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. We started using cloth diapers when we ran out of disposables during a holiday (and were too lazy to find an open store), she was 2 weeks then. We started out with 13 Bumgenius pocket diapers we got as a gift, and have now gotten 15 more. This means a load every 3 days or so.

    She feels much drier with cloth than disposables, even with 150 g of wee in them (yes, we weight them… nerds…). And they don’t smell, which I have noticed the disposables (at least the brand we use) do – it’s a quite unpleasant odour even with only wee in them. She sleeps from 2030 to 6ish without nappy changes (she /sleeps/ so we don’t wake her for neither food nor nappy), and we’ve had no leaks (perhaps a couple of small ones due to not tightening the velcro enough). As long as she doesn’t complain from wet nappies and has never been sore, we usually don’t change them more often than every 3-4 hours so the laundry loads are not huge.

    We’ve only used them for a month now, so I don’t know how the connection between our intentions and real life will be in a few months or after the summer vacation (to a cabin without electricity or water, so guess what kind of diapers we’ll use…), but I just wanted to add my voice to the “works for us” choir nevertheless 🙂

    – and none of this means I doubt it didn’t work for you – I guess we started with the same intentions, so we may end up in the same spot after a few months too.

  2. I looked into using cloth when i was preg, but ended up using disposables owing to the fact that, although i knew in the long term they would work out more expensive, in the short term i couldn’t afford cloth nappies :/ i’m not sure whether they’re expensive in the US, but they’re ridiculously expensive in the UK! Now munchkin’s decided to start potty training herself at nearly 20 months (she’s way ahead of me-always!)…so prob not worth it now!

  3. I loved my cloth–til the velcro and laundry tabs started giving out and I couldn’t get the smell out of them completely. That being said, my daughter was in cloth from about 3 months til about 18 months. Since then we’ve done it in spurts and I miss it horribly. Part of the issue is living on base with crappy water, part is the diapers I bought not lasting me very well.

    We’re trying to conceive again and I plan on doing fitteds and prefolds with fleece and wool covers to start at least–I actually liked our prefolds even though the OS pockets were more convenient. I know we saved a TON of money in the year plus we cloth diapered pretty much full time & I really enjoyed it–but I agree, it seems like there is a lot of “status” and judgement attached to cloth.

  4. I know this isn’t going to be as up to date as some of the cloth diapers that are on the market now, but 22 years ago my mother tried them out on me… apparently I had the worst diaper rash ever so she switched back to disposables and never had another problem.

    • Actually, because of money issues we used flat terry cloth nappies on our now 19 month old son, and yes – he always had rashes. We finally had to switch to disposables when he was about 12 months because 1, they needed to be folded so thickly that I could barely fasten them and 2, even then he needed changing every hour and he would throw a massive tantrum EVERY time he was changed. I decided I could really do without that. And lo and behold, no nappy rash at all since we switched. Despite that and all that has been said, I would still like to try modern cloth nappies for our next baby.

  5. great comments! we are useing cloth diapers so far b/c the husband is super commited and b/c they are pretty dang cute now, also we are blessed enough to have a washer and dryer. Great point not everyone has that! i appreicate hearing how everyone mixes and matches and what is working out there in real life. we registered for our cloth diapers so that helped us with the start up cost 🙂 One nice thing is if cloth doesn’t work out most of the diapers and stuff holds some of its value and can be resold. no-one told us that the cloth nappies wouldn’t fit until his cord came off. I was lucky and planned to use disposiable until we were home for a little while.

  6. we are excited to start cloth diapering. baby is still a few weeks away.
    Unfortunately as inconvenient as it ay end up, we just don’t have the option to buy disposables in our budget. I did register for, and get, disposable inserts (flip, gDiaper and groVia make them) for when we are out and about, I’m hoping that will help.

  7. We LOVE our G-Diapers that we got as hand-me-downs, and we just decided to stick with the G’s and buy the next size up. Most people I know use Fuzzibunz or BumGenius but in the cost comparison I did, the G’s were less expensive and they fit my baby much better. They lasted through my sister’s baby’s use and now through mine, and are still in good shape for a future sibling, too.

