Cloth diapers? Yes, please.

Oh, at first it wasn’t as retro-ly simple and back-to-earth as I’d imagined, namely since we didn’t have a washer/dryer in the apartment where Lio was born. Little babies have frequent movements, and the laundry piled up every day. I loved mixing concoctions of anti-bacterial tea tree, and sweet smelling things like lavender, clary sage or peppermint in with the vinegar/water soak. What I didn’t love so much was washing the diapers by hand – two days’ worth would take me an hour of intense scrubbing, something that a washing machine can accomplish in ten minutes of an agitation cycle.

The diapers were pretty disproportionate to a baby’s little size back then, and stuffing that bum into little baby pants was kind of hilarious. Often he’d need a larger pants size to accommodate his swaddled arse. Whether using a rectangular pre-fold (like the ones your parents might’ve used on you) or stuffing his buns into a fancy, elastic-and-snap inundated modern number, for the first couple months the cloth diapers seemed to amount to half his body size. Now that he’s older, his cloth-diapered bum fits right into the same pants he would wear with a disposable.

The wonderful thing is that cloth diapering got so much easier over time. The babe grew, and the diapers fit better while becoming more absorbable with each wash. (Cloth takes some priming to reach its state of full absorbency, so in the beginning our brand-new cloth diapers weren’t as awesome at drawing moisture away from the bum as they are now.) The number of diaper changes a day went from ten plus to half a dozen or less, so there is less laundry. And his movements have become entirely predictable, so we know when to add a diaper liner (a thin, dyer-sheet like rectangular flushable insert) for the poos, or an extra absorbable diaper insert for the pee. In fact, his crap is solid enough to not really need the liner anymore at all. (To 16-year-old Lio reading this, I’m sorry, dude.) We have a washer and a clothesline where we live now, and a dryer if needed to fluff the diapers which have dried in the sun to naturally bleach out bacteria.

We’re close, but we don’t exclusively cloth. We use one disposable overnight. We’ve done this since about month two, when my partner noticed the baby was waking up in the night even when he wasn’t hungry, and guessed it was his diaper’s wetness bothering him. So we switched to a disposable overnight, and the baby slept a lot more soundly. The disposable (especially at first when the cloth diapers weren’t totally primed – now, it’s hard to tell the difference) drew moisture away from the baby’s bum more effectively. Now that he sleeps for eight to ten hour stretches without feedings, using the one disposable overnight makes sense for the longevity of his rest increments. (Or it could just be a habit we need to analyze!) We also occasionally use disposables when we’re out and about, like if we know we’re going to be in the car for more than a few hours or have a lengthy commitment for most of the day.

Maybe now’s the time to mention that my kid totally hates those Koala changing stations. Although I appreciate the sentiment of a fold-down diaper-changer in most ladies’ (and men’s!) public bathrooms, the maintenance on those things is pretty shoddy a lot of the time. A lot of times the straps are broken, the table is dirty, it may not quite hinge right, and there isn’t space to put wipes and other changing items. As soon as I put Lio on one, his eyes get wide in a way they never ever do, he grasps at my arms for comfort, and he sort of freaks out the whole time I’m changing him. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen actual fear on his face. It’s not the best for me, either – the flimsy strap and thin plastic support hardly feel safe when I’m trying to simultaneously comfort and contain a wiggling ten-month-old. I’m not sure if it’s the wide, open, echoey bathrooms, or the changing station itself and the amount of vulnerability he feels once he’s placed on it. Whatever it is, it’s easier to change him in the comfy back bench seat of our van.

It also could be that we’re both a little awkward since we’ve never used a changing table at home. Our bed has always been the diaper-changing place, usually with a blanket or changing cloth underneath just in case. It’s the right height, it’s very comfortable, we don’t have to worry about him falling off, and if he rolls over, it’s totally okay. There’s also a ton of room for toys, lotion, and all the necessities and luxuries of baby-changing. Plus we can romp and jump around after the diaper change is over, making for a seamless transition into happy family time.

The big argument for cloth diapering seems to be in cost effectiveness and environmental servitude. I’m not entirely sure how much money/resources cloth diapers save – some things, like the cost of producing disposable diapers, are difficult figures to ascertain. I do know that the cost of a single one-size cloth diaper (meaning your child can wear it as a newborn, and, because of a system of snaps and elastic, continue to use it throughout their entire diapered life) is around $20, which is the same cost for about 75 “earth-friendlier” disposables. So it’s about one week of newborn cloth diapering to break even on the cost for one cloth diaper. If you have 20 cloth diapers, that’s twenty weeks, or five months to break even on cost (not counting water and energy use to wash them). Since you’ll probably be diapering for a lot longer than five months, it’s safe to say cloth diapers are price effective in the long run.

