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Should I Cloth Diaper?

by Amelia on December 6, 2007
category: 0 – 1 year (baby),1 – 3 year (toddler),Potty time

I asked this question when we were pregnant with our first baby. We had some friends that had done it and our birth teacher had a former student who sold them and came to one of our classes to give a demonstration on how they worked. The picture is of our second son, Isaac in a Fuzzy Bunz pocket diaper.She showed us several different kinds of diapers and we learned that we could save hundreds to thousands of dollars by using cloth diapers. We still had questions that I think most people have like:

How do you wash them? Is it hard?

How do you get the poop out?

Is it gross? Is it inconvenient?

What about when you go out?

Why should we?

How do I get started?

Once we learned the answers to our questions we thought it was a good idea and we wanted to try it. I’ll share with you some of the answers we came up with and add some things I have learned since I started cloth diapering.

There is a lot of information out there about cloth diapering and once learn some of the terminology and get the basics down it should be smooth sailing.

Did you know…?

Disposable diapers have traces of Dioxin in them. Dioxin comes from the bleaching process and is a known cancer linked chemical. It is also banned in several other countries but not here in the U.S.

Disposable diapers also contain another toxic chemical called TBT that can cause hormonal problems in humans.

It can cost approximately $1,600 to diaper one baby in disposables but you could cloth diaper ALL your babies for less than half of that?

Did you know (from a Green perspective):

That 92% of all disposable diapers end up in a landfill?

That disposable diapers are estimated to take 200-500 years to decompose and are the third largest consumer item in landfills?

300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum byproducts and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to diaper one baby each year in disposables?

Disposable diapers are not able to be recycled but cloth diapers can be used 50-200 times before being recycled and used as rags?

Okay, okay enough with the facts. I got those from a non-profit group called The Real Diaper Association committed to teaching parents about all the benefits of cloth diapering.

To answer some of the questions I asked earlier….

How do you wash them? Is it hard?

Everyone seems to have their own way of washing the diapers but there are some basics. Some people soak their diapers in the washer overnight but others will just run a pre-wash. I wash my diapers in a cold/cold cycle with no detergent first. This serves as my “pre-wash”. Then I add All Free and Clear to the diapers and change the water temp to hot/cold and wash them on the heavy duty 14 minute cycle. I take out my diaper covers and put all the pre-folds in the dryer and set them to dry. It takes a little practice to figure out when to wash before you run out of diapers to use on the baby.

I have noticed that the cloth diaper pail actually smell better than a disposable diaper pail. It still has an odor, don’t get me wrong, but it is not quite as putrid–in my opinion. The chemicals in the disposable diapers mix with the urine and poop to create a rather unpleasant odor.

Is is gross and inconvenient? What about when you go out?

It isn’t any more gross than disposable diapers. Poop is poop. I will admit that it is perhaps a little grosser when your baby is older and having some ooey-gooey poops but the great thing is that the washing machine will clean what you can’t dump into the toilet. When we are out and about I use a little plastic grocery sack or a vinyl bag to carry around used cloth diapers. I just have to dump it into the diaper pail when I get home. It doesn’t feel burdensome to do that.

When we travel I use disposable diapers. It is inconvenient to use them while traveling because they take up a lot of packing room and you have to have a washing machine to wash them. That is not always possible when traveling.

Why should I?

Cloth diapering is environmentally friendly and also economic. A friend of mine from Tanzania told me that the United States is sending some of our waste to landfills in Africa! Our landfills are so full of disposable diapers and if more people started cloth diapering then maybe we wouldn’t have to send our trash to another continent. It is one way to make our biological footprint a little smaller.

You get the most economic savings if you have more than one child because you can reuse cloth diapers on every kid. Depending on what kind of cloth diapers you buy you can still get quite a savings on one child. There is a small learning curve to get started but it is easy to learn and the benefits are great! Instead of spending $40-50 a month on diapers over a 2-3 year period you can save that money and spend it on other things!

How do I get started?

