What’s the Big Deal with Cloth?

by Sara

There are generally a few well-known reasons to cloth diaper:

1. Better for the Environment
2. Less Expensive
3. Better for Baby

However, any of these points can be debated (just ask my husband).

The amount of disposable diapers used by one baby.

1. Environment – You throw away a lot of diapers using disposables. A LOT. That’s all waste just sitting in a landfill somewhere for possibly 500 years or so. Billions of diapers are thrown away each year, and they’re ALL still out there. Personally, this was a big factor for me once I started changing diapers and watching the pail fill up so quickly.

The other side of this point, though, is the amount of water and energy needed to clean and dry the diapers. Washing cloth is a multi-step process, so a lot of water is used each time. My husband and I both read the article Should My Baby Wear Huggies¬†on Slate and came away with different opinions on the author’s conclusions.

2. Cost – Cloth diapers can save you quite a bit in the long run. This is for several reasons. First, while there is a larger up front investment, it is still smaller than what you will pay for disposables over the course of the diaper-wearing stage. You can use the same diapers for multiple children, and there is even a large market for pre-loved diapers on sites like Diaper Swappers. Almost all of our diapers came pre-owned, but that’s actually not so bad because it saves you both money AND the prep work. Additionally, many people say that children potty train earlier in cloth than in disposables, so you don’t need diapers for quite as long.

The flip side here is that some people forget the cost of washing the diapers on your water and electric bills. It seems unlikely to me though that this cost is higher than cloth considering all the factors mentioned above.

3. Baby – Most cloth advocates say that their babies rarely get diaper rash and as I mentioned before, potty train at a younger age. Also, for our boy babies, cloth diapers maintain a lower temperature which is thought to be better for fertility in the future.

Some of my husbands other concerns were:

- Gross – Some diapers, like prefolds, get very wet, and once babies are eating solids you do have to dunk and swirl the diapers in the toilet to get the poop off. For exclusively breastfed babies, though, the diaper just goes in with the rest of them. Ultimately, it’s not that icky, and you should wash your hands after you change a diaper anyway.

- Too much work – The idea of all the washing can seem daunting at first, but it’s just a little laundry. Plus, in my house, I do most of the laundry anyway, so I knew I was taking on that responsibility from the get go. If you’re really stressed by it, there is probably a diaper service nearby that will do it for you.

These are just a few of the reasons to use cloth. What are your concerns? If you already use cloth, what did you discover that was different from what you anticipated?