Why are mamas so obsessed with cloth diapers?

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Cloth diapers are so cute

First, let me say this: we are using cloth diapers. I like cloth diapers! Several of my friends are cloth diapers! Now that we’ve established that … I am genuinely confused by how genuinely obsessive many mamas are about cloth diapering.

There are multiple online communities dedicated to cloth diapering discussion, swaps, and drama. There are untold hundreds (thousands?) of websites dedicated to selling an overwhelming array of cloth diapers. It’s big enough that there’s both a big mainstream cloth diaper industry, and then a ton of indie businesses dedicated to producing diapers, diaper covers, diaper accessories, etc. There’s a special language of acronyms (AIO! OBV! WTF!). I heard rumors of a $200 diaper being sold on eBay. It appears that half the mamasphere is fueled by cloth diaper giveaways. No denying it — y’all are OBSESSED with cloth diapers. And no denying it’s a great cause. But .. why diapers?

Again: I feel really good about our decision to do cloth diapering. But I’m confused by how “I feel good about this” somehow translates into obsession. I mean, I feel good about having soup for dinner, but I haven’t developed a language of acronyms around soup-eating.

Do we women just like obsessing over brands, and this is just like obsessing over designer shoes, except for it’s wool longies? Is it a fetishistic collector reflex, like Beanie Babies for baby butts? Like Pokemon for the SAHM set? (Gotta get ’em all!)

I’ve spent years working in marketing and PR, so I get brand loyalty (a few of my favorites: Designs by Karina, Lululemon, Lush, etc) and I get the collector reflex. But … why diapers? Why are you ladies so obsessed with poo containment?

Someone enlighten me!

Comments on Why are mamas so obsessed with cloth diapers?

  1. We tried cloth nappies (diapers to you American folk) but it didn't work out for us. Too much leakage/ washing/ stink whilst trying to get the hang of using them in the first few weeks of babyhood meant we soon gave up. And we felt bad. We felt really bad! Telling people we were using disposable now felt like we were telling people we didn't care for the enviroment, recycling or our kid's ass.

    There absolutely is a certain breed of parent that are obsessed with cloth nappies (there's also a certain type of parent that is obsessed with the contents of a nappy but that's a different story!) Maybe it has something to do with keeping hold of our pre-baby eco-credentials? This issue totally perplexes me too!

  2. i would go with "its trendy" (even for those who think they are 100% against all trendy things), bragging rights? feeling superior to the disposable crowd? who knows! we do cloth but have stuck with the plain old boring prefolds and boring covers. but i too have wondered about this crazy diaper craze. i guess its fun to have more options besides Pampers…Luvs…ect….

  3. I love cloth diapering… but as for obsessed, not so much… I have a giveaway blog and hosted a huge giveaway basket for a winner. Well, that meant I got about 10 of them to try myself. So – i started cloth diapering… Now, since then… I have probably doubled my stash and love what we are doing for the environment and my lil on e with a sensitive bum has no issues 🙂 I will admit… my buying habits for diapers come from the prints… were rock n roll & theres nothing cuter than a fluffy guitar butt… or skull & bones… or mix tapes 🙂 You dont get that from huggies.

  4. I'm not cloth diapering as I don't have my own washer/dryer so it's hard enough keeping on top of laundry with out the inclusion of diapers on top of that. However, as somebody who uses disposables there is this feeling that I'm doing so atrociously bad that I hate admitting that I don't use cloth. And it really does feel like I have to justify our choice when really, why should I? I have to agree with Stephanie, if we had the resources I would have given them a shot

  5. Seems like a combination of many things: current environmental drive, some moms obsessed with babies in general, it's trendy right now, etc. Sounds like several women have had problems with certain diapers, so could also be (on a lower level) like breastfeeding – it's not as easy as we've grown up thinking it will be, so you need help with the details.

