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. (part 2)
    And it had to be easy. Found pattern, bought pattern, and then discovered PUL (polyurethane lined fabric, waterproof) isn't sold in regular fabric stores. Neither is FOE (Fold Over Elastic, binding of choice for 'simple' pattern.) By the time I found and ordered all this shit it was far from simple, and while I'm far from obsessed with my diapering choice, I have to say it consumed a lot more of my time to learn about and master than I ever thought it would. And now I feel like I've invested so much that I just have to make it work. With disposables you put them on, and then throw them away. There are no fabric choices, no woolies, longies, AIO, PUL, FOE, pocket stuffers, lanolizing, swapping, and ENDLESS options. And while I think a wealth of easily accessible information is a good thing…. I'm exhausted with it. To be honest I'd trade my do-it-yourself hubris for a pack of Huggies right about now.

  2. I feel like I would not have anymore to add to the conversation but we mainly choose CD for our baby's health. We knew she was going to have sensitive skin like her parents, so we proactively decided on cloth. It so backfired on us. We did it for about 2 weeks then her butt was the biggest little red rash i had ever seen. So we quickly went to our back up option of G Diapers and decided to come back to the problem later. We discover Grow Diapers. It was the soap plus the prefolds we were using on her bum to begin with that gave her the rash. After using Grow and changing the soap, her bum got a lot better. We mix our cloth and G diapers now. But her bum always clears up any type of rash when she is wearing cloth. So I guess seeing the cause and effect relationship with her bum and cloth is one of the reasons why I am obsess. Granted she is still dealing with some type of diaper rash but you can say, it's the new foods, teething or just plain rashing Also, the diapers are super cute. On top of all that, we have had to use a disposable at times and she ALWAYS get a diaper rash from them. Sensitive little bum + Cloth + happy baby=happy mama

  3. I think for a lot of women it’s that it has to do with their kids just like buying 50 million pink outfits. I think the communities are all about a common I want to bond with other mamas who are doing this with me. No one near me cloth diapers and I use those communities for bonding and understanding when some people give me a hard time about my decision to cloth diaper.

    oh and just for the record i don’t think cloth diapering has anything to do with trying to one up my neighbor who uses disposables or take the easy way out of recycling. I think it’s another way to add to what we already do.

  4. @kia

    Ask for a 'subscription' (or whatever they call it) to a diaper service for your baby shower, if you have one. My sis got one for the first month or two after she had her kid, and it made things a lot simpler. No one wants to have to worry about washing diapers when they have a brand-new baby on their hands! Once life had settled down a bit she was able to transition to washing them on her own to save some moola. Seemed to work for her 🙂

    Good luck with your child! How exciting!

  5. The “disposable versus cloth” conversations are done in hushed tones here in South Australia – mainly because you’re reminded about the environmental damage regardless of which one you choose. We have to be stingy about water – there’s only certain times you can (legally) water your garden, we shower using buckets and someone was just prosecuted for water theft. In some households, water has to be physically transported in tubs. So this means mums here have a terrible choice – disposable and environmentally unfriendly nappies (sorry ’bout the terminology, I mean “diapers”) or using cloth nappies and using up a lot precious water (and power) in washing them. While I personally would love to use cloth nappies and pilchers, I am hoping the biodegradable nappy technology comes soon!

  6. Today I almost updated my facebook squealing in excitement because I scored a dozen bumgenius diapers on Freecycle… and then I had to stop and ask myself if I'm still in the trenches of cloth-diaper obsession 🙂 Especially after I had just commented that I was done with diaper-brain on here…

  7. My parents used them 30 years ago because they flat-out could not afford disposables; it didn't have a thing to do with the environment. They used disposables only rarely, such as when we were traveling and carting a diaper pail around was impractical. My mother still gets apoplectic when her friends' SAHM daughters complain about how much disposables cost.

    Mom didn't have all these super-absorbent liners and waterproof outer layers, either. It was old-school folded gauze and crispy plastic bloomers all the way. I'm the older of two kids and, yes, I do remember the diaper pail and Mom rinsing diapers in the toilet. She'd let us go diaperless in the yard while she hung laundry out to air out our backsides and help keep us from getting rashes. (Although, alas, I remember Balmex, too.)

  8. this cloth diapering post made me think a LOT about the homemade menstrual pads that were sort of revived and got "stylish" amongst various communities of young feminists a few years ago. i was part of a collective that used to run workshops about doing DIY pad making back then, and it seemed that cloth pads had their own cultish following of believers – as well as people who were intensely into prints, nylon liners, etc. (lunapads, etc…) it's hard to compete with a lunapad if you've got no space age fabric, and no sewing skills, but hankies, wash cloths and other cobbled-together alternatives are functional and cheap. (most of mine are now made of squares of castoff flannel clothing)

    it *is* easy to get sucked into the idea of 'special' products and 'buying stuff' to treat yourself / validate a shamed bodily function (in the case of menstruation) / make an otherwise inane action somewhat more 'fun' (re: diapering). it's just how many times we feel the need to accumulate 'special' things. here we are…. consumerism 101 co-opting the thrifty and eco-friendly things people's grandmas did back in the day out of necessity.

    as for developing a language of its own, i feel like that's a common reaction towards belonging to an alternative community as a means to show belonging – you've got insider knowledge if you know the acronyms – as well as validate behavior that's otherwise eyeballed as an "oddity" or archaic action in many social circles.

