The Fuss About Cloth Diapers

In my experience as a mom (14 months to date) the general consensus about cloth diapers seems to be that they are either for hippies or for moms with way too much time on their hands. I am neither but in the last month I made the switch. Yes, we are now a cloth diapering home, although over a year into the diapering experience. Better late than never I suppose!

Can someone please explain to me what all the fuss is about? Cloth diapers are EASY. I can’t believe I didn’t use them from the beginning but it just seemed like so much work, so messy, so old-fashioned. For the past year we’ve used a combination of gdiapers (a flushable disposable diaper) and regular disposables. Gdiapers require a cloth outer cover in which you lay a new gdiaper insert each time you change the baby. They worked really well for us but are quite expensive (30-40 cents per diaper depending on where you buy them).

I was inspired to make the switch after reading my last issue of Mothering magazine, which had a cover story about cloth diapering. The article made it sound so simple plus pointed out the environmental benefits of cloth and the toxic chemicals present in disposables. I called up my local diaper service, TideeDidee, to find out the costs involved and discovered I would actually save several dollars a week using cloth, even with a diaper service. No extra laundry, no dirty diapers to rinse (with diaper service you just throw the diapers into the bin, no rinsing required), plus I found out my gdiaper covers would work so there were no additional cloth diaper covers to buy. I figured I had nothing to lose, I could always cancel the service and return to my old system if I hated cloth.

It’s been a month of cloth so far and both my husband and I agree it’s just not that hard. I can fold the cloth insert, lay it in the gdiaper cover and velcro it all shut (no safety pins required) around Grace in the same amount of time it takes me to unfold a disposable. The diapers don’t smell thanks to a little air freshener the diaper service provides, and the diaper delivery man (woman?) comes and goes unnoticed every Friday morning, leaving us a new pile of freshly washed white diapers.

The environmental difference between cloth and disposable has been debated for years, but it turns out the U.S. studies that equated the impact of both received funding from diaper making companies such as Procter and Gamble. I prefer to base my decisions on unbiased research and all the environmental groups websites I read, such as Treehugger, support the use of cloth diapers. Even with the use of a diaper service, cloth diapers use less energy. Some argue that the diaper service is more energy efficient than washing at home since the service uses large industrial washing machines and dryers to wash many more diapers at a time.

The final clincher for me to make the switch though was when I read that many children potty train up to 6 months earlier with cloth diapers. The technology used in disposable diapers is so advanced the child never feels wet, but with cloth diapers they are aware much sooner of their own bodily functions. The thought of getting Grace out of diapers weeks or months earlier made me want to dance in the streets. The sooner she is potty trained, the better for me and for the planet. I’m glad I made the switch and wish I had done it earlier.

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7 Comments

  1. KarenP said,

    March 28, 2008 at 9:34 am

    We debated this when we were pregnant with our first 6 years ago, and at the time, didn’t find compelling evidence that cloth would truly be greener or all that easy! It sounds like things have come a long way in the past few years. By the time our second came along 3 1/2 years ago, we were already in the disposables rut. He’s still in diapers but at this point is so close to potty training, it’s hard to get motivated to make a switch. If I had it all to do over again, I’d give cloth a try, or go the gdiapers route. At this point, though, I’m not sure what to do. Maybe switching to cloth would be all it would take to push him over the edge to the potty, but then again, he’s almost there anyway…. Sigh.

  2. March 30, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Beth,
    Great post! In my quest to become greener we’re trying out the gDiapers route like you did initially. Quite a few of my new parent clients try gDiapers to touch their toe in the water and make sure they can handle being green. Isabella is already 19 months and we’re at the potty training stage but its never too late to start. With our 2nd baby we’ll definitely try out TideeDidee and your feedback about their services is very helpful. Thanks!
    Cheers,
    Melissa

  3. Autumn said,

    April 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    It’s NEVER too late to make a healthy decision for your family :) I didn’t start cloth until my second child was 16 months old. With our third we cloth diapered from birth. I agree that people either think I’m a hippie or a super mom. They can’t conceive that it is really NOT hard to use and wash cloth diapers.

    I tried Gdiapers for a week (just used the cover as a cover over fitteds and prefolds) and didn’t love them. There are SO many choices out there!

    Autumn Beck
    http://allaboutclothdiapers.com

  4. Mopsy B said,

    April 9, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Cloth is so easy, and the diaper service sure makes a huge difference, but even washing diapers (at least once they’re past the newborn dozen plus a day) isn’t bad. We used only cloth diapers on our 2 , now teenagers, back when there were still a few of us hippies left, although most were going with disposables. The diaper wraps are easy, pins weren’t bad either, but they’re all just as easy as disposables. I’ve never understood the fuss. PS Tidee Didee was great back in the 80s and 90s, too.

  5. Kate said,

    April 10, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Like Mopsy, I was cloth-diapering in the 80’s and 90’s. Why? I wasn’t really a left over hippie, but I guess I obeyed my inner tree-hugger. We didn’t have the money for Tidee-Didee or the fancy diaper covers which were becoming available, but it was the right thing to do. In just the last year or so we have finally seen the last of the raggy but incredibly soft cotton former diapers that served so well as dust cloths in their retirement years…I could almost get sentimental over this…(sniff).

  6. Nancy Spencer said,

    April 13, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Okay, guess I’m the REAL oldie re: cloth diapers. I was using them in the ’70’s (when Beth, Bambootique founder, was a baby; yes, I’m her Mom). I, too, didn’t see what the big deal was that required everyone to switch to disposables in the 80’s and 90’s. I washed my own diapers, used pins and plastic pants. I even dried them outside when the soggy Oregon weather would allow that. I liked the smell of air-dried fresh sparkling diapers. The cost of disposables plus the idea of all that plastic in landfills forever was convincing enough for me. I’m proud of all you young moms who go against the tide and bypass disposables today. Nancy, Beth’s Mom (and as to potty training, Beth was fully potty trained in a day at 20 months. TRUE!)

  7. Marlene said,

    September 8, 2008 at 10:33 am

    I used cloth diapers exclusively in my home right up until the early 90’s. Standard flat fold diapers were still the order of the day back then, as were pins and pull-on rubber pants. It was a great method– proven, reliable, and it worked extremely well.

    The flats allowed me to single or double diaper when needed– I double diapered most of the time, and the rubber pants never let me down in the way of containing wetness or mess. It was a tried and true package that spoke for itself back then, and in turn still speaks for itself today. Just take a look at all the mothers before us who used this exact system.

    I here of all sorts of cloth diaper related issues and problems nowadays, and I can’t help but point my finger at all of the new modern stuff available today. IMO, a lot of it is garbage– expensive– and is based on gimic rather than honest to goodness practicality.

    There’s a lot to be said about old-fashioned and when it comes to diapers, specifically cloth diapers, old-fashioned still can’t be beat. They’ve been around forever. Need I say more.


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