    I'd say that the "good" felt when eating soup is likely different than the "good" felt by keeping thousands of disposable diapers out of landfills? That said, I think people *are* obsessed with soup! A quick google search of "soup recipes" yields 1.5M hits….I'm guessing that's more than the amount of cloth diapering websites?

  6. My babe is not here yet but we plan to go the cloth diaper route. I am on twitter and I do blog so I see how much the social media mom realm is packed with #clothdiapers. I figured this was a constant but saw your tweet about it being like Beanie Babies for babies' butts and darn near died laughing. As a new mom sorting her sh*t out I have to say the cloth diapering realm is a little overwhelming as I research exactly what I will do. My dad suggested using a diaper service since that is what my folks did for my little toosh as a babe. My friends who spend all kinds of $$$ on baby boutique items are gung-ho for me to get the designer covers. I like simplicity though and found great tutorials to upcycle old sweaters into covers and have fortunately been graced with a good friend who has her pet industrial sewing machine and has asked to make our babes diapers as a gift to our family. I only have to collaborate on the design I want, but once again there are so many designs!

  7. And to touch on what Stephanie wrote, there seem to be parents who obsess over many things. In prepping for our first I see people online who treat their baby preparations like they are wedding planning and prepping for a huge party. I usually don't judge but preparing for parenthood and having hormones surging through my body I do judge more than I should these days. I see some (not all but a few) women prepping more for the nursery decoration than baby health precautions. It reminds me of ladies prepping more for wedding place settings than marriage preparation topics with their spouses. As people I guess we obsess over the things we feel we can control in our lives.

  8. I suffer from a little bit of obsessiveness, in that I just started cloth diapering about a month ago, and I'm eager to try new things. I a couple hours a week, I'd say, looking at websites and brands and options — and I to think that at some point I'll have plenty of variety, and I'll stop. (I'll probably still spend time on cloth diapering boards, though — I don't have any local friends with kids, or friends who cloth diaper, period.)

    I think the omg intense obsession comes from never feeling like you've tried enough, found the perfect one, or are entirely pleased with what you have. The quest for the perfect, soft, eco-friendly, organic, never-leaking, adorable, easy for dads and babysitters diaper that may just be around the corner.

    • "I think the omg intense obsession comes from never feeling like you've tried enough, found the perfect one, or are entirely pleased with what you have. The quest for the perfect, soft, eco-friendly, organic, never-leaking, adorable, easy for dads and babysitters diaper that may just be around the corner."


      Thats it for me, anyhow. Im not obsessed, just enthused. I would never buy a 30$ diaper, I stick with Thirsties and Bummis cuz Im thrifty. But I love counseling moms to be on my cloth experience. If I can get one family to change their minds about using cloth, I feel good, like I just saved another ton of disposables from getting hucked into landfill oblivion.

      • "I would never buy a 30$ diaper, I stick with Thirsties and Bummis cuz Im thrifty."

        I love you. =D I personally love prefolds/covers, and my current thrifty experiment is making fitteds that'll be easier for my husband. Some of the brands that I've seen people go nuts for don't seem all that fancy, and I figure, hell, I can do that. I have a sewing machine.

        I get really enthused about cloth diapering, but so far only one of the moms I know is interested in it — the rest sort of give me a, "Ooh, that's… nice." It's hard to convince people that my house is actually cleaner and nicer smelling now that we don't use disposables.

        • Oh I wish I could sew. I would make diaperwraps in fun prints all the livelong day. But I cant even put a button on a shirt. I have a serious sewing defect.

          • I hadn't sewn much before I attempted to do it with a diaper, and they're not great — the seam gets a little weak in a couple places, but the one that fit kept the poop in, so I was pleased. I used… let me dig it up… this tutorial, and have found it pretty easy. You should give it a shot! =D

            That said, god help me if I try to do anything without a pattern. Oh dear Lord.