There are so many different kinds of cloth diapers available online that it is a little overwhelming to know what kind to get. Here is a breakdown of the different kinds of diapers:

Chinese Pre-Folds-Rectangular diapers that absorb pee and poop. These are the least expensive cloth diapers you can buy. You can get cotton or hemp diapers. You can splurge for organic ones if you want.

Diaper Covers-There are several kinds of diaper covers out there. You need them to put on top of pre-folds or other fitted diapers that don’t come with a cover. My favorite is the Super-Whisper Wrap by Bummis.

Pocket Diapers-You insert a pre-fold or other absorbent material inside of the diaper. These are usually waterproof and a little more expensive than a pre-fold and a cover.

All-in-Ones-Diapers that come with the absorbent material plus the cover sewn into one diaper. These are also more expensive but work more like disposable diapers. They are great for grandparents and babysitters to use.

Doublers-Extra inserts for pre-folds and pocket diapers for extra absorbency

Decide on a budget of how much you want to spend. A lot of cloth diapers come in fun colors and patterns but they cost more. If you know you would spend approximately $1500 over the course of 2 to 3 years on one child you could set that as your budget amount and purchase diapers accordingly. The links above are from a website that I have bought diapers from before but there are tons of different sites to choose from. Some websites provide beginner packages for a discounted price. Ask around and see if you have any friends or acquaintances that cloth diaper and ask about their experiences. Cloth diapering can be fun and some moms have even made their own diapers.

I find that I love the economic savings and I really don’t mind the extra laundry load every couple of days. If you have any questions about it please let me know!

13 Responses to Should I Cloth Diaper?

  • Comment by sharon m
    December 8, 2007 @ 11:55 am

    OK Amelia, I have a few questions. The first is about stains. I wash my diaper covers and diapers separately, and use bleach on my diapers. I know some people don’t do this for environmental reasons as well (water pollution), and I noticed you didn’t mention anything about using bleach on your post. So, what do you do? Sun-bleach? Stain-treaters, like Shout?

    My next question is how many to start with? I’ve found about 2 dozen prefolds, 6-8 small diaper covers, and maybe 4 AIOs work for the first 3-4 months, then you have to buy the next size up.

    And finally, did you find your kids potty-trained earlier (or faster), as opposed to kids in disposable diapers? Julian was daytime trained at 2, but but didn’t start going all night w/o wetting until he turned 3.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    December 8, 2007 @ 4:55 pm

    Good questions, Sharon!

    For stains I have decided that some diapers will stain and not look pristine forever. From my research, sun bleaching is the best strategy for getting out stains. Sun bleaching is simply drying and setting out the diapers in the sun. There are some natural stain removal products you can purchase like Bac-Out Stain and Odor Elimanator that work well. Also, during the wash cycle you can add some baking soda (1/2 cup) to help with stain removal. When you use baking soda you have to add a small amount (say 1/2 cup) of vinegar to the second rinse of the wash cycle to restore the ph balance in the diapers. This works well too but it adds an extra step to the whole diaper washing process. A lot of stains will also fade over time. I think the best and least expensive and time way of getting out stains is to use the sun.

    For starting out I recommend 24 pre-folds and at least 6 diaper covers. I have 6 pocket diapers that we use for night time now that Graham is sleeping in longer stretches and waking up a couple of times for night feeding. I use a pre-fold and a fleece doubler in the pocket diaper and I don’t have to change him at night. For those who want to do all pre-folds and no “fancy diapers” 36 pre-folds might be a better number to start out with–especially when the baby is pooping at almost every feeding during the first month! If someone wanted to add All-in-Ones and/or pocket diapers then I think 6-8 of those would work well.

