This is one of our most popular posts on Green Lifestyle Consulting. I've found that there are a lot of Medford residents that use cloth diapers, so I am sharing this information for others who might be willing to consider the option.
We had a tough time deciding whether or not we would use cloth diapers. We thought they'd be expensive, that the laundry would be too much, that they'd smell or that I'd be grossed out by them, but through the debates, we kept coming back to the fact that they are just much better for the environment than disposables. I know that some people argue this point, so I've asked Jon to write up some of the research he has done on the environmental impact of cloth versus disposables. For now I'll just say that at the most basic level, I balanced the environmental impact of doing more laundry versus adding to the landfills and the oil used to make most disposables, and decided to go with doing the laundry. At about $0.25 a piece for disposable, instead of piling up in the landfill, I have a little bit extra cash in my wallet.
We've been using cloth diapers for almost six months now, and love them! [At the time of posting on the Patch, we've been using them for almost 3 years and we still love them.] We wouldn't go back. We've changed over 1,100 diapers and the vast majority have been reusable cloth diapers. There are situations where we use disposables, but Jon has commented that that always makes him feel guilty.
Disposables versus cloth? We used disposables on our twins and we use them on our baby now when we travel, when he has a very bad diaper rash or when we don't do the laundry soon enough. I find the disposables are a teeny tiny bit easier than the cloth. Mostly because with disposables I never have to match a liner with a cover (pocket diapers) and it's just two velcro/sticky tabs to attach (prefolds and covers can be a little tricky). However, cloth diapers are not hard in any sense of the word. Once in a while I'll fall back to a prefold and cover, but really, that's not often and not actually necessary.
Another drawback to cloth diapers is that they are bulkier, both under clothes and toting around in a diaper bag. Besides, babies don't care if they need the next sized onsie. On the plus side, I never have the dilemma of "what should I do with this dirty diaper?" I always know what to do with it - stick it in my "wet bag" attached to my diaper bag. Given the environmental benefits of cloth, I'm happy to use them in most situations and happy to give advice and help.
I've been pleasantly surprised by how many of my friends and acquaintances are using cloth. I had no idea until I started mentioning it on facebook and twitter. If you're concerned you'll be the only one, just ask around your social groups a little bit. You might even find some hand-me-downs or loaners to get you started.
The multiple-children question: We're really only doing it on one, but I expect that it would be no harder on 2 or 3 children. The start up costs would be higher (but less than double), because you'd need more diapers, but you would have needed to buy more disposables anyhow. From an environmental point of view, I always feel bad when I'm washing them because I never have a full washer load. If I was washing for 2 or 3 children I would still wash the diapers every 1-2 days, but my washer would have more in it each time. There's really no folding, just a little stuffing or sorting - depending what you're using, so you're not adding the time consuming parts of doing laundry (folding and putting away).
[As an update, after 3 years we have a large enough "stash" of diapers that I do wash full loads and I wash diapers every 2 to 3 days.]
How to get started?
If you're anywhere in the greater Boston area, go to the Diaper Lab in Somerville for a consult. They are WONDERFUL! They offer a workshop "Introduction to Cloth Diapers" to help interested parents get started with cloth diapering. For example, which brands and types of diapers you should consider differ based on what is most important to you, saving money, what's best for the environment or allergy concerns. They helped us pick out a middle-of-the-road solution. They also have an "Experiment to own" program, where you try 8 diapers and assorted accessories for a $35 "rental" fee, and then return what you don't want and purchase what you do. I even managed to accidentally discolor some of the diapers I wasn't enthusiastic about and they still took them back without hassle. We have gone back several times to get additional diapers and related supplies, the staff are all very experienced with cloth diapering and we are very lucky to have such a great local resource.
This is getting long for the Patch, so I will refer you to our blog for the rest of the article which includes sections on:
- Not in the Boston area
- Style of Cloth Diapers (prefolds, pocket diapers or all in ones)
- Leaving the House with Cloth
- What about Diaper Rash?
- What About Poop?
- What About a Diaper Service?