  9. We're planning on cloth diapering and what I find interesting is the older generation (grandparents) have told us that they're "proud" of us for doing so. I'm not sure what, exactly, they're "proud of" but there I imagine there is a certain sense of pride for parents that can and do cloth diaper. I guess we'll see if we are successful. We have many reasons for choosing cloth diapering, but the two primary ones is that it's less expensive and it's better for the environment. It also helps that every one I know that has cloth diapered has potty-trained their child earlier.

    As far as the "obsessed" part, I'm not sure. My guess is that cloth diapers are complicated, with all the types and brands, etc. So once you finally understand them maybe you become a little obsessed with them?

  10. I went through a few weeks of what must have looked like obsession to my husband… I spent a lot of time looking at options and accessories. I really want cloth diapering to work out because I'm super dedicated to it in theory for benefits to budget, environment, and baby. So in order to avoid spending a fortune on diapers and extras, and also in an effort to find the combination of things that would make cloth feasibly easy for parents who used disposables on our first, I wanted to leave no stone unturned. Then there was the nesting instinct to feul the fire– I already had almost all the baby stuff I needed, so diapers were my only major investment for the arrival of this baby.

    But now I've purchased just about everything I think I'm going to need and haven't looked back. I don't know why communities and hoarding habits would build around diapers in particular, but communities and loyalty absolutely develop around all major parenting issues. There is the parenting superiority complex mentioned, but also, I think most parents are trying as hard as they can to make the right parenting decisions and just want the comfort of a bunch of other parents saying "Hey, we're doing the same thing and its great!" At least I think it starts out like that.

  11. Guess: If you live in say, Seattle or San Francisco, no one is really going to blink an eye that you are using cloth diapers. In fact, your likely to catch more cr*p (pun totally intended) from using disposables. But, if you live in say, the small conservative inland CA town I grew up in, no one has ever seen/ heard of cloth diapers before. People will tell you they are not hygienic and disgusting, people will ask nosy questions, people will judge. If this happens enough you A) turn to the internet for support. B) Get a wee bit defensive. And defensive is one baby step away from obsessive.

    That, and uh, people are weirdly obsessive about this stuff (be it for weddings or babies), and that is given the big "GREAT! That means you care about your kids (wedding)! Obsess away" from society. Instead of a more healthy, "take a deep breath and chill" (which sells nothing, after all).

  12. While pregnant I gave myself one topic of baby related things per week to research. The only topic that took more than a week and in fact many months, cloth diapers. But I am a research junky. Still the topic of cloth diapers nearly overwhelmed me. I thought, but I must research ALL options, what if I miss the perfect one, the best deal! At the end of my many month foray into all websites cloth diaper related I circled back and settled on my initial plan. Seventh Generation disposables until 14 pounds, then size medium G diapers with cloth inserts when at home, and seventh generation for over night and going out and about. It cost $130 to get set up with the medium g's and based on growth charts and average potty training ages they will (hopefully) last him until he's done with diapers.

  13. Hey! Thanks using our photo for this post!

    I'm not sure that I would be classified as obsessed…though I do find myself smirking at the people that thought I was crazy for attempting to use cloth. The ones that said "good luck" in that tone….

    Obviously we CD (hah, another acronym), but we chose to do it because it's WAY cheaper in the long run than disposables. I did a lot of research, and found that BumGenius were rated very high, and would (theoretically) last us for our entire diapering career. I think they're cute too, but plain (not a huge fan of prints or characters on my baby's booty). We did have some issues with leaking. I think my water heater is up too high, and the hot HOT water damaged the lining. That was easily solved with some old school "rubber pants".

    We had initially tried to use the "natural" sposies as well when we were out of the house….but most of them suck…so we use regular Pampers (or Huggies, or whatever) if the need should arise.

  14. I am totally obsessed. My obsession spread to the point where I founded my own company & online boutique. Above and beyond my business responsibilities (which consume quite a few hours each day), I now use cloth on 2 of my kiddos (my oldest one is using the potty), My closest mommy friends all CD and I would say this topic accounts for at least 50% of our discussions/ interactions. I have cloth diapering bumperstickers, magnets, pins, and my kids often don't wear pants in the summer so I can show them off. I think about cloth usually within the first 10 mins of waking up, and within the last 10 mins of going to sleep. Why the hell do I do this? I will try to quantify:

    1) Hands on time: I change a lot of diapers each day. I enjoy the feel of the fabrics, the fun prints, and just putting my little ones in something comfortable and cozy. It makes diaper changing a satisfying experience.

