Cloth Diaper Confessions aka The Disposable Seduction

Guest post by Addie Pobst

The author's son Conan
I was super excited about using cloth diapers on Conan. I had a great time reading cloth diapering forums on the internet, doing research on different styles and materials and laundry strategies. I bought some to try out the professional offerings in a few different styles. I busted out and sewed up dozens of adorable pocket diapers, using all my new-found knowledge and all the best features. I made diapers from space-age fabric (soft! waterproof!) using only polyester thread (won’t wick!) with gussets (won’t leak!) and fold-over elastic (won’t chafe!) and special diaper velcro (won’t scratch!) I ordered online. I even made teensy weensy newborn sized ones with a curved dip in the front so they wouldn’t rub on the umbilical while it healed.

I was into it. We were going to save money, save the environment, and have the comfiest, happiest baby around. We had a waterproof bag for wet diapers in the diaper bag, and lots of cloth baby wipes. We had a diaper pail with a lid and a removable bucket, and extra gentle baby laundry soap, and Biokleen Bac-Out for odor removal soaking.

And at first, it worked… Conan wore his teensy weensy newborn scoop diapers for a couple of weeks, and then grew out of them and into the next size up. So far so good. Both of us were home for the first couple of months, and my Mom came and stayed for a few weeks, so keeping up with the laundry was a snap.

Then at about 6 weeks we started going out more, and that’s when the seduction of the disposable diapers really started. It was just SO much easier to have Conan in a disposable diaper when we were out and about. Hauling home a stinky bag of wet and/or poopy diapers sucked, no matter how nice a waterproof bag you have. But more than that, it’s the frequency of the diaper changes that really did us in. With cloth diapers, even super-duper high-tech modern cloth diapers, you just can’t go more than an hour or two without a change. Disposables, with their absorbent polymer gel, just really win on that count.

It may not sound like much, but the difference between taking your tiny baby grocery shopping and having to change him in the bathroom or the backseat vs. not having to change him again until you get home is HUGE. Pretty soon it was just the norm to put on a disposable before going out, period.

But we were still using the cloth diapers all the rest of the time, so that wasn’t so bad, right?

Well, then we reached that baby intestinal milestone where they no longer poop EVERY SINGLE TIME they eat. WooO! And with that, it suddenly made a lot more sense to put him in a disposable diaper for bedtime. He’d still wake up every 3-4 hours, but that was just to eat. The last thing we wanted was any extra waking up due to feeling wet! With disposables, on average, we only needed one diaper change per night, which meant the other two or three wake-ups were just simple feedings, and we could do that in a sleepy stupor. No light, no fuss, just feed and back to bed. Ahhh.

Then came the 1-2 punch of going back to work. Not only did that mean a LOT less time for keeping up with the laundry, it was really just too much to ask our babysitting friends and relatives to use the cloth diapers.

We still use about 1 cloth diaper per day, in the evening, for that hour and a half or so between dinner and bathtime. I massage my eco-guilt about using disposables by buying the Seventh Generation Chlorine Free diapers. We use cloth wipes all the time, so that’s another small reduction on our environmental impact. It’s kind of the “change one lightbulb for the planet” approach. If everyone used one less disposable per day, that’d be a lot less diapers in the landfill!

I should mention that the cloth diapers themselves performed perfectly. We never had any trouble with odor or rashes or inordinate leakage (a certain number of leaks are inevitable, even with disposable diapers). No, cloth diapering didn’t work out as well as I had hoped due to the realities of our lifestyle and the limitations of time and energy.

But you know what? It’s OK. We did our best, we gave it a good shot. If we’d been able to get a diaper service, or been able to stay at home to parent, I think we would have stuck with it. I would encourage anyone considering it to give cloth diapering a try. I’ve passed on my diapers now down through a number of different friends to use on their babies, so that counts for something too. Right?

Comments on Cloth Diaper Confessions aka The Disposable Seduction

  1. I just ordered my first batch of cloth diapers to try out on my 7 month old son. I am really excited to try them out! For us, it was a financial decision, as well as an enviromental one. My babe easily goes through 12 diapers a day – he pees all the time! Lots of diapers = lots of money and waste. So we're hoping we can make this work at least part of the time.

  2. I too started off with great intentions, read loads… bought more!! And we started off great! But I too found the convenience of disposables too great. We use "eco" disposables so I feel a bit better knowing that they won't take hundreds of years to decompose.

    You're right, it's the small things, it's making an effort. Every little counts.

