I do not claim to be an environmentalist, nor an extreme deal finder, nor a die hard fan of baby poop. However, I LOVE cloth diapering. When first confronted with the idea of using cloth, I had a vision of folding something closely resembling a dinner napkin, fashioning it haphazardly around my baby’s bum and praying it lasts long enough to catch whatever terrifying messes come out of my child before falling off. I’m certain 95 percent of those I tell we do cloth diapering have the same image. When I mentioned the idea to my husband, he mostly chalked the idea up to pregnancy hormones. Certainly, just about every mom I shared our intentions with while I was pregnant laughed and told me I wouldn’t last. Luckily, a dear friend of mine had a daughter 7 months before we did and had months of cloth diapering success behind her I could use as evidence for my case. Now I’m here to tell you 18 months in, I use cloth diapers on my kiddo almost exclusively and plan to do so with my next baby as well.
Here’s some answers to common questions I get about cloth diapering, which will hopefully shed some light on why it works so well for us.
Isn’t it messy? Surprisingly, no. We’ve had our fair share of experience with disposable diapers and I am here to tell you first and foremost that handling baby poop is just a part of the deal when you’re a parent. In my experience, cloth diapering does not add or detract from this factor. Honestly, if mess is a concern of yours, you may not be ready to be a parent 🙂 With that said, there are basically three phases of cloth diapering in terms of mess. Two are completely painless and the one that is a little more… involved is over just as quickly as it started. For those of you interested, I’ll share a bit more information regarding the clean up process for each phase in the next few paragraphs. It’s not for the faint of heart, so if proceed with caution otherwise I’ll see you at the next question.
Phase 1: Milk, milk and more milk!
The first phase of cloth diapering, in my opinion, is the easiest. This is pretty convenient because this is also when you’re changing the most poopy diapers and likely to be under the greatest amount of sleep deprivation. The dirty diapers that come from exclusively breastfed babies are completely water soluble, which means they go from baby’s bum to the diaper pail and directly into the washer when the time comes. So, your interaction with dirty diapers is extremely minimal. If this phase is too much for you, you could also use disposable diaper liners for those few months.
Phase 2: Starting solids
The second phase of cloth diapering is tough. No getting around it. This happens once your kiddo starts solids and as what goes in changes, so also does what comes out. Essentially, the rule is that all solid waste needs to be rid of before the diaper goes into the washer so, during this phase diapers require an extra step before going to the diaper pail and washer. For me the key to this phase is investing in a diaper sprayer and spray shield. It’s basically a hose that attaches to your toilet so you can rinse off the excess mess before tossing the diaper in the diaper pail. A diaper spray shield is helpful here as well to help contain the splashing around the toilet and transport the diaper to the diaper pail.
Phase 3: Rocking and rolling with solids
The third phase of cloth diapering starts once your kiddo is getting a substantial amount of solids in their diet. The greater the ratio of solids to liquid in your child’s diet, the more solid things become on the other end. For us, this means simply shaking the poop out into the toilet before it goes to the diaper pail. There is typically no need to use the sprayer during this phase, with the exception of the occasional upset tummy and what that entails.
How did you figure out how to fold the diapers and pin them properly? Y’all! It’s 2015. As with most modern conveniences, the cloth diapering game has come a long way. While there are many different types of cloth diaper options, we decided to go with the all-in-one variety, bumGenius Freetimes, specifically. What I love about these diapers is that for the most part, they function much like a disposable diaper. There are no pins and no inserts. They fasten in the front using snaps or velcro (we opted for the snaps), much like a disposable diaper. These diapers are also sizeable (from 8 to 35 pounds), so you could they could quite feasibly be the only diapers you use for the entire diaper phase for your kid(s). As a super fun added bonus, the diapers come in a wide range of adorable colors and patterns.
Does it require a lot of tools and accessories? Cloth diapering really doesn’t require much for ongoing upkeep. For me, the essential pieces are as follows (with links to the versions we have):
- Dry diaper pail
- Two to three diaper pail liners
- Diaper sprayer (not needed until phase 2)
- Spray splatter shield (not needed until phase 2)
For those of us fortunate enough to have a child that sleeps all night, another good investment is a handful of reusable diaper inserts. These are basically an insurance plan for your baby’s bedding against overnight leaks and wakings due to diaper discomfort.
Don’t the diapers get gross over time? I can honestly say that after 18 months of use, my diapers look almost as good as new. I have experienced no residual smells and almost no staining on any of my diapers. They don’t leak and the color on each one still looks awesome.
Do you spend all your time doing laundry? Do you need special detergents? Cloth diapering does require more laundry than disposable diapering. That is true. However, the time investment is minimal. Sure, you think, but she’s a stay at home mom! There’s no way a working parent could do that. Guess what, friends? I did this for the entire time I worked as well. It can be done. I do diaper laundry three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The process is pretty simple. First, I throw the entire diaper pail liner bag full of diapers in the washer and run a quick rinse cycle with cold water and no detergent (25 minutes). Next, I run a hot cycle with regular detergent (we use All Free and Clear) and a small scoop of OxiClean (1 hour). Once everything is clean, diapers get hung to dry while inserts, diaper pail liner and any wet bags go in the dryer. Once a month, I add 1/4 cup of bleach to the hot cycle to help strip any residual build-up. I currently do this process in the morning so I can fold and put the diapers away before bedtime. When I was working, we would start everything as soon as the last diaper of the night was on Cody’s bum. Because our nighttime routine included 60-90 minutes of nursing, the diapers were usually ready to be hung once she was asleep.
Each diaper is so expensive! How do you afford it? The upfront cost for cloth diapers is definitely more than disposables. Truth be told, this was the hardest pill for my husband to swallow when we first started out. “Each diaper costs how much?!” However, over time, even when you consider water usage for cleaning cloth diapers, the expense is significantly less than disposables even with all-in-ones, which tend to be the most expensive variety. We have 36 cloth diapers although I think 24 would really be plenty. If you consider 8 diapers a day for the entirety of the diaper-wearing phase (let’s call this 0-25 months), you’re looking at just over 6,100 diaper changes per child. With a startup cost between $300-700, cloth diapers cost between $0.05-$0.11. Disposable diapers are an ongoing cost at about $0.33 per diaper, which amounts to just over $2,000 per child.
While the financial difference between cloth and disposable diapers is significant with the first child, it becomes even more compelling when considering subsequent children, as the cloth diapers can be reused as long as they are cared for properly. As a parent, I’m all for finding ways to save money where we can because kids are freaking expensive. Even when we’re using disposables while traveling, it amazes me how frequently we need to purchase diapers and how much they cost. It’s a line item we just don’t need to factor into our budget now, which makes me so grateful for our cloth stash.
So, there you have it. My official cloth diapering
propaganda endorsement post. Are you a cloth diapering parent or considering it? I’m always up for more tips on how to improve my system or sharing more of my experience with those on the fence. Drop me a line in the comments section!