I’ve been using cloth diapers with my second child and I have to tell you, I’m a fan! I was intimidated at first because my mom isn’t into the idea of washing kaka rags all the time (completely understandable) and there isn’t really a diaper service near our neck of the proverbial woods (desert?). So I thought this whole thing was going to be brutal- but I came up on some cloth diapers and figured I would try them out (why not?) and… Cloth Diaper Fandom.
See, my first kid go-around I didn’t know better (a common theme it seems) and I just bought my favorite disposable nappies out of the mainstream brands. I thought cloth diapering involved safety pins and burp rags and that seemed like a pain in the ass. I also didn’t have anyone willing to help change “those” diapers (the reusable cloth ones) so I went along with what seemed like the most rational and reasonable option.
Of course I’ve learned more since then and realized somewhere half way through my first child’s diaper reign of kaka and environmental destruction that diapers are diapers whether they are cloth or disposable and either way they both are anti ecologically preferable. Cloth diapers fill less garbage packed landfills so maybe if I really cared about the earth anything would be better than disposable diapers. As a vegan, why not follow more privileged and possibly misguided ecologically minded logic?
But I was already deep in the disposable world so I saw it through to potty training and mentally lashed myself for every diaper tossed in the can. Oh well.
So this baby I figured, how hard can cloth diapering really be? Diapering in essence is gross and dirty so reusable or disposable, the difference is what? I got some disposables for the first week of birth in anticipation of craziness and a lack of willing minions to wash cloth diapers for me to use (good call) and have been switching between cloth and disposable since then. I go a week or so on cloth or when I run out of disposables of better eco-quality than the big name, mainstream brands (not as good as my standards would dictate but for not driving to get them myself and receiving more or less unsolicited from family, good enough). I’ve really seen the difference and here are my feelings:
Aside from smug satisfaction of helping out the earth, disposables have some real qualities to them:
- super absorbent
- free of harmful chemicals and irritants
- grows with baby
- stays put
Now the super absorbency is funny because pee makes the inserts so wet and useless almost instantly. The good thing is they are inserts so if your baby pees on the cloth there’s no problem in taking the burp rag (cloth inserts used to look like these rags) or absorbent insert out and putting a new one in- after all, it’s reusable! Less guilt about either tossing a brand new diaper with a small amount of pee or leaving it on baby’s bottom. 🙂
But regardless about the pee pee on inserts, I love the super absorbent aspect of the cloth diapers strictly for those diarrhea like kakas that are runny and liquidy as all hell, leaking out the sides of the diaper and staining the onesie from both edges and over-flowing out the top of the diaper. Cloth diaper inserts soak in all the water from the runny poops and just leave the kaka so it doesn’t get all over the place (which is no fun). Cloth diapers are amazing at this. Disposable diapers try, but fail. The only time a “blowout” occurs is when the cloth diaper isn’t put on properly. I’ll personally take those odds. 🙂
Disposable diapers are often made with harmful chemicals that can cause long lasting allergies to dyes as well as brutal rashes. While diaper rash is, to a certain extent, inevitable, there are compounds in the disposable diaper itself that can exacerbate a rash turning it into a lesion (super rash). These same chemicals are absent from cloth diapers and even should there be a degree of toxicity to inserts of cloth diapers out of the packaging, this can be washed away unlike disposable diapers which remain toxic.
Unlike a one size disposable diaper, cloth diapers often accommodate a few sizes like 8 pounds to 15 pounds which takes you from newborn to almost size 3 disposable diapers with one product! All the diapers are designed to adjust as your baby grows which makes figuring out sizing so much easier. It also makes for a less wasteful expense as sometimes “stocking up” on disposable diapers makes you buy too many of a size that winds up not getting used. It’s nice to donate the unused diapers, but cheaper for you to use them. Cloth reusable diapers help immensely in the sizing and stockpiling regard.
As for a superior snugness, cloth diapers stay put on the bum. The Velcro won’t rip off (disposable fail when the fastener piece rips off as you’re putting the diaper on…) and the adjustability means that if a diaper is too small, you can make it fit right to avoid it falling off and adjust to make it smaller if its too big. Of course it’s an acquired science because cloth diapers can be bulky and sagtastic like disposables. Regular diaper changing and the acquired skill from practice helps in both regards but I will take cloth diapers in the fit test because of the adjustments that can be made.
Finally, you can use flushable disposable inserts for cloth diapers which can be an easy blend between the uber convenience of disposables and the preference of cloth (Eco-fabulous and reduce the waste friendly) when out traveling or when particularly time challenged, mind challenged- whatever the parenting mood may be.
But, while I love me some cloth diapers, I have to admit that there are some bummers to the whole shindig:
- laundry like crazy
- storing dirty diapers
- drying diapers
Drying diapers can get tricky when you’re low on reusables like me (I have just enough for a day) and you don’t plan ahead. Hang drying the diapers will keep them in tip top quality for longer, dryer drying reusable diapers will wreck those bad boys much quicker than necessary. The plastic lining on the inside of the diaper cover can’t handle the dryer and its a sad day when you have to retire a cloth diaper.
You can rectify this inconvenience by getting enough diapers to get you through a few days while you plan ahead and let them hang dry, you can use a diaper service, or you can find another method like alternating between disposable and cloth like me. The oh crap it’s a disposable day gives me the ability to have a mommy (brain fart) moment and preserve my cloth diapers though I’d much prefer to be able to continue cloth diapering than have to switch out- its cheaper to use cloth and preferable to me overall.
Storing any dirty diaper is a beast of a task so I won’t pretend storage applies to disposables or cloth reusables more than the other. The difference is you can’t hide the excrement cloaked butt rags in the garbage like disposables. You have to keep your diapers in a bag so they can get washed. You must keep them wet and smelly so they don’t dry and become difficult to clean effectively. It is kind of an olfactory assault if you don’t wash them within a day or so. It’s also rather gross. I’m not sure how other people take care of the cloth diapers, I just know I try to do it ASAP before anything weird or gross goes down. Also, I need them or I’ll be diving head first into diaperless diapering and frankly, I’m not ready for that at all.
Doing laundry with a baby is tough- possible, but tough. It’s much easier to toss and be done with a dirty diaper. Doing at least one load of laundry to get basic necessities (diapers) every day is a pain- a doable pain. This is why a diaper service can be handy but I wouldn’t know about that. I also suspect a diaper service is not really that much more Eco friendly than disposables in some ways as it takes a lot of fossil fuels to operate such a service.
Anyway, the sanitary cycle uses a lot of water and heat and runs for a long time. It’s absolutely imperative to get the cleanest clothing for baby’s butt especially when kaka and pee are involved. Additionally, the washer must remain clean and sanitary too. Special laundry detergent is recommended (though I have one detergent that I use for everything which is possibly a sacrilegious confession) and you can throw in extras to help the quality and cleanliness of the load like baking soda and vinegar. Then hang the insert covers, dry the inserts (dryer sheet or dryer balls recommended) and do it all again tomorrow. Of course if your disposable diapers are leaking everywhere, you’ll be doing gross laundry anyway so maybe it’s not that big of a deal or inconvenience when you think about it.
Even with the laundry (which I don’t mind too much), I love cloth diapers. I love that I can get them organic, that I reuse instead of constantly consuming (get your cloth diapers and be done instead of depending on a system to provide you diapers) and I can even make all parts of the diaper myself if I was so organized or inclined! And really, my favorite part of cloth diapers is how the overflow factor with watery poops is amazingly low. Watery kaka almost never makes its way out of the diaper which is just awesome. Less waste, less consumption, less mess. Go cloth diaper! Go!