As a crunchy, granola, hairy-armpitted doula & birth educator, I have used cloth for all 4 of my kids. That’s 13 years of diapers, people!!! Clients in my childbirth practice always tell me they are considering cloth. But, what makes someone go from curious to committed? Is it just the benefit of being able to shame other parents with their parenting perfection?
No! Cloth diapers are more than an opportunity to feel superior to the parents in the Pampers aisle. After teaching cloth diapering classes for 8 years, I find the reasons people choose cloth are threefold: Environmental, financial and health. Influencing all three of these, is the fact that babies in cloth tend to potty train 1-2 years sooner than those in disposables! That’s less environmental impact, less money, and less time with your precious baby’s buns in a waste receptacle! Why do babies in cloth train earlier? That is a topic for future posts and Patience Bleskan's Potty Training Class...(see that? I hooked you with a little teaser there!). For now, let’s examine these 3 reasons...
Reason 1: Save the Whales! Hug a tree! Stop the ice melting! It’s the environment, silly!
It’s obvious that cloth is better, right? Weeeellll... there might not be such a clear winner in the cloth vs. disposables environmental race. It all depends on how you weigh things. Factors to consider include processing, shipping, water use and materials (cotton can be a very environmentally costly crop and is common in cloth diapers, but disposables use petroleum, absorbent chemicals and wood pulp). But, for me, cloth still wins out. Comparisons I’ve read equating the two leave out important factors such as disparities between disposables and cloth in potty training, the reusability of cloth, materials available beyond cotton, and water as a renewable (and treatable) resource - yes, even in Colorado where water is scarce!
Reason 2: Hey! Must Be The Moneeeey!
Ah, Nelly; really the best resource in natural-minded parenting, don’t you think? Cloth diapering varies in cost depending on whether you use a service, what type of diapers you purchase, and how many. Cost of diapering from highest to lowest: eco-friendly disposables, premium disposables or diaper service, cheap/low-quality disposables, then waaaaay lower than all else is buying and washing your own. Seriously, the cost of disposables or a service is around $80/month, whereas the cost of washing your own works out to be about $20/month. When you factor in the time your baby will likely potty train, and that you can reuse cloth with subsequent children, the savings is even more staggering. There is an upfront cost to cloth that can lead to sticker shock, but after that investment, the future cost is only laundering. And if you go with the service? You’re spending roughly the same as if you were buying disposables anyway, so why not do it for reasons 1 & 3?
Reason 3: Diaper Rash - It’s an Irritating Pain in the Ass!
Did you know babies in cloth tend to have less diaper rash? Why? Because disposables are so absorbent, they tend to result in less frequent diaper changes. Convenient for parents in the short term, until baby’s butt looks like hamburger meat! Then it kind of cramps everyone’s style. Dry does not mean sanitary! Even though a baby feels dry in a disposable, there are still tons of bacteria and moisture festering in there. Nasty! Also, cloth tends to be less irritating to baby’s sensitive skin. Finally, there have been studies associating the absorbent gels in some disposables with sterility. What?! No grandkids?!?!? That clinches it!
But It’s SO GROSS!!!
As my students will confirm, one of my mantras is that parenting is just figuring out what you need to do to make it through the day, and that intangible factor can sway people away from cloth. Folks think cloth diapers are gross or that they will make a bigger mess than disposables. Or, they just don’t want to do extra laundry. To the former I say, ain’t no diapering system preventing the inevitable contact of your bare hand on human feces. It’s part of being a parent and IT WILL HAPPEN. To the latter I say, use a service! Or, get enough diapers that you’ll only be doing 1-2 extra loads of laundry per week. A baby makes laundry no matter what; disposables won’t stop that! Cloth diapers aren’t gross. Strapping a containment device for crap to a moving creature is gross. There’s no escape!!!
If you’re considering cloth and want to learn more, I encourage you to attend my monthly diapering class at The Family Room. For more information on me and my practice, visit my websites DenverChildbirthClass.com and DenverDoulaServices.com. And, follow Ann Kaplan Childbirth Services on Facebook and childbirthkaplan on Instagram! Thanks for reading!