Cloth Diapering: The Good, the Bad, and the Poopy!

Cloth Diapering: The Good, the Bad, and the Poopy!

I had first been introduced to cloth diapering almost 10 years before I had a family of my own, or even met my husband at that. An older friend of mine was expecting her second child and had created a cloth diaper brand because there were none available on the market in our city. I was inspired by her desire to be more environmentally and financially conscious. I bought a set of cloth diapers from her then, (yes over 10 years in advance) and I decided that when it was my turn, I would opt for cloth diapers in an effort to reduce my environmental impact and save money when the time came. 

The Back Story…

While pregnant, I was fortunate to be gifted a box of over 30 different preloved diapers and accessories. I spent hours learning how to use them properly. I was excited about cloth diapering! Being able to create less waste in landfills and save money. I also liked the idea of using natural materials on my baby’s delicate skin…ahhhh.

When my daughter was born, the reality of cloth diapering set in faster than I was prepared. There were poop explosions, dips and leaks, and endless wet bags of laundry. I also found that it was difficult (if not impossible) to keep up with the diapering and feeding routines when I was out and about. After a few months, I started to feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  Wet bag, dry bag, soiled, clean, cloths for poop, cloths for throw up, milk dripping, just SO MUCH BODY FLUID EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME! I was starting to wonder if cloth diapering was worth it at all. 

Fortunately, before I gave up altogether, I remembered that I didn’t have to be perfect, I could go back to a well-used mantra, “progress over perfection” and figure this out.  I decided to compromise. I would use cloth diapers at home, and use disposables when we were out of the house. This allowed me to still reduce my environmental impact and save money most of the time, without sacrificing my sanity.

two cloth diapers and a rubber duck

Here are some of the pros and cons of cloth diapering, and how I found a middle ground that worked for my family:

Pros of cloth diapering:

  • Reduces environmental impact. Disposable diapers end up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Cloth diapers can be reused over and over again, which reduces waste and protects the environment. All of mine were hand-me-downs from friends (Thanks My and Stefania) and so they were staying longer out of the landfill by being used by my family too. 
  • Saves money. Cloth diapers are more expensive upfront, but they save you money in the long run. Disposable diapers can cost a lot per year, while cloth diapers can be used for multiple children. Since I had already bought some, I gifted the ones I had bought all those years ago to someone who was curious to try cloth diapering but not convinced enough to invest.
  • Healthier for babies. Most cloth diapers are made from natural materials, such as cotton and bamboo, which are gentler on a baby’s skin than disposable diapers.
  • Less diaper rash. Cloth diapers are generally more breathable than disposable diapers, which can help to reduce diaper rash. I still used SudoCreme as dampness is a constant part of living in the tropics and I never wanted to risk my daughter getting a bad diaper rash. 

Cons of cloth diapering:

  • More work. Cloth diapers require more work than disposable diapers. You have to wash and dry them after each use. This can be time-consuming, especially if you have fewer diapers and have to wash daily. 
  • Can be messy. Because you don’t just throw away the soiled diaper, cloth diapers are messy, and especially so when your baby has a poop explosion. When our little one was still a newborn, poop would ALWAYS come out the side as her legs were still too thin and this was not fun at all. 
  • Not always convenient. Cloth diapering can be inconvenient when you’re out and about. You need to carry around a wet bag and extra diapers, and you need to find a place to change your baby’s diaper that has a changing table and somewhere to rinse the soiled diaper. Otherwise, you have to carry poop around with you until you get home. YUCK!

How I found a middle ground:

I decided to compromise and cloth diapering at home and use disposables when we were out of the house or when we knew a big or runny poop was coming. This worked well for my family. It allowed us to reduce our environmental impact and save money, without sacrificing our sanity. While we still used disposables more than I would have liked, we were able to have some peace and avoid the frustration and fear of dealing with poop in public. 

woman holding nose - smelly

Here are a few tips for cloth diapering at home:

  • Start small. Don’t try to cloth diaper your baby full-time right away. Start by cloth diapering for a few hours each day. As you get more comfortable with cloth diapering, you can gradually increase the amount of time that your baby wears cloth diapers.
  • Have enough disposable diapers. If you have to wash every day you may need more. Try to aim to have enough so that you only need to wash your diapers every other day or every third day. ‘Enough’ will change as your child grows, how frequently you change, and how fast they dry. The goal is to not have to be constantly washing as this will make it stressful. 
  • Use a wet bag to store rinsed dirty diapers. This will help to prevent leaks and odours. We had a large waterproof laundry basket liner as well as a small wet bag upstairs to keep all the rinsed diapers between washes. You can wash them in the washing machine with regular detergent, but avoid using softeners as this affects the absorbency. Dry your diapers on low heat or air dry them. This will help to preserve the fabric and extend the life of your diapers.
  • Have a good diapering routine. Wash your hands before and after changing your baby’s diaper. Use a bidet or diaper sprayer to remove any solids from the toilet before rinsing it. After laundry, “assemble’ your clean diapers and have them stacked and ready to use.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many online and in-person support groups for cloth diapering parents. These groups can be a great source of information and advice.

Conclusion

If you’re considering cloth diapering, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it for the environmental and financial benefits. If you find that it’s too much work, you can always compromise. I opted for cloth diapering at home and used disposables when I was out. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and your family. If you would like to explore other ways to be more sustainable here are 20 Sustainable Things You Can Do for the planet.

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