Here’s the truth: there’s nothing wrong with using disposables for a little while. Every cloth diaper that you use has an environmental impact; every time you reuse your cloth diaper, it has a financial impact for your family; and every cloth diaper you use decreases the number of chemicals that your baby is exposed to. Using them even part of the time has benefits, no matter what your reason for swapping to cloth may be.
Here’s another truth: if there are disposable diapers in my home, they are in the pretty purple gift bag that has been sitting forgotten on top of my entertainment center since prior to the birth of my youngest child (it might be time to clean off the top of the entertainment center), part of the endless influx of samples that start showing up the moment the baby companies find out that you’re pregnant. At least, I’m fairly sure that’s where they ended up, because I didn’t want to throw them away, but didn’t have anything better to do with them, either.
My baby’s never worn them. She wore less than half a dozen while she was in the hospital before I realized that the paper tabs were irritating her skin, and I broke out my cloth diaper stash and never looked back.
We’ve used cloth diapers on vacation; out and about for the day; through illnesses. We’ve used cloth diapers through washing machines breaking, and dryers being on the fritz so that even the inserts and prefolds had to hang to dry, and crazy days and weeks when it felt like nothing else was getting done. I’ve changed cloth diapers in my lap; in my mother’s lap; on tables, and chairs, and floors, and sinks that were nowhere near big enough for a diaper change, but were the only available solid surface. I’ve changed runny, no-rinsing-required exclusively breastfed poop, and brand-new-to-solids, super constipated poop, and pretty much everything in between. I even cloth diapered my toddler all the way through my last pregnancy, even though the smell of…um, pretty much anything…made me gag for a while.
Why? Because it’s just not that hard.
When my son (now two and a half) was young, he went to work with me every day, so we traveled with a full cloth diaper bag complete with everything a tiny boy could possibly need to get through the day. If my best friend needed a babysitter, I kept her daughter, too—and used cloth on her while I had her. Once we’d done that, there were no circumstances that we could not cloth diaper right on through. Most of the time, other than a slightly larger diaper bag, it’s not that different from using disposables. You take the diaper off the baby, stuff it in a wet bag, and put a fresh one on. If you happen to have a messy diaper, then you stuff the wipes in the wet bag, too. If you’re somewhere near a toilet, you go ahead and dunk the poop. If you’re not, you stuff it in the wet bag and plan to deal with it later. The wet bag goes back in the diaper bag, and you move on. Honestly, take it from someone who has changed messy disposable diapers where there were no trash cans handy: cloth is sometimes more convenient. (Ever put a messy disposable diaper back in your diaper bag because there was nowhere else to put it? Not. Convenient.)
Rash issues? Lots of air time is the best thing for them anyway, and many of those things don’t live long in cotton. Snappi on a prefold and bleach and sun your diapers as you go.
Traveling? If you’re going to be gone for more than three to four days, make sure you’re staying someplace with a washer and dryer. As long as you have access to one, cloth diapering isn’t that much harder. If you’re not going to have access to a washer and dryer…well, then I might swap to disposables. Or I might go to flats and covers and hand wash in the bathroom sink, because that’s not that hard, either.
Broken washer? See above. (Once you’ve had to fish the entire load out of that first rinse cycle, which by the way is still pretty gross, you kind of lose your fear of hand washing.)
Illness? I would so much rather have a baby with stomach issues in cloth than in disposables. Trust me, that is not a mess that you want to have to clean out of the bed at night, and cloth is much more likely to hold it in.
I’m not saying it to be arrogant, nor to hurt anyone’s feelings. If disposable diapers are what work best for your family under a particular set of circumstances, then by all means, use them! I’m just saying that if you want to cloth diaper a hundred percent, it’s possible.
It’s about the mindset. Is cloth diapering something that you do because you’re making a huge sacrifice for some reason (financial, environmental, concerns about chemicals, rashes in disposables…), or is it just…something that you do?
Do you stress about diaper laundry, or do you just do it?
Do you have a routine that works for you, or do you struggle to find one?
Do you pack your diaper bag automatically, or do you have to sit and think about everything that goes in it?
For many moms, cloth diapering becomes a hobby of sorts. They obsess over finding prints or colors to match outfits; they worry over which diapers are clean, or which ones are in the diaper bag, or which ones they don’t have yet; they stalk sales and new releases—and it can be exhausting in a hurry. On the other hand, for many moms, cloth diapering is just…what they do. If something is going wrong, they troubleshoot (hint: for overnight wetting issues, fleece pjs can work wonders). If something is going right, they just keep doing it. If they like a new print, they buy it, but there’s no obsessing over whether or not they’re going to be able to get it, and if they miss it, well, maybe it’ll turn up somewhere else later. Sometimes, baby’s outfit matches baby’s diaper just because it’s cute, or because it’s for a picture, or because they got there; and sometimes, baby’s diaper is covered up by pants.
Cloth diapering can be stressful. It can be difficult, especially starting out; and if a “disposable break” makes life easier, then it’s a great investment. It can also be another part of your routine, like rocking your baby to sleep, or cooking for your family. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of mindset.
Sometimes, it’s just what you do.
Would you like to be a contributor on The Cloth Diaper Whisperer? We're always looking for creative writers who would like to share their cloth diapering tips. To find out more Contact Us