Baby Bee, Cloth Diapers

To Cloth Diaper or Not To Cloth Diaper: THAT is the Question

Let’s be real for a minute here — when you have a baby, you are primarily concerned with two things: sleep and poop. Sleep is a whole other bag of worms that we can unpack at some distant point in the future when I have even the slightest insight to offer. Diapers, on the other hand, are something that I have pretty much mastered and could dish about forever. I actually LOVE to talk about diapers.

I entered motherhood with a general idea of what  wanted to do, diaper-wise, but was really open-minded about my options because, you know, dealing with 12-16 newborn poops a day is stressful. My hope was to use disposables for the first month or so, until we had survived the days of meconium (heads up — this newborn stuff is GROSS) and reached some sort of equilibrium with the poop situation; after that, I wanted to switch to cloth diapering. For me, this stemmed primarily from concerns over the environmental and health implications of using disposables, but I was also realistic in knowing that they wouldn’t always be practical for us.

To prepare myself, I stocked up on a few sizes and brands of disposables, and researched the shit out of cloth diapers to determine what type would work best for us. I’ll be the first to admit that, when you first enter the world of cloth diapering, it’s SUPER overwhelming. To save you from having to spend the next year of your life trying to decode the various types of cloth diapers, check out my summary post on the most common types of cloth diapers. Having had no experience with cloth, I got a small number of a few different brands and types of cloth diapers to test run, so we could figure out what we liked and add to the stash once we knew what the heck we were doing. Below is a pic of the majority of our diaper stash as it looks today — the original edition was a much, much smaller version of this that we added to over time.

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We made it through the first month with disposables and, at the 1-month mark, started to experiment with cloth diapers during the day. Slowly but surely, we moved to cloth diapering full-time – even at night – but we still use disposables from time to time (e.g., when we moved to a new city, when traveling, when battling cold/flu season). We’re over a year into this diapering adventure and have had a slew of positive and negative experiences with both. So what was our preference in the end? Honestly, it’s pretty mixed. I, hands down, prefer cloth diapers. My husband, on the other hand, always delights when the disposables come out but he’s coming around to the benefits of cloth.  Here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons of each.

Disposable Diapers

Pros

  • Pack more easily on-the-go
  • Don’t need to be toted around post-change
  • Easier to put on a squirmy bum
  • Don’t require any post-bum effort (i.e., washing)
  • Less likely to have pee leaks

Cons

  • Costly over the course of your diapering adventure
  • Not reusable, so you may find yourself in a panic if you run out
  • Have an environmental impact
  • Potential for health concerns
  • WAY more likely to have poop blowouts in the newborn stage (I’m still traumatized by a few poo-splosions I suffered in the early days)

Cloth Diapers

Pros

  • WAY cheaper over the long run, especially if you invest in one-size diapers that grow with your baby and use them for multiple babes
  • Reusable, so you never have to worry about running out
  • Customizable, meaning you can add or remove layers to suit your specific babe’s diapering needs
  • Kinder to the planet, especially if you opt for renewable fibers like hemp
  • Contain poo-splosions like no other — we literally had only one and I’m going to blame it on the fact that she was going to town in her bouncer at the time
  • More gentle on the bum — Bee’s skin was really sensitive to the additives in disposables as a newborn but her skin thrived in natural fiber cloth diapers
  • Come in some ridiculously cute prints

Cons

  • Require some effort — they need to be washed and some also need to be assembled before use
  • Require a fairly significant investment upfront — while it’s AMAZING that we spend literally no money on diapering stuff each month, our bank account did take a bit of a hit upfront
  • Can be prone to pee leaks as the baby grows and the “fit” changes — it just takes a bit of tweaking, but those initial few leaks can be annoying
  • Can be more difficult to put on / take off if you go with a snap-based option (this is particularly relevant for the dads out there, I’ve found)

 

At the end of the day, it really is such a personal choice. I absolutely love cloth diapering and have since the day we started using the them, while my husband took a long [long] time to warm up to them. I also have a few friends that started out with cloth but, for various reasons, ended up switching to disposables over time (mostly due to a fear of solid poop or because they had another babe and couldn’t handle two in cloth). In our home, we like to keep our options open and use both, depending on the situation. In the end, though, it’s honestly just about using whatever’s right for you.