The energy used by our washing machine costs about $1 per cycle, the dryer another $1 per sixty minutes if it’s not temperate/dry/fast enough to air-dry. (Ideally, we like to sun-dry and then fluff them in the dryer for about five to ten minutes to get those hard-to-dry spots of the cloth diapers, like behind the velcro fasteners where water tends to gather.) This is also using about six gallons of (non-heated) water. If I’m doing a load of cloth diapers every three days, that’s about $2 every three days (more for a newborn). Lio uses about six diapers a day now, which would be (18 diapers over three days x 25 cents each) about $4.50 in disposables every three days. So cloth to wash are let’s say $4 for six days, disposables would be $9 for six days, which is a $5 difference, and minus the one disposable at night, which is $1.50 in six days, is a total savings of $3.50 per six days. For an extra $3.50 a week, I’m sure a lot of people would just rather not bother with cloth diapers and use disposables.

So why do we still use cloth?

Overall less consumption. The environmental factor definitely comes into play when you think about the manufacturing, shipping, and purchase of box after box of plastic disposables. While the cloth diaper is manufactured once, shipped once, and forever yours, I imagine the calculated use of energy to produce countless disposables (and their packaging) is far beyond the production of a single cloth diaper. They’re also at your house – it doesn’t take a semi traveling a thousand miles to put it in a store near you. You’re saving gas by not driving to the store (when we were on the road it always seemed like we were on our last diaper and would have to find and drive to a store immediately just to buy more). Having everything you need at home, without reliance on a store to supply you, is practical, satisfying, and in a small but impactful way contributes to a reduction in personal/familial consumption.

Cloth diapering feels good! Something about swaddling a baby in a cloth diaper just feels right, in a way that packaging his bum in a bunch of plastic doesn’t quite. I can tell the baby thinks they’re more comfortable, too, by the little cloth-diaper dances he does every morning as he takes off sprinting in his walker or doing a happy-bum wiggly crawl across the floor. Now that our diapers have reached full absorbency, and Lio’s big enough where they fit wonderfully, they’re such a dream come true.

Cloth diapers fit better! The contours of the cloth are soft and the elastic on them is covered in soft stuff and fits the baby’s bum like a glove. You can tell he’s super comfy and loving it. Whereas plastic diapers tend to bunch in weird places, are more of a one-style-for-all, and may not account for your baby’s long legs or proportions, modern cloth diapers and their variety of snaps, the stretchable elastic, etc. can be altered for each baby. A prefold can be done up to perfectly fit your little one! New cloth diaper styles come in lots of fabrics, too, like soft bamboo, so you can decide what feels best for you and your baby.

They’re convenient! As long as I have a washing machine (or two hands and a water supply, for that matter), I’ll never have to worry about running out of diapers. I can rest easy knowing that there’s an endless supply of diapers in my house. If I had to go back to hand-washing, I would, but the washing machine is a huge time (and probably water) saver. And even though the idea of cloth diapering seems like a totally laborious, time-consuming thing – it’s so not. Instead of throwing your diaper away, you throw it in the washer or a little pail to soak. There’s not much more to it than that.

Cloth diapering is a skill! When you know how to cloth diaper, you’re actually doing something. It’s using your hands and gaining a skill. There is an art to folding a pre-fold cloth diaper that feels great. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction when you can origami a baby into a prefold in the same time it takes to put on a disposable. And since there are pin-less diaper ‘claws’ that help bind the diaper, so you don’t have to worry about sticking the baby with something sharp or the pin unhinging itself if you’re not using the one-sized snap-and-velcro outfitted diaps.

They’re cute as hell! Plastic disposables come in your choice of television cartoon characters or weird, gender-neutral color schemed polka dot prints. But our cloth diapers are like a rainbow! We’ve got every color and a bunch of cool designs, which makes diapering more fun visually. You can get a cloth diaper with pretty much anything on it, or, for the super-talented, make your own!

Hip hip for cloth!



  Kristi wrote @

Hahaha you sounded Soooo much like myself. I have sat and broken it down the exact same way lol. I Love cloth diapers for all the same reasons and just to state it again they are so dame cute! Rio is now close to three and he is no longer in them……..we didn’t want to buy bigger sizes in hopes he would learn how to use the pot…..not yet. Even know we spent a small fortune buying them i passed the smaller ones on to others and here we are expecting again…..go figure lol. Oh and I loved using G diapers on outings lil pricey but awesome. Also my kids always had a complete come apart with the public changing stations so much so we would go to the car instead.

  nikki @ clickclackgorilla wrote @

Hells yeah. How funny that we posted these right at the same time. (Ahoy other readers of Katey’s blog! Read my own rantings on the subject after three weeks cloth diapering our infant here: http://www.clickclackgorilla.com/2012/03/13/gorilla-baby-a-cloth-diaper-review-three-weeks-in/) High fives for prefolds. I have to say cloth diapering has been awesome for me mostly because I for some reason find it to be totally fun. All the cute colors and prints and the whole ritual around them…I don’t think I’d be enjoying dealing with all the baby bowel movements so much if it weren’t for them. :)


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