If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you’re probably at least a little bit interested in cloth diapers. You’ve read all those great things about them and might even be excited about them.
But if cloth diapers are so great, how come more people are not using them?
I’ve listed the most common concerns parents have regarding cloth diapers. I understand some of them, while others seem to be based on common old-school myths. I’ll provide additional explanations for these reasons, and hopefully, you’ll find some valuable information in this post.
1. Dealing with poop seems unsanitary
“But what about the poop? Isn’t it gross that you have to take it out of cloth diapers?”
These two questions are always one of the first to be asked whenever I mention I’m using cloth diapers.
Let’s get things straight. Even if you’re using disposable diapers, you’re not magically immune from the poop matters.
Many parents don’t know this, but poop should also be discarded from disposable diapers.
The truth is, there is no such thing as parenting without touching some poop along the way. Just think of all the blowouts (which are uncommon in cloth diapers, by the way) or simply changing the diaper with a baby who wants to practice rolling over on the changing table all the time.
So, poop and cloth diapers.
Unless your baby is exclusively breastfed (you can toss it in the diaper pail in this case because it is water-soluble), you will have to remove as much poop as possible from the diaper. I scrape off as much as possible with toilet paper and then rinse the diaper with cold water (manually or in the washing machine), then it goes into the diaper pail until wash day.
2. Cloth diapers will make the whole apartment smelly
It makes sense that someone who doesn’t use cloth diapers might think that used cloth diapers waiting for wash day might start to stink, but this is not true.
Used cloth diapers are put into a diaper pail or a wet bag, which contains all the smells from spreading out of them.
They are still breathable, so your cloth diapers will be okay if you wash them every 2 to 3 days.
Read more about how to prevent potential smells from cloth diapers here.
3. Cloth diapers are a lot of work
This statement is very subjective, and some think cloth diapers are too much trouble.
Let’s compare the “work” for disposable and cloth diapers.
|Disposable diapers||Cloth diapers|
|buy regularly||buy once|
|/||wash before first use|
|put on baby||put on baby|
|discard in trash||put into diaper pail (remove poop if necessary and rinse)|
|/||dry (line drying or dryer)|
|take the trash to the bin||put away (fold flat diapers, stuff pocket diapers …)|
As you can see from the table, there is more to do with cloth diapers, but I don’t think it is that much more work.
In practice, what is considered “a lot of work” by parents is more or less 2 or 3 additional laundry loads per week. And don’t forget you only need to buy cloth diapers once.
Sometimes laundry is the last thing I want to do, too, but I still wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. Cloth diapers are complicated and overwhelming
I admit it; this scared me the most when I started researching cloth diapers. I was pretty surprised that there were so many different systems, and I had no idea which ones would be the best for me.
It’s actually pretty simple; cloth diapers are a pairing of an absorbent part with a waterproof layer.
There are a lot of different systems on the market but know that they are all intended for the same functionality.
The absorbent parts vary from plain old flat diapers, preflats, prefolds, fitted diapers, and inserts. You can also choose between all-in-ones (absorbent part already attached to the waterproof layer), pocket diapers, and covers (made of PUL or wool).
To make things a bit more complex, absorbent parts can be made of many different materials, but if you’re starting, don’t let all this information overwhelm you.
The best thing you can do is get a couple of cloth diapers and start using them.
You’ll learn the basics very quickly and start to understand why there are so many different systems. It’s because cloth diaper users have so many different needs!
Join a local Facebook group dedicated to cloth diapers; you’ll learn a lot from other parents and might even be able to buy some used cloth diapers to try out for yourself.
5. Cloth diapers seem too expensive to buy and maintain
Cloth diapers must be purchased upfront, so if you don’t have an extra $400 (the average cost of a cloth diaper set) to spend at once, they might seem out of your reach financially.
If you choose to outsource the cleaning, there are additional costs regarding cloth diaper maintenance, such as water, electricity, or diaper service.
Nevertheless, disposable diapers will cost way more over the years your child will be in them; the cost is just spread evenly from month to month, so you may not even notice it. Check out this post for more details about the cost efficiency of cloth diapers.
