Exploring 5 stereotypes of the cloth diapering family

Let’s have a show of hands.  How many of you had parents who used cloth diapers when you were a baby?

My parents sure did, and it wasn’t because they were concerned about the environment or that my sister and I were allergic to disposable diapers.  They used cloth diapers because they were absolutely broke and couldn’t afford even the most inexpensive of disposable diapers.  I grew up hearing my parents tell stories of sticking themselves with diaper pins, battling the diaper rash that the plastic pants they used as covers often incurred, and hauling the big, sloppy wet pail full of diapers to the washing machine.

Needless to say, when I became a parent, I didn’t give a single thought to using cloth diapers.

Yet when our oldest daughter was ten months old, I discovered that all but the most expensive disposable diapers caused her to break out in a rash and we were too broke to keep up with diaper costs.  It was at that point that I began to give a lot of thought to cloth diapers.

My husband was supportive of the change, but he was also a little surprised.  At that time, we were not the stereotypical cloth diapering parents. Believe it or not, five years ago we were what you might call a fairly “mainstream” family.  Browsing cloth diapering websites, message boards, and online stores was an entirely new world for me.

Is there a stereotypical cloth diapering family?

I decided to do some informal social network polling, and I received an array of responses.  @TheTraintoCrazy said, “I think cloth diapering is pretty mainstream.  I don’t see a stereotypical cloth diaperer anymore” while @ELWhitney responded that she fits the stereotype because they don’t vaccinate, practiced extended breastfeeding, co-sleep, babywear, and made their own baby food.

Photo by Amy Stempkowski

As I read through the variety of responses about what stereotypes come to mind of families who choose cloth diapers, I noticed five themes reflecting what we think of when we discover that someone cloth diapers their little ones.

1.  People who choose cloth diapers are really poor or really rich.

Sometimes this one is accurate, and sometimes it isn’t.  The truth is that many families do use cloth diapers as a way of living frugally. However, the start-up costs for cloth diapering systems can be a financial burden, and without the assistance of a group like the Cloth Diaper Foundation or kind-hearted individuals who are willing to pass their cloth diaper stash on for free to families in need, there are quite a few families who would like to cloth diaper but simply can’t afford it.

As more celebrities are choosing to cloth diaper their children, in certain circles it may be considered the chic choice to make.  Certainly there may be parents in upper socioeconomic tiers who choose to cloth diaper, but most of the families I know who use cloth diapers are just average, middle class people who have chosen cloth for a variety of reasons.

2.  People who choose cloth diapers are very into crunchy/granola/green living.

Photo by Crystal Biehl

This is probably the most recognized stereotype of the cloth diapering parent.  As Tsh wrote in 3 Compelling Reasons to Try Cloth Diapering, “In the U.S. alone, 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown in landfills each year, taking around 500 years to decompose. Disposable diapers make up the third largest item in landfills, after newspapers and food and beverage containers.”

I think it is an accurate assessment that many cloth diapering families feel a strong conviction to care for the planet and to make responsible choices (particularly when it comes to limiting waste).

I did, however, hear from parents who feel that their lifestyle doesn’t quite match up with the green living lifestyle.  Some shared that they drive SUVs or they don’t line dry their diapers or they use disposable plates and napkins, all choices which they felt excluded them from being typical “crunchy” cloth diapering families.

@LifeWithLevi offered this insight: “I cloth diaper for the money savings, so sometimes it’s awkward when people assume I’m doing it to save the environment.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a bit of a tree hugger, but that’s not the main reason we use cloth.”

3.  People who choose cloth diapers just love to do laundry.

I do have to confess that I don’t hate doing laundry, but there is quite a difference between not hating something and loving to do something, don’t you think?  Every cloth diapering family works out a laundry system that works for them.  I chose to wash a load of diapers every other evening.

Once I found my groove, it just became a natural part of my evening routine, and I never felt that having a child in cloth diapers meant having to do an excessive amount of laundry.

4. People who choose cloth diapers have a high tolerance for the “ick factor.”

Photo by Karen McVey

I had to giggle at my friend Jen‘s insight about how people respond when they find out she cloth diapers: “I am often asked why I would want to touch poop. Ummm . . . you still deal with baby poop with disposables, last I checked!”  The biggest question mark many non-cloth diapering parents have about the logistics of using cloth has to do with poop.

Technically, all human waste should be disposed of in the toilet, not just the kind that ends up in a cloth diaper.  And anyone who has parented a child in diapers of any kind knows that at some point, there is going to be close encounters of the icky kind with the contents of diapers.

In my experience, cloth diapers were much more effective at containing those infamous diaper blow-outs that happen so often with new babies, and so in some ways, cloth diapering helped me escape the “ick factor” for a few months.

It’s true that once a little one starts solids that things get a little more complicated, however there are handy devices like The Diaper Sprayer to make life easier (you can also make one).  Also, when the contents of those dirty diapers are dealt with immediately, your home doesn’t contain a trace of that dirty diaper smell!

5. People who chose cloth diapers have a lot of extra time on their hands.

One stereotype of the cloth diapering family is that one of the parents must be a stay-at-home parent because cloth diapering takes up extra time. I can only speak to my own experience, but other than a load of laundry every other evening, cloth diapering didn’t require any extra time from me.

Photo by Mama Oh Baby

This idea may cause those who are potentially interested to think they can’t fully commit to it. At Simple Organic this week, I  shared about how cloth diapering does not have to be an all-or-nothing choice.

Part-time cloth diapering is a wonderful way to make a choice that is healthy for a child as well as for the planet, even if cloth diapering can’t be done around the clock.

In this cloth diapering discussion on the SortaCrunchy Facebook page, Alissa Birkel made this observation that captures the evolving image of the cloth diapering family:

“I think I used to think of cloth diapering as a endevour of the crunchy types, but now I think with the recession and more and more people trying to stretch their money, cloth diapering is also a venture of more frugal types. Me? I’m a little crunchy, a little frugal, so cloth diapering makes sense for us.

