It seems odd now, but prior to a little more than a year ago, I don't think I knew that cloth diapers still existed--at least not in developed countries. I also didn't realize disposables have only existed since about the 1950's and took off in the 1960's as women entered the workforce. I just hadn't ever thought about that. It wasn't until a couple of my friends were expecting their first baby, and I learned they were going to use cloth diapers, that they entered my radar. Other than trying to wrap my head around how they work, I didn't give them much mind. When I asked them why they were going to use cloth diapers, their response was that my friend's dad wanted them to use it because it was more comfortable for the baby. I'm not sure we ever discussed the environmental impact or cost savings of using cloth diapers. But when I entered my third trimester of pregnancy, I was suddenly hit with an extra urgency to find ways I could adjust my life to live more sustainably, and for some reason the first thing to come to mind was cloth diapers. So, as I researched cloth diapers, I found myself quickly falling love with them--some may even say obsessed and here are the reasons why.
2 Main Reasons for Using Cloth Diapers / Nappies
For us, it came down to two main reasons, which are no doubt two of the most common reasons people choose to use cloth diapers / nappies: the positive environmental impact and the cost savings.
When I learned that the average baby goes through 4,000 to 6,000 diapers in his or her diapering lifetime, and each diaper takes 400-600 years to decompose I was horrified. For reference, the recommended minimum number of cloth diapers you need in order to do laundry every 2-3 days is 24. So while everyone freaks out about dealing with poo when you mention cloth diapers, I was freaking out about the image of mountains of dirty, nasty, poopy diapers polluting our earth. All I could see was landfills with mountains of diapers. The first disposable diapers ever used are still just sitting there and more continue to be added to that pile. People will try to tell you that using cloth diapers means more laundry, which means more water and energy used; but they don’t think about how much more water, energy, and chemicals are used to make disposables. There is no doubt, using cloth diapers is MUCH better for our environment. Also, nowadays more and more people are using energy efficient laundry machines, and if you use a diaper laundering service, those services are typically very green in how they launder diapers. Not to mention, I believe we are not technically supposed to put human or animal poo into our landfills as that is considered a toxic hazard in multiple ways. I'm not 100% sure of this though, as I recently read an old article that said this isn't true, so if anyone has more definitive knowledge on this, please let me know!
This was the reason that got my husband on board. The cost savings tends to be around $1,000 to $2,000 minimum for two years of diapering. To give you an idea, for our moderate stash of diapers, our total spend is $346.36. This includes some extra hemp and bamboo inserts for extra absorbency (stay tuned for a more detailed post on how to use cloth diapers), and liners for moisture wicking and easy poo clean up. And we have way more than the minimum recommendation of 24 diapers (48 to be exact, but in varying sizes). This is a little less than the moderate and average spend you can expect for a complete stash of cloth diapers, but I will probably add a few extras down the line once we figure out what truly works for our babe. For a moderate stash, you can expect to spend around $400 to $450 though. You can spend even less--some parents get a full stash with just a couple hundred of bucks, and you can spend a lot more...especially if you fall prey to all the cute designs out there! It also depends on the diapering system you choose, because there are a few different types of diapers and some cost more than others. However, even if you got a full stash of the more expensive diapers, your total spend on just diapers is still plus or minus $600. Our total including other diapering accessories such as pails, wet bags, travel bags, and snappies, comes out to $544.31. This entire stash should last us our child's entire diapering lifetime, as well as a sibling or two's. As we find our groove we may add a little more to the stash, but I will resist the urge to buy just on the basis of a cute print! Depending on what kinds of disposables you buy, our total spend on diapers plus accessories is how much many people spend on just a few months of diapers. And this doesn't include the accessories you'll need, nor the amount of disposable wipes you'll need to purchase.
Other Reasons and Arguments for Using Cloth
(In no particular order)
O. Em. Geeee! Have you seen how cute cloth diapers are??? Now when I see disposable diapers I find them so underwhelming, no matter what cute design they manage to print on them. They just look so deflated next to the bright fluffy bums of a cloth diaper. And as I mentioned earlier, this is the reason people can go way over spend on cloth diapers, because some prints are just irresistible. But if you're on a budget...resist!
