Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, cloth diapers really are *that* easy!

When I was at the ABC Kids Expo last month, I spent some time visiting with Shirley and Betsy, the marvelous ladies behind Bummis, discussing the barriers to getting parents to cloth diaper their babies. In the nine years that I've been in business, although the number of businesses selling cloth diapers has grown exponentially, the number of parents using cloth diapers has held steady, roughly 5-10% of diapered babies are estimated to wear cloth diapers. When trying to convince parents to use cloth diapers, many companies focus on educating parents about the benefits of cloth diapers, however, I believe a more successful approach to getting parents on board with cloth diapers would shift focus to ease-of-use. Most parents can't seem to get past the perceived workload, although in reality, using cloth diapers (like having children in general) simply requires a few extra loads of laundry every week.

Indeed, a study funded by Huggies confirms as much, 79% of respondents agreed with the statement "Cloth diapers are less convenient than disposables". 91% of the same respondents also indicated that they agree that cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposables (no duh), and 65% agreed that cloth diapers are cheaper than disposables.

In terms of the laundry required to wash cloth diapers, it's not a whole lot different than the laundry requried to wash, oh say, every other piece of clothing you own (you do own clothing, right?):

1) You put a clean diaper on your baby.
2) Your baby poops in the clean diaper.
3) You take the no-longer-clean diaper off your baby and toss it into a diaper pail.
4) When you are close to running out of clean diapers, you take the diaper pail into your laundry room and dump its contents into the washing machine.
5) You turn the washing machine on.
6) You sit on the sofa eating bon-bons and watching Days of Our Lives for an hour.
7) You move the wet cloth diapers from the washing machine to the dryer.
8) You turn the dryer on.
9) You take a nap.
10) You take the clean diapers out of the dryer, put them in a hamper, and take them back to your change table.
11) Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Ta da! Seriously, does that seem so hard? It's not like you're out in the river, smashing cloth diapers against rocks, you know what I mean? The reality is that your washing machine does most of the work for you (no washing machine? No problem!).

I wonder if parents who use disposable diapers ever stop to think about how inconvenient using those disposable diapers must be. I can't imagine having to lug large boxes of disposable diapers home from the grocery store every week, I also can't imagine having to lug all of those soiled disposable diapers to the curb every week. Parents who use disposable diapers must be very strong, what with all that lugging! Lugging aside, dealing with the tendency of disposable diapers to leak must also be inconvenient. Always having to have a spare set of clothing on hand for the inevitable poop-between-the-shoulder-blades-blowout, and dealing with the inconvenience of poop in the high chair, poop in the carseat or (God forbid) poop on your lap. And what if you discover you're out of disposable diapers right before you put your baby in her nighttime diaper, and your husband is at work, so you have to get her dressed and pack her into the car and run out to the grocery store to buy some more disposable diapers to lug home? When I ran out of cloth diapers, I didn't have to travel further than my laundry room to restock. I must say, from where I'm sitting, dealing with disposable diapers must be an absolute nightmare!

If you're still leary about the workload involved, there are things you can do to ease the 'burden' of using cloth diapers:
  • buy more diapers so that you wash less frequently (don't buy too many diapers though -- ideally, you should wash your diapers every 3-5 days).
  • buy all-in-one diapers that go on your baby in one piece.
  • toss your clean diapers into a basket you keep next to your change table (no folding, stacking, or sorting by color required!).

Now that I have no babies to diaper, I have to say, there has been zero change in terms of the time I spend in the laundry room. I made it out the other side OK, I promise you, you will too!


  1. I must admit, I have cloth diaper envy. We have tried several times with our daughter, but each time she has ended up with a wicked rash. We would rather have her in cloth, but I am leery of buying a supply only to have them sit, unused, especially since she is now almost 1. So instead we EC and use family cloth and I suffer my cloth envy nearly in silence ....

  2. It is that easy! Both my children were in Cloth Nappies when they were babies (now 8yrs and 5yrs). I think that there is another benefit to cloth as well. My two were out of nappies and dry at night by just over 2yrs old.

  3. Kristina, can I ask what kind of cloth diapers you use? How do you wash them?

  4. Such good points about the inconveniences of disposables... and also about how our laundry systems have evolved over time and that these are in fact modern times. Great post!

  5. Hello! We tried cotton prefolds, a diaper service, all-in-ones, bamboo fitted diapers (loaners from friends). We have a front-loader, so I was worried about washing properly. We tried stripping them, and used Nellie's. I am open to suggestions if you have any ideas :)

  6. Do you think your little one could be sensitive to wetness, perhaps a fleece liner would do the trick, or switching to pocket diapers? I could loan you some to try...

  7. Wow! That would be incredibly generous! And yes, I am wondering if it is the wetness that causes the issues. So far she has no allergies/sensitivities to anything, and other than cloth diapers, we've never had any skin issues with our daughter. Could I pop by the Ottawa store next week to chat with you about this? (Hooray!)

  8. Sure thing! I'm in on Tuesday/Thurs/Friday morning

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  10. It does make me sad that too many parents are intimidated by cloth diapers. I remember mentioning to a friend of mine how easy it was, and, she, having a much larger family than mine just couldn't see the possibility as she already had many loads of laundry a week, and the extra two (that is how I do it) would just be too much in her view.