6. Cloth diapers are less convenient than disposable diapers
Convenience is mainly dependent on your lifestyle.
If you’re traveling or spending a lot of time outside your home, it will be much less convenient to use cloth diapers than disposable diapers.
If you’re predominantly hanging out around the house, convenience probably won’t be such a significant factor in your case.
7. Cloth diapers restrict development
There is a general opinion that cloth diapers are too limiting for babies and that they’re reaching milestones later because of bulky cloth diapers.
First, cloth diapers don’t need to be bulky to do their job correctly. Read this post to learn what are some of the trimmest cloth diapers.
To put things in perspective, a study was done in 2012 to assess the effect of disposable and cloth diapers on infant walking.
It concluded that both disposable and cloth diapers affect infant walking somewhat negatively; however, cloth diapers affect it more.
It’s worth mentioning that the example of cloth diapers used in the study was a thickly folded nighttime diaper, which isn’t a representative setup for daytime use when children usually practice their motor skills.
Most parents use much trimmer cloth diapers during the day, which are widely accessible to more parents than in 2012.
Additionally, it should be disclosed that the study was partly sponsored by the company Procter & Gamble.
So, where does that leave us?
I think the bulkiness of modern cloth diapers and disposable diapers does not vary much today, and it probably doesn’t have the dramatic impact the study showed.
However, it is wise to allow your child to move freely without diapers as much as possible for them to practice new motor skills.
8. Cloth diapers cause diaper rash
While parents who use disposable diapers think cloth diapers cause more diaper rash, cloth diaper users often claim the opposite.
A few studies were done in the past where disposable and cloth diapers were compared regarding diaper rash.
Their conclusion was neither of the types reduces the possibility of a diaper rash (source).
Just remember to change your baby frequently in both diaper types to minimize the exposure of the baby’s skin to urine and poop.
9. Cloth diapers are uncomfortable for babies (they feel the wetness)
As parents want the best for their babies, they don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.
Especially not by letting them feel the wetness when they pee or poop.
I agree here; I don’t want my child to think it is normal to be in a wet cloth diaper, either. That is why I’m striving to change him as soon as I can after he peed, especially after he pooped while also practicing elimination communication. If I already know I won’t be able to change him right away, I use a stay-dry liner on top of absorbent parts or use a pocket diaper, which is usually stay-dry by default.
To learn more about this, check out this post, where I explore if cloth diapers actually make your child feel wet.
10. Cloth diapers are less absorbent
Cloth diapers can be less absorbent than disposable diapers.
However, if you understand how to increase absorbency (hint: hemp boosters), they will work just fine, and if you change your baby at least every three hours, there is nothing to fear.
11. Cloth diapers are old-school
Before my first child was born (this was before I started getting interested in cloth diapers), I thought they were so much work because the baby only wears the absorbent part of the diaper and then clothes directly over it.
It made perfect sense to me that nobody would want to m that much trouble to change the baby’s entire outfit every time they would pee or poop (can you imagine?).
Of course, I didn’t want that so I didn’t even consider cloth diapers again for a couple of months.
It seems so funny to me that now I’m cloth diapers’ biggest fan when I had no idea about their basics 2.5 years ago.
So if you’re anything like me, I have to break it to you, cloth diapers have evolved so much over the last two decades!
It’s not just flat diapers and pins anymore, there are now so many systems to choose from. You can easily pick one (or more) that will cater to your lifestyle the best.
They all contain a waterproof layer that prevents any fluids from coming in contact with the baby’s clothes, so there goes my biggest argument for not starting cloth diapers sooner.
12. Cloth diapers will ruin my washing machine
Many parents think it is not sanitary to wash soiled cloth diapers in their washing machine.
Their biggest concern?
All the other clothes will become soiled, too.
The truth is that if you use hot enough water (hot, 60 degrees Celsius) with the correct amount of detergent, your washing machine will effectively clean even the dirtiest diapers and will leave your washing machine sanitary as well.
If you want to learn more about this, read this post where I explain if it’s sanitary to wash cloth diapers in the washing machine.
