Saturday, January 30, 2010

We're not going to use cloth diapers because....

Go ahead, I dare you. Try to come up with a valid reason to choose disposable diapers over cloth diapers (aside from sheer laziness -- there, I said it!). It was about a year ago that we received our Sunday edition of the Ottawa Citizen, and right there on the front page, no less, a title about cloth diapers caught my eye. My heart skipped a beat (no, seriously, it did!), I sat down and began to read what I was sure was going to be a great article praising the benefits of cloth diapers. I started to read, and after the first couple of sentences it became quite clear that the author was going to lampoon cloth diapers (and how!).

A 1/4 of the front page and almost a full page inside the newspaper was devoted to the author's attempts to justify her choice to use disposable diapers. After reading this article, I was livid. This article featured very little in the way of truth, the author relied on a British study that suggested there were no environmental benefits to choosing to use cloth diapers over disposable diapers. To put it lightly, this study has been a matter of debate, however, it was a great way for the author to prop up her argument: disposable diapers are bad, and cloth diapers are just as bad: why bother?

The author of the aforementioned article used the same arguments I've heard time and time again.

Cloth diapers cost too much.

Say what? I know we've been over this before, but seriously. I get it, spending $20.00 every week seems a lot cheaper than investing in cloth diapers, but if you do the math, no matter what type of cloth diaper you use, you will always save money. Always.

Cloth diapers leak.

Sometimes, maybe, but not nearly as often as disposable diapers, which I liken to a launching pad for poop. If your baby is wearing a decent cloth diaper that fits well, you likely won't experience poop-between-the-shoulder-blades blowouts like a baby who wears disposable diapers. The texture and the bulk of a cloth diaper keeps poop where it belongs, in the diaper.

Cloth diapers are inconvenient.

If you're seriously going to use this as an argument, then I would strongly advise you to re-think the whole 'having kids' thing. Seriously. Nothing about being a parent is convenient. Pregnancy? Definitely inconvenient. Sleepless nights with a newborn? Tiring & inconvenient. Toddler tantrums? Soooooo inconvenient! Fortunately, we love our children, and we put up with it all to have them in our lives.

Cloth diapers are too much work.

Washing cloth diapers is a simple load of laundry (unless you have a frontloader, which requires a little tweaking). If you're going to use the 'too much work' argument, I fully expect you to wear paper clothes. Do you? I didn't think so. When you have kids, you do more laundry, if you know a way around it, please let me know.

Cloth diapers are messy.

Again, reconsider the whole 'having kids' thing if you're worried about mess. Aside from the fact that children in general are messy, changing poopy diapers is messy business, regardless of whether you use cloth or disposable diapers. Yes, you have to take the poop off a cloth diaper if your baby is drinking formula or eating solids, however, there are ways to make it a little less gross than it sounds. You're actually supposed to remove the poop from a disposable diaper, however, most people don't. Our landfills aren't meant to handle raw human sewage, so you should be dumping the contents of soiled disposable diapers into the toilet before you toss them. Poop removal aside, you have to wipe poop off your baby's bits and bum while she's trying to stick her hands and feet in it -- that's probably the hardest part of changing poopy diapers! No parent will ever be immune from poop.

Cloth diapers are bad for my baby's skin.

Highly unlikely. Have you ever looked at the long list of chemicals present in disposable diapers? You really think cotton is worse than that? How does male infertility sound? Asthma? There is a lot of conjecture about whether or not the chemicals in disposable diapers are safe, and there's an assumption that because a product is on store shelves, it must be safe. A quick perusal of the Cosmetic Safety Database dispells that myth. Why not err on the side of caution and put something against your baby's skin that has been used for hundreds of years with no adverse effects?

Cloth diapers are hard to find.

Well, slap me with a moldy turnip and color me flabbergasted! As if anyone could use this argument! True, when I started The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe eight years ago, there was a dearth of businesses that sold cloth diapers, the vast majority of which were strictly online. Since 2002, as the green movement has steadily picked up steam, cloth diapers have become readily available at most baby boutiques, and specialty cloth diaper boutiques are popping up everywhere. If you can't find a local source for cloth diapers, there are a plethora of online businesses catering to the cloth diapering parent, and there are lots of great educational websites with articles and forums that can help you figure it all out.

Washing cloth diapers wastes electricity and water, they're just as bad for the environment.

I'm wondering, once your baby is out of diapers, where will she be peeing and pooping? That's right, in a toilet! And what's in that toilet? That's right, water! Did you know the amount of water used to wash cloth diapers from birth to potty training in a high efficiency machine is the same amount of water used to flush a toilet five times a day during the same period? If you're going to use this argument, I assume you never flush the toilet. Between your toilet habits and your paper clothing, it must be hard to make friends!

If you are concerned about the electricity used to wash and dry cloth diapers, you can opt to wash your diapers in cold water, and line-dry them (inside or outside). Not so bad after all, eh?

