The Bottom Line on Cloth Diapers

Probably the aspect of holistic parenting that terrified me most as a new mother was cloth diapering.

Logically, I knew cloth diapering was better for the environment and for my baby’s bottom, but I wasn’t sure if, as a first-time mom with a full plate already, I could take on anything else. Also, I was a bit unnerved by the up-front investment cloth diapering requires.

I used my “get out of jail free card,” though, when a friend of mine offered to lend me her daughter’s outgrown cloth diapers. I used them for the first nine months of Isaac’s life, mostly on the weekends. (I was too nervous to ask my mother, who was already graciously attending to my son — for free — while I worked, to take on the added burden of cloth diapers.) Then, once he outgrew them, I switched to disposable and returned the cloth.

What I learned:

Although cloth diapers are intimidating, they’re easy as pie. And if I ever have another baby (fingers crossed) you can bet I’ll be a full-fledged cloth diaperer.

More than 21 billion disposable diapers end up in U.S. landfills every year. The average American baby will require between 6,000 and 10,000 diapers between birth and potty training. The time it takes for the plastics in those diapers to degrade averages about six lifetimes, and the chlorine in the diapers can infiltrate soil and public water supplies, posing health risks.

The average American baby whose parents decide to dress him in cloth diapers will require two to three dozen of those, and at about $15 bucks a pop, they’re not cheap. Still, $540 (approximately) pales in comparison to the $5,000 or so you’ll end up spending on disposables.

Types of Cloth Diapers

And, cloth diapers aren’t the fabric-and-safety-pin monstrosities our grandmothers knew them to be. Cloth diapers are as simple and convenient as disposables. All-in-one diapers include the cloth diaper insert, an outer cover and either snap or Velcro fastenings. Once soiled, simply dunk the insert in the toilet to rinse and then throw them in a paint bucket until you’re ready to wash.

Though most consider all-in-ones to be the most convenient, I prefer inserts. The waterproof cover comes separate from the thick, absorbent cloth pad, which is inserted into the diaper. I like these because the inside part of the cover is made of soft cotton that wicks moisture away from baby, so if baby urinates, you can simply replace the insert without having to change the diaper completely. If the diaper is soiled, simply rinse it and throw it in the bucket.

How to Wash Them

Wait to wash the diapers until you’ve got a full or nearly-full load. Instead of using the dryer, hang the diapers on a clothesline outside. You’ll save energy, and the sun is the best stain remover you can ask for. After two babies, the cloth diapers I used are still stain-free because they were mostly dried in the sun.

If you’re not quite ready to go for cloth diapers (and believe me, I understand your apprehension), try gDiapers, which combine elements of cloth and disposable. Or, try a chlorine-free disposable diaper, such as those made by Seventh Generation.

But seriously, think about cloth. As is the case with most things, if I can do it, anyone can.

Categories: Infant/Pre-School, Little Ones