I would love to hear your contribution to this discussion! Do you think there is a stereotypical cloth diapering family? If you cloth diaper, do you fit the mold or break the mold of the conventional view on families who cloth diaper?

top photo source

Megan Tietz wants you to join her on the front porch for some long talks and iced tea. She lives in the heart of Oklahoma City with her husband, two daughters, and twin sons. Catch up with her at Sorta Crunchy and join the conversation in her Facebook community.

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  1. I live in the worlds most eco unfriendly country so I sometimes wonder why I bother with cloth nappies, especially as I work full time and have 2 kids, one of whom is home with me! But without sounding like I’m a do-gooder, I like to feel that I’m making a tiny difference – and the $$’s savings mean extra treats elsewhere for the whole family, and I like that factor too.

    • It really is a good feeling to know you are doing what YOU can do. And who knows? You may be starting a little mini-cloth-diapering-revolution where you are!

  2. I would cloth diaper but I’m not sure it would work with us. We can only do laundry 2 times a week on Tues and Fri. It seems like I’d need to wash more often than that… especially with LB’s watery stools lately. This teething is doing a number on his tummy.

    • That’s the point Jeanette you don’t have to wash that often. Ties and Friday is more than ample. If you are only diapering one kid if there are two+ babies you “might wash more often but probably not. It also depends on the type and size if your diaper stash. I say you should try something simple like econobum from bum genius. Or just prefolds and covers or wool. Prefolds and flats can even be handwashed at times, flats most certainly. And also they hang dry well even indoors but the sun is awesome at removing stains and odors! 🙂 go for it!

      • Jeannette says:

        Lol, we don’t have much sun here in the winter. :p I’m in Alaska. I think I will give them a try and see how we do with washing. Thanks for the tip too, Christine, I could always use a disposable if I got behind on wash.

    • We have done a mix of cloth and disposables for a while now. I usually have enough cloth to get between 2-3 days before doing laundry. However, days come when I don’t get to laundry or I don’t see how low we’re getting on diapers. I just switch to disposables until I can get to the laundry and then go back to cloth. It really cuts down on the number of disposables we go through in a week, but it makes it so I don’t have to panic about the cloth diapers when they run low.

    • As the others have said, you might consider giving it a try, at least part-time. I know people who have washed only twice a week because of work schedules, etc. Honestly, we had disposables on hand for nighttimes, outings, etc., so when we had the upset tummies, I would switch to ‘sposies until it cleared!

  3. We cloth diaper, part time, for a variety of reasons. I wouldn’t say we’re any of those stereotypes. We’re solidly middle class, we’re not super green (though we do what we can), we both *hate* laundry, my husband has a gag reflex that can’t be stopped, and we definitely don’t have all the time in the world. But for some reason, doing cloth part time fits into our life fine.

    Maybe that just means that there is no stereotype that’s accurate anymore, as the reality of cloth diapering changes?

    • We sound exactly the same – we use cloth at home, disposables on the road and at day care. We even tried to use gDiapers instead of disposables, but our sitter didn’t like the extra time it was taking (to be fair, she has 4 kids to watch, not just ours!).

      Like the post said, we’re a little crunchy and a little frugal, so it works for us.

    • I think that really is true – as the approach to cloth diapering evolves, I think it becomes much more accessible to people who wouldn’t have considered it before.

  4. I’m about 6 weeks into cloth diapering and not sure if there is a stereotype. I’m with Ginger – middle class, not super green, etc. In fact, when I was potty training my daughter, I would throw away her underwear if she pooped in them – so grossed out! Crazy now that I rinse multiple cloth diapers in the toilet a day with my son. I just got sick of buying diapers all the time, so I made the switch.

  5. We are also solidly middle-class, and we are pretty crunchy, but we don’t fit the anti-vaccination, co-sleeping, attachment parenting mold at all. We use cloth diapers PART-TIME, and mainly for environmental reasons. So many people think it has to be an all or nothing switch, but just one less disposable a day is 365 fewer disposables a year. When I talk about cloth diapers with people who are interested but reluctant, I ask them to think about buying 2 cloth diapers and use them at night, washing every other day, that’s all. It’s so easy when you start a little at a time. People are often surprised when I say we use disposables outside of the house or with other caretakers. So what? Many cloth diaperers use a combination of cloth and disposable–it’s another myth that CDers use cloth exclusively! 😀

    • “but just one less disposable a day is 365 fewer disposables a year. ”

      DUDE! That quote would have fit perfectly in my part-time cloth diapering post over at Simple Organic. That sums it up so succinctly. Great insight!

    • This is exactly us as well! Part time cloth, primarily for the environmental reasons. Every time I put a cloth diaper on my little one, I think – one less diaper in the landfill! And at night, I throw on a disposable and think – thank goodness this will help him sleep better tonight! I love summary: “A little crunchy, a little frugal.”

      • I totally agree! I don’t have a baby (yet…soon hopefully!) but I’ve been looking and planning. I plan on cloth diapering at least some of the time, and hubby is on board with this plan as well. However, I’ve looked into a diaper service in my area…just for convenience, but this article has made me reevaluate that thought. It seems pretty simple!

        I’m not a tree-hugger (although I have been known to hug trees), I drive an Xterra and will usually drive to the grocery store less than a mile a way. However, it bothers me to throw things away over and over. I once went to a recruitment meeting for a cosmetic company and the speaker said “this is the best product to sell because it gets thrown away every day when a woman washes her face.” That seems so wasteful and its made me reevaluate my choices a bit.

        I still wear make up but I also use Luna pads and pantyliners. I use a pantyliner every day and felt very wasteful throwing them away. It felt like tossing my socks every day or something!

        Shelby is absolutly right. It dosen’t have to be an all or nothing thing. I still have regular pads and pantyliners for when I go on vacation or to keep in my purse in case of an emergency. Parenting seems complex enough without worrying over diapers. If cloth works at night – wonderful, if it works all the time but not on vacation, fabulous. Like she said – one less disposable a day adds up! :o)

  6. MamaShift says:

    Personally, all these stereotypes and articles and strange beliefs…I just don’t get it. I did cloth diapers. I am neither poor nor rich. I have never owned a clothes dryer in my adult life. My diapers always came clean easily (as in throw them in a washer and hit wash) and dried overnight inside a small heated apartment during subzero winters.
    I can’t understand all the justifications people make not to do things that will improve our life here on earth.

