Imagine this, if you will: You’re expecting your first child (or maybe it’s your fifth), and you boldly proclaim to your spouse, or a friend, or a relative, “I think for this child, I’m going to use cloth diapers.” Immediately, the response you receive is one rife with confusion and a little bit of disgust. “Cloth diapers? That sounds so gross. Isn’t that what our grandmas used? Why not use disposables – they seem soooooo much easier!” Right there, in that statement are at least three myths about cloth diapers, and yet there are so many more. Read on for a few more myths we’ve busted about using cloth diapers for your baby.
Myth #1: It’s gross.
Having to touch the poop and the pee, that’s nasty! Let me blow your mind for a minute – whether your baby is using a cloth or disposable diaper, he/she is going to both poop and pee in either kind of diaper, and you are going to have to remove it and clean his/her bottom. It’s just a fact of life. It doesn’t matter which kind of diaper it is, you’ll have to clean the bottom, and in some cases, plop the waste into the toilet.
Did you know that disposable diaper manufacturers often list on their packaging that solids are to be removed into the toilet? There are actually instructions on how to remove the waste from the diaper here and more information about that here. Different brands have different instructions, but all essentially say, “dump solids into the toilet.” Guess what, that is the same thing you do with soiled cloth diapers, and it’s easier too! Why?
Because you can use a diaper sprayer. Or disposable diaper liners. Or not worry about it if your baby is exclusively breastfed, because breastmilk poo is water soluble and can be easily washed off in your washing machine! Check that out: you are reducing nasty environmental impact when you rinse off the poo in the toilet (the dirty deal is that all that human excreta poses some health hazards when they sit in a landfill – see the APHA’s statement).
If you want more information on what diaper sprayers or disposable liners to use, see this post at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer.
Myth #2: It’s the same thing our grandmas used–isn’t that antiquated??
Well, it could be. But of all the cloth diapering moms I know, none of them are using the system our grandmothers or mothers might have used (which is a long prefold wrapped up, secured with a pin, covered by a rubber diaper cover). Cloth diapering systems are much more sophisticated now and there are literally dozens of options. You can use prefolds, with a snappi (as opposed to pins, which could poke the baby), with a diaper cover not made out of rubber!; pocket diapers; all-in-one diapers; hybrids; or my personal favorite for overnight: fitted diapers.
There are so many ways to go. And even among that, you can choose one-size diapers (that have adjustable snaps to snap up or down depending on the size of your baby), or buy sized diapers for your preemie, newborn, or choose small, medium or large depending on your baby or toddler’s size. There are many popular brands with cute designs, fun names, and easy washing instructions. For beginners, I might recommend a simple pocket diaper like bumGenius!, and then branch out as you feel more comfortable.
Myth #3: Disposables feel or are better on baby’s skin.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients used in a disposable diaper (this is from a “greener” disposable brand, Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers): Chlorine free wood pulp and sodium polyacrylate (in the absorbent pad), polypropylene (in the liner layer, outer layer, moisture barrier layer)** and in the dryness layer), adhesives (in the seams and joints), polymer spandex and polyurethane (in the fastening system and leg/waist elastic).
I’m going to give Seventh Generation a thumbs-up for spelling out exactly what it is they are using and where those ingredients are located, but in most conventional brands, you’ll also find:
“Sodium Polyacrylate Crystals, […] the super absorbent gel that absorbs moisture in the disposables. It was removed from tampons when it was found to cause toxic shock syndrome. Yet this is what is next to your baby’s skin 24 hours a day for the first 3 years of life! Not only does it absorb wetness, it also absorbs your baby’s natural moisture, which is needed for healthy skin. The dryer skin, combined with the lack of breathability due to the plastic coating of disposables, makes your baby more prone to diaper rash. Dioxins are another chemical found on disposable diapers in trace amounts. Dioxins are byproducts of the bleaching process and are one of the worlds most toxic poisons, a carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.” (Read more at http://www.dnadiapers.com/benefits-of-cloth/). (Emphasis added)
Now let’s take a look at what’s in a cloth diaper, for example the Kissa’s Organic Cotton/Hemp Fitted Diaper: 55% natural hemp, 45% organic cotton.
