This post is included in a series of posts about real parents cloth diapering in a variety of life situations. You can read about parents that work full time, cloth diaper without a washing machine, cloth diaper part time and more! Stay tuned for more Real Life Cloth Diapering Stories from parents like you!
Congratulations, sir, you made a baby. You may not yet be aware, but at this point you have approximately 46,862 decisions to make, one of which is deciding what kind of underoos to cover your kid’s silky smooth bohonkus with. This choice has traditionally been restricted to a popular brand that rhymes with “hampers” and the store brand, but your wife has discovered the cloth option and now she’s pestering you about it. “They save money,” she says, “they are good for the environment, and just look how cute they are!” Gentlemen, my concern for the environment is greater than my interest in Kate Middleton’s wardrobe, but less than whether or not we have crunchy peanut butter in the pantry. I couldn’t care less about cuteness either, but saving money does interest me, and if multicolored owls on a diaper makes my wife happy than fine. The question is whether or not cloth diapers are worth the learning curve, the inconvenience, and the smell. I am a full time stay at home dad to a seven month 22lb porker who has made pooping his religion. We have used cloth diapers since we brought him home, but grandma puts him in disposables when he visits and that’s fine because she pays for them. I have experience with both, so I can say with authority that yes, cloth diapers are worth it. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
Some guys balk at the idea of even learning how to “do” cloth diapers. Disposables have neat little tabs, but cloth diapers have all these buttons for size adjustment and multiple parts and pockets and all kinds of crazy mess. Who has time to learn all of that? The reality is that they are much less complicated than the crib or the pack n’ play you had to assemble. The most difficult cloth diaper to use is probably the prefold. Prefold diapers are an art form, but not a Julliard kind of art form or a “seven years in a Buddhist temple learning to wrap hineys the Shao-Lin way” kind of art form. It’s not even a “paint by numbers” kind of art form. A monkey could learn how to do it given the proper motivation. Personally, I fail at folding so hard that I have managed to reach adulthood without successfully constructing my own paper airplane, and despite years of practice my burritos still wind up crooked, but I can fold a prefold diaper. Basically, if you have the technical skills and coordination to make a make a baby you can operate a cloth diaper.
All of that is well and good, but what about the inconvenience? Don’t they take up all of your time? As to that, the most time consuming diaper to assemble in my experience has been the pocket diaper, which takes all of twenty seconds. You can change a cloth diaper during commercial break just like you would with any other butt cover. The biggest time eater for cloth diapers is the cleaning process. Washing diapers is almost exactly like washing any other load of laundry, but you have to do it twice so I guess it’s twice as hard to do. First you run them once with cold water on a single rinse cycle, then again with hot water on a double rinse cycle. If you have trouble remembering which temperature gets which rinse cycle (like I do), write it down and tape it to the wall. You can dry prefolds and inserts in the dryer, but shells should be hung on a rack to increase longevity. I recommend using brightly colored shells as opposed to light colored pastels so they are easy to pick out. All-in-ones also need to be turned inside out to dry. I run about two loads of diapers a week and they take about twenty minutes of actual work, diaper pail to drawer.
We are finally left with the smell. I think we can all agree that human feces are an insult to the olfactory senses, and unfortunately, cloth diapers will expose you to more stench than disposables will. Fortunately, you will not be the first person in the U.S. to do cloth diapers, so others have blazed the trail and found solutions to minimize the damage. A diaper pail with a carbon filter prevents having to inhale the toxic bouquet as those nasty little “presents” fester. In those crucial moments when you load the washing machine, or when you need to rinse a particularly foul diaper, you will have to take the low tech solution and hold your breath. This is the same thing you would do when hauling a sack of used disposies to the curb, so there’s no real loss there.
On the plus side, your baby will not smell like diapers. You may have noticed a peculiar odor that permeates the places babies congregate. This is not the aroma of babies, as I once thought, but of disposable diapers and I personally think it smells like powdered funk. Even worse is when this cloying scent combines with natural poop stink to make a horrible, Voltronesque putrescence. With cloth diapers your baby will smell like your baby, not like powdered funk.
Cloth diapers are definitely a little more work than disposables, but not an appreciable amount. Cloth needs to be washed, dried and put away, but disposables have to be bought and lugged home, then taken out with the rest of the trash. Cloth is also a bigger investment in the short term, but it will pay off much quicker than you would think.
Joshua Stone is a full time stay at home dad, student, and aspiring writer. He has several novels in the works and has already written multiple shorter length works. In his current role as stay at home dad, he finds himself the main diaper manager of the house-both changing and washing! He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and his main blog is: http://pendream.blogspot.com/