    • I think there is still just a lot of misunderstanding about what cloth diapering is really like. I’m hoping that more cloth diaper users will do what you have done here – addressed what seems like obstacles in a very “you can do this!” way to encourage others to give it a try!

      • MamaShift says:

        Sorry. I was in a very fed-up-with-the-world-the-way-it-is mood when I commented. Note to self: don’t hit submit!

        I do feel that there is a lot of pussyfooting around these very important issues. I know Jesus could be very forceful/persuasive, read rude, when he felt the need to shake people up.

  7. It is funny because I think I had a very different experience when it came to comparing me to my parents. When I was first pregnant and discussing cloth diapers my mom was adamant that we should NOT use them. I think the most common phrase I heard was “they are just so inconvenient”.

    I have been using them for four years and two babies and honestly, I disagree with that statement. I don’t find them inconvenient. I don’t even mind taking a wet bag with me when I travel. And I’ve also had way more leaks with disposables.

    Then again I also make my own yogurt and can my own tomatoes :).

    • Funny! Yes, my mom was highly amused that we were switching to cloth, but then she was seriously impressed when she saw all the changes that have been made since she was diapering me!

  8. I must confess that I am guilty of having believed everyone of those stereotypes! We are TTC, so I’m just in the researching stage, but having lived in a beautiful village marred by a landfill site, I’m keen to find ways to minimise our impact.

    My husband will be difficult to bring on board, but as I will be a WAHM, I can definitely take on your compromise approach until he realises the benefits!

    • I think if more of us came face to face with the realities of landfills, we would be forever determined to reduce our waste. Good for you for doing your research now!

  9. I tried cloth diapering very briefly and found that I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I have felt guilty about it from time to time and even now feel a little alienated and judged. For those of you who are doing it: way to go! I think it is honorable. For those of us who don’t: let’s give ourselves a break. There are endless ways to help the environment. And I think as far as stereotypes go, the only consistent stereotype I’d put those who cloth diaper in is environmentally-aware. Is that so bad?

  10. Stephanie says:

    Great article! Cloth diapering truly is so easy and not as much work as people believe. But I must admit, we fit every one of the stereotypes 😀 Poor (below poverty level, but quite comfortable with a more minimalist lifestyle), Crunchy (we’re anti-vac, co-sleep, extend breastfeed, homebirth, natural/whole foods, etc. – not to be green really, but because that is the style of living we love), love to wash and hang diapers, have a super high ick-factor (it’s pretty hard to gross me out – unless I’m pregnant, lol), and I am a stay at home mom.

    I find that people have more stereotypes about the care of cloth diapers than about the people who cloth diaper. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “I just couldn’t handle rinsing a diaper out in the toilet”. Seriously, that is not necessary. I guess that was done a lot in our parents’ generation, but it’s totally not necessary.

  11. Sorry to intrude ladies, but I thought I’d toss in my perspective. We used cloth and disposable. For whatever reason we never purchased enough cloth to get us through and the convenient packages of disposable were always around to bail us out in a pinch. I hardly think the “ick factor” would be a excuse not to try cloth. The author is right. If you are a parent… brushes with poo can’t be avoided. I’m sold on the fact that poo goes down the toilet and is gone forever. Not something you can do easily with a disposable. Our trash is picked up once a week. I’d much rather deal with the messes as they are created. Storing, and then later handling the very heavy bags of fermenting disposable diapers DOES give me the “ick factor”.

    If in the unlikely event we decide to have a fourth child. We would be sure to try to be 100% cloth.

    It’s hard to say what kind of class of people we are. We do our best to get by and still have a bit left over for extras. We aren’t crunchy. But we are constantly finding ways to be a little more eco-friendly while cutting costs.

  12. This is great – we certainly did consider cloth diapering and when we were looking at daycares, we also asked if they did cloth diapering, too. More often than not, most home daycares would be willing to handle cloth diapering!

  13. I used disposables for my first baby and use cloth on my second. One assumption I often hear about cloth is that you can’t do cloth if your baby is in daycare because daycare won’t deal with cloth. It’s not true! I thought it was with my first, but later found out that they would have done cloth if I had asked, and there was another baby (older class than mine) who was in cloth at the time. My second is now in cloth and daycare is fine with it, and there is another baby there in cloth too! So, I guess the stereotype is that working moms can’t do cloth – not true!

  14. We used cloth because it’s nice!!! Nice and soft on little bottoms, they look so cute and snug!!! Not even prefolds, good old squares of toweling!!! The laundry was just part of living and really I never thought about it… Our first child arrived and that’s what we did!!! Saving the environment wasn’t top of the agenda, neither was the cost or whatever else people can think of… we just liked it!!! And use them… though I never talk about because already we must be mad to have eight kids and why in the world would we be so super green and frugal as well!!!

  15. Bonnie Lowry says:

    I just have to shout THANK YOU for including the link to the DIY sprayer tutorial. I’ll be heading to Lowe’s this afternoon, lol.

  16. we fit the crunchy stereotype (“don’t vaccinate, practiced extended breastfeeding, co-sleep, babywear, and made their own baby food”). and I don’t hate doing laundry (it’s my least disliked household chore). I do find doing laundry very frequently is more efficient with cloth diapering. I do a load almost every morning. you’d need a pretty big stash to only do it twice a week. (also, washing them in small loads gets them cleaner).
    I do use a dryer for drying prefolds and pocket diaper inserts, and got a dryer for that reason. they can take days to dry otherwise, so I am surprised to hear the suggestion that most cloth diaperers line dry? I do for the covers. but I also do not have time to put clothes on a line and take them down since my baby was born and find the convenience of a dryer a necessity at this point in my life.
    we are also fairly broke, but saving money is only my third reason for using cloth (after environment and health). if we had alot of money, I’d just have more of them, and the fancy cute expensive ones.

