Motherhood operating systems in progress.

This area does not yet contain any content.
Find Us On...
Subscribe to MommyBeta
Latest Tweets
Join My Parenting Book Club!

« Pregnancy: There's An App For That | Main | The Daddy Hospital Bag »

Cloth Diapering

Jennifer was asking me some questions the other day about cloth diapers (that’s what we use for Nic), so I decided to do a post about their pros and cons.

Let me start by saying that I never thought I’d use cloth diapers.  I’ve always been more “farm girl” than “tree hugger” and the idea didn’t even cross my mind until I saw a friend’s baby in his adorable diaper cover.  At that moment, I started asking questions, and I’m glad I did.

 Why I Chose Cloth Diapers (The Pros)

  • Supporting a local, family business.  Instead of giving my money to Costco and Pampers, I’m spending locally with a small family business by using their pre-fold diapers and service.  As the daughter and son of small businessmen, this was probably the biggest selling point to me and Shaun.
  • Doesn’t cost more.  While cloth diapers aren’t less expensive, most calculations put them at about the same cost as standard disposables. (UPDATE: Costs are about even for disposables vs. cloth diapering with a service.  If you choose to launder your own cloth diapers, the savings are quite significant compared to disposables.)
  • Possible Early Potty Training.  Some people say that babies potty train faster when using cloth diapers.  This is because a cloth diaper doesn’t wick away the moisture like a disposable.  This means babies feel when they are wet and will have a greater desire to potty train.
  • Just soft cotton on my baby’s skin. 
  • Environment.  There’s some debate over whether or not a diaper service is better than disposables (because of the trucking and cleaning), but the way I see it, Huggies are trucked all over the country and must use a ton of water to make, so cloth must be better since it doesn’t end up in a landfill (except maybe after hundreds of uses).
  • No risk.  Our service only makes you commit to one month of diapers.  Therefore, if we decided we hated it, we could just stop and switch to disposables.
  • Convenience.  We never have to go out and buy diapers and we’re never worried about running out.  We set our dirty diapers on the porch one night a week, and clean ones magically appear before morning.
  • Cute!  Have you ever seen a baby in a diaper cover? SO CUTE.


Nic lounging on the beach in his red hot diaper cover.

Why Cloth Diapers Aren’t for Everyone (The Cons)

  • Daycare.  If your baby will be going to daycare, most won’t take cloth diapers.  However, a nanny or in-home childcare will often be open to the idea.
  • Some up-front costs.  You will need to buy those adorable diaper covers every few months.  I think we’ve spent about $150 for covers that will last us until he’s about 7 months old.  You’ll also need some Snappi clips (that’s right, you don’t have to fasten them with pins!).
  • Tight space.  If you’re like Natali and live in an apartment without at least some extra closet space, you might have a hard time finding a place to keep the dirty diapers until pick up day.
  • Dirty hands.  Since cloth diapers don't suck away the moisture to their core, your hands will get a tiny bit wet during a diaper change.  Nothing some handsoap won't fix!

 Cloth Diaper Myths

  • It’s hard.  To be 100% honest, we practiced putting diapers on my childhood teddy bear a lot before Nic was born.  I was especially nervous about my husband getting it because he still can’t figure out how to fold dress pants to put them on a hanger. However, we are both now diaper folding, clipping and covering pros!  I estimate it takes us maybe 20-30 seconds more to change a cloth diaper than it would a disposable.   
  • You have to rinse them.  Not with a service!  This is a huge myth.  We take Nic’s diaper off (whether poop or pee) and put it right into a Diaper Dekor.  Then we stash the full bags I the garage until our weekly pickup.  IN FACT, most people don’t know this, but you’re supposed to rinse disposable diapers!  I didn’t even know this until someone posted this to my Mothers’ Club Forum:  The American Public Health Association advises (as of 1989) that solid human excrement, even while deposited in a disposable diaper, should be flushed down the toilet prior to disposing of the diaper.  Viruses such as polio and hepatitis can be passed through solid waste, and when disposed into the trash can get into water supply. When diaper waste is properly disposed of in the sewage, it is treated accordingly.
  • They stink.  We handle our poopy diapers exactly the same way we would with disposables.  We’ve never had any issues with odor.