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Baby Bee, Cloth Diapers

Cloth Diapers 101: Types of Diapers

Cloth diapers are pretty self-explanatory, right? I mean, they’re just diapers that you wash and reuse instead of tossing in the trash. How complicated could they be? As it turns out, there’s a lot to them, actually! When I decided that I wanted to use cloth diapers for my daughter, I knew literally nothing about them other than the fact that they were more environmentally friendly, less likely to cause diaper rash, and were more cost-effective. Perfect, I thought, let’s buy some cloth diapers!

And then I sat down to choose a few brands to do a test run before investing a lot in any particular one diaper. Boy, are there a lot more options out there than I expected! I was incredibly overwhelmed at first but, once I wrapped my head around all of my choices, I realized how amazing cloth is. There is literally something for everyone! The best way to approach them is to think about how much you want to interact with poop, how much laundry you want to do each week, and how much money you want to invest. So, with that in mind, here is an introduction to the five main types of cloth diapers.

  1. All-in-ones (AIOs) are the least involved cloth diapers out there and function pretty much like a disposable. There is an absorbent, waterproof cover with inserts sewn right in, so all you have to do at diaper-change time is toss the dirty diaper in the bin and put a new one on. This is a great option for people who want to opt for cloth but would like to keep it as simple as possible (read: dads and daycare). The down side is that they’re typically the priciest option, you have more to wash, and they can take longer to dry
  2. Fitteds are similar to AIOs but they lack a waterproof exterior. The diaper looks very similar to a disposable, in that it’s just one piece, but you need to add a cover to prevent moisture from wicking out. So, come diaper-change time, you need to put on the fitted diaper and then top it with a cover to keep the pee in. They tend to be super absorbent and breathable, so are often used as a long-nap or nighttime solution. Overall, not much more work than an AIO, but still one of the more expensive options and results in just as much laundry.
  3. Pockets are exactly what they sound like – a waterproof cover with an inner pocket that you stuff with whichever absorbent inserts you’d like. They work just like AIOs when it comes time to change diapers, but require more effort overall because you have to stuff them with inserts beforehand and often need to “unstuff” them prior to washing them. The upside is that they’re a lot more customizable than AIOs: you can choose the material, thickness, and number of inserts being used in each diaper. This helps to tailor the diaper to each baby’s needs and could potentially save some money, depending on which covers and inserts you opt to use.
  4. All-in-twos (AI2s) are made up of two pieces, a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert that is either placed or snapped on the cover. The great thing about this option is that, unless there is poop involved, diaper changes just involve swapping out the insert and reusing the cover, which significantly cuts down on the cost and amount of laundry involved. You can also customize the material and number of inserts that you use. The downside is that you need to touch the insert to swap it out and then wipe down the cover. This may not be for the squeamish but it can easily be done with a wipe to minimize direct contact.
  5. Prefolds are what most people picture when they think of cloth diapers – a piece of cloth folded in three, wrapped around the baby’s bottom, and secured with snaps. Like the fitted diaper, these aren’t waterproof so they need to be paired with a cover. While this option requires the most skill when it comes to learning the folds, it is also by far the most affordable option, cuts down on laundry, and is great for newborns.

Bonus Option- Hybrids! Hybrids are usually AI2s and involve pairing a reusable waterproof cover with a disposable insert. Many of the inserts are biodegradable, so they can be a great option when you’re traveling and need the convenience of disposables but still want to feel good about what you’re putting on baby’s bottom.

My advice? Before investing in one particular brand of cloth diaper, think long and hard about how involved you want to be with your diapering and how much money you’re willing to spend. Then, narrow it down to a few types of cloth diaper and give them a test run before investing in a whole stash. It will give you a chance to find the ones that fit your babe the best and you might be surprised by your willingness to touch a few pee-soaked inserts if it means you can do less laundry (I know I was!).