  17. We cloth diaper 100% for both of our kids. We are definitely middle class, slightly crunchy (vaccinate, breastfed as long as I could, no co-sleeping/baby wearing). We are definitely concerned about our environment and very frugal. Our daycare used cloth diapers for both babies. With our first we even used the old style prefolds with pins – now we use pocket diapers. I think for us it wasn’t even a decision – we just knew it was something we’d do for our kids, for the environment and for our pocketbook. I don’t think there’s a stereotypical CD’ing family, but I certainly wish more individuals and daycares would give it a go. We found one daycare in our city that was willing to CD. It’s not a huge commitment – just something you have to make your mind up to do.

  18. If there’s a typical CDing family, we’re not it. But I believe that society thinks there’s a stererotypical CDing family.

    We are not crunchy or green – we drive an SUV, we use disposable things, we waste water like it’s going out of style. We are broke, though. We do handmedowns and homemade things a lot.

    I think I live in an area that most would consider to be all into cloth diapers, and yet there are zero CD stores in my area. The closest store is really a diaper service, so it doesn’t have the options that the “good” stores have.

  19. Very interesting article. Like others, I am neither rich nor poor. I do not know why I was drawn to cloth diapers. I just saw an advert for a cloth diaper when I was pregnant, bought one on-line out of curiosity & to show my mom who terry towelled us all & when it came I loved how it felt compared to disposable & thought why would you put plastic on your precious little babies tush when you can put really soft bamboo on it instead. I was not green or crunchy (although I am seriously green & crunchy now) & I hated laundry & I have a serious gag reflex & I, like everyone else, wish I had more time & certainly do not have any spare.

    If cloth was difficult & time consuming or caused more washing than 2 loads a week or was completely disgusting I don’t think anyone would bother but it is just as simple as disposables once you learn abit about how to do it.

  20. I’ve known a broad range of people who used cloth diapers so I don’t associate their usage with a particular “type” of family.

    I may catch flack for this but I’m very disappointed that you used a quote from someone who is anti-vaccine for this post. Refusing vaccinations is risky for your kids and for everyone else’s kids.

    • Aimee – In some ways I agree with you. However, I don’t think that choosing not to vaccinate makes someone’s opinions moot on other topics. It really doesn’t have anything to do with cloth diapering v. disposables, other than when we’re discussing stereotypes. So who cares if she quoted someone who is anti-vaccine?
      Also, for example, where I live the chicken pox vaccine is now mandatory to enroll in public school. That’s a bit excessive, don’t you think? When I was a kid (not that long ago) our parents just got us together with someone who had the chicken pox, and if it didn’t take there was plenty of time to get the vaccine before we got to an age where it could be dangerous. I also think more parents would be willing to vaccinate if they didn’t cram sooo many vaccines into each shot – that’s a lot to put in a tiny body all at once and for many parents the risk of intentionally exposing your child to something is more of a threat than mingling them with vaccinated children who don’t have it. It is a choice that is made more possible because of the vast majority of parents DO vaccinate.
      Sorry to get off topic from the diapering but I thought it needed to be said.

      • Hi Megan – I didn’t say that her decision to not vaccinate negates her other opinions. I said I was disappointed the author had chosen to highlight a quote advocating what I (and by far, the majority of the medical community) believe is an irresponsible choice to not vaccinate.

        Your point about revisiting the vaccination schedule is one shared by many but saying the choice to not vaccinate is somehow appropriate because most parents do vaccinate is an incredibly flawed point of view. Whooping cough, measles, HiB, and a number of other life threatening conditions are making a resurgence because of people doing just what you are positing…assuming their children will be safe if they leave the responsibility to vaccinate to other parents.

        There are a lot of decisions as parents that don’t matter that much at the end of the day beyond personal preference (such as cloth diapering) but choosing not to vaccinate your child can result in his or her death. I hope you will take the time to educate yourself about the serious public health risk posed by unvaccinated children.

        • At no point did I say that it was a good choice to not vaccinate – but there are people who don’t do it. The author did not endorse not vaccinating by quoting it, she simply recognized that part of her reader base and part of the green community have made that choice. I felt that your criticism was undeserved as it was a very small part of the post and simply stated that it is one of the assumptions sometimes made about people who cloth diaper – without making a value judgement one way or the other.
          As for my statement about the people who vaccinate making it safer for those who don’t, that’s simple mathematics, not a statement about what is or is not appropriate. I simply stated that many people who choose not to vaccinate would be far more likely to do so if they thought there was a chance that their children (or they themselves) would encounter that disease – and those diseases are far less likely to be found in places where the vast majority of people vaccinate, because vaccinations do work.

          • I’m not sure why you are so riled by my opinion, and that is what it is – an opinion, that the author should not have included a quote about not vaccinating. You asked in your original response “So who cares if she quoted someone who is anti-vaccine?” Well, the rather obvious response is that I at least somewhat care or I wouldn’t have commented – all two sentences of it.

            The fervor with which you continue to argue about this is baffling, especially since you now appear to be pro-vaccine. I said I was “disappointed” in the choice. My opinion is unchanged – I hadn’t anticipated being harangued for having one, especially one that was rather mildly worded.

          • I’m sorry that you felt harangued. I meant my reply as a simple clarification of my initial statements since you seemed to take them more harshly than I intended.
            I will try to state my own opinion more clearly: I think it is indeed appropriate for the author to have included a quote from someone who is anti-vaccine because A) she did not make a value statement about the choice, B) part of her reader base has made the same choice, and C) leaving out every response that a reader might disagree with would be impossible.
            I do not take issue with your opinion about vaccination. I did take offense at your assumption that I was uneducated and had an “incredibly flawed point of view” because I disagreed with you, which is why I tried (unsuccessfully) to clarify my initial post.

  21. It’s very good way! We live in Russia, our parents used as diapers cheesecloth with many laiyers. Surelly it made too many troubles to make it. Only about 10 years back we’d learn what is single-use diapers. This thing bring happy to almoust all mamas here, so we now forgot what troubles had our parents, diapers is not cheap but every family here have it and find money for it. This diapering cloth still for many mamas impossible to understand becouse in thought we affraid return back, becouse more easy send used diapers to trash, then clean cloth diapers….