So that's all I've got. You still want to argue that disposable diapers are a better choice than cloth diapers? Try me! But be warned, I like to argue (ask my husband!), and I'm pretty darn good at it.


  1. That's a great point about the non-wastage of water! I never thought of that!

  2. When pregnant for my first child, I was not aware of the new growth in cloth diapers, in fact I didn't even know it was an option. Everyone I knew used disposables, and cloth seemed to be a thing of the past. After my child was born and I went out and met other mothers, I noticed cloth diapers were very common, and I was intrigued. My child got older and we contemplated switching to cloth, and I guess because of money,we never made the switch. It's now potty training time and I hope to make it the end of disposables. I've got baby #2 on the way and fully plan on using cloth this time. Yes I feel guilty for using disposables with my first child, and wish I was more informed about cloth when I was pregnant and felt more inspired to make the swith later on when I was informed, then I'd have cloth already and wouldn't have to invest. Oh well, better late than never right?

  3. Just a little comment to the "unless you have a frontloader" up there. My frontloader is awesome, a sanitary cycle and a button for extra soak, extra heavy soil, extra rinse, all the stuff I need to wash my diapers, and they come out clean everytime, just puch a couple of extra buttons and away we go!
    I had the same comment as above, I was purely ignorant of the possibility of cloth, and now I am older and wiser :)

  4. Careful about how often you use a sanitary cycle if washing PUL (in pocket diapers and covers) -- the extra high heat could lead to premature breakdown in the moisture resistance over time. :) Save the Sanitary Cycle for when you deal with a stomach virus! ;) The "extra soil" setting would be nice to have, though!

    I didn't want to use cloth with my oldest. Dh bought some terrible cloth diapers and it didn't take me long to realize that even with the cruddy quality cloth dipes, I had to clean poop from clothing far less than with disposables! Cost savings aside, not having to do all that extra stain removal work sold me on them! :)

  5. Well, Susie, I am a committed cloth diaper user, but I'll give you all my reasons why I quit cloth with two different babies.
    First child - disposables only on trips. Cloth pull-ups. Trained just before two.
    Second child - cloth from birth. Stopped somewhere after six months full-time and stopped all-together well before a year. Reason? Eczema on his butt that cleared totally every time we switched to disposables. Probably some of the problem was my washing method and some was his skin, but no matter, he was red and raw up to his back and I couldn't justify "experimenting" any more.
    Third child. Committed to cloth. Cat starts peeing all over the furniture and clothing and bedding. Mucho laundry. Front loader. Hinky smell in my diapers. Never get caught up enough on our regular laundry to be able to handle the extra loads, plus, diapers start to smell really bad. Disposables start after two months and continue to toilet training at just before age two.
    Fourth child. Four months in two weeks. Committed to cloth. NEW front loader. (LG if anyone cares. Frigidaire was the last piece of ****.) Cat euthanized. Other cat starts that stuff, but we lock her in a bathroom. Easy as pie to use and to wash - like with my first. Little to no diaper rash or irritation. No reason that we will not finish off our last child with cloth all the way to the end.
    Sometimes life throws you curves and you roll with them in the best way that you know how. I just wish that people who wrote this type of article actually had the real years of experience it takes to make valid comments.
    Heather Ann

    1. Are you implying that Susie doesn't have years of experience?! Anyway, there's always the option of a diaper service too. If the washing was taking up too much time you could use a service and they drop off and pick up the diapers. As far as the rash issues, you could have put him in disposables for a little while while you did some troubleshooting with the cloth. I'm sure it would be related to your washing routine, or sitting in wet/dirty diapers for too long.

    2. @Amanda L, Too bad cloth diaper services aren't everywhere and cost a lot of money :(
      I use cloth because I can't afford to buy disposable, but I only have maybe 7 diapers for the toddler and 5 for the infant, so when I use cloth I'm constantly hand washing them, lol.

  6. Stuff like that article burns my ass. If you want to use disposables, use them. But don't try to say that cloth is crap in order to make yourself feel better about your decision.

  7. A couple of times people have commented to me about poop, and washing dirty diapers and the whole gross factor. I love to challenge that: If they have pets (indoor cat or dog), I ask them about cleaning up after their animals. It truly just boggles my mind (even before I had poopy kids) that people picked up their dogs poop, and proceeded to walk around with a bag of it in their hand (thanks though, as I do appreciate it very much)! I clearly recall my bothers making some good cash cleaning the yard up from the dog! Or the whole litter box thing! Or if they don’t have pets, I ask if they ever use manure in their garden, and remind them lots of the veggies they enjoy were grown in poop. I love poopy parent talk, I could talk poop all day!

    Now that I use cloth, I am not sure why anyone would not either. Susie, I read that about that study, doesn't add up for me either!

  8. Heather, you tried, right? We're battling a nasty rash right now, I'm 99.9% it's yeast, so we have to treat the diapers and Grace. Not. Fun.