  3. When my boy was in diapers, I was a FT WOHM with a PT SAHD partner and we did 100% cloth (overnights, too) from the age of 4 weeks through potty training (which happened earlier than with friends' disposable-diapered babies). So for anyone who has to work and whose spouse also works, take heart because you really, truly can do it (and you'll probably be out of diapers earlier if you're strict about cloth – no confusion on the part of your kid). The trick, like much of the daily grind of parenting, is finding a routine that works for your household. The only time I'd discourage anyone from using cloth is if they don't have a washing machine of their own (i.e., going to the laundromat). And Addie's part-time CD'ing is great, too – it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

    We did diaper laundry every other day. We had a stash of 18 pockets (Fuzzi Bunz) and 20-something prefolds with covers. It was really no big deal once we figured out the rhythm (and even though I was the one away from home most often, I was the one who washed 95% of the diaper laundry). It was very much like washing linens. And if we were short on time, we didn't stuff inserts or fold and arrange prefolds and covers, we just threw the clean stuff in a pile and grabbed the appropriate combination of things when changing time came.

    • This is it; you really have to find a rhythm that works for you. I was lucky to have my MIL babysitting and she was more than willing to use cloth diapers. She and my mom each bought me 6 fuzzi bunz each. I do put some disposable diapers in the bag just in case she needs them, but they are hardly every used. Disposables do fold really flat, though, so once the wet bag is full, we use those when we are out and about.

  4. We're about to go on a trip to my home in Florida, and we will be using disposables. I am worried that we, (especially my husband), are going to remember how much easier it was to use disposables. We used them on our first baby. Cloth has not been a bad experience for us, but especially during these early months when the poop and pee come in little amounts all day long, it is a lot of changing and a lot of laundry. I would say that I think its going to get easier as his bowels get more regular, but to tell the truth, I know that's when we'll start solids and the poop smell and cleaning is going to intensify. So its definitely something we have had to make a real commitment to, for the health of baby, planet, and our finances. But I can't blame anyone who goes to disposables to lessen their (pun alert) load. Everything– breastfeeding, cosleeping, cloth diapers, baby wearing– should be weighed on the cost/benefits to how well parents and caregivers are able to care for baby.

  5. I can relate. We started out enthusiastically with cloth and the best of intentions, but between the frequency of changes and the gallons upon gallons of hot water we were using to clean the diapers, we weren't convinced it was worth it. We ended up using gDiapers, which are awesomely home-compostable (albeit expensive) with disposables for overnight.

  6. We use a baby diaper service and that makes cloth diapering so easy. No rinsing the diapers and no laundry. You just put the bag out for pick up once a week and you are left with a new batch of clean diapers. We are saving money over disposables and we are thankful it is working out. We have a 3 month old and change him every 2-4 hours. At night we "double diaper" and he stays in the same diaper for about 8 hours. Diaper services aren't available everywhere, but they are wonderful.

  7. It really is too bad you don't have a diaper service available. It makes things so much easier! I'm surprised that cloth diapers were only lasting you a couple of hours. I wonder why.
    We started using disposables at night only when the baby started sleeping more than 6 hours at a time. We use Nature Babycare, which unlike 7th generation are completely biodegradeable! They're very absorbent and seem to be comfortable. Amazon has a deal where if you order a "subscription" to the diapers, shipping is free.

  8. This post utterly disappoints me… I really thought I was making the right decision about cloth diapering, but now I just don't know at all. Clearly the post'er was committed in the beginning (just as I think I am), so I'm just wondering if this is all a waste of my time. I appreciate the commenters who have reiterated that it works for them..

    • Oh no, please don't get discouraged on my account! Even though we now mostly use the disposables I would never say that cloth diapering was a waste of my time. And that's even counting the hours I put into sewing them! I truly beleive that even using one cloth diaper a day helps. WHo knows, you may find that they work great for you and your little one, some people find that disposables give their baby a rash or leak or just cant stand a stinky diaper garbage and really prefer doing laundry and using the cloth instead. But you'll never know if you don't go ahead and try! You can always switch until you find the perfect combination for the two of you.

    • You know, I think cloth diapers are just one thing on a long list of newer status symbols, along with vaxing vs.not vaxing, exclusively breastfeeding vs. formula, homebirth/natural birth/what ever. I think some people will find any excuse to have a one-up competition instead of acknowledging the positive and the small efforts.

    • Yes, and don't forget food alergies! I sometimes feel like I'm the only mom who isn't secretly hoping my kid will be allergic to something. The holier-than-thou pious exclamations of "Oh no, my precious little bubbiekins can't eat wheat, corn, oats, milk or sugar" that seem to start up any time more than 3 moms get to talking just make me want to pull out my hair.