  22. I wouldn’t say that we are far into any of the stereo types. We’ve been cloth diapering since our 2 year old was a couple months old, and since June we have been cloth diapering two children. We started out with a hand-me-down stash, and once we were sure that we could handle the laundry, we upgraded to “fancy” cloth diapers with some baby gift money. We use disposables from bedtime until morning, and when we are our running errands or visiting (so between 1 to 3 disposables per day per kid). I run a big load of diapers every other day. We started with cloth for environmental and budget reasons (I was not eligible for maternity benefits b/c I was self-employed before my first baby was born). We make meagre attempts to cut down on garbage – composting. recycling cans/glass/paper/plastics, using tupperware as much as we can instead of baggies, etc., but we still have at least one to two big black bag in the trash each week, and we have a house bigger than we need right now, and drive 2 cars. If we had a third kid, we’d still cloth diaper (hopefully #1 would be potty trained by then)

  23. Wonderful post!
    Now I am four months pregnant of our second and we (my husband and I) are trully thinking of cloth diapers, it’s a nice subject to read about. Thanks!

  24. I’m expecting my third baby. He (or she) will born in April and I keep thinking about switching to cloth diapers for this one. Not only because it will probably save us some money from the disposable but mainly because I’m a bit concern about the rashes and stuff.

    Both my older kids (son 7, daughter 3) suffered from extensive rashes every once in a while. Specially my daugther and she was always complaining that it itches down there and it’s just because her skin is so sensitive that if we didn’t change her right away she would get a horrible rash and her constant scratching made it worse. She learned how to take the diapers off by herself and more than once we found her in the couch with no pants, no diapers and you to my horror playing with you know what (talk about your ick factor).

    I’m thinking of doing partial cloth diapering since I seriously doubt my mom would appreciate it that much when we come to visit. Of course this needs to be discussed in depth with my husband since I’m not sure how he feels about this whole thing. But I’m feeling more confident about making these type of changes for the new baby. Wish me luck!!!

  25. “They love to do laundry” LOL! That made my day!

  26. I have so much admiration for moms who cloth diaper! I wish I had been more aware of the environmental impacts of disposables when my children were that age. All of my friends used disposables so we did as well. The more moms that put the time and effort into cloth diapers, and the more information there is out there like this blog, the better it will be for everyone because people will see it as a better choice.

  27. I chose to cloth diaper for environmental reasons, but that’s about the only stereotype I fit that is listed here. And I’m not overly crunchy – we don’t even have a compost pile!
    As for #5, my hubs and I both work full-time outside of the home and I went back to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave. We had chosen to cloth diaper while I was still pregnant, so it isn’t something we started later when things were “easier.” We haven’t noticed that it takes more than a few extra seconds here and there to cloth diaper.

  28. We’re a hybrid diapering family–for the most part we cloth diaper at home and disposable on the road, which works for us. Isn’t that the key for any parenting decision? We opted for cloth partly for environmental reasons and partly for economic reasons and heard a lot of grief from friends about the “yuck” factor. As many have noted, what’s a little “ick” between parent and child?! Let’s call it bonding! We’re a little over a year into our adventure now and I’m feeling good about our choice! It’s also nice to hear about so many others choosing cloth as well!

  29. ElenaQTPie says:

    I guess you could say we’re fairly crunchy…well…I’m pretty crunchy and my Hubbie gets dragged along sometimes…not ALWAYS kicking and screaming though…thankfully he’s a patient guy 😀
    We babywear, co-sleep until about 18 months, practice extended nursing, delay/spread out vaccinations and opt out of a few all together, try to be organic and whole-foodey when we can and repurpose ALL.THE.TIME before we finally recycle…we have finally made it down to less than one trash bag of garbage per week for a family of 4…and that includes to fact that we do a hybrid approach to diapering. Cloth during the weekdays and disposables overnight and on weekends. I am super-cheap although we don’t ‘have’ to be…I just think it’s smart to use our resources on other things.
    When we CD, we use old fashioned flat diapers that I fold myself (it takes me a whopping 10 minutes per week to fold my entire stash) then use a liner, a snappi and a Thirstees cover! Simple as that. I wash twice a week and the pail never stinks…UNlike when we used disposables full-time…the only part that stinks now is the overnight diapers (disposables) in their trash can…
    Also, I am a germ-o-phobe and I LOVE that when my diapers are washed they are simply one big square of fabric…unfolded and every inch scrubbed clean…no nooks or crannies for anything ookie to hide. I am VERY anti-poop in general and do NOT have a high tolerance for ickyness…and THAT’S WHY I CLOTH DIAPER.
    Like the author, I used disposables with my first child (Megan and I actually got to share those early months with our oldest kidlets as friends!!! Lucky MEEE!!) She inspired me to give it a try with my second…so… I decided to try a diaper service with my second (who wants to handle the icky-ness??) and after ONE weekend of using a diaper service I decided…this is for the birds…it is SO SIMPLE and I can SOOOOO do this! I took my stash back to the service and THANKED them for the experience because I felt completely empowered to take it on and master it myself!! There was really NOTHING to master!! It was REALLY simple!

    I have collectively handled at least one FOURTH the amount of poop with cloth diapers than I ever did with disposables…what I mean by that is that I assumed ‘blow-outs’ we inevitable and EVERY parent had to ‘deal’ with poop in some laundry no matter what…however with cloth diapers…I don’t have blow-outs…um…ever…and after a quick rinse in the sink just after a diaper change…what poop IS in the laundry…is MUCH less and it’s in it’s OWN load and not mixed in with the rest of our family’s clothing. SO.MUCH.BETTER. (in my book at least)

    It does help that there is an AMAZING little bitty store in my town that carries everything you might need and will order anything you want and matches online prices…so I get to handle and play with every item before I actually buy it…I’m such a chicken when it comes to online purchases that this is a big help for me and I LOVE supporting a sweet local Mama and her business!! She is incredibly knowledgeable too so it makes shopping a delightful experience…there’s always a Mommy around who tried on a wrap or sling with their baby who promptly fell asleep in it 😀 THAT’s a great sales tactic…try it on, wear it around and see if you (and baby) like it 🙂

    Anywhoo…sorry for the forever long post but I am really confident that starting small and ‘feeling your way’ with the right balance and fit for YOUR family is really the best plan…I have SEVERAL friends who also CD but not ONE of us does it the same way! We all LOVE it but we all love OUR version/system that has evolved given the nuances of our own family and situation…isn’t that what parenting is all about though! Adjusting to the unique needs of our little family and learning as we go 😀

    Happy learning everyone!!

