There are a million full-fledged websites out there devoted to the
cult world of Cloth Diapering (herein referred to as CDing), so I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of guide on this. But now that I’m nearing the end of my diapering days (Or perhaps this is like a function with limit=0, where it approaches 0 days but never actually reaches it? By now you should no longer need a Nerd Alert for me) I thought I’d at least give you my thoughts on the whole business.
Overall it’s great. You can see why there is a total OBSESSION for CDing among certain types of moms. Not only are there so many options, there are ways to customize, personalize, troubleshoot, perfect, stockpile, and swap–everything that those with Very Mommy Tendencies love to do (or at least feel compelled to do). There are hundreds of companies now with CDing supplies and that’s not even counting all the “mom-preneurs” making diapers/covers to sell on Etsy and the like. If you haven’t seen cloth diapers since the days of diaper pins and plastic pants, it’s come a long, long, way. I get asked questions about this topic pretty frequently from the strangest people, people often with NO future prospects for diapering of any sort (my favorite was the elderly gentleman in a Panera who was simply fascinated by the idea of G-diapers).
I started out intending to use prefolds and covers and have a diaper service who did all the washing. For those of you who don’t know what a “prefold” is, it’s a flat piece of absorbant cotton that you FOLD into a diaper or use as an insert (folded into a rectangle) inside a water-proof cover. The covers usually close with velcro tabs or snaps and come in all kinds of styles, sizes, and patterns. You can use almost any prefold with any cover. This is probably the cheapest way for CDing.
First, I never ended up getting a diaper service because I found that keeping up with my small pail of diapers (usually soaking in cold water with a tiny bit of soap) was not that hard. Even when my daughter was a newborn and going through 8 diapers a day, it wasn’t that bad. I was even handwashing all of them since it didn’t makes sense to run a whole load just to wash a dozen diapers (and they have to be run separately, since you use a special soap).
Also, I eventually started using more and more All-in-one’s (AIOs). There are so, so many kinds of these. I have three: Bum Genius, Rumparooz, and Totbots. AIO’s are one diaper where the absorbant part (usually comes with the diaper) gets placed between the waterproof outside and a fleece-material inner lining. The lining keeps moisture away from the baby’s skin. Even if you use prefolds, you should use a fleece liner on top of them for this purpose. It’s nice to have it already there. I really like AIOs, especially as my daughter got bigger and more mobile, these were so much less bulky and flexible. I also prefer the ones that snap instead of velcro since no matter what I seem to do the velcro rubs on the tops of her legs and leaves redness. These diapers are, of course, more expensive, however, you can always find deals on them online and they really hold their value, so if you treat them right and can keep them mostly stain-free, you can sell them when you’re done. The Facebook Cloth Diaper Swap is a fast-paced and fierce place. I never cease to be amazed at how fast diapers move over there.
There are “hybrid” diapers (like G-diapers or Flips) that allow you to throw out or flush one part (usually the liner) and wash just the cover or sometimes an absorbant insert. I haven’t tried them because washing the inserts is fine with me. I am not all that horrified by touching a dirty diaper. If you are, maybe these diapers are for you.
I have used disposables, mainly Pampers. I use them when I’m traveling or when I’ve been lazy with the laundry. I am not one of the truly militant CDing moms who’s going to lie and tell you that cloth is SO MUCH BETTER ALL THE TIME and that you are poisoning your child with disposables. Yes, there are some kids who react very badly to the materials in disposables. But they are easier, flat out, honest truth. But they are terrible for the environment. Even taking into consideration manufacturing and washing, CDing wins at being greener. I read in “Greeniology” by Tanya Ha (Penguin) this interesting gem and it’s stuck with me:
“In 1567, when James VI, later James I of England, was crowned King of Scotland, he was 13 months old. Had he been wearing disposable diapers, that were tossed into landfills like today, some still would not have decomposed.”
I think if there’s two things that I would like people who are curious about CDing or wanting to make a greener choice, to know, it would be these:
1. Get the good diapers, straight up, the cost isn’t bad over the long term. You don’t have to buy a ton of them, start with just one even, before you decide which type works best for you.
2. You don’t have to commit to 100% CDing. You can go back and forth. You can try different kinds, use them only at home, use them only when you feel like it, or sell them if it doesn’t work out. I think many parents are afraid of CDing because it seems like a huge commitment, but it doesn’t have to be! You get just a few diapers you think seem cool and you can add more later if you want. Every time you use a cloth diaper, that’s one less disposable in a landfill. So it’s a good start.