Cloth Diapering Isn’t The Poop-Filled Disaster You Think It Is

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Dealing with the laundry is probably the biggest source of disgusted curiosity, but the truth is that it’s not so bad. At the newborn stage, especially for a breastfed baby, the poop is pretty innocuous, although some families do rinse newborn diapers. More importantly, using a “wet pail” – keeping a pail of water to soak soiled cloth diapers in until laundry day – isn’t really necessary; most modern washing machines can handle them dry, eliminating one of the grossest aspects of using cloth diapers in the past. You do want to do a heavy-duty wash in fairly hot water, and a sanitize setting on the drier is handy, but not necessary. There were no diaper services in my area, so out-sourcing the cleanup wasn’t an option for me (and in any case, a diaper service would have eliminated any savings from using cloth), but I never found the laundry particularly difficult to add to my routine.


Once the kid starts solid foods, things get a little nastier – but then, they do in disposables too. Since I was on a septic system, I couldn’t use the convenient flushable liners that would have let me just peel and flush everything; instead, I had to shake the diapers out into the toilet. Not my favourite part of parenting, but not the most disgusting thing I dealt with on an average day.


Over time, I noticed other benefits to cloth too. Both of my kids acted uncomfortable as soon as the diaper was wet, so I never missed changing a wet diaper the way I sometimes did when they were in disposables. And when they started toddling, it took a little extra work with all the bulk around their waist and legs, but the extra padding meant a lot fewer tears when they landed on their butts. For ages after they were out of diapers, they both looked shocked to discover that falling down hurt!


There are other benefits some people report to cloth diapering, but I didn’t notice those as much. People say your kids won’t get diaper rashes; my kids got less, but I’d be surprised if most babies get out of any kind of diaper without at least a few. (You also need to keep in mind that you can’t use the majority of diaper creams when cloth diapering.) The woman at the store also made a big deal about cloth diapered babies toilet training about six months earlier than disposable diapered kids; my kids obviously didn’t get the memo on that one.


My major motivation for trying cloth diapering (aside from cost and stubbornness) was environmental: I knew diapers took forever to decompose, and I wanted to minimize the amount I contributed to landfills in our area. The real environmental picture is hard to decipher – there are those who argue the environmental impact of growing the material and the energy use associated with washing cancels out the benefits – but it certainly reduced the number of diapers I threw away. I will say that, without a diaper service, the cost savings really added up; I could see a big difference in our expenses in a month where we used more disposables.


Cloth diapering exclusively isn’t for everyone. When soon-to-be parents ask me about it, the first thing I say is that, if you’re not using a diaper service, you HAVE to have accessible laundry. I’d even be hesitant if the laundry was in the basement of an apartment building instead of in your unit, just because every extra load means more trips up and down with baby in tow. And there are plenty of parents who just don’t want to deal with laundry on a schedule – because it’s no big deal if you run out of onesies, but if you run out of diapers, you’ve got an issue.


But that said, there are lots of ways families can incorporate cloth diapering into their lives part-time. If you love to swim with your baby, for the price of one pack of disposable swim diapers, you can get a washable swim diaper or a waterproof diaper cover that you’ll be able to use for at least six to twelve months, possibly even longer. I’ve known parents who cloth diaper only on weekends, or use cloth at home and disposables when they’re out of the house. It doesn’t take much use to see a big difference in your diaper budget, and even if you don’t use cloth exclusively, every diaper you’re not throwing out reduces the amount of waste in the garbage can.


So if cloth diapering is something you’re curious about, I urge you to give it a try. Yes, there will definitely be moments where you want to gag and think, “This is the grossest thing in the world!” But I guarantee you, you’ll have the same thought using disposables. You’ll like knowing that you’ve kept a few diapers out of the mountains in the landfill, and who knows? Maybe your baby will actually toilet train sooner, and you’ll be done with diapers a little bit earlier.


Best of all, that money you save buys a whole lot of Mom and Dad’s beverage of choice when it’s been one of those days.

(Image:  Michael Pettigrew/shutterstock)

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