  30. Caveat: IF you use the diaper spraying apparatus, make absolutely sure to use the shut-off valve at all times. They’re lovely tools, but we learned from bitter experience (two major house floods) that if the hose pops off the toilet while you’re aways from home, you’ll come home to a very, very unpleasant surprise.

  31. We do a mix of both. We use disposables at night, not for any particular reason other than habit and I can’t even say why it started now. My daughter is 8 1/2 months and the nights we have done cloth have been just fine, no leaks, but we still do tend to use disposables at night. She is in cloth all day, even at daycare, and they don’t have a problem with it. I honestly see it as no bigger deal at all than disposable as far as time or inconvenience, and as for the solid poop, we use diaper liners to make it easy on daycare, so they still have something to fold up and throw in the trash. Simple! We wash twice a week. And save a lot of $$! As for stereotype, I would say I’m probably more “green” than most of my friends and family, motivated more by health than saving the planet, but I would not at all consider myself crunchy or granola. If anything, the CD came first and other green lifestyle changes have sort of come along later as a natural progression, which I didn’t foresee!

  32. I cloth nappy all three of my kids aged 4 to 5 months (yep all three are in diapers but the oldest is only in them at night-time). I do it because I can’t justify the cost of disposables especially since I make my nappies myself. My parents used cloth because disposables weren’t available.
    I am definitely green but it is the cost that does it for me and I love not having to go into the baby aisle at the supermarket.

  33. Heather Boyd says:

    I really don’t think there is a stereotype –it’s becoming a much more ‘accessible’ option with diaper services costing about the same as disposable diapers, and with many more options (not to mention sites for buying used cloth diapers like kijiji and ebay). Having said that, I suppose I am a bit of a crunchy environmental cosleeping babywearing mom….But I am not a card-carrying member of the group and I didn’t “buy the shirt” 🙂

    One big surprise plus for us was finding out that cloth diaper poos (before introduction of solids) DO NOT SMELL!! At first we thought that it was because I was exclusively breastfeeding. But we had to use disposable from time to time and we didn’t have to hear the poop because the odour coming from the ‘sposies was RIPE. Who knew?

  34. I love cloth nappies and wished I had started using them since baby #1. (we’ve only started using it on baby #3!) They are definitely more cost-effective. Having 3 children (aged 4 and under), i am already doing so much washing… so the laundry-factor didnt worry me at all. Haha… Our bin was also full faster than before when our family grew. So we love it after our switch to cloth nappies… we have so much more room in the bin and didnt have to upgrade the Council Bin to larger size..cos that would increase our rates too! Savings…savings..and more savings… all the way!! http://www.cleaningwithnorwex.com.au

  35. Yes I second what Heather said about the cloth diapers cutting down on stinkiness! My daughter’s primary daycare person commented to me how she can never tell if she has a poopy diaper or not because it doesn’t smell when she’s wearing it!

  36. Great post and I totally agree…those who believe all of those things don’t realize how easy cloth diapering can be and how much better it is for the environment in the long run. Yay for cloth diapers!

  37. Melissa L. says:

    We use mainly cloth and nighttime disposables, and disposables for road trips. The toughest thing is as apartment dwellers, we try to keep private about our diaper laundry – I’m always worried someone is going to complain that we’re washing diapers and I have enough to do without adding special trips to the laundromat. For the first year we almost always line-dried our diapers indoors (prefolds and flats.) If I had my own washing machine, I would say that the choice to cloth diaper was 100% economical, but paying per load it might have actually cost us more than disposables – yes, really. Also we used a service with my first and that cost a lot, but I was working full-time outside our home.
    I think if you use cloth from day 1 with kid 1, and have at least 1 more kid, you will definitely save a lot of money.

  38. I wanted to mention that it seems one important issue has been missed and that is that cloth diapers are HEALTHIER for your child. Have you SMELLED disposable diapers?! They smell disgusting (except for a few brands), all those chemicals/bleaches/fragrances/plastics/glues etc… do have an affect on our children, also they don’t breathe and cause diaper rash more often than with cloth diapers. How many disposable diaper users go through TUBS of those even more disgusting diaper creams (read those ingredients, petroleum and all sorts of ickies)? And the disposable wipes, they are a big culprit to diaper rash that people don’t realize, they just assume it’s the diaper, but we had used some with my son (mainly for things like nursery or the ones they use there instead of the natural ones we might have had in the diaper bag, and found that they broke him out terribly. And I find amazingly that many cloth diaper parents use disposable wipes as well, I find that odd, you are already washing dipes so you just toss them in the pail with the diapers, what do you do with all those yucky disposable wipes? another container or have to treck to the garbage can with them in hand? And you don’t use many cloth wipes at all compared to disposable wipes. I’ve seen people use 15 or 20 wipes for ONE DIAPER CHANGE!!!! For super messy changes I can use 2 maybe 3 cloth wipes, or I can just lay a flat cloth diaper or a prefold and just wipe with that to get the main of the mess up and then finish with one cloth wipe. I just use water on them. Plus they can be useful for so many other things, blowing noses, washing faces, cleaning up spills, makeshift bibs…same with prefolds and flats, EVERYONE should have at least a few of them, they are so handy as changing pads, accidents/spills, they clean up spills so much better than a towel or paper towels because they absorb so much and you can just toss them in the pail with the other diapers.

    Anyway, point being, you slather lots of chemicals on them from the disposable diaper to the creams and the wipes. I’ve used an all natural diaper cream or ointment a few times in all the time I have diapered my son and now my daughter. So anyway that is just something else to consider. Because that is probably my man concern in cloth diapering. I’d say next is environmental, and then ease because I DO find it easier! I don’t have to worry about going to the store or ordering diapers online and hoping they get here in time or constantly taking diapers out to the trash can. And lastly they are just SO SO SO much cuter and nicer, disposable are just awful, so ugly.