    2) Fashion. Cloth diapering didn't turn into an obsession until I started getting into the diaper covers with prints on the outside. As soon as I figured out I could plaster sugar skulls all over my baby's butt, it was love.

    3) Thrift. I feel extremely thrifty thinking about the $$$ I have saved on our 3 babies and how much more we save with each kid. I also like that I can resell whatever I like for 50+% of what I paid for it. Even with my stash of high end diapers, it is still cheaper than 'sposies.

    4) Environmental <3. It is like a personal challenge. How little trash can we produce? Diapers really put a big dent in our family output.

    5) I dislike getting eliminated on…. also not a fan of funky smells. I use disposables when we are out and about, on vacation, etc, and they *always* deliver inferior performance. It makes me feel so good to pop on a cloth dipe and know that it will smell good, look good, and the chances of it leaking… almost nothing.

    I saw a few references to a feeling of superiority… sort of, but not quite. I feel more like I have discovered this wonderful, fun, cute, satisfying, money saving experience and I can't wait to SHARE it! I love educating moms and moms to be about cloth. I love it when they try it, and I love it when they love it. I feel like I have passed along something good to them that they can now enjoy…. I have helped them turn something that kind of sucks about being a mom into something that is actually a fun experience!

    Beyond all of this, I think you have to be a little nuts to love cloth as much as I do. But if I am going to obsess about something (and believe me I will) this seems like a good thing for it to be. I hope that this helped give you a little glimpse of my particular insanity 🙂


  15. I think cloth diapers are one of the few baby items that combine style and function, more so than clothing. It's hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on baby clothes that are outgrown monthly or seasonally. Cloth diapers are expensive but they last far longer, and have decent resale value. That said, people who like to shop, like to shop! Mamas who don't like to shop will stick to basics, and mamas shopaholics have cloth diapers as yet another outlet. No judgment! I find myself drooling over cute diaper covers all the time, and we don't use cloth!

  16. I'd rather spend the money on cute diapers or longies which I know my kids going to use at least every other day, and get my money out of, then spend it on a cute outfit for him. I have an obsessive personality anyway, so I guess it's good for me to obsess over something that's beneficial.

    I started out with prefolds but then I won a bunch of fitteds (by a bunch, I mean 10) so it just seemed reasonable to finish off the fitted stash. Then I was in search of a diaper that wouldn't leak at night.. so of course I had to try several different kinds for that as well. I've still spent way less money on diapers then if I hadn't cloth diapered.. so if I want to splurge on something I don't have to feel bad about it at all!

  17. My personal opinion? For a lot of women (and certainly not ALL women) it's a trendy "I am environmentally conscious" easy way out. Not that cloth diapering is easy but, it's easier than say, really working hard to recycle, compost and BUY LESS stuff. They can hold it against those "other moms" who take the easy way out and use disposables. They can say things like "I'd NEVER put my baby in THOSE" and "well I don't know, we use cloth diapers" in the "I'm better than you" sort of way. And they can pretend they are saving the world this way, even if they don't know how.

    It's like buying name brand, when the cheap brand is just the same, and then flaunting them to your peers. I find this anyway, in the city where I live. People who are genuinely using cloth for it's environmental and health reasons, are a lot less obsessed with how cute the $40 a piece covers are, and are much more likely to use a simple brand and keep quite about it unless asked. They buy used ones, haver mismatched sets and even know that sometimes, a disposable is necessary. They use them because they believe in them, and don't care if anyone else ever knows they are using them over disposables.

    I HATE when cloth diaper snobs (and yes, there are these out there) turn up their noses and make comments about disposable using mamas. ESPECIALLY when they have NO real concept of why they are using them, other than that it's a trendy thing to do.

