Why we use cloth diapers

by Andrea Cooley

cloth diapers 101

Even if you don’t use cloth diapers, you probably know someone who does. Maybe that means they aren’t that “crunchy”, but when I tell people we use cloth diapers for not 1 but 2 kids, they are usually surprised.

When we were pregnant with Emerson a couple of my friends were using cloth diapers. I liked the idea of using something more natural and saving money. I talked to Adam about it and he thought it was a great idea.

The new generation of cloth diapers are so much easier to use than the ones my parents used. First off, the ones we use have snaps (some are Velcro). And they are adjustable, so we are using the same diapers on Emerson who is now over 30 pounds that we started using when he was about 10 pounds. And I think they’re super cute!

cute cloth diaperHere’s Emerson when he was 6 months old. Photo by Carrie Krupke

The main reason we use cloth diapers is to save money. If you’ve bought a box of diapers lately, you know they are expensive! Especially if you buy “name brand” (Pampers or Huggies) and if you choose the more eco-friendly diapers like Honest Co or Seventh Generation, say good-bye to your vacation fund!

Keeping dirty diapers out of the landfill is another reason we’ve decided to use cloth. But mostly it’s the savings.

Some people say you spend more on water and detergent when you use cloth diapers, and that is true, but I still figure we save at least $0.15 a diaper. And when you have two kids in diapers, that adds up!

On average, the boys each go through 5 diapers a day, so that’s 70 diapers a week. Both of them wear overnight disposable diapers, and we use a few disposable diapers during the week, but I figure we still save $7-$10 a week. That might not sound like a lot, but if they are each in diapers for 2-3 years the savings is significant!

Once you get past the idea of washing and reusing diapers, I think one of the biggest hurdles for people is the upfront cost of the diapers. Yes, spending several hundred dollars on diapers all at once sounds like a lot. But, in the grand scheme of things, you start to recoup the cost in less than a year. And if you use cloth diapers on more than one kid, the savings multiply.

What we use
We use a combination of bumGenius and econobum diapers. I got some cloth diapers off craigslist and at a diaper sale before Emerson was born and I also registered for some diapers. I’ve retired some of the diapers that I bought used because the elastic was too stretched out (though I know it can be replaced) and because we decided we didn’t like the Velcro closures. All the new diapers we bought new for Emerson are still in great condition and they are used several times a week.

When we only had Emerson in cloth diapers we had 18-20 cloth diapers and I washed them twice a week. I’ve added to our supply now that Foster is in cloth too and we have closer to 30 cloth diapers. We didn’t start either boy in cloth diapers until they were around 2 months old (If you’ve had a newborn, you understand! The first few months they go through so many diapers a day!).

I wash diapers twice a week, so with two in cloth we end up using a few more disposable diapers, but I figure we’re still saving lots!

A huge reason we have been able to stick with cloth diapering for over 2 years is that Adam is completely on board with them. I do the laundry, but he happily changes the boys with cloth diapers and takes care of dirty diapers when necessary (they really aren’t that bad). I’ve talked to other moms wanted to do cloth, but their husband wasn’t interested, so they stuck with disposable diapers.

Washing Cloth Diapers
Washing dirty diapers is probably one of the main things that keeps people from using cloth diapers. Since I’m home with the kids, it doesn’t seem that hard to do 2 extra loads of laundry a week. We have a “super wash” setting on our washing machine that I have programed to first rinse the diapers in cold water, then wash in hot water with an extra rinse at the end. All in all, it takes 90 minutes, about twice as long as a normal load.

I dump ¼ cup bleach in washer about once a month to keep the diapers smelling fresh.

I know a lot of people dry their diapers outside when they can because the sun naturally takes out stains. I’ve done this a few times, but I tend to wash diapers in the evening so it doesn’t work to air dry them.

It is important to use a detergent that is recommended for cloth diapers. We use Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder exclusively for all our laundry and I think it works great. If you use detergents with fabric softener or perfumes there will be a residue in your washing machine that will carry over to your diapers and then they may not be as absorbent.

Dirty Diapers
Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers changing dirty diapers can be messy. If your baby is breastfed, their poop is 100% water soluble. That means you don’t need to rinse the diapers, just throw them in the wash. I know it sounds gross, but honestly, I don’t even think about it anymore.

Once you baby is eating solids and their poop “transitions” you need to dispose of the poop before washing the diapers. We use liners. That means the poop is contained in a liner that we can either flush or throw away. If you don’t use liners you can get a sprayer on the toilet to spray off the poop.

*One caveat to the liners: We learned the hard way (after a visit from RotoRooter) that even if the liners say they are flushable that it’s better to play it safe and throw them away.

If I’m out during the day with the boys I usually keep them in cloth diapers. I have a small wet bag I keep in the diaper bag for the dirty diapers and it really isn’t a big deal. If we are going to be somewhere overnight, we stick to disposable diapers.

That said, sometimes it’s just easier to put them in disposable if I know we are going to be gone most of the day or if I just don’t want to have to deal with cloth when I’m out of the house.

Whew! That’s a lot to say about cloth diapers, but hopefully it helps if you’re interested using cloth diapers!

Later this week I’ll share my favorite cloth diaper supplies. Does anyone else use cloth diapers? I’d love to hear what works for you!

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Andrea Cooley

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