  39. I may fit the mold to a degree, but husband sure doesn’t, and we both participate in diapering our son. We do it because it is economically and environmentally friendly, we know exactly what is against our son’s extremely sensitive skin, and because I’m a little old fashioned and think there is something to simple living.

    We are a middle class, single income, educated family. I may be labeled “crunchy” but you’d certainly label my wonderful husband a “redneck”. 🙂 However, with all the changes in cloth diapering, it is SO EASY. We use prefolds, snappies (no more diaper pins!), flushable/biodegradable liners to make icky messes easy (just fold up the poo in the liner and flush!), super soft Thirsties diaper covers, waterproof wet bags for when we’re away from the house, and super gentle and powerful Charlie’s soap. Cloth diapering is definitely a viable option for any parent.

  40. Have you considered writing about a hybrid diaper? We love gDiapers. One diaper. Two options. If you want to full time cloth, perfect. If you prefer to have the luxury of disposable when you travel/have sitters…they have have a 100% biodegradable, (flushable after swishing) insert as well.

    Just a thought!


  41. We don’t fit all the stereotypes. I am a bit crunchy – we co-sleep, breastfeed, baby wear, but we also vaccinate both ourselves and baby. I *hate* doing laundry, but don’t mind the diaper laundry – no folding or sorting or fuss at all really. We are fairly educated, probably upper middle class, and my hubby does stay home (but I do the diaper laundry).

  42. We cloth diaper 90% of the time (except nights and long trips). With a set of 20 diapers I wash them every 4-5 days. For us, cloth diapering was mostly about being frugal. I looked into them while I was pregnant, but did not commit fully until we were given a full set of gently used diapers by a friend. Because of that gift (and a small baby) we have only purchased disposable diapers* a couple of times in 18 months. We are just now needing to purchase a bigger size of CDs, and I’ll probably spend about $300. However, if we went fully disposable, it would cost about $530 for one year.

    *We get the disposables we use thru a program at a non-profit women’s care center.

  43. When people find out I cloth diaper, most immediately assume I’m doing it for the environment. I always tell them I’m not that altruistic, I’m just that cheap. Helping the environment is just an added bonus. As for the ick factor, I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had diaper blowouts while wearing disposables that required a complete change of clothes (and I only use disposables for travel and when we moved 2 states away), but we have only had 2 diaper blowouts in cloth diapers with my 2 year old and no cloth diaper blowouts yet with my 5 month old. i definitely feel that cloth is much cleaner to do than disposables. A nice bonus I found to cloth diapering is that I have never run into “we’ve run out of diapers in the middle of the night so someone has to go to the store” scenario. I have enough prefolds and wraps to diaper both my kids for 3 days, but I wash every 2 days. I think I have spent maybe $200 on our system, all items brand new.

  44. My reason – intolerance to the ick-factor introduced by chemicals. My daughter’s poop is safer to my hands than the chemicals in the disposables are to her! Also, I like to be as green as I can. I do keep a bag of disposables also at home and when changing her outside, I use disposables, but that happens so rarely as I only step out after feeding and changing her.

  45. Several of the reason categories made me laugh. Thanks for the giggles. I guess I fall into category two. I am having a third baby now and we have a HE washing machine. Will it still get them clean? That is what I have been wondering!

  46. Elizabeth in Yuma says:

    Ladies–just a thought. I live in the desert…and water is a finite resource. All the water that comes out of the faucet or is flushed down the toilet had to come from somewhere and it has to be cleaned and returned somewhere. Cleaning water so that it is acceptable for human consumption OR return to our environment frequently involves massive amounts of seriously nasty chemicals.
    I work in the water business, and I promise you: water use is not consequence-free. Flushing waste down the toilet, washing your hands everytime you handle waste, and then doing laundry to clean those diapers has an environmental consequence that is as worthy of consideration as is the landfill space taken up by disposable diapers.
    I don’t have a side in this debate. I simply think it is time we more carefully consider some of our assumptions about what constitutes an “environmentally friendly” action.

    • ElenaQTPie says:

      GREAT point Elizabeth!! I already posted above and I’m glad you brought this up…I’ve had several friends ask if I use cloth for the eco benefits and I honestly reply that I think the ‘green’ benefits are honestly probably a wash (pardon the pun) but they were just such an easy fit for our family that I decided to stick with it even though I think that the water usage likely negates the landfill balance. Although…I think our technology is much more likely to find a better solution for clean water before it finds a way to make landfills empty/disappear…and I wonder if a cloth diaper would biodegrade MUCH faster than a disposable diaper would anyway…it’s just hemp or cotton right?? Even (hypothetically speaking of course) even if we used each cloth diaper only ONCE and then didn’t wash it but found a way to compost it (not for the garden obviously…but just let it break down naturally)…would that be the most ecological of all diapering options (except the Elimination Communication movement of course).
      Hhmmmmm….you bring up a great point!!!

      • Is there any reason you would have to flush after rinsing the diaper? Could you not just close the lid and then after the next person uses the toilet, flush it all at once? Might be higher on the ick factor but so? And handwashing is negligible between the two methods because I would hope that someone would wash their hands anytime they change a diaper (cloth or disposable), just as you do anytime you use the toilet.

        I do see and agree with your point that cloth diapers are not the be-all end all of the enviromental issue, but I would think that anytime you can reuse something (so it only needs to be made once) and reduce the amount of stuff in a landfill, its generally better for the environment.

        The Wikipedia article on Diapers has an interesting study on it that discusses this topic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaper

  47. We just made the switch to cloth diapers, and I have to admit — one of the things that kept me from it for so long was the whole dealing with poop issue. However, it has turned out to be far less disgusting than I thought!! Even my husband agrees that he’s glad we switched.

  48. I cloth diapered for 4 years (2 kids) blissfully ignorant of these stereotypes. I was more concerned that no one find out I was doing Infant Potty training, b/c I thought they would think I was a weirdo. I learned it while living in Asia.