      Not that some people aren't really allergic, but c'mon. Not all babies have allergies! Can we just be glad that we have *enough* to eat?

  9. Having a diaper service is key in our home. Without it, cloth diapering would be impossible. On the other hand our son, Ruben, is very picky and stubborn about being wet (he's barely finished and he's fussing to be changed) so for the sake of our sanity and our aching bones, my boyfriend and I succumb to using disposable diapers when we're out and overnight.

    To Katie- don't be discouraged. Give it your best shot and work from there. We keep him in cloth diapers as much as we can but sometimes the lure of disposables cannot be resisted. Good luck!

  10. We too started out with the best of intentions. Then our babe came super early. There just aren't any CD's in existence for a preemie her size. So we used disposables in the NICU, and then for the first few weeks at home. When she was finally big enough for the XS CDs I was super excited. For the first few months we used them exclusively.

    Then, like you, it was much easier to use disposables on outings. It wasn't that we had to change her so very often…I mean, I would leave her in a CD if we went somewhere for just an hour or so. But if we stayed away from the house for more than an hour I changed her into a disposable.

    Then came the time when she finally started sleeping more deeply. She's one who HATES being wet, so she would fuss at night in her CD's but not in disposables. If we changed her she woke up and was "recharged". SOOOO yeah…disposables at night.

    Luckily I stay home and have a washer and dryer. The laundry really isn't an issue anyway since we have enough for a few days. I'm not sure what will happen if I have to go back to work and she has to go to daycare. I guess I'll find out when that day comes. Till then, she's in cloth most of the time…but we do make some exceptions I didn't think we would.

    I would like to wait it out for potty training though. As someone said above, it's supposed to be much easier since they can feel the wetness, unlike in disposables.

  11. I'm with you! We use disposables when we go out, I'm not effin around with gnarly diaper cheese in a cloth dipe when we're on a six hour trip to PDX or something, sheeze. We use em at home (I am lucky enough to have a washer/dryer and lots of free time), and do a lot of nakey-butt time. My fam has super sensitive skin and I noticed between my first babe and current that the bleeding, blistering rashes are nil with cloth. So it's worth my upset for a lack of baby's! My best lady friend is a pre-school teacher, and she will never cloth diaper because she'd rather not blow chunks during diaper changes and cleanings. I agree that's what's best, yaknowwhatImeanVern?!

    To the commenter who noticed what a status thing cloth diapers are, I agree! And it is a trip and a half. Most of our grandmas would've killed for the disposables now, even a GDiaper. NGL, poopy diaper cleaning and soaking is foul! I see it as a luxury issue of the first world, like veganism, formula/breast, etc. We have loads of choices to rip on one another for, and it's totally a luxury – oh, twisted irony.

  12. We used cloth until basically our son started eating a significant amount of solids which made the "ick factor" of cloth diapering increase exponentially. Of course, we used disposables when we went out at and at night. This was with me staying at home. If I had been working, no way would we have done cloth.

  13. We used cloth until basically our son started eating a significant amount of solids which made the "ick factor" of cloth diapering increase exponentially. Of course, we used disposables when we went out at and at night. This was with me staying at home. If I had been working, no way would we have done cloth.

  14. I had no idea that cloth diapering was considered a status symbol. In fact, people mostly look confused about the fact that we use cloth diapers for our LO. Most are like, "Well, that's interesting".

    We've been using them since our daughter was about a month old (she was too small for the ones we had & I did not have enough ambition to make my own!). She is now eight months old & we use them all the time…at home, going out (yes, even all day), and at night. I've never had a problem with her not being able to sleep all night due to diapering, we just use a doubler/extra insert & viola, good to go! We use the Fuzzi Bunz & couldn't recommend them enough. They've made it super easy & we wash a load every other day. It is *way* easier than I thought it would be. Looking back though, It probably helped that we just stuck to our guns about using the cloth diapers & not using disposables. In fact the only time we have used disposables is: 1) when she was a newborn & couldn't fit into the smalls & 2) I had to take a trip out of town & didn't have access to a washer/dryer. But once that was over we went back to the routine of using them all the time. In fact I had a "backup" package of disposables that she outgrew (size 2) before we ever had an instance where we needed the backup!

  15. Hehe I'm the complete opposite. I really didn't think that we'd be able to keep up with cloth diapers but thought we'd give it a try. Then our daughter came 6 weeks early and it took something like 2 months for her to fit in cloth nappies so we were using disposables exclusively. We then decided to just use the cloth at home (as we'd already brought them) and a year and a half later that is all we use. I absolutely hate disposables now (but only because they always seem to leak/overflow) and on the rare occasion that they do get used I always stand there going ' Well now what do I do with it?' (we don't have an inside bin for them).