    As far as potty training goes it is hard to say whether or not they trained any earlier because of the cloth diapers. We trained both of them when they were about 2 years and 3 months old but I think the training had more to do with the method than the use of the cloth diapers. I do think they were able to tell the difference between wet and dry better because of the cloth diapers though. Both the older boys are still in diapers at nighttime and we do use disposable diapers for that. The research shows that children do potty train earlier if they are in disposable diapers but from my own experience it is hard to say.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by jenny
    December 8, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

    i used to use bleach on our diapers, but i always felt guilty and after a while the bleach smell just kinda stuck around. then i switched to oxiclean. it’s lighter on the environment than bleach and the diapers come out whiter than with bleach (bleach yellows them a bit over time). i really like it!
    and as far as potty training, i’ve heard boys have a harder time than girls. and in my experience, especially at night. joaqin started going on the potty at about two. but at night, we used extra padded training pants (online at one of the cloth diapering websites) on top of his underwear and most mornings he would wake up pretty wet. i like the training pants because they’re not diapers but they still kept his clothes dry all night long. joaquin has just started staying dry at night in the last few months (he turned 3 in october). that’s not to say we’re without accidents. he has about 1/week. i have taken to making the bed three times (mattress liner, sheet, liner, sheet, liner sheet) so that way when he pees at night i can just change his clothes and take off the first layer of sheets and get him and myself back to bed ASAP.

  • Comment by McKenna
    December 9, 2007 @ 11:49 pm

    I don’t cloth diaper, but I would think that your diapers would wear faster if you added bleach to them? Just my very unresearched observation….

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    December 10, 2007 @ 9:43 am

    Bleach does break down the fibers and make the diapers wear out faster.

    I haven’t tried Oxiclean though. I’ll have to try it, Jenny, and see if it works on some of my diaper stains. Thanks for the tip!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Kristi
    December 10, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    If you are a working mom like myself, who doesn’t have time for extra laundry but wants to use cloth diapers there are diaper services who will provide you with cloth diapers and take your dirty diapers and clean them for you. The price is probably around $60-65 dollars a month. There is no contract. Since the price is high I could probably find time to do the extra laundry myself but it is nice to know there is service out there for those who need it. I would probably only use it if my schedule got really packed or if I needed a break from cleaning all the diapers.

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Jenn
    December 12, 2007 @ 2:25 pm

    Check-out gdiapers for those who what the convince and to save the earth.
    http://www.gdiapers.com

  • Gravatar
    Comment by amelia
    December 13, 2007 @ 8:51 am

    A friend from our church back in Texas gave me some gdiapers but they are for bigger babies. I haven’t been able to try them yet but I have heard good things about them.

  • Comment by sharon m
    December 19, 2007 @ 11:35 am

    Kristi,
    I used the diaper service for the 1st month with my first baby (it was a gift from my MIL) and it was wonderful. It might have been a little bit more expensive (like $75/mo), but it was a thoughtful gift that helped me make the transition more smoothly.

  • Comment by Amanda
    December 21, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

    Amelia, thanks for the article and research! You have definitely inspired me to bring up purchasing cloth diapers at our next budget meeting. I haven’t used cloth diapers, because we had so many disposable ones in the closet that we had received as gifts. We had almost enough diapers in the closet to last about six months! So, I had thought about trying cloth before, but wasn’t motivated. Now I am motivated! And I feel like I have more time to focus on that now that our trip is over and the holidays are almost over. Thanks for the great post!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by crabbymommy
    February 2, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

    I am so happy to read this post. I live in India and here most people use cloth diapers. We call them nappys here. I used a combination – nappys at home and diapers when we went out. I used to soak them in Dettol (it’s an antiseptic) and then wash them.

    You know the other great thing about using cloth diapers is that you toilet train the kids early. My daughter was totally toilet trained before she was one and a half, so it was great. My friend has even trained her son at nine months to poo right in the morning on the pot, and he does!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Diane
    June 3, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    About the gdiapers…they do seem like a good idea…until you do the math. They actually cost MORE than disposables over the time a baby is in diapers. I’ll stick with nice economical cloth, thanks!

    Great article, Amelia!

  • Gravatar December 11, 2008 @ 8:22 am

    [...] have posted before about cloth diapers and the benefits but there are many other things we also can do to reduce our waste. I realize [...]

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