What you may not know

I don’t care what you put on your baby’s behind. Really. But I get so irritated when I hear and read all the crazy misconceptions out there about cloth. Why? Because back in the day, I was influenced by them. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t consider any options. I used disposables with Beans because it’s really all I knew.

I would say they worked fine – I will say they worked fine most of the time, but what you don’t hear from all the disposable diaper companies is that those messy blow-outs that make you think changing a cloth diaper would be oh-so-gross and so-much-messier than changing one you’re just going to throw in the trash? They just. Don’t. Happen. With cloth, I can honestly say, I have never had a blowout. With disposables, Tallulah had them all the time, but when the sposies stopped, the blowouts did, too.

Anyhow, what’s got me so riled up is this piece on the CBS Early Show. It’s fairly biased from the beginning, and I think it does a disservice to anyone who might even be halfway considering cloth as an option.

The TV lady starts out with this: “On the one hand, you have the old-fashioned but green-friendly cloth diaper. On the other hand, you have the convenient but less messy disposable diaper.” Message? Listeners, listen no more. I’ve told you all you need to know. This paper diaper here? It’s the best you could hope for.

It looks like she is waving, by the way, a flat. A flat is just a piece of fabric that has to be folded like origami to fit your baby, and then covered with a waterproof cover, which is fine if that’s what works for you. I haven’t actually used a flat.

Then she brings out a pediatrician who mentions that modern cloth diapers actually come with velcro. They do. Those are the ones I use, although I’ve come to prefer the ones with snaps over velcro. The diapers in my stash, for example, look like this, and this and this.

The pediatrician talks about prefolds needing additional folding – but she doesn’t seem to have any real experience with them. She’s right in that they do require a little bit of folding, but when I use them, I just fold them into the center so that they’re basically a long rectangular shape, and then lay them into the waterproof cover – which has velcro or snap closures and comes in sweet colors and prints. There’s no need for pinning, although if you prefer, you can get something like a Snappi to hold things in place inside the cover. (In my experience, the covers can be closed tightly enough to keep everything right where it’s supposed to be.)

And another thing that’s important to understand is that I’m not talking about the prefolds you see on the shelves of department stores with alternate labeling as burp cloths. Those will not keep your baby – or you – clean or dry. I like these. They may cost a little more, but they will last for ages, and they do have a fabulous – almost full-price, actually – resale value.

The pediatrician points out that you do have to buy fewer cloth diapers than disposables. She’s right again. But she understates the value here. The average figures I’ve heard for using disposable diapers from birth to potty training are vastly more than the $500 or so I’ve spent on cloth – and I do not have to buy anymore. I have saved between $1,500 and $2,000 on diapers and I LOVE strolling right past the disposable diaper aisle without having to think about dropping an additional $20 every time I do my shopping. I’ve invested in mostly one-size diapers, so they can be adjusted to fit babies from a few weeks after birth until they’re potty trained. And I’ve bought on sale and entered contests for give-aways, too, which has really lowered the cost for me.

Back to the “news” piece:
The TV lady asks about rashes and the pediatrician mentions that many doctors think they’re more frequent with cloth because baby’s skin is more likely to stay wet with those. Again, not really. Many – though not all – of the cloth diapers in my stash are made with fabric that wicks away moisture. But even when I’ve used the ones that don’t have that kind of fabric, T has been rash-free. The times she has gotten a rash have been when I’ve used disposable diapers – and even more common, when I have used disposable wipes. (She pulls at disposables when I put them on her, by the way. They don’t even look comfortable, so I don’t blame her.)

Is there more work involved in changing a cloth diaper, as implied by the pediatrician in the segment? NO. As I mentioned before, mine have velcro or snaps and they go on and come off just like disposables do. (Maybe easier, because I’ve never had a tab rip off a cloth diaper like I have with many of the disposable ones I was trying to use.)

Is there more work involved in cleaning cloth? Sure. But not nearly as much as you might think. Mostly, diapers just go into the hamper – I use a tall kitchen trashcan. I dump them directly from the hamper into the washing machine every two or three days. I hang the shells and all-in-one diapers to dry and throw the liners into the dryer and when they come out they’re all nice and fluffy and ready to go.

(The TV lady seemed very concerned about staining. It’s not a problem often, but when I do get a stain, I stick the diaper out in the sun for a couple of hours and the sunlight almost always bleaches it right out.)

OK, so the most obvious question is about what happens when you change a dirty diaper. Once again, it’s not as big a deal as everyone makes of it. It’s poop. That’s all. When a baby is exclusively breastfed, you don’t have to do anything – just throw the diaper in the hamper and wash normally. When you move to solids, you can either use a disposable liner – they’re thinner than dryer sheets and you can lift them out and flush them right down the toilet. I don’t bother with those, though. I have two rolls, but honestly they just seem like too much trouble to me. I also have a diaper sprayer, which is super easy to use, but these days all it takes is a quick turn of the diaper over the toilet. Either way, getting a diaper ready for the hamper takes less than two minutes – usually less than one minute.

Moms, have you ever held out your hand when your child tried a new food and didn’t like it? Had your kid spit the offending taste into your bare hand? Then you can handle cloth.

Ever cleaned up after a kid who’s pooped in the bathtub? Cloth is NOTHING compared to that.

Trust me, it’s not that bad.

Cloth may not be for everyone, but I really wish someone had laid out the facts for me when Beans was a baby so I could have seen all the benefits way back then. I’m doing it for you so you can make your own decision. Whatever you decide, you won’t be as likely to do it because of a fear of the unknown.

I’ll leave you with this.

Lots of people who use cloth LOVE their diapers. How many disposable users have you ever heard express any kind of affection for their paper? That’s gotta mean something.

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