Before our little one was born (in fact, before I was even pregnant), I loved researching all things baby related. Mostly because I like being prepared, but even more-so because I like learning new things. Baby land was something I had no experience with whatsoever, which meant every aspect of babyhood was an uncharted territory, often brimming with cute things... and I found it fascinating.
Even when it came to diapers.
Believe me, I was eye-ing up those cute Honest Company printed diapers and stocking up on everything from little scented baggies to help conceal particularly stinky messes to flushable wipes and industrial strength rash cream. Our registry was filled with no less than two dozen boxes of diapers and we had every intention of using disposables 100% of the time. So, if you would have told me a year ago that I'd be following social media for hints about the latest releases of my favorite cloth diaper brand, I would have said you're absolutely crazy.
My journey towards cloth didn't start overnight. In fact, I started out with a particularly negative view on the matter.
Back in my college days, I used to watch quite a few natural parenthood channels on YouTube. I remember sitting on my boyfriend's couch and seeing the notification pop up for a new video posted by one of my favorite vloggers, where they showed off their cloth diaper routine. This was the first time I had ever heard about cloth diapers, and after watching, I couldn't have been LESS interested. Not because the video portrayed them as being particularly difficult, but because spraying poop off diapers and dealing with smelly laundry that'd been sitting around for days fell more into extreme "crunchy" territory than anything else I had discovered thus far (including eating the placenta, which says a lot about my predisposition towards diapers).
Just the thought of dealing with cleaning dirty diapers made me cringe.
Over the next few years, I had only seen a handful of other videos and internet posts about cloth diapers. People would mention how cute they were, but I didn't think the extra bulk was particularly adorable. I'd watch tours of diaper setups and stashes, only to be dismayed at how large and expensive they would be - especially when they were marketed as being a cheaper alternative to disposables.
I just couldn't understand the appeal.
It wasn't until I was actually pregnant that I saw a video about a minimalist cloth diaper system using prefolds, flats, and diaper covers that my interest was piqued. Seeing the entirety of the diaper system stored neatly in one basket and costing less than one month's worth of disposable diapers made me question why I was only discovering the frugal simplicity of this system now. My mind started wandering, and the prospect of diapering five potential children for under $200 in total was extremely enticing.
I needed to learn more.
Turns out, prefolds and flats are not some hidden gem of the cloth diapering world, but rather the original cloth diapering method with which your grandparents are probably familiar. Although more difficult to use, they are known for being inexpensive and easier to clean. The newer all-in-ones and pocket diapers are generally considered easier, and are certainly more modern and trendy, which is why it took just a little bit more digging to discover the older methods.
Fueled by my desire of ultimate frugality, my descent down the rabbit hole begins here.
After a lot of research, my disposition towards cloth diapers began to fade. I decided there was no harm in buying a few cloth diapers just to have around the house. I ultimately decided to buy a minimal stash of 5 diaper covers, one dozen prefolds, and 3 "premium" hemp prefolds. I also had some super cheap Gerber prefolds laying around that my mother had gifted to be used as burp cloths, and intended on buying some cheap flour sack towels from Walmart to use as flats. This would more or less give me 2 full days of diapers before needing to do laundry. I would be able to experiment with cloth diapers without any guilt if I didn't end up using them, as the total cost was only around $120, or approximately 3 large boxes of disposables.
My husband was skeptical that they would ever get used, but I figured if I was bored one day while at home with a newborn I would give them a try. I never went into cloth diapering with the intention of doing it full time, or honestly, even part time. I just thought it would be nice to have the option if needed.
(The thought of doing diaper origami on a cute little baby booty seemed like a fun hobby to pass the time as well.)
Fast forward to post-birth, I encountered some unexpected difficulties with my mental health and ended up not touching the cloth diapers until my son was about 3 months old, which was fine. My feeling better also coincided with the fact that he was exclusively breast fed and was currently in a stage where he only pooped about once a week or less, which I thought was a perfect opportunity to give the cloth diapers a try. If I timed my 2 days supply right, I could go through all my diapers without needing to deal with any poop.
...and guess what, it worked! Most of the time.
On the rare occasion there was a miscalculation and he pooped in one diaper, I would simply swish it in the toilet a few times. The waste from breastfed babies is entirely water soluble, so it was honestly very easy to get it rinsed off with a few flushes and minimal effort. A sprayer would have been nice, but it wasn't something I wanted to buy or install for my casual cloth diapering. I could handle one messy diaper for every dozen that were just wet.
I enjoyed the low stress of being able to explore cloth diapers without needing to rely on them as my sole diapering method or to be a slave to laundry when I wasn't feeling up to it. And while I may have started very slowly, I did eventually begin using cloth diapers on a more regular basis. I initially started by alternating between cloth diapers and disposables throughout the day, to cloth diapering most of the day except naps, to cloth diapering all day. It was exciting to see the boxes of disposables last longer and longer. I remember being so excited to announce to my husband upon arriving home from work that I only used one disposable all day!
I was having fun matching diapers to my son's outfits and I knew that I was saving money in the process. Young babies go through about 10 diapers a day, which meant every day that I cloth diapered, I was saving almost $3. That adds up quickly! My cravings of frugality were being satisfied!
We ended up buying a house and moving across the state right around the time our son turned 6 months old. The diapers were packed away by the movers and put into storage for a few months. Conveniently, this meant that we skipped the "peanut butter" stage that comes with starting solids. There was no guilt with using disposables during this time!
We finally got a washer and dryer and unpacked his diapers just as his waste started turning solid around 8 months, which made jumping back into cloth easier than ever. Clean up nowadays is a non-issue, as it just plops off the fabric into the toilet with minimal effort or residual mess. In fact, we started flushing his poop even when he wears disposables because we learned how simple it was! This has the added bonus of keeping our house free of dirty diapers smelling in the trash. No Diaper Genie needed here, and we don't need to worry about taking the trash out every day either!
So, what's the point of my rambling?
I somehow, unexpectedly, fell in love with part-time cloth diapering. If you have an open mind, you could too.
I am in no way an advocate for cloth diapers, but I do believe everyone should have a few on hand. Simply by having them available in your house, you are more likely to give them a try at some point and have the resources available if needed.
Nowadays I usually cloth diaper my 1 year old about 80% of the day for 3 days in a row before doing laundry. We still always use disposables for bed time, while traveling, and sometimes for naps or just when I just want a break. I usually do 3 days in cloth, then maybe a day or two in disposables. So, some weeks that's 6 out of the 7 days mostly in cloth, and others it's closer to 4.
Feeling comfortable with cloth diapering is an empowering feeling and has given me a sense of freedom. It's exciting to know that if I wanted, I could diaper all of my future children with the cloth diapers I already have. Disposables are expensive, and if we end up having a large family, being able to diaper 3 or more children for under $300 - $400 total would be a crazy money-saving achievement. I no longer feel like a slave to the disposable diaper companies.
I know that cloth diapering is not for everybody, and it's honestly a privilege to be able to spend upwards of $100 on an upfront cost of even a small cloth diaper stash. However, I think anyone that can swing it should have at least a few cloth diapers on hand, just to give them a try when they feel up to it. It is a good exercise in having an open mind, helps in the effort of normalizing casual cloth diapering, and it's also beneficial simply for learning a new skill and reducing your environmental impact. (Not to mention, having a few on hand are peace of mind in case you suddenly run out of disposables or if money ever gets tight.)
Cloth diapering doesn't need to be all or nothing.
There's no shame in using disposables. There's no shame in only using cloth diapers part time. Be proud of any effort you take towards saving money or helping the planet, no matter how small!
Tell me your cloth diaper experience in the comments below!