Friday, February 22, 2013

Why we use Cloth Diapers

About six months before getting pregnant, I started my research on cloth diapering. What I discovered was eye-opening. Now that we have had personal experience with cloth diapers, I feel ready to share both my research and my experiences.
  • MONEY According to my research, it generally costs and average of $2000 to diaper one child in disposable diapers for 2 years. Basically, any cloth diapers will save you money unless you are an extreme couponer. Using flats or prefolds and covers is by far the cheapest way to go, but even if you spend $500 on cloth diapers, you will still be saving a lot of money in the long run- especially if you are going to use them on future children as well. You can also buy cloth diapers used and sell your used diapers as well. Here is a Diaper Calculator on the Diaper Pin which helps you specifically compare the cost of cloth diapering versus using disposables. This calculator is neat because it does factor in the energy and water costs for cleaning the diapers, and the cost of using a diaper genie to hold disposables.
For my husband, the money alone was reason enough to cloth diaper.
  • GARBAGE  If you are putting 6-12 diapers per day into the garbage, that is going to add up fast. Here in our town, we have to take our own trash to the transfer station and pay a fee per bag. In households that use disposables, diapers usually make up HALF of the their trash. Also, diaper trash really stinks, even if you have a separate trash for diapers.  Even using disposables, it says on the package that solid waste should be flushed down a toilet, but who does that? When you roll poop into a plastic diaper, it doesn't make it easy for it to break down in a landfill. No one knows for sure how long they will take to decompose, but 500 years from now, those diapers could very well still be there with the poop still festering inside. Talk about gross. There are more details and figures if you look up Real Diaper Association. Cloth diapers will eventually decompose in a compost heap, after being used many times, possibly for many different children.
Again, my husband was on-board with this one, since he is the one who deals with our garbage.
  • RASHES and BABY HEALTH The pediatrician at the hospital was very happy to hear that we were going to be using cloth diapers because it would cut down on occurrences of diaper rash. He said that in his home country (wish I could remember which country) diaper rash is unheard of because everyone uses cloth diapers. A cloth diaper, especially when using a wool cover instead of rubber pants or PUL/TPU diaper covers is more breathable than a disposable diaper. We have had very few rashes, and all of them were because she pooped without us noticing and she sat in it for a few hours. If we know that she has pooped, we change her right away, just like we would with disposables. When she has rashes, we use Grovia Magic Stick and it is usually gone overnight. We go through 5-8 cloth diapers per day and I wash every 2-3 days. I don't know what chemicals are in a disposable diaper, but just watching the disposable diapers at the pool fill with water and then have gel coming out, it can't be good. With cloth diapers, you know exactly what they are made of.

  • BLOW-OUTS, WET SHEETS and TOUCHING POOP  I don't know anyone who likes touching the contents of a diaper. One of my favorite things about cloth diapers is the elastic along the back that holds everything inside. Blow-outs can still happen, especially with user error, but they are very infrequent with cloth diapers. I can only think of 3 good blow-outs that my daughter has had, but I have seen many diapers that would have been blow-outs if she were wearing a disposable diaper. I knew that I was sacrificing some functionality for trimness in the diapers I chose for daytime use. Our night diapers are absolutely bullet-proof. Maybe we will purchase some more workhorse diapers eventually.
  • We have had diapers leak pee because of wicking if the cotton or microfiber from the inside of the diaper was sticking out of the waterproof part or somehow making contact with her clothing, but that is entirely user error. At night and during naps we cover her diaper with a lanolized wool cover (more about that in a separate post later) and we have never had a leak through wool. The wet sheets I have changed have been from spit-up. I do put a hemp doubler in her night diaper because she goes all night in one diaper (she doesn't poop in her sleep). We use stay-dry diapers (diapers lined with fleece or something similar) at night so that she doesn't feel the wetness. I can also feel confident bringing her into my bed if I am desperate for sleep because I know that I can rely on that wool. The worst that can happen is poop leaks onto the cover and I need to wash the cover, and that is very, very rare. Wool is seriously awesome - more about that later. Think about your car. Your regular tires are pretty reliable, but every now and then you do get a leak or a flat and you may have to change them out for the doughnut tire in the trunk. Disposables are like the doughnut tire. You can't trust it at 65 on a highway, but it will hopefully get you home or to the garage. We actually keep a package of disposables in the trunk of our car, just in case we run out of cloth diapers away from home, and we have used them. We also change her into a cloth diaper as soon as we get home.
  • We also don't swish our diapers in the toilet. Gross. I have had so many people as me about that. I guess some people do it, but I don't want my hands in the toilet, nor do I want to touch poop, thanks. Our baby is still exclusively breast-fed, so her poop is water-soluble. That means that we don't have to clean the poop off the diapers before washing them or putting them into our dry diaper-pail. At the beginning of my wash cycle I do a cold rinse and that takes care of the poop. When she starts eating solid foods, we will start using our diaper sprayer. Basically you spray the poop off the diaper and into the toilet, so you don't have to touch it. If we didn't have a leech-field we could use flushable liners in our cloth diapers, which are even easier. With liners you just plop the poop and liner right into the toilet and flush.

  • CONVENIENCE If you travel a lot and are rarely home, washing diapers might not work well for you, but for us it is far more convenient to toss some diapers in the wash than to go to the store to buy more at the local grocery store or order them online and pick them up at the post office (most delivery companies won't deliver to our road). We do live about 1 1/2 to 2 hours away from Walmart or Target, so we would be at the mercy of the local grocery store. Yes, we do use a special cloth-diaper-friendly-soap, and we do order that online. I have about 12 prefolds and 3 covers that I only use if all of my other diapers are dirty or not on the shelf when I need them, and that is my safety net to make sure I don't run out. For example, if we have a really bad storm and the power is out and I can't get the generator started (which is possible here), I may need to use my prefolds, or worst-case scenario, get some disposables from the trunk of the car.  When our washer broke, I did successfully wash diapers by hand in a bucket for a while before friends offered to let us use their washer, but I wouldn't choose that on an everyday basis.

These are the main reasons that we chose to use cloth diapers, and we are very happy with our decision. On a side note, cloth diapers also feel like they would feel better, if that makes sense. And they can be pretty cute. I understand that it is not convenient for everyone to use cloth. I will be writing several posts later about the specific cloth diapers we use and how I wash them etc, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them. I can take pictures of what I have too.

Do you use cloth diapers? Why or why not?


  1. Using disposable gloves really helps with
    "swishing" the diaper in the toilet....we used cloth diapers with some of our kids and saved loads of money. I felt better about what was on our babies...when I was a working mom, we used disposable....

    1. Good call on the gloves, Lianna! Mum only used cloth diapers on some of us, definitely the youngest two at least. It's nice to hear from you! Thanks for commenting!