Friday, March 13, 2009

Why don't you use cloth?

I'll admit, I am a die-hard, obsessive cloth diaper mom. I will go to great lengths to not put a disposable (trashy) diaper on my child. Two-week camping trip in the dessert? Trust me, I'd still use cloth diapers (I know, I'm weird). I don't consider disposable diapers an option for my children.

Sadly enough, most other moms (and dads) are the opposite; they would not consider cloth diapers an option. I frequently bring up the subject of cloth diapers with new parents. Most of them automatically dismiss it and then explain why they could NEVER handle cloth diapers. I hear the same excuses over and over again. I will list six of the most common excuses here, along with the response I try to give (when I have the time):

Excuse #1
"Ooh, gross, I just couldn't bring myself to dunk & swish the poopie diapers!"
Okay, first of all, did you know that you are actually supposed to rinse out disposable diapers before you throw them in the trash? Mmm hmmm, read the tiny print on the packaging. You shouldn't deposit human feces in the municipal trash, it's against the law. Yeah, most people don't know that.

Secondly, I don't dunk and swish poopie diapers either. As some of you know, diapers of exclusively breastfed babies do not need to be rinsed at all, their stools are water soluble (like yogurt) and easily rinse off in the washing machine. And when my babies start to eat solids, I use my diaper sprayer, much faster, easier, and more effective than swishing. If you don't want to invest in a diaper sprayer, consider using flushable diaper liners. You can simply lift the soiled liner out of the diaper and flush it. I use liners when we are on vacation and far away from my sprayer.

Excuse #2
"I have so much laundry and I just hate doing it. There is no way I could add diapers to my laundry list."
I understand, laundry is really a never-ending chore for me, too. And why is it difficult? Since I have a washer and drier, it's just a matter of dumping in some laundry & detergent, and then pushing some buttons. What's hard about that? Nothing. The only difficult part about laundry is the initial sorting, and then the folding and putting away. And trying to stay on top of it so there aren't eternal stacks of clean laundry piled on the couch.

When you wash diapers, you don't need to worry about sorting. You just dump the diaper pail into the washer. And you don't need to worry about folding or putting away the clean diapers, either. I have a designated diaper laundry basket that is always full of clean diapers. My stash consists of many pocket diapers, so I usually do fold the inserts & stuff the diapers when they come out of the wash. But sometimes I just leave them in the basket and fold them as I need them. If you absolutely hate folding, just invest in diapers that don't need to be folded. The challenges of sorting, folding, and putting away are really non-existent for diaper laundry. It's the easiest load in the house!

Excuse #3
"Cloth diapers are leaky, I want to keep my lap clean and dry."
As one who has had experience with newborns in both disposable and cloth diapers, I can assure you that disposable diapers are the leaky ones, not cloth! It is true that a prefold or a flat diaper that isn't expertly folded may leak around the edges. I used flat diapers with fitted PUL covers with my first newborn and found that I frequently had to wash out the covers when the diaper leaked (this was much easier than washing his clothing & bedding several times a day). When I switched to fitted cloth diapers with elastic around the back and legs, the covers stayed clean and I didn't have to wash them as often. In comparison, when I used disposable diapers on my baby (for about a week), I was constantly washing his clothing and bedding, it was gross. As one of my friends likes to say, newborns cause lots of laundry no matter what kind of diaper you use. If you use cloth, you will be washing the diapers. If you use disposables, you will be washing piles of clothes and blankets several times a day. Do less laundry with cloth diapers!

The other concern is that a cloth diaper cover will leak liquid. The PUL diapers & covers I use are super waterproof, I have never had a leak. Wool covers can sometimes feel moist if they are left on too long, or if they need a lanolin treatment. Take proper care of your wool covers and they shouldn't be leaky. Use a PUL cover if you are on a long car trip or walking with your baby in a sling.

Excuse #4
"I'm a germ-a-phobe, and cloth diapers just aren't sanitary!"
This statement assumes two things:
A. Diapers should be sanitary and sterile.
B. Disposable diapers are sanitary and sterile.
Neither one of these statements is true. It is not necessary for adults to sterilize their underwear after it is worn and washed. Diapers do not need to be sterilized either.
Disposable diapers are not sterilized. Do diapers come individually wrapped in little sanitary packages like bandages? No. Have you ever been to see the factories and the machines that make disposable diapers? Trust me, not sanitary. My new front-loader washing machine does have a "sanitize" cycle that washes the clothes in extra hot water. I am more confident about the cleanliness of my cloth diapers than I would be about the cleanliness of disposable diapers that come from who knows where.
It is true that you should be extra sure to get your diapers really clean if your child has some kind of stomach flu. Washing them with hot water and drying in a hot dryer or in the warm sunshine should be enough to kill any outbreak of germs. You can add a capful of bleach to the wash if you are worried. Usually cloth diapers are not the culprit for re-spreading the disease around your house, it is instead doorknobs and other surfaces that need to be cleaned and sanitized.