    We’ve been using them since the baby was 3 weeks old, including overnight, on trips, out all day, always! But I *am* doing laundry every other day – I think if I got more inserts I could probably do it less often. She spits up so much I need to do the burp cloths anyhow 😉

    I was so horrified at the amount of garbage we created in just 3 weeks when she was born that I couldn’t imagine continuing with disposables. I used the flushable inserts at first to transition, but then started putting little prefolds in as inserts and liked it much more. We use cloth wipes also.

    I *do* understand that it’s not for everyone, and I wouldn’t judge anyone – goodness knows there are enough things to stress about with a baby, but I couldn’t imagine going back. We’ve never had a diaper rash! And they are so cute. It’s not about status at all, I just honestly feel better using them.

  8. My lovely mother gifted us with the “Maternity Leave Package” from our local diaper service that covered our first 12 weeks of cloth. When it’s time for baby #2, I’ll TOTALLY invest in that again just to help relieve some of the initial weeks of stressfulness. However, we continued using cloth after that was up and it’s worked REALLY well for us. He gets put in ‘sposies when there’s a non-CD-friendly sitter (which are most of them, which is FINE, since most of our sitters are friends/family who do it for FREE), if we travel, and overnight. We have a champ of a sleeper, which is GREAT, but in cloth diapers he was getting awful burns on his booty because he’d soak in his urine all night. He wouldn’t wake up to cry and let us know he was wet, and that just was NOT working.

    So, cloth works really really well for us, with some occasional concessions made to times when disposables just plain work better. You gotta do what’s right for you and your lifestyle!

  9. Sorry if this has already been mentioned but what about biodegradable/compostable diapers?? They are the way forward and the way that we are going to go. No wasting water or creating landfill for my baby……we are going biodegradable all the way~!!!! 🙂

  10. Cloth has been working for us for 12 months. We’ve hit a few bumps in the road but use BumGenius pocket diapers which feel dry to baby due to the microfleece for a long time until they are really soaked. I also use a doubler when I know I’m likely to have a big pee or a longer trip somewhere.

    Couple comments about rash with cloth: could be the wash routine – ammonia buildup can be a problem especially with hard water & HE washers. Bleach and Calgon can help, as well as more rinsing of pee diapers and smaller wash loads.

    Comment on biodegradable diapers: my understanding is a big problem is the garbage bag diapers are put into doesn’t give them access to the moisture and air needed to actually degrade (goes for many things in the landfill), so until you’re composting them in your backyard, they probably aren’t degrading in the landfill very fast. But hey, still better to have a shot at degrading and the more biodegradable diapers people buy, they more effort they will put into producing better ones, right?? 🙂

  11. When our son was born,we used cloth diapers and plastic pants on him rather than the disposables and they worked well.I didnt mind washing the cloth diapers and the rubberpants and tried to make the diapers as soft as i could.After he was born,i had to have a hysterectomy so i couldnt have any more babies.When the son was 15,we adopted a 14 year old girl from an orphange who was having accidents during the day and bedwetting.We right away put her into the cloth diapers and adult size rubberpants 24/7 and there i was back to washing cloth diapers and rubberpants again! I changed her diapers when she was wet just like i did when the son was a baby and washed her diapers in Dreft detergent and used baby powder on her and the rubberpants to keep them soft.She is now 16 and has been out of the diapers and rubberpants for 6 months,but i still keep some of the diapers and a couple pair of the rubberpants in her drawer for “just in case” situations.

  12. I know this article is really old, but I have to comment because I’m dealing with the disposable seduction right now! I used cloth exclusively for 4 months, then exclusively except one disposable overnight until about 7 months. Cloth worked really well at this point, because my daughter is a major pooper. Before she was really onto solids, she had several poops a day. Almost every time she pooped in a disposable it was an epic blowout, where cloth contained it 95% of the time. Her skin is really sensitive, so the highly frequent changes wasn’t the end of the world. Well once she really started getting into solids that changed. We started having leaks constantly, and she started fighting diaper changes tooth and nail (she’s a very busy baby). The poops were a lot less explosive, so the flaw of disposables was gone. I kept at it, mostly out of the environmental guilt, but then when we put our house on the market and moved into a new house, we switched to disposables. That was over two months ago and it’s REALLY hard to switch back.

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