How I Made Cloth And Disposable Diapers Coexist In My Home

Committing to cloth diapers is a big step, but integrating them with disposables can be easy and rewarding

The first time my husband and I went shopping for cloth diapers, we walked right back out of the store ten minutes later because we were utterly confused by all our options.

Who knew there was more than one type of cloth diaper? We had assumed they’d be just like disposables, except washable. And while some are—they’re called all-in-ones—there are also pocket folds, and cloth inserts with fully detachable covers. There are ones with snaps, ones with buckles and ones with Velcro. Then there are extra inserts, wet bags, spray attachments to clean off the solids before washing and special soap for your washing machine, especially if you have hard water.

It’s enough to make your head spin.

But for us, it was important. We had read that the diapers we wore as babies 30-plus years ago are still sitting in the landfill and haven’t even begun to break down.

While we wanted to be environmentally friendly, our budget was also a big factor. While the upfront cost of cloth diapers is significant, we felt it was worth it because we planned to use the cloth for the two children we were planning.

So we went back to the store, an independent retailer in our city, and asked for a quick lesson in cloth diapers. The owner of the store explained it all to us and we went home informed and with our new diapers in hand, ready for our daughter to be born.

With our daughter, we used cloth religiously. I took wet bags out to the store and restaurants. I used them on short vacations. The only time cloth didn’t work for us was overnights—our daughter leaked through every single one I tried. So, I relented and used disposables.

When my son was born, we again started using cloth and we still do—but I made some changes for the sake of sanity.

We use cloth diapers at home and daycare. Our home daycare provider was leery about it at first, but when she saw that all she had to do was put everything in a wet bag and I took it home to deal with, she was sold.

Now, when I go out to the store or we spend a day with family, as much as I dislike it, I reach for disposables.

I see the benefit of being able to just toss a dirty diaper when I have to change the baby in the tiny washroom at the grocery store rather than stuffing it into a wet bag.

Same with when I go to visit family—if we’re there for several hours, those wet bags can start to smell. And I am always afraid that smell lingers after we leave.

I do feel guilty for using disposables when I do. But I also know that at times, it is just easier. And when I’m dragging a three-year-old and a one-year-old with me to the grocery store, I need things to be simple.

That said, there is one major benefit to cloth diapers and it involves two words: Explosive poops.

Ask any parent and they will regale you with their horror story about the poop that got away from the diaper—right up the back, covering the onesie to the point that you just throw it out. It’s gross, but it happens to everyone.

In my experience, it happens far more often when my children have been in disposables. Cloth diapers have tight elastics along the top at the back while disposables do not. This means those blow-outs are, more often than not, kept contained.

Along the same lines, the only time I regret the decision to go with cloth is when I am cleaning a full poopy diaper with the sprayer attached to our toilet (get what is called a “personal bidet sprayer” from a building centre).

When a baby is breastfed, there’s no need to clean off the diapers before throwing them in the wash. But when they start solids, you do have to spray them. And sometimes, no matter how I try to angle the sprayer, some of that poop flies off and gets on my hands, my pants, the floor. While most parents resign themselves to the fact that they will end up with bodily fluids from their children on them fairly regularly, there is something extra gross about spraying a large poop off a diaper.

And yet, I would still recommend cloth to anyone who would listen. I think I converted a friend or two. Except for the convenience of throwing out a diaper when you’re on the go, there is really no difference between cloth and disposable—one you throw out, one you throw into the washing machine.

My best tip for those considering cloth is to try different styles and brands. We have several types of diapers—mostly pocketfolds—but I prefer some, my husband prefers others and I have found, over time, my preference changes, too.

And don’t feel like you have to buy the most expensive; for a long time, my favourite diapers were the cheapest ones I could buy online.

The best part about cloth, though, is knowing we’ve made a small difference in a landfill. Thirty-plus years from now, there will be a small hill of disposable diapers from our children, but not a mountain. It’s not much, but it’s something.

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