13. Cloth diapers require a big house, a backyard, or a dryer
Drying cloth diapers seems to be another essential factor in the decision to use cloth diapers. Many people think you can’t use cloth diapers if you live in a small apartment. While you’ll need a bit more organization, anyone can do it successfully.
I live in a 690 square feet flat without a balcony and have no problems with drying cloth diapers. We only recently got a dryer because there was just too much laundry for us to handle anymore (2 adults and two children under two years old), but I used it for cloth diapers maybe three times total in 9 months.
I usually set the washing machine to wash the diapers overnight, so I hang them on a drying rack first thing in the morning. Suppose I place it near a slightly open window (even in the winter). In that case, they are mostly dry within the day and certainly until the next morning, except for fitted diapers, which take an additional day (unless I dry them on the radiator).
That said, I am still so happy whenever we visit my parents or my parents-in-law, who both have big gardens where we can dry the diapers outside in the sun. They dry so quickly if the weather is nice, and they seem so fresh afterward, not to mention how pretty they look!
14. Daycare doesn’t accept them, so what’s the point?
Some daycares will not accept cloth diapers, no matter how much sense that makes. For some families, daycare presents a considerable portion of the day than others, and it may be you don’t think it’s worth it to do cloth diapers only at home.
The truth is that even using a single cloth diaper instead of a disposable diaper will save about 100 disposable diapers from landfills in one year.
Imagine how quickly this will add up if you use a couple of cloth diapers daily, even if you’re using disposables the rest of the day.
You have the power to minimize the damage to the landfills; use it!
15. Water is a limited resource
We don’t all live in areas where water is readily available. Some people have to plan out every gallon carefully and, understandably, are skeptical about using cloth diapers because they will use more water for the additional laundry.
There are a couple of things that you can do to make cloth diapers work even with limited water resources. Some examples are using flat diapers, reusing rinse water, practicing elimination communication, and using cloth diapers part-time (source).
16. Their moms tell them it is incredibly time-wasting (it used to be!)
I’ve heard of multiple times where the young parents are getting interested in cloth diapers, but future grandmothers quickly shut their interest down, reasoning that there is no way they’ll have the time to handle cloth diapers on top of everything the new baby will bring to the family.
I’ve come to two conclusions about this disapproval of cloth diapers;
- They never used cloth diapers because disposable diapers were seen as a much better and easier choice, and they’ve heard how much work cloth diapers were from their less wealthy friends or their mothers.
- They used cloth diapers (probably flat diapers), and it was a lot of work with washing (maybe even hand-washing), drying, ironing, and folding the diapers, all the while, they were alone in caring for their baby. They saw cloth diapers as a burden that kept them away from their babies and other housekeeping chores, mainly under the women’s domain.
When we think about it from their perspective, it’s obvious they only want the best for the new family; however, they often don’t realize how times have changed since their diapering period and how much more convenient cloth diapers are today.
Parents can choose many different systems that will serve their lifestyle the best, not to mention how great modern washing machines and dryers are. You don’t even have to iron cloth diapers anymore!
So if you’ve received a negative reaction about using cloth diapers from the older generations, genuinely ask them why they advise against it.
It might just be that they are unaware of how much cloth diapers have evolved by now, and all of their concerns are no longer justified.
17. Studies show that they might not be environmentally friendlier than disposables
Several studies were made regarding the environmental impact of cloth and disposable diapers, but this one seems the most credible and is widely acknowledged. It concluded that the environmental impact depends on the final users of cloth diapers.
Suppose cloth diapers are frequently washed in half-empty washing machines with too high temperatures (very hot, above 60 degrees Celsius). In that case, they’re always dried in the dryer and used only for one child; chances are you’ll leave a more extensive environmental footprint than disposable diapers.
However, by reusing cloth diapers for more than one child and following the best practices for responsible washing and drying, you’ll be able to lessen the environmental impact by about 40 percent (source). You’ll do even better by choosing organic fabrics for cloth diapers!
The potential of cloth diapers to reduce the carbon footprint is much greater than disposable diapers.
It’s a no-brainer for me; what about you?