  16. i'm rather eco friendly (i mean i just put in my order for a leaf last night! YAY!) and i live right outside NYC, but there are no cloth diaper services! so cloth didn't work out for me either, but when i went with every eco brand of diapers they just didn't cut it either so at least that worked out for you!

    • I hear you. I wanted to cloth diaper with my first but we didn't have a W/D and the greater NYC metro area has a real dearth of cloth diaper services (at the time, we lived at the border of Bronx and Westchester). Of course, right before we moved, a new diaper service showed up that was serving my area. *sigh*

  17. Me too! Actually, I take that back, you are doing waaaaay better with it than I did! After only two weeks of new baby confusion + more laundry than was rationally possible, I gave in to the siren song of disposables. Don't stress about the "stuff" (diapies included), love-up your baby, and stay sane; motherhood is really a walk in a super-adorable park. 😀

  18. I think I'm definitely on the opposite end of this. I started out using disposables, loved them, couldn't understand why anyone would want to cloth diaper!

    Then I started seeing how cute they were nowadays. And how much easier it is now than it was just 10 years ago. I thought "Nah, I can't keep up with the laundry. I'll do a diaper service." Then I decided I could handle the laundry, hell I already do at least a load a day… *sigh*. I still put him in a disposable at night because getting up to change a diaper sounds about as fun as pulling teeth without any pain meds. (he screeeeaaaams bloody murder during night time changes.) He still wears disposables when we plan to be out longer than an hour.

    I'm hoping that when I go back to work next month, and when he starts solids, we will continue cloth diapering as much as we are now.

  19. Hmm! I just finished up my first trimester, and am due with twins. From a cost-analysis standpoint, do you feel cloth diapers (with a diapering service) would be cheaper than disposables? Or, with twins on the way, should I just give up on the idea and stick with disposables?

    • There are so many variables to consider, that I can't really answer for you. What does the diaper service cost? is probably the biggest one. It's pretty easy to calculate the straight up cost of disposable diapers, and you will use lots of them. Ordering online, thru, by the case, the 7th gen size 3 diapers we use now cost .29 each. smaller size diapers are a little cheaper; larger sizes are a little more expensive. But this size is the one we've used since about 7 months old till now, so it's probably a good one to use as an avg. I know there are less-eco-friendly ones out there that are cheaper. We use about 5 diapers a day at this point, but younger babies need LOTS more frequent changes. So 5 x .29 = $1.45 a day, x 2 for twins = $2.90. Doesn't sound too bad until you multiply by 365 days per year – that's $1058.50!

    • More than the money though, I DO reccomend trying cloth. Give it a go, see if it works for you. You can always run down to the store for a pkg of disposables, or do part cloth & part 'sposie. And remember that every time you use a cloth diaper, you save yourself 30 cents, not to mention a little bit of landfil space. 🙂

  20. I never used a diaper service but honestly, the best thing that I did when I was considering cloth diapering was go to a store that specializes in selling cloth diapers. You might have to look around for a place like this but it was definitely worth it. The staff was so helpful; they even offer free courses and loan out sample sets of different diapers. We ended up going with pre-folds because they were just so economical (about $2 each plus one $12 cover for each 6 diapers we bought, 6 snappi's at about $1.50 each and some micro fleece liners for overnights we have about 8 and they were $3.50 each). I think these are pretty common diapers for diaper services to use. They're a little awkward until you get used to putting them on but now that I'm pretty handy with them, I wouldn't do ANYTHING else. We also have a small stash of all-in-ones for when friends/family change diapers.

  21. Our compromise is the disposable-when-we-go-out one, and with my newborn, she'll be in swaddlers until she is big enough for the prefolds I bought. i didn't start CDing my first until she was 20 months old, because we didn't have a W/D before then, plus i was looking to save money and even though she is almost ready for potty-training, the savings are realized since her stash can be used with my 2nd!

  22. Aren’t they starting to make disposable diapers out of corn nowadays? I could have sworn that I heard something in the radio about this. They make biodegradable dog poop bags out of corn, so I figure diapers couldn’t be far behind.

    • The thing about things that biodegrade… they start to break down when they are warm and wet. Guess what?
      In the 80s they made a prototype biodegradable diaper, which my mom used on me. I ended up covered in a thick, gloopy gel. Mind you that enviro-friendly tech has advanced a fair bit since then, but it’s hard to work out.

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