 I can’t even imagine not using cloth now.  It’s just so easy and to makes so much sense.  It’s not for everyone, but I think if more people tried it, it would be much more common.  If you’re at all intrigued by the idea, I strongly encourage you to check out this website.  It has a ton of great info on diapering, including a how-to video!  And if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend the Tiny Tots diaper service!

Reader Comments (15)

That video did intimidate me a little but I believe you when you say that you get the hang of it.

Unfortunately we just don't have any space to store diapers for a whole week in between deliveries. I wonder if there is a New York City service that will do this more frequently? I'll look into it.

Also, I didn't know you should rinse disposable diapers!

July 23, 2010 | Registered CommenterNatali

Thanks for the good words on honest cotton diapering. As a cotton diapering dad I call them the honest diaper because they tell you the truth about what your baby really needs - a clean diaper. When your baby urinates and you check the diaper you can feel it so you take it off and put a clean one on. Paper diapers lie to the parent making the wetness fell dry so they leave it on longer - often much longer - every diaper change - for 2 - 3 years. Many parents won't change it till it's "full". I have heard that. I have also heard " I can change my baby so much less often in paper diapers." I asked my paper diapering sister how often she changed her babies diaper. She said breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many papering parents I speak to will claim they change often. By that they mean 4-5 times a day instead of 9 -11 which is what a newborn - 25 pounder should get. It's seems a large percentage of parents love to believe a chemically induced dry feeling diaper is the same as a clean one. What a lie that is! The claim is they wick the wetness away from baby's skin. Do they claim they wick the germs, bacteria, heat and acid build-up away? No they don't but parents want to believe it anyway since they get "convenience points" out of infreqent changing.

For breastfeeding parents who want to be on top of good milk intake, cotton really helps awareness for this important element.

It's amazing to me how many parents talk eco, vote eco, blast any corporation or polititian who is not eco enough for them BUT reserve permission for themselves to use a single-use product that will most llikely be the single largest item in their garbage bin. TV media claims to be eco sensitive but will not say a word about REUSABLE diapers over single-use because they get big advertizing dollars from the HUGE single use industry. The Calif. Dept of Conservation, Sierra Club, etc will not say one word about a product on the sustainability pyramid. MediCAL code specifies that it will only compensate for single use diapers, not reusables. The Democrate controled CA legistlature would not change it. It's all such a lie.

There is so much joy in being honest with your babies needs for a clean diaper, not a loaded chemically induced dry one. Every diaper change is not more work, it's more love.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiapering Dad

All I can say is "good luck with that." I'm not trying to be mean or negative. I just know plenty of well-intended "green" parents who gave up after a while. It's obviously not impossible since generations where raised with them, but they will never be easier than the disposible ones. But seriously, I hope you can do it.

July 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

We cloth diaper and LOVE IT! We do not live in a city where we have "diaper service" whatever that heavenly thing you speak of is ;)

We use the BumGenius 3.0 one size, I wash daily and have around 18 diapers. Our guy is almost one and we have been EXCLUSIVELY CDing for about 10 months!

I LOVE the look of cloth, I also love that there aren't any chemicals on my baby. I have never been a fan of "paper" diapers. Once I did my research, the more I became even less of a fan if that was possible. If we are in a situation to need paper diapers we use a natural diaper like Earth's Best or Seventh Generation.

I too like one of the other posters have come in contact with others who say paper diapers don't need to be changed as often but that is untrue, every baby needs to be changed every 2 hours 3 at most!

Best of luck with your cloth diaper ventures! We LOVE IT here!

July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

i live in newzealand, iv used MCN'S on both my girls with great success, the cloth ''covers '' or over naps i wouldent go near, i prefer OSFM, pocket nappys and the snap dome closure as theres no complicated folding involved, these last from newborn to 16kg and there are 100's of different brands to buy, i use 3 brands in particular, (nzl) (aust) and cutey booties 'cutey pie creations' on facebook (nzl) i use bamboo and hemp inserts and can add-remove inserts as baby grows and absorbancy changes, i have a variety on cute prints and some georgeous minky ones to, i strongley suggest new parents research as much as possible before purchasing mcns AS brands vary designs vary and everybody is different.

