It’s no big secret that I run a successful cloth diaper blog, review and give away free diapers regularly, and have diapered 5 in cloth so far. When cloth has worked fantastically for your family, and you spend a lot of time being a “cloth advocate” it can be easy to think that everyone should follow suit and ditch the disposables. But even I know that cloth is not for everyone. And I hate to see families that use disposables get called “lazy” or be told they are destroying the planet while poisoning their baby’s skin with harsh chemicals.
So don’t worry. Today’s post is not a cloth diaper tent revival. I’m not going to draw lines in the sand and say “cloth is good” and “disposables are bad.” I wanted to become better educated, and be more understanding of the issues that people face, so I asked mothers “Why do you NOT use cloth diapers?”
Cloth Diapers: Yes or No?
Here are the main reasons they shared with me. Also included are my thoughts on overcoming these hurdles, which you can take or leave. If I didn’t advocate at least a teensy bit for cloth, what kind of a cloth diapering blogger would I be anyway, right? 😉
Issue No. 1: It costs too much.
Cloth diapers require an up front investment. If you want enough diapers to last a couple of days between washings, the price tag starts at about $120 and goes up from there. (My calculation is based on a basic stash of 8 waterproof covers and 24 cotton prefolds.) Not everyone, especially families who are pinching every single penny, has an extra hundred bucks lying around.
Disposables are easy to buy and can be really cheap, especially if you have coupons, store rewards or are a price-matching ninja. Yes, you have to constantly re-buy, but families may find it easier to spend $10 bucks or so per week, rather than a bigger amount all at once.
But consider this: It’s possible to get started with cloth diapers by getting a small stash which will get you through one day. You could get 4 covers and 1 dozen flat diapers (even cheaper than the more popular prefolds) at Diaper Junction for just $60. Or go one better and start at $48 by using flour sack towels which are $1.00 each at Walmart and Target. That feeling you get when pulling cloth diapers out of storage to use on your next baby, knowing you don’t have to spend any money? Priceless.
Issue No. 2: It’s too overwhelming/difficult.
In the old days, you simply pinned on a cotton diaper and slapped a pair of vinyl pants on top. Not anymore. There are so many choices and styles (and price points) on the modern cloth diaper market that even I (a veteran of five years) get overwhelmed at times! Even mothers who would actually like to give it a try are scared off by the apparent need for super special skills and knowledge.
A disposable diaper is easy to put on, and easy to get off. It takes up barely any room in your diaper bag. When it’s soiled, just toss in the trash and you’re done. No need to store it. No need to wash. No need to worry about stains. It’s the most convenient type of diaper you can use.
But consider this: You don’t need any special skills to get started with cloth. In fact, styles like the All-in-One (AIO) are like a cloth equivalent of a disposable diaper. And thankfully, if you do have questions or hit roadblocks, there are lots of very helpful cloth diapering support communities online.
Issue No 3: I don’t want to wash them.
One mother told me “I refuse to put dirty diapers in my washing machine.” Others worry about getting cloth “truly clean.” Maybe it’s just that you don’t have a washing machine right now, or the one you have is pretty lousy. Perhaps you battle hard water issues. Whatever the case may be, using disposables completely relieves you of extra laundry. Diapers go in the trash, and you’re done.
But consider this: Even as early as the 1920’s, mothers were cleaning their diapers in washing machines, so they are more than up to the job. Our modern washers have fine-tuned settings for temperature, agitation time, water level and more. As long as you’ve plunked the solids in the potty, your washer can handle the diapers. Accessories like liners and diaper sprayers can also help dealing with #2 much easier. And there are many practical solutions for dealing with problems like hard water. Wondering how to wash diapers at the laundromat? It can be done without too much hassle.
Issue No. 4: My child is in day care.
This is a very real concern if the facility is not cloth friendly or the staff is not educated on cloth diaper use. Additionally, if your child is being cared for by someone else because you’re holding down a full time job, washing diapers when you get home may be the last thing you want to fool with.
But consider this: Many families use cloth diapers at day care. Check with the facility and see what can be worked out. It’s not that complicated. If a caregiver will put pooped-on underwear or urine-saturated clothes in a bag for a disposable-diapered baby, then it’s not a big deal to stow dirty cloth diapers in a zipper-sealed wet bag for you to pick up at the end of the day. Here’s a post which talks about regulations, and offers tips for working with day care staff.
Issue No. 5: Cloth diapers are old-fashioned.
The round padded bottom comes across as really dated to some. As does the thought of cleaning and rinsing poo diapers. Why go back in time and use cloth, when the modern disposable has made things so much easier for mothers? Disposables save precious time, and they are unbeatable in terms of absorbency and keeping a baby’s skin dry. Plus, they are more trim and fit better under clothing.
But consider this: Cloth diapers are a lot more modern than you may think. Over the years they have become more trim. Many styles feature a “stay dry” layer that functions very similarly to the lining of a disposable. Pins have been replaced with velcro and snaps. Absorbency is something you can easily customize. Thousands of babies stay dry all night long (12 hours plus!) in their cloth diapers. Fibers like hemp and bamboo and microfiber have really taken cloth to the next level in terms of performance.
Issue No. 6: I don’t have any extra time.
This one really resonates with me because every family is so unique. Let’s say you have a full-time job, children in school who are involved in multiple activities, plus a baby in the family and one on the way. Cloth diapers, anyone? Are you kidding me?? It’s another thing to do, and for many modern women it’s just one thing too many. We can’t do it all, so we have to make priorities. I’d love to bake the family’s bread, but literally don’t have time. So we use a bread machine sometimes, and store-bought at others. There are a lot of families who’d like to cloth diaper but truly feel they can’t add one more commitment to their plate.
But consider this: If you are curious about cloth, try it part time. Keep on using your disposables but try a few cloth diapers and covers during the day. This is a good way to try it in for size before taking the plunge. Also, there are plenty of tricks for saving time while cloth diapering. Pick an easy-to-use, easy-to-wash style like the All-in-One’s mentioned above. Don’t fold your diapers and put them away; pull out of the dryer and store in a laundry basket. Give older children simple diapering tasks to save you time, like emptying the dryer or stuffing pocket diapers.
Do you use cloth diapers or disposables? Do any of these pros or cons resonate with you? I would love to hear thoughts from both perspectives, so we can learn and be more understanding!