This week we’ve discussed the baby questions that pop up in my inbox most often such as what you need when you don’t want so much baby stuff and if you should save things for the next baby. The final post in this series is about cloth diapering and my own experience.
What I really think about cloth diapers is:
I like cloth diapers. I think they are worth using. Much of the time I felt like they were working for us. Sometimes I felt like I was working a lot to make them work for us.
I think there’s so much rah-rah-rah about cloth diapers and why you should use them that it makes it hard to talk honestly about the challenges too, so this post is about my full experience.
I really liked it when I didn’t need to put a giant box of diapers in my shopping cart, and I loved not producing all the trash.
I used disposables with my first child. I started cloth diapering my second child from the earliest newborn days, and I usually felt really good about using cloth diapers. There were times however that we had to take an extended break from cloth diapers, and it was hard to buy disposables when I had a lovely basket of cloth diapers waiting right there.
After you’ve used cloth diapers for a while, you typically have so much time, expense, and effort invested into it that it can feel like a personal failure when you have to admit that something’s not working.
One reason we had to stop using them for a while was because my son was sensitive to food and had sensitive skin as well. He got an eczema-type rash that would not go away until we used disposables exclusively for several weeks. Some babies have rashes that don’t go away until they start using cloth diapers, and that shows how experiences are different. Hours of Google searches and several different “Did you try…” experiments caused frustration especially when it affects your baby’s skin.
We also took a break when we traveled and stayed at other people’s houses, and then again when we had plumbing problems that made it likely for the washing machine to flood the garage. There were some months that we felt like we had too much else on our plate to deal with it.
I still like cloth diapers, and I’m glad we’re back to using them full time.
What I wish I had known when I started using cloth diapers:
Spend less time researching. I don’t want to know how many hours I spent reading about cloth diapering. There are so many thoughts and opinions that at some point you need to stop and make a decision without second-guessing if you bought the right kind or if someone else’s cloth diaper purchase was better. I noticed that Jillian’s Drawers has a cloth diaper trial program so you don’t have to spend time staring at pictures and guessing. Make a decision and go with it.
Skip the newborn sizes. I heard this advice, and I should have listened. Newborns grow quickly. My son fit into a regular bumGenius diaper at two weeks old. Use disposables for the first couple of weeks.
The extra laundry is not that hard. The washing machine does all the work, I just had to the push the buttons, and I didn’t mind the domestic ritual of hanging up the diapers on the line to dry. I actually had fewer stains on my baby clothes because cloth diapers help prevent blowouts, and the sun whitens diaper stains. The cost for washing diapers is minimal because I have an efficient washing machine, the amount of detergent is insignificant, and I air dried them on a drying rack instead of the dryer.
It became part of my routine to wash diapers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If I worked outside the home though, I don’t think I could do it. I tried to picture myself coming home at the end of the day to more laundry, and I don’t think I would add that work unless I had a diaper service.
It does get easier. Newborns go through as many as 12 diapers a day, and every single one of them is messy, but an older baby only needs about 7 diapers a day (in my experience). A sprayer is a helpful addition.
I am glad I did not get the cheapest-possible option. I bought great-quality diapers that work and more than the minimum amount so that I wouldn’t worry about running out before I could wash them. My goal was to save money and be responsible to the environment, but because of how much time is spent daily changing diapers, I wanted to like them too. Since cloth diapering is such a savings compared to disposables, I chose to spend a little more to make it easier.
What type of cloth diapers I use
My selection was the not the simplest, nor the cheapest, but it worked for me. I chose a combination of bumGenius pocket diapers and prefolds with covers.
The prefolds with wool covers are by far my favorite. I can’t even describe how cuddly soft it is to be holding a baby wearing a soft wool cover with no velcro or snaps. (He’s only about a week old in this picture, so the cover doesn’t normally look so big.) The wool covers are surprisingly low maintenance (they just need airing out usually). Some wool covers are quite expensive, but I chose Disana wool covers which are a little more affordable, and we had two in rotation.
We also had a couple of inexpensive PUL covers (Thirsties brand) to help extend our supply until laundry day during the first few months when we were going through so many diapers every day.
(When I’m talking about prefolds I mean good ones such as the Cloth-eez from Green Mountain Diapers, not the Gerber prefolds that you can buy in a package from Target. Those are not the same.)
Why I like using cotton prefolds:
- The prefolds with wool covers can go overnight without leaks.
- I generally prefer cotton and wool natural fibers in clothes and diapers instead of synthetics because of the way they feel.
- It’s easier to tell when a prefold is wet compared to a pocket diaper.
- Prefolds last longer if you want to use them for the next kid. Pocket diapers will probably need to have the elastic and velcro fasteners replaced at the least (easier now than it used to be).
- Prefolds are really easy to launder since they’re just cotton and less likely to hold odors.
- Prefolds also work as burp cloths and a diaper changing pad.
Why I like using pocket diapers:
I use bumGenius pocket diapers. I like them a lot, and here’s why.
- They have a more trim fit than prefolds, so clothes will fit, and there is less stuffing between the legs when your child starts to toddle.
- The adjustable fit and inserts let the same diaper fit a two week old or a two year old, and that’s amazing.
- The elastic around the legs holds in messes well.
- They are easy for babysitters to use.
- They dry quickly after laundry.
It would have been more simple (and less money) to choose one style or the other. I’m not sure if I would go with prefolds or pocket diapers because I liked them for different reasons. Both are a good value. If I had to choose just one, I would probably select bumGenius pocket diapers because of the ease and one size.
You can’t delay changes with cloth diapers like you can wait with disposables, and I could never get the pocket diapers to go overnight without leaks no matter how many extra inserts I added. If I didn’t have wool covers and prefolds, I would decide to compromise and use a disposable for overnights.
So that’s the story of my cloth diaper experience. If you ever want to know what a mom who uses cloth diapers thinks about it, just ask her, because she’ll tell you everything you want to know.
Feel free to share your thoughts and advice about cloth diapering in the comments.
For those who don’t have babies, thanks for putting up with all the baby talk, and now back to our usual program.