What sounds more comfortable next to baby’s skin? Wood pulp, sodium polyacrylate crystals, and dioxins found in disposables, or hemp and cotton in cloth? If it were you, what would you prefer?
Myth #4: Cloth diapers are expensive.
When you compare the cost of 1 cloth diaper to that of 1 disposable diaper, cloth diapers do cost more. However, that cloth diaper can be used over and over again, unlike the disposable, which you have to continue purchasing. Here is a handy guide to show you the cost of cloth vs. disposable over time: Cost of Cloth Diapers
Let’s say you purchased 20 pocket cloth diapers to get your stash going (minimum recommended is 18 cloth diapers so that you can do your diaper laundry every 2 days).
20 x $17.97* = $359.40 (*price at Kelly’s Closet for a bumGenius! one-size pocket diaper; can be used from 7-35+ pounds). Even if you add in the cost of diapering accessories, like a wetbag, diaper pail liner, diaper sprayer, energy costs from washing, cloth-diaper safe laundry detergents, or special cloth diaper creams, it does not come anywhere close to the cost of disposable diapers over approximately 2 ½ years, which is $2577.35 (per Cost of Cloth Diapers).
Cloth diapers are an easy choice for frugal parents.
Myth #5: All that washing makes managing cloth diapers a big chore.
Once you figure out a wash routine, which more often depends on your type of washing machine than anything (there are different recommendations for HE washing machines than non-HE washing machines, & front or top loader), washing and drying your cloth diapers is quite easy.
At our household, where we have a front-loading HE washing machine, our routine looks like this:
1) I first do a cold rinse,
2) followed by a soak with one scoop of our detergent,
3) then a hot wash with one more scoop of our detergent, and
4) finally, do a spin/drain cycle.
Then, I dry on medium heat, or line-dry outside if time & weather permit.
Usually, I can have a load of fresh cloth diapers ready within 3-4 hours. Or, if I start at our kids’ bedtime, I can complete all the wash cycles and put them in the dryer before I go to bed and I wake up to clean, dry cloth diapers.
In actuality, it seems easier to me to do a load of cloth diapers at home than to have to run out to buy another package of cloth diapers from the store. How many times have you reached into the package of disposables to realize there’s only one left and it’s late at night and neither you nor your spouse wants to run out for more diapers? Been there. Cloth diapers save you a trip to the store just for diapers (let’s be honest, who doesn’t also add a late-night snack into the basket too?)! Those late night runs can add up!
In my experience, using cloth diapers can save you oodles of time and money, and it greatly reduces our impact on the environment and decreases the toxic load on our little ones.
I’d like to bust the myth that the way our Grandmas cloth-diapered was somehow terrible. I’m about as old-school as you can get with cloth diapers – I use prefolds with pins. I don’t have rubber covers, since they aren’t around anymore, but for a long time I did use hand-me-down plastic covers that my mom used on me and my siblings. When they finally wore out, I made my own out of PUL. I’ve been cloth diapering this way for about 6 combined years with my three kids and I am so happy with it! I’ll admit that I’ve never used “modern” cloth diapers, so I probably don’t know what I’m missing, but I’m okay with that. I love that prefolds are so easy to care for – they don’t need any special treatment or “stripping” like many cloth diapers do. I don’t have to worry about diaper creams ruining my diapers. And prefolds are the most inexpensive way to cloth diaper, so my initial investment was very small, and I also got a bunch as hand-me-downs from someone who cloth-diapered years ago. To date, I have spent less than $100 on cloth diapering. Because they are so inexpensive, I’m able to have a large enough stash that I only have to wash about every 4-5 days, which makes that part even easier! I love cloth diapering, and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing wrong with the way our Grandmas did it!
