Should You Use Cloth Diapers?

These are not your grandma’s cloth diapers… you’ve seen the comment everywhere. And it’s true. Today’s cloth diapers are a lot different than the clunky cloth you see in baby pictures of your parents. Even with all of the convenience and cuteness in modern cloth, though, you need to know the reasons to choose them over disposable diapers. Here are some of the most compelling:

should-you-use-cloth-diapers

Good for the Environment

I actually listed this one first because for me, it’s the least compelling reason. I want to leave a beautiful world for my kids, though, and anything that helps a little is a bonus in my book.

A lot of people argue that washing cloth diapers makes them take up as much energy and generates waste by-products just like manufacturing disposables, but that’s not true. The wash water from diapers is considered grey-water, meaning it can be safely run through septic systems and used for water some plants and landscapes. It’s not creating toxic sludge or dangerous runoff like is created in industrial manufacturing.

Disposable diapers, by the very nature of being disposable, must be manufactured over and over. Each new diaper is a continuation of the industrial system with all its by-products, wastes, and energy usage. Cloth diapers are manufactured once, then one diaper is used over and over, countless times. Most cloth diapers also get passed on to another baby, or even babies. Even families with just one child can sell gently-used diapers to other families… in fact, the diaper swapping and selling market is pretty hot!

Saving Money

That brings us neatly to the next point… saving your dollars.

Cloth diapers save money, period. Even if you buy the most expensive, super-popular brand of cloth diaper, you’ll still save money over the diapering life of your baby. The only thing that will cost less is going diaper free (and hey, you’ll save on washing costs if you and your baby do a little elimination communication, but more on that in another post!).

If you re-use your cloth diapers for another baby (or two), you cost savings grow exponentially. You don’t have to buy diapers again – just use the ones you’ve already invested in. In fact, cloth diapers are an investment.

Here’s a tip: you don’t even have to buy the super-popular collector’s diapers for top dollar (yes, there are collector’s diapers… you can investigate those on your own if you’re interested :p). In fact you can get by with lower cost diapers.

I’ll have an entire post covering diaper types, but different types of diapers have different costs. Simple pre-folds or flats along with a cover cost under $100 for a full stash (that’s a supply of diapers). And some ingenious mothers have been using flour sack towels, which cost literally next to nothing in the kitchen supply section of your local store… you can diaper for around $30 with those, if needed.

Want something fancier? You can look into “China cheapies” (which I’ve reviewed here and found the quality good), or you can jump into the gently-used diaper market and build a varied stash for very little. Crafty? You can sew a diaper to fit any budget.

I bought our current diaper stash when we had a nice cushion of extra cash in the bank. Now that times are leaner, I’ve given thanks for our diaper supply over and over again :)

Baby’s Comfort

I’ll admit that I don’t wear diapers and I haven’t in, well, decades. But when I feel the silky-soft fabric of my baby’s diapers and compare that to the paper-like scratch of a disposable, I’m pretty sure cloth feels better.

Even coming off the line, where stiffer diapers are normal, cloth is still softer. Throw them in the dryer for a few minutes and they’re softer still.

I like letting my babies roll around diaper free, but we are a part-time diaper using family, and I like my baby to be comfy. This time around we were really brave and went cloth from the very first diaper with Corwin, and I think his little bottom is happier for it.

Cloth diapers also get changed more frequently, meaning there’s no urine (or poop) sitting against your baby’s skin. There are no super-absorbent polymer gels. That’s important because those gels are chemicals sitting against your baby’s body (mixed with pee, no less). First of all, they smell funny. Secondly, they feel icky… can you imagine sitting on a pile of gooey jelly? Thirdly, they can actually absorb moistures that’s supposed to be in baby’s skin. And finally, those gels can actually cause chemical burns on your baby’s body.

Cloth comes in as kinder, all around.

It’s Fun!

I saved this one for last because it’s frivolous, but it’s truly one of my favorite things about cloth diapers. There are so many more reasons, including the choice to diaper your baby in all-natural diapers (choose cotton, hemp, bamboo, and wool diapers if you’re going for all-natural). But I love how cute cloth looks!

I’m not as big of a fan of the “super-padded” look of nighttime cloth, though seeing a toddler waddle in them is good for a smile ;) But I really like the fun of picking out a cute cover or a cute pocket diaper when it’s time for a change. I loved picking a variety of diapers when I bought diapers. When I fold diapers, I arrange them neatly by type. It’s fun. And thanks to the internet, I know I’m not the only mama that thinks so ;)

No matter what you like, you can get a diaper that’s uniquely right for you and your baby. You can even dress up prefold diapers by tie-dying! And when it comes to wool, the beautiful designs that work-at-home moms create when they knit up longies and shorties are amazing. Just take a look at all the sizes, shapes, fabrics, patterns, and literal rainbow of colors available in today’s cloth :D

This post is part of the Definitive Diapering Guide Series:

Ready to ditch diapers? Check out my in-the-trenches-with-elimination-communication info section :)

Photo by lourdes fisio