  49. I’m definitely “breaking the mold” when it comes to my circle of friends! Everyone thinks I am crazy!

  50. My wife and I just picked up a bunch of cloth diapers for the newborn. We haven’t started using them yet, but plan to as soon as we move into our new house next week.

  51. I decided to try cloth diapering with my 2nd child. We kept at it for about 4 months or so but then to be honest, I DID find it more time-consuming and I DID have to do more laundry and it DIDN’T eliminate the smell. (Yes I looked into the options and cleaning supplies and all the websites that tell you all the tricks of cloth diapering.)
    I realized that I valued other things far more than doing cloth diapers.
    Yep, it’s cheaper and yep it’s better for the environment, but with 2 in diapers I was just honestly finding it overwhelming. I am amazed at those with 2+ kids in cloth diapers and anyone really who does cloth – bravo to you!
    I have kept my cloth diapers and will likely come back to them, but right now, disposables are working great and we always buy them on sale when we can.

  52. Oh, and also I’ve had just as many blowouts in disposables as I have in cloth. So that was discouraging since everyone says how awesome cloth diapers are for not having blowouts.
    Anyway…this is just my experience and if it was as easy and quick as everyone else’s experience I’d still be doing them. 🙂

  53. Thanks for this great post. I agree pretty much with all you say and have written a short post outlining my experience with cloth nappies. I think the US is a lot further down the track towards making cloth nappying mainstream again. In Australia it seems to me that it’s quite unusual!

  54. I used cloth diapers when our son was small. He is now 26. I am sorry folks but I hated it! The smell was horrible, even though I rinsed the soil out before putting the diapers in the pail having to lift that nasty stinking pail up to dump the water and diapers into the washer. (I was not going to fish them out with my hands) I would then put the washer on spin to get the water out then wash them. He had some of the worse diaper rashes I have ever seen. I was extremely diligent to make sure he was changed but to me cloth diapers were just to much work and extremely nasty.

    When our daughter was born we used disposables elusively. Financially we were not well off but we made it. Today I do daycare and watch 4 boys under 2. I refuse to use cloth diapers for any child even if parents request to bring them and take them home at night. I tell them I am sorry but I would prefer to have disposables which I have never had any parent refuse. I have a grandson now and we use disposables.

    Hats off to all of you who think cloth diapers are the end all to be all. But I would rather save in some areas instead of this one.

    • ElenaQTPie says:

      I can respect your position and opinion and at the same time I’ll mention that there are SO many differences in methods and equipment today than were available 26 years ago…it really has changed leaps and bounds (I don’t know ANYone who uses a wet pail method today…i.e. you mentioned having your diapers soaking in water between laundry loads…it stands to reason that diapers soaking in moisture, urine and even a little feces will stink!!)… It’s a shame that difficult experiences so long ago have discouraged you from entertaining even the possibility of supporting other families in their choices today. Bummer…

      • Oh heavens if others want to do this its fine with me. I have so much on my plate to have to deal with wet pants. Everyone has the right to do what works for them.

        • ElenaQTPie says:

          If you are a family’s caretaker and won’t entertain the possibility of giving it a try then you have made the decision for them in many ways…that’s all I meant.

  55. I used clothes diapers around the time DD was ready to be potty trained (12 months) they make her unconfortable and more aware that wet did not feel good, they worked! She is 19 months now and I only use disposable diapers at night for accidents but most days it is dried the next morning

  56. I want to use cloth diapers with the new baby we are expecting, but all I can picture is my mother constantly hanging over the toilet rinsing those nasty things out!

  57. tried cloth diapering for a month and didn’t like it then i discovered how to get disposable diapers extremely cheap i am talking about less then 10 per month for diapers and so i decided cloth wasn’t for me, trying to save the earth wasn’t really the concern for me it was the expense of disposable diapers

  58. Krisztina Whittle says:

    my main reason for cloth diapering is that I don’t ( and did not ) want my little one/s to sit in petrochemicals 24 hours a day. I also made half of my diaper covers, pockets diapers,and diapers, using fleece, used t shirts. I had fun. And everything fits better custom made than store bought. Also I put 30 dollars a months in a savings account for my little one, for a college fund. So far she has 250 dollars in there.

  59. just wanted to chime in, very late, of course, that we use CD with daycare with no problems! our child’s provider actual really likes them.

    also, it’s probably just back luck, but every time i use disposables to go out out, we seem to have a blowout! it is actually easier to pack the pocket CD’s than to deal with an outfit change on the fly.

    the main advice i give to others considering cloth diapers is to PUT IT ON YOUR REGISTRY. if you know that someone is going to give you a shower, then make sure that they understand that curtailing diaper expense would really be helpful. we had some people get our diapers for us just out of curiosity – wanted to see what the new diapers looked like! 😉

  60. I used cloth diapers for my babies but that was many moons ago. I didn’t like the eck, but I did understand the environmental issues related to the disposable diapers. I now sell biodegradable products in the food service industry. The more I learn about the environment the more concerned I am of the future of our children. We may choose to use disposables today, but our children will be dealing with the effects that plastic, foam, and slow decomposting products have on the environment tomorrow.

    I still used the disposables when we travelled or when it was not convenient to have a bag of wet diapers for a long period of time. But, any disposable not used benefited the environment.

    I found that in potty training the baby was trained faster using cloth diapers. My babies could feel the wet diaper faster and wanted to be changed sooner. In the disposable diapers, they are development to pull the wetness away from the baby so they do not feel as wet.

  61. Thanks for sharing the five stereotypes. Quite often I get the “oh, you must be super granola crunchy tree hugger, eh?” I am all for the environment, but I cloth diaper to save money and I think cloth diapers are just so cute! I love going through my stash to pick the next one out. Red, Blue, embroidered, patterned – they are all so cute!

  62. I love the cloth diapering conversation and suggestions! It’s easier than most think. Another option is gDiapers (http://www.gdiapers.com)

    1 diaper. 2 options. Cloth or biodegradable/disposable inserts.

    And so stinking cute!

    Good luck CD’ing mamas!

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