Hey Annaleah, thanks for providing a positive experience from the way our grandmothers did it! I think that’s great you’ve so economically cloth diapered your children this long with that stash – a real testament to the thriftiness and durability of cloth 😀
We use the Thirsties hemp prefold with a cover. I love them! I had no idea that disposables say to empty solids, I’m sure most parents don’t know that either!
Those prefolds and covers sure are a great and affordable way to do it!
I have to admit that we started on Seventh Generation with our first and I tried to cloth diaper her however I felt like I spent a lot of money trying different cloth diapers and didnt find one I liked. I had the prefolds and snappis and a diaper cover and some AIO and pockets…. well then we moved and started construction on our house and I really lost interest on the whole diaper thing so back to Seventh Generation we went. I am very fortunate my daughter potty trained at 17 mo. Now on baby two Seventh Generation has changed designs yet again and added Lorax logos all over it. they smell awful as well. the price is going up up and UP. Well I bought 20 AIO pocket diapers on Ebay. the brand is Babyland. I know they are not super nice but they seem to have decent reviews. Anyone have any experience with them? I figured I owe it to my lil one and my pocket to try this again. She is newly a year old and not a huge wetter at night. still nurses all night though. Do you really need a wet bag?
Hey Leah, I hear you – it can be a bit of an experiment in the beginning figuring out which works best for your baby. I have used Seventh Generation at various times (especially traveling) when things got hectic. Even though it’s disposable, I still feel just a little bit better using a brand like that.
I have not heard of Babyland, but I have not heard of a lot of the brands out there, usually because the most popular brands tend to get the most exposure. It could be great and I hope for you that it is!
Do you need a wetbag? You don’t have to have a wetbag, but it certainly is nice! I use a couple of smaller sized wetbags for outings or when we have day-long trips so that I can put the soiled diapers into a bag that I can toss into my washer when we get home. I know some people just wrap the soiled diapers up really tight and stuff them in their diaper bags, but I am not always that adventurous.
At home, you could just use a diaper pail with or without a liner and dump all the soiled diapers into your washing machine when it’s time to wash. You’d just probably need to wipe down & clean that diaper pail regularly if it has no liner to keep the stink and germs at bay. Best wishes!
i bought some babylands. they work so so and you really get what you pay for when it comes to them. i will say, though, be VERY careful what temperature you wash them in because i washed them too hot on the first wash and they ALL delaminated. they were still usable, but a month later the very thin plastic ripped and i can no longer use them (maybe for a swim diaper, but who needs 9?!) i would also try alva baby diapers, another inexpensive brand (but well made). i bought some of those and i really like them! there are also diapers called sunbabies. i’ve heard good things about those too.
We love our cloth diapers!! Thanks for putting a great info sheet together to debunk the myths.
i’ve cloth diapered 2 dudes and wouldn’t change a thing about it. i started with cloth diapers 5 years ago and even since then things have changed so much. i had several different kinds of diapers, prefolds, all in ones, and so on. each kid fit the diapers differently at different ages and stages.
another myth: buying second hand diapers is gross.
well, people don’t sell nasty diapers, so it’s not gross. it’s economical and better for the environment. most of our diapers i purchased second hand, and it was so wise! but, we buy a lot of things second hand!
Hey mama lola, I totally agree! I started cloth diapering a little over three years ago and I’ve been floored at how has changed since I started back then. There are new brands and styles coming out every year! Like you, I ventured out into the various systems as well. I started out with pockets and now I have prefolds, AIOs, etc. And we have definitely purchased secondhand diapers too. That’s a great myth to bust, thank you for adding it!
