Cloth diapering is cheaper and arguably better for the environment than using disposable diapers. While they’re easier and more convenient than most parents realize, they do have their quirks. After using cloth diapers with two kids, here are a few lessons learned and tips I’ve picked up:
Cloth diapers minimize blowouts
This is the third major advantage after the money saved and environmental sustainability. When I had Sprout, I heard all sorts of stories about infant diaper blowouts up the back of kids’ clothes. While I thought I was just lucky, I soon realized that the sturdy vinyl of my son’s cloth diaper covers kept the poop in much better than disposables’ thin elastic. I’ve only had one catastrophic poop blowout incident with cloth diapers over the two years Sprout used them and the five months Little Bird has so far.
They’re not as gross as you think
As a new parent, you will be dealing with poop so very much. Cloth diapers don’t make it worse and can even avoid some very icky situations in public places (see the point above).
Get the type that’s right for your family
There are a lot of options when it comes to cloth diapers. We wanted the ones that were the easiest to change and wash as possible. We chose Best Bottoms from Nicki’s Diapers, which have vinyl covers with cloth inserts that snap right into them. If it’s just pee and not too wet, you can snap the insert out and use the shell again without washing it.
They sometimes don’t hold as much pee as disposables, depending on what kind you get.
Although they are absorbent, the cloth cotton or synthetic inserts simply don’t hold as much pee as disposables. As a result, you have to change your child’s diapers much more often than you would otherwise. This is particularly an issue at night, at least if your child pees a lot in their sleep. Some people think that this is a benefit, as the child feels more wet and is therefore more amenable to potty-training. Unfortunately, we have not found that to be the case.
Their appropriateness may vary depending on the age of the child
I wouldn’t recommend using cloth diapers until babies are at least a couple of weeks old. Most of them will be too big on the child, especially if they were born small. In addition, meconium, the baby’s first poops, are a tarry, sticky mess. You do not want to try to get that stuff out of cloth. Wait until their poop is nice and water soluble. On the other end of the age spectrum, your child may “outgrow” cloth diapers before they are ready to potty-train, depending on how much they pee at one time.
Washing is a multi-step process that’s a lot easier with someone staying at home
We wash our diapers every 2-3 days. For infants (especially those that are breastfed), you don’t need to prepare the diapers before putting them in the washing machine. As the child gets older and the poop more solid, you need to spray it into the toilet first. While the baby gear industry makes devices specifically for this purpose, we have a high-pressure spray bottle that’s used in labs to rinse out test tubes.
To “trick” our high efficiency washing matching into thinking it has a full load, we throw a wet towel in with the diapers. For the cycle, we run a cold water cycle without soap and with an extra rinse. We then run them again on the regular whites cycle with soap. While actually handling it doesn’t take long, having someone home to switch loads really helps in terms of time management.
You may need to back up with disposables
We’re not cloth diaper purists. We’ve always used disposables while traveling because we don’t want to take all of the washing machine time when visiting relatives. And there’s simply no way to deal with them if you’re staying at a hotel.
Sometimes there’s just times when we can’t keep up with the demand. Little Bird is extremely sensitive and wants to get changed all of the time, so he often ends up in disposables. Considering the pace he goes through diapers, just having the cloth ones is saving us a ton of money.
Cloth diapers aren’t for everyone. If you have to share a washer/drier (like in an apartment complex), your day care refuses to deal with them, or you simply don’t have time, they aren’t worth it. But if you have the resources and are willing to be a little different, they may be a good fit for your family.
For more lessons learned the hard (and sometimes easy) way, check out Getting Ready to Become a Big Brother (prepping little ones for future siblings) and the Highs and Lows of Camping with a Toddler (what not to do if you’re ridiculous enough to go camping with a two-year-old).