel like I am contributing to the end of civilization living in a landfill of dirty diapers. That being said, I am not every person. And it’s good to know what you are getting into before you shell out the cash and buy a lifetime use item that you might not use.