  9. My husband has a disability, and if his mobility or dexterity were a little bit worse I would consider using disposables full time. I know that pockets and AIO are very similar, but my kids tend to react to synthetic materials and disposables are just that tiniest bit easier. If his condition were to deteriorate, we would have to weigh using cloth against Daddy being as fully involved in child tending as possible, and I think the cloth might lose.

    But, a disabled parent is a pretty rare excuse. I think most people don't have a leg to stand on.

  10. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  11. What great points you have made! Especially about cloth diapers keeping poop IN the diaper! I didn't discover cloth diapers until my 3rd child unfortunately, and with breastfeeding, diaper explosions were just something I was dealing with. The cloth diapers keep the mess INSIDE as opposed to the disposables letting it go up their back and make a huge mess.
    As for the article itself, you're right, the author is basically trying to find a reason to justify her choice in being lazy. It's too bad it made it to the front page, as if parents aren't intimidated enough with all the myths about cloth diapers.

  12. I just want to make it clear that we ARE using cloth right now.

  13. We use cloth diapers. We love cloth diapers. We're committed to cloth diapering.

    But I hear that Toronto now composts disposable diapers. I don't live in Toronto, but just curious if this would alter anyone's opinion of disposables...

  14. Kate,

    Regarding Toronto's 'diaper composting', an article in the Toronto Star highlighted serious flaws in the system, at the time, diapers were not being composted as promised:

    Don't know if things have changed since then, it's a shame b/c the city program put a company out of business who was actually diverting disposable diapers from landfills.

    susie ;)

  15. I love my cloth nappies for day time use but I have to say they just don't hold up for the night. I have to use disposables. I've tried double stuffing them but still the cloth nappies leak. Also when I have used them at night my boy ends up with nappy rash. With the disposables I use some barrier cream at night because without it he gets a sore bum as well. I'd like to use my cloth nappies full time but I feel a bit stuck. Any suggestions?

  16. I thought about the toilet flushing the other day! Good one!

    Here's another point to bring up when arguing the water/electricity usage:

    Each child would use thousands of disposables over 2-3 years of diapering. There must be energy and water used in the manufacture of those diapers… not to mention pollution. Compare that to the resources needed to produce the 20 (or so) cloth diapers needed. Hmmmm.... producing thousands of something or 20? Seems like a no brainer to me!

    Food for thought!

    Thelma, I have the same rash issue with my daughter at night. I have had luck with large prefolds. A wool cover might help. I do still need to use cream with a disposable liner.

    Amanda S

  17. The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I'm not sure how many people know this but that is what they were originally created for. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain.

  18. Thelma, have you checked out my blog post about night-time diapering? It's basically a matter of trial and error, but one you hit that sweet spot, you're all set.

    The link above takes you to three posts that might be of interest to you.

    susie ;)

  19. cloth diapers, Elimination communication, front load washer with our works for us... diaper service for now with our newborn (thx sweet peach!), initially, used disposable with our caregiver, our dipes had been through mysisters 3 kids and were a bit unpleasant...then, discovered pocket dipes and babysitter was cool with that... we used just 4 pocket diapers and eliminated hndreds of disposables!

  20. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  21. What a wonderful post to first read on your blog! I love it! Will be back again.

  22. i'm a little late on this one but you should send your blog in as a letter to the editor...they sometimes get printed. My husband and I LOVED this blog.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  23. I bought my first cloth diapers a few months ago (after using a diaper service for awhile, and then using your diaper trial program), and my husband's two main concerns with the cloth seem to be:

    1) cloth diapers are bulkier than disposables, so he thinks they are more uncomfortable for the baby i.e. extra pressure on the tummy, harder to move the legs and waist. Our baby has had problems with reflux, trapped gas and a herniated umbilical cord, and he is at the late end of the development scale for milestones like rolling, sitting etc., so he is concerned that the cloth diapers aren't helping these situations. I disagree but it's basically his view against mine.

    2) He worries that there will be poopy residue in the washing machine after washing the diapers. I do shake and rinse the diapers before washing them, so there isn't much left when they are washed, but of course there is a bit. I haven't noticed a problem with our regular laundry smelling like diapers, but is there some way to convince him that this is not a problem? My current argument is that lots of people wash cloth diapers and don't seem to have a problem with poopy residue on their "regular" clothes.

    Since I'm the one who does most of the diapering, I decide which kind we use, but it would be nice if he agreed with me :-)

  24. As someone that just switched to cloth diapers, I have to say I laughed so hard heading this!! I thought cloth diapers where too hard and gross when I had my first. Now that he is 4 and my daughter is 17 months old I've decided to switch and I will say, it's not so bad!! It really isn't that hard (except for learning the lingo!!) and for grosse, I think I've had to touch enough poop that I stopped caring! Thanks for all the great blog posts!!

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.