    I am looking into using them, and I plan to do it, but this is because I think they are better for my baby and the environment, not to mention my wallet overall. And sure, I'm ALL about how cute they are and all that jazz, but I would never judge someone who doesn't choose cloth.

    It's totally a trend, but less like Beanie Babies and more like designer jeans.

    • i'm not clear on this. how come you saying, "I think they are better for my baby and the environment, not to mention my wallet" is OK, but when other people say it they're being trendy?

      making assumptions that cloth diaper people aren't *also* doing other environmentally helpful things is kind of weird, too. personally, i'm a bad person because i drive a car instead of taking the bus (due to disability, i can't bike). pregnancy has made my eating habits really bizarre, and now instead of all locally farmed organic produce, i'm eating cereal and triscuits, filling the recycling bins with all that packaging.

      but i also recycle and buy sustainable products, usually get much of my food from a CSA, and let an Urban CSA plant crops in my yard, and use cloth pads at night during my period. so now i will use cloth diapers. where do you live, that these people are snotty about cloth diapers but don't recycle? (i'm in Portland)

  18. I'll admit I didn't read all the comments, but I feel a big reason was not listed. Your child's health! I am obsessed with what goes in and on my daughter's body and that includes what I wrap her genitals in for all hours of the day.

    Cloth diapering is extremely affordable and environmentally friendly. Disposable diapers weren't even popular/introduced until the 80's meaning that more people are supportive of cloth than you think. Most women of childbearing age were brought up in cloth and most cities and towns offer diaper services.

    The risks of disposable diapers far outweigh the "trendiness" of cloth. Its not a matter of easy, or fashion, or bragging rights, but the link to the chemicals and asthma, male infertility, and urinary tract dysfunction.

    Like anything cloth can vary in price. a quick trip to a local second hand baby shop can save you a ton of money on diaper covers. In our overall experience we have spent far less than 200$ on diapers and covers (newborn to 12months). Using Gerber organic pre-folds and second hand and WAHM sewn covers.

    The most rewarding part is having a child that is diaper free by 12 months. The simple sensation of being wet was a motivator for our daughter. No one likes sitting in pee pants!

    So I guess I'm obsessed with cloth diapers because it just feels right. I want whats best for my children.

    *We use Nature Baby Care disposable diapers when traveling and over night they are gel free bio-degradable goodness.

    • The doula who led the cloth diapering class I took said that parents who use cloth diapers are more in touch with their children's health because you can see more clearly what is being eliminated and how much, as opposed to a disposable, which has a stay-dri lining, and of course, in the case of poop, you just wrap the whole thing up and throw it out, instead of scraping it out into the toilet. I thought it was an interesting point!

    • Ashley, I have to respectfully play devil's advocate. Not all babies respond well to cloth. My daughter has extremely sensitive skin, and it was even worse when she was of diaper age. She's one of those children who will develop urine burn from sitting in a wet diaper for a mere matter of minutes***. I could *not* use cloth on her because of this. We did every elimination test possible to try and keep her in cloth – detergents, fabric types, etc. and what it boiled down to was simply the wet against her skin. In this case, the "evil" disposable was the best alternative.

      ***Before I get flamed for this, she is also the child that will develop itchy, blotchy hives from wearing the towel she dried herself with from the bathroom to her bedroom just down the hall. I was not leaving my child in wet diapers for hours on end, we're talking a five minute car ride with a fresh diaper right before she got in the car.