  9. My bible on CD'ing: http://www.alphamom.com/smackdown/2009/03/cloth_d

    @Stephanie — I also live in an apartment and use shared washing machines. I have cloth diapered since day 1 and believe me, it is really very do-able. For us, and I change her a lot, it is literally 2 extra loads of laundry per week. I live overseas and my building only allows me 1 washing day per week, plus I can toss in a load on Sunday. So I wash one batch on Wednesday, my official washing day (plus the rest of the laundry) and then just 1 load of diapers on Sunday. That's it. That's from the time she was born to now, at 10 months. Breastfed poop is completely water soluble. Once they start food or formula, there isn't any "swirling" involved if you use rice liners. The poop just gets flushed down the toilet in one go. It never actually even gets on the diaper most of the time. We use 11 BumGenius diapers and we have a dozen pre-folds and 3 covers. I loved the pre-folds when she was small, but she is ver squirmy now so I only use them at home. I use 1 premium disposable at night, since I didn't want to invest in super-absorbent inserts and the regular ones won't make it 12 hours. We don't use disposable for "out and about" since it's been one major blowout after another in them, and in cloth I have never, ever had a problem, even with the messiest newborn poops. In cloth there is elastic all around the legs and top to stop any stuff escaping. I also have not had more than 3 or 4 leaks – during the day — I am careful that they are cleaned and dried properly and I think that helps alot. Also changing her every 3 hours or so. Because she's always been in cloth, I am not as used to going long stretches without changing her. For traveling overnight, of course I would use disposable. I'm not crazy! 🙂

    hope this helps. Look into the link above!! So helpful!

  10. Definitely trendy and the whole green thing. It does take a lot of water to wash them. I'm considering them, though I don't know if I'll put them in the public washer here. I wonder how hand washing would go.

  11. We tried doing cloth, but I am laundry-phobic and that doesn't mix well with the cloth diapering craze. I am also one of those Mamas who was offended by the overwhelming response when we ultimately decided not to cloth or even mix cloth and disposable. I think they're adorable and I applaud Mamas who have the patience and time to do it, but it didn't work for us and we're ok with that.

  12. I don't know why some moms are so obsessed with this! I am due in Feb and I think I'm not sure what diaper-method I will use, but every time I try to bring it up with a momma who cloth diapers, they act like if I don't cloth diaper I'll be a bad mom! C'mon mammas, don't be so pretentious!

  13. getting ones with the right fit and enough convenience can be a challenge, each baby has slightly different needs. frankly, I wish I was more crafty, because I don't really want to spend lots of cash to buy someone's name on my kid's butt. I just want diapers that fit, don't leak, and wash easily. I'd rather make them than chase after the perfect golden fleece diaper cover.

  14. For me its the relative autonomy, after I purchase the diapers. I’m pregnant with #2 right now, and I dread changing disposables with my first because the gel is just SO nasty. Part of it is psychological, and part of it is that I’m tired of pandering to forest-raping mega-corps who don’t give a rat’s ARSE about the chemicals slapped up next to my daughter’s delicate parts all day. If tobacco companies have killed people for similar profit margins, there is no reason to assume that these diapers are safe. And the fact that I have to have an up-close and personal relationship with big box stores in order to stay stocked with enough plastic diapers to keep her clean doesn’t help. I hate shopping in those stores. Nothing pleases me quite like the sight of her little bottom wrapped protectively in soft, organic cotton that I personally washed. No “pulp” or “gel” or “polypropyl something whatever” with the wipes, either. I used some of those wipes on myself…and it burned like alcohol, even though it was alcohol-free, and an hour later, I was so dried out, I had to lotion my own bum! I honestly don’t care about the environment that much…and I think with my obsessive nature, we’ll probably end up spending similar amounts of money cd’ing as we would using ‘sposies. I just hate the feel, smell, and burn of disposables, and I hate the giant fluorescent-lit warehouses you have to buy them in. I’ll wash and fold in the serenity of my own laundry all day long to avoid that.

  15. wow, i was not obsessed with cloth diapers (or any diapers for that matter, i don’t even have a kid) but after reading this post all the comments and another post on here about cloth diapers and the comments, I think the time I have spent reading these alone would warrant using the term obsessed.

  16. I think that at least part of it is when you are stuck cleaning a particularly gross diaper it’s really nice to know that there are loads of other people out there cleaning poop off their kid’s diapers too. Even people who have coordinated the baby’s outfit perfectly with their spiffy trendy cute diapers 🙂

  17. I don’t have a baby yet, but I looked into cloth nappies in preparation. Frankly, the eco-credentials are bogus. The chemicals used for washing, the 90 degree temperature required for sterilising, the flushable paper liners, the carbon from the service that comes round and picks up used and drops off the fresh ones…and meanwhile the disposables are about 97% compostable! I only know of one municipality that does actually compost nappies (kudos to Toronto) but maybe the answer is lobbying your local city, rather than buying in to the whole load of green wash.

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