You're Going to Have to Deal with Poo Anyways
Again, people fear poo when it comes to cloth diapers, but they seem to forget that whether you use cloth or disposables, you will deal with poo, pee, and all kinds of explosions. Just the other day a friend of mine posted a photo of her two-year old son sitting in a smoothie pile of his own poo, because somehow he managed to create a poo-nami that overflowed out the top of his diaper. Another friend told me about a time her daughter projectile poo-ed everywhere. The bottom line is, like with disposables, it comes down to getting the right fit and absorbency. Every baby is different, and it takes some trial and error to know what will work best on your baby. And of all the blogs I've read and vlogs I've watched on cloth diapering (which is A LOT), most parents do not have any more of an issue with blowouts and leaks than parents who use disposables. Those who truly master the fit of cloth diapers have minimal to zero leaks and blowouts issues. Maybe I'm just a complete weirdo, but I'm actually really excited to figure out the best fit and absorbency for my son. It feels like a fun challenge to me. I'll let you know if I still feel the same way in a couple months and we're actually in the trenches. But also, if you really don't want to deal with poopy diapers and have the budget, there are great diaper laundering services, and the cost would be about the same as what you'd spend on disposables. The great thing about these diaper laundry services is that they are also operated in eco-friendly manners.
It's Not All or Nothing
No one said if you use cloth diapers that you can only use cloth diapers. For my friends who introduced me to cloth diapering, they use disposables at night, because they found that works better for their son. For us, we plan to use disposables when we travel, particularly if we are staying somewhere we don't have access to our own laundry machine. So, I've done a lot of digging into more eco-friendly disposables as well. I've also picked up a couple packs of eco-friendly disposable wipes as a back-up to using cloth wipes. I hope I get the hang of using cloth wipes, and I've only heard one cloth diapering parent on YouTube say she doesn't use cloth wipes, but it's more about getting accustomed to them. In fact, everyone else says that cloth wipes tend to work way better, not only in that you use way less cloth wipes (usually just one per change, maybe two if there was a really bad poo) than disposable wipes, but also you get less poo on your hands.
Faster Potty Training
Unless you're constantly using diaper liners, which can be a piece of microfleece or other material, to wick away moisture from your baby's bum, many cloth diapered babies potty train faster. This is because they learn from feeling wet that it's time to change or go to the potty. Of course, every kid is different, but this makes sense to me. I'll let you know in a couple years how fast we potty train.
Less Diaper Rashes
So my friend's dad was right. Cloth diapers are more comfy for our babies' tushies. Many parents turn to using cloth diapers because their child has really sensitive skin. The chemicals used to make cloth diapers are particularly activated once peed on, so babies' skin can become easily irritated.
Particularly if you use the prefolds strategy, which is what we are doing, they are so versatile! Prefolds are small squares of multi-layered cloths made of cotton, bamboo, or hemp. They look like some of my mom's cleaning rags. First of all, there are a few different ways to use the prefolds and they're very easily customizable so you can get the right absorbency for your baby. However, what also drew me into making this our main, if not only, strategy, is that many parents use prefolds for other purposes as well. When your baby outgrows smaller sized ones, you can use prefolds as wipes, cleaning cloths, or even burping bibs. Or you can continue to use them pad-folded and as an extra layer of absorbency. Some parents also use them as a little changing pad. I love the versatility of this type of diaper, because that means long after we are done with using diapers, we can still make use of them.
One thing I have found very encouraging and warming is the cloth diapering community. There are so many groups out there, especially on Facebook, that are there to support each other; but also to sell and trade diapers with each other. This adds to the budget-friendly and eco-friendly reasons to cloth diaper. And it seems to me that re-selling and trading diapers is a very common practice amongst the cloth diapering community. I suppose it's not just budget friendly, especially if you really want that cute print, but it's also a great way to try out diapers you may not want to pay full price for until you know how well they work on your kid. If you take good care of your diapers, it seems you can get at least 50% back of what you paid. So the resale value is high.
Support for Family-Owned and Women-Run Companies
As I did my research on brands, companies, and sellers, one thing I noticed is that many cloth diaper companies were started by mothers and parents who wanted to find a solution to better cloth diapers for their babies. There are certainly cheap brands out there, too, that are sold in bulk, come in super cute prints, and are pretty popular; but for the most part the top quality brand of cloth diapers are started by women and run by families. They are environmentally conscious and work to not only provide quality diapers, but also practice and push sustainability.
Stay tuned for more on fluffy booties! I will also be doing cloth diaper videos so be sure to subscribe to Tea with Justine!