It’s actually illegal to put feces in the garbage in most places in the US! If you’re throwing away poopy diapers, you’re probably breaking the law. 😉
I was committed to cloth diapering before my son was born! I developed a huge stash of BumGenius OS pocket diapers, only to discover they did not work well for us. I did some more research and settled on Cloth-eez prefolds from Green Mountain Diapers. They are *very* affordable and fit my son so well! I love that they come in different sizes and are 100% cotton too (I prefer natural fibers to synthetics). I use a Snappi (a fabulous alternative to pins), and a Thirsties Duo Wrap cover. I always thought prefolds were complicated, but they are so easy, and the washing routine is much simpler than with the fancier pocket diapers. I have discovered it’s nice to have two wet bags–one of wash and one to use. A small one for the diaper bag is also convenient.
I used to work in the infant room at a daycare that did NOT allow diapers. I always thought that was the biggest shame. Reasons that were always given was: we didn’t have a way on -site to dispost of poo (no toilet in the infant room) and no where to put the dirty diapers where it would be sanitary enough by the end of the day. When u look at it we changed diapers at this daycare every two hours and if your kid stays the max of 10 hours (yes, unbelievable as this sounds) that’s 5 diapers a day. More if they are sick or recovering from vaccines. I can say that if I had had the opportunity to have children I would have definitely gone with cloth diapers. Have a facebook friend who is cloth diapering her TWINS!
Just out of curiosity what do u do typically (people who cloth diaper) when u take your child swimming in a public or motel pool? Buy disposable “little swimmers”?
Great question! For swimming, they actually make cloth swim diapers! In a pinch, I have also just used the pocket of a diaper without the insert so that they baby is covered but not weighed down by the insert being soaked and heavy. See here: http://www.kellyscloset.com/Swim-Diapers_c_813.html
Well written, informative, a touch of humor and cute pictures of “first child.”
Good article, I didn’t know the fact about the crystals…scary scary scary. Our washing routine is even shorter than that: we just do one run on Heavy Duty through our HE with a mix of 1 part borax, washing soda and oxyclean and they come out sparkly.
To be fair, tough, you should mention something about the initial prepping and the periodic stripping which is a bit time consuming. We do ours once a month: boil the inserts and sun bleach everything.
Hey Shell, that’s awesome your wash routine is so simple! What kind of HE machine do you have? I just have to make sure mine get really wet in order for them to fully wash clean. What kinds of diapers do you use?
You’re right about the prepping and residue/mineral build-up stripping. Here’s a link for instructions on that if anyone else is curious! http://blog.diapershops.com/troubleshooting-how-to-strip-cloth-diapers
We chose to cloth diaper our second after realizing just how much it had cost us to diaper our son. We use Gerber prefolds and homemade diaper covers based off the thirties designs. Another FYI, cloth diaper are easier to potty train with. My son couldn’t tell the difference between his disposables and pull UPS. Frankly I can’t either. But I put cloth trainers on him and 4accidents later he gets the concept. Amazing
My older sister is trying to convince me that its ‘illegal’ to wash cloth diapers at home and that I would need to pay a company to do it for me…
This is my second child and I had done a minimum of 18 months of researching (because I had considered cloth with my first son as well, but was unfortunately talked ‘down from the ledge’ by family) and not ONCE have I read anything about it being illegal to wash cloth diapers (nor baby clothes covered in poop in general because BLOW OUTS HAPPEN…) in a washing machine at home. I think this is her attempts to dissuade me from going through with it this time because she’s seen me actually making my daughter-to-be’s diapers the last few times she’s been over. It isn’t going to work though. After seeing how much my husband had to spend (because he’s the only one who works between us) to buy disposables over my son’s 2 1/2 years of needing diapered, I regret not going through with cloth diapers like I had wanted with him. I’m not letting their outdated views of cloth diapers pull me from the ‘ledge’ again. I’m going to take this swan dive into a better way for my daughter.
I have never heard of it being illegal to wash diapers. Before disposable diapers were developed, everyone used and washed cloth so this just doesn’t make any sense. Once you develop a routine, cloth diapering is really very easy. I wish you the best of luck!