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkara butt

also worth mentioning i use flushable biodegradable liners and rarely ever have issues with stained nappies, theyre clean and easy to use

November 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkara butt

This post is about as half assed as that disgraceful CBS news piece on "diaper wars".

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhannah b

Why wouldn't a "farm girl" use cloth diapers?! If you are out on the farm, where would you actually buy your disposables? And how could you compost them? I think it's sad to assume the only parents who choose CD's are "tree huggers". There are many reasons for cloth diapering, saving money is a huge one.

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCD'ing mama

I think it's great you CD! Have you looked into one size covers? That way you don't have to buy them so often. If you love the cuteness I would also suggest visiting for some AWESOME WAHM (work at home mom) covers that are adorable and custom - some even make embroidered covers. But be careful - it's addicting, LOL.

Also feel free to join us on BabyCenter's cloth diapering board for help/ questions/ etc anytime

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristian S.

I struggled with all the info when I finally figured out what was easiest and budget friendly for us. I think getting as much info as you can is important.

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

I just wanted to say that I'm not trying to bash your post, merely commenting with my experience on cloth diapering. There is one point that I really do disagree with. "While cloth diapers aren’t less expensive, most calculations put them at about the same cost as standard disposables." You need to specify that it may be about the same cost IF you go with a diaper service. My stash of cloth diapers I spent about $550 for 30 reusable cloth diapers. Thats it! I don't have to ever buy a diaper many disposable diapers would $550 buy? Not enough to diaper up to 3 (maybe more) kids until they are potty trained.
Another point that kind of "rubbed me the wrong way" was dirty hands. Um..I'd hope every person washes their hands after changing ANY diaper, disposable or cloth! If you have a baby you have to make room for dirty diapers. Wetbags or diaper pails fit easily into a corner and should hold plenty. Even if you're diapering with disposables, you have to put the dirty diapers somewhere, correct? I have cloth diapers that snap (personal preference) and I can roll/fold them up after they've been used to about the same size a disposable diaper would be rolled/folded up after it was used.
Kuddo's on cloth diapering! We love it here in our house!

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterI's Mommy

Thank you to those who shared their kind words and constructive criticism. I wanted to address a few of the questions/suggestions that you brought up:

1.) The reason Natali doesn't have a problem storing dirty disposables is that she lives in a building with a garbage chute (most apartment buildings have these). This means she can throw dirty diapers down the garbage chute as often as necessary, she doesn't need to stash them for a weekly pick up like with a diaper service.
2.) I have switched to the Thirsties Duo diaper covers, which are adjustable to 3 different sizes. I highly recommend them!
3.) I's Mommy made an excellent comment about cost. I've updated the post to be more specific.
4.) I 100% agree that hands should always be washed after a diaper change. The need just seems to be more immediate with cloth :)

November 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterNathalee

Good for you for cloth diapering! I used both disposables and cloth with my first born, but have only used cloth with my twins. The savings are substantial, and the garbage reduction as well, with two babies. They are just over a year old now, and I can't say enough good things about cloth!
One comment about the diaper service though, I used one for the first 3 months with my son, and he got terriible rashes from the chemicals used to bleach and sanitize the diapers. Once I bought my own diapers and washed them, we had no further problems with diaper rash.

November 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Why a diaper service? Total waste of money I think. Wash them yourself and save money and having to find space to store them. Adding one load of laundry every two days isn't that tough. And why prefolds and covers? I use pockets which have no pinning required. Plop in a "pad" and velcro on. Easy as pie. I wouldn't have stuck with cloth diapering if I had to snappi or pin prefolds every change.

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie C

To address Stephanie C's comment/question - a diaper service is very convenient in some situations for some people. For example if do not have your own washer/dryer. It's not so easy when you have to share a facility with 35 other units or haul your laundry to a laundromat.

I do not understand why some cloth diapering people feel the need to bash diaper services. Aren't we trying to encourage others to do this and stick with it? If that means a diaper service for some folks, good for them

November 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMasha

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>