Excuse #5
"Cloth diapers are too bulky."
In my humble opinion, this concern falls in the "true, but not important" category. Are these parents concerned that people will notice the extra bulk on their child and giggle because they are wearing a diaper? I assure you that most people expect babies to wear diapers. If your child is to the point that they are embarrassed about their diaper, that should give them some good incentive to be potty trained!

Yes, it is true that cloth diapers tend to be more bulky than disposables. You might find that you have to use a larger clothing size if your baby is in cloth. I don't see this as a real issue since babies are constantly growing bigger and needing larger clothing no matter what kind of diaper they wear. And if a trim diaper is your goal, there are plenty of diapering options that offer a less-bulky alternative (PUL instead of wool, hemp or bamboo instead of cotton). My babies wear wool covers because the bulky bum look on a baby doesn't bother me! In fact, I think if offers the great advantage of more cushioning when a baby is learning to walk and frequently falls on his/her hiney.

Excuse #6
"But when you weigh in the costs and effects of extra laundry, aren’t cloth diapers just as expensive and just as bad on the environment?"
This is a common misconception that was proliferated by a faulty study publicized by Proctor & Gamble (they wanted to sell more of their disposable diapers; see information about their controversial Decision Earth propaganda that they still distribute to school children), but it’s just not true. The cost for washing diapers will be around $400 over a 2.5-year period. That includes the price of detergent, electricity, and water. The price of the actual diapers can vary greatly depending on the kind you use, but even expensive designer diapers are cheaper than disposables in the long run. Especially considering they can be used on additional children!

And as for environmental issues, the water and energy that you use to wash diapers doesn’t compare to the horrible effects that disposable diapers have on nature. Forests are cut down and turned into pulp, then bleached (adding dangerous chemicals and gases to the water and air). Non-renewable petroleum is used for making the plastic in the diapers. Massive amounts of water, more than you use in your laundry, are also used in the disposable diaper-making process. Fossil fuels are also used for transportation along every step of the way. All this just so your baby can use it for a few hours, then toss it in the trash and grab a new one. For shame!

Well, I didn't even get to diaper rash & other health concerns. I can devote another post to that.

Please post comments if you have heard other excuses that are missing from this list!


  1. Great 'laundry list' of concerns from the non-cd sect!

    And I love your answers :D

  2. My son had Chrinic Toddlers Diahrea. We went to see specialist and had several tests done for only God knows what, all to come back negative. We were told he would "just grow out of it" and it "doesn't have a real cause".

    We tried EVERY type of disposable out there!! We tried altering his diet. WE TRIED EVERYTHING!!!!

    I had been considering cloth diapering, and was looking into it when I found out a friend of mine already did! I asked her how tough it was, and she kind of laughed at me. She said "you have to carry a bit more in the diaper bag, but other than that, I'm never going back!!"

    So, to sum it all up, I switched to cloth diapers over 1 1/2 years ago. I am happy to say that my son only has bouts of diahrea now when we have to use disposables for a day or more, sick times, and times when he just has too much juice/fruit!!

    I WILL NEVER GO BACK!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Great story, Lyanna. Who knew that disposables could cause diarrhea? Wow, that's a new one for me.

  4. I have heard the argument (even from people that I would think would know better) that cloth is more likely to cause diaper rash.
    Of course I would argue that the chemicals in disposables are far worse...and that some babies may need stay-dry fabrics, while others need non-synthetics...but I do think that any baby can be better served (rash wise) by cloth. :)

  5. I use cloth on the baby, my DH uses disposables. I still feel MUCH better about the impact we're having on the environment and I love our CDs. Thanks for posting this, I hope it makes a difference to those out there unsure about trying CD's.

  6. Great post! Yeah I wish more people would consider dumping the poop out of a disposable diaper, I don't understand why they wouldn't. I told my friend about it and she thought I was crazy. Maybe they think they're going overboard I don't know! I think another reason people wouldn't want to switch is because they feel people are trying to tell them they're doing things wrong as a parent which then people get really defensive!

  7. I love using cloth diapers on my baby girl! I brag every chance I get. Except now that she is learning to walk, I'm afraid the bulk is causing her to have some trouble. She is a skinny little thing and walks bow-legged like she’s been riding a horse. Her doctor was a little concerned as well and she asked me to use disposables for a couple of months. I felt like a failure walking into the store and buying a case of trashy diapers. Am I crazy for thinking that my daughter would be bow-legged forever because I used bulky cloth diapers?

  8. Jessica B-my mom cloth diapered all 9 of her kids starting in the early 80s. We're talking flats and pins and plastic pants. Those were HUGE diapers. Not a one of us ended up bow-legged in the long run(although yes, we were a bit while still in the diapers).
    Most modern diapers are far less bulky--some of my AIOs are nearly as trim as disposables (and I have skinny kids, so bulk really shows!)
    I would say if you're concerned I'd look for a trim style, but I doubt it's anything to really worry about.


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