  19. As has been said more or less, I also think that everything that's 'offbeat' can be prone to obsession – merely because it's 'special' and therefore 'extra interesting'. Combine that with the fact that a baby spends SO much time in his/her diaper – it's a relatively important and day-to-day baby item – et voila… you've got yourself a focus point 🙂

    BTW: "Why diapers" seems to be a question that can be interpreted in quite a different way: http://www.naturalbabyworld.com/elimination-commu

  20. i wouldn't call myself obsessed…to be completely honest, i don't know what 90% of the acronyms mean (pretty much just CD = cloth diaper and AIO = all in one), and as a first-time mama-to-be, i'm quite intimidated by the prospect of it. so my "obsession" is limited to information gathering so i can go into this undertaking (because i understand that it really is an undertaking) fully informed and as prepared as i can be, having never done it before. and all those truly obsessive mamas are a great resource of information for me, although they can get pretty pushy about their own personal experiences and POVs too. i read responses to other mamas' questions, rather than posting my own, lol.

  21. I think it is all about finding another way to do something when you didn't know there was… a lot of people go their whole life thinking, "well I will use disposable diapers because that is what you use" and then they discover cloth diapers or Elimination Communication and it is like an epiphany lol! It turns into a bit of an obsession so they can learn all they want about it.
    The diaper thing never really happened to me because I knew people who used cloth diapers and EC, so alternatives to poop pick-up were not unusual. However, the whole homebirth movement was a shock to me! So when I first learned about it I became obsessed.

    Oh lets be honest, I am still obsessed lol!

    • I was the same way when I decided I wanted a natural (birthing center) birth.
      I was obsessed with all the hypnobirthing books and what-have-you. So much so, that I think it's left me a little broken since I ended up with a premature birth and emergency c-section. I feel like I've lost something (even though my baby is perfectly healthy). I'm still obsessed too! Though…I only want the one child…so I don't think I'll ever be experiencing it 🙁

  22. i am cloth diapering not just for the environment but mostly for my budget. I did not see the sense in spending hundreds of dollars in designer diapers and covers. so i bought fabrics from thrift stores and made recycled diapers at about quarter of the cost.

    also would like to say that anything can really be taken overboard especially when it comes to your own children. i think we all want what is best for our kids

  23. I have little to no help about the specific topic–we're in an apartment, and I'm not about to wash cloth diapers in the communal washers and dryers, and the whole swirling-them-in-the-toilet bit…it just isn't for us! But I think they're great, and if we had our own washer and dryer, we most likely would have gone that way.

    BUT. I do know this, due to my now 9+ months of parenting–there are some parents out there obsessed with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING about babies. There are moms obsessed with breastfeeding, cloth diapering, bottle feeding, sleep training, not sleep training, CIO, non-CIO, etc. It stressed me out at first, because I felt wholly unprepared for parenthood, having not realized there were all these Big Important Clubs to join and not join, but now we just roll with it. I'm starting to wean Jasper, and have discovered that people who previously loved that I was breastfeeding are now let down that I'm not continuing to breastfeed past 12 months. I know that most people love their babies and do what is best for them, but the problems lies in thinking that what is best for your baby is what EVERYONE should do. So maybe this has something to do with the cloth diaper obsession?

    • Yep. I think this is it. It is the feeling of superiority that "everyone else should do that you think is best" thing. I find myself just turning off all the electronics when it gets too much. Makes me a much happier person.

    • You could check out something I heard about (and saw!) in September called GDiapers. Flushable diaper padding with a cloth cover. The child I saw in them had a MASSIVE BM and it did not leak onto the cover. Best of both worlds to me!

  24. what a timely and relevant post it is, as I myself sat down to my sewing machine last night. Sensitive butts and cashflow were the main reason I looked into cloth diapering. Even after hearing how many hundreds of dollars it saves and feeling good about the environmental trade offs, it was intimidating. Every cloth proponent I talked to started off with "It's not your grandma's cloth diaper" but sometimes, I wish it was. There are so many styles, schools of thought, websites, ungodly acronyms…I began to hate diaper culture because it was so hard to navigate. At an average $15 a pop, I also wasn't going to buy someone else's diapers. SO more months of looking for a pattern that was easy and would fit in my philosophy of keeping it as simple as possible. I wanted a diaper that would be all cloth at home, and compatible with plastic free flushable liners when we're out and about. (Cont)

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