I started cloth diapering almost nine years ago when our first child was born. Luckily, I've had several years off during those nine years, but I have learned a lot over those years and a lot has changed. More and more people are using cloth diapers and there are more and more brands to choose from. It is wonderful to have so many choices, but it can be daunting as well for new parents or parents who decide to switch to cloth. This information is based on my experience, what I have heard from other cloth diapering moms, and my personal research into the issue. All that follows is just my opinion.
First, I want to say I do not believe there is any "one size fits all" diapering system. I have not used traditional disposables except when taking care of my friends' children so I can't really compare well to disposables, but I can say that after cloth diapering three children and using over 15 different brands of cloth diapers that there are pros and cons to them all. I highly recommend buying some used diapers or borrowing some from a friend prior to investing in a diapering system. Of course, please use common sense and make sure the diapers have been washed in hot water and smell clean (or better yet, have no smell) if you end up using second-hand diapers. If you are local, I am happy to sit down with you and show you what I have used (even diapers I don't currently stock). If you are not local, I'm happy to discuss diapering over email or the phone.
Second, cloth diapering is not hard.* Again, I have really never used traditional disposables for my children, but I can imagine it is easier to throw the diapers in the wash at night that run out to the store in the middle of a cold winter night when you run out of diapers. It does mean doing more laundry, but an addition to your family means more laundry. Some diapers are more complex than others, but none of it is rocket science.
*Don't beat yourself up if cloth diapering does not work for your family. It is okay. Luckily, we have a lot of choices about so many aspects of parenting and with diapers there are more and more choices ever year. Don't sweat it. It is really a small part of your child's life. I am writing this for people who are interested in cloth or flushable diapers (or EC - elimination communication, but I will get into that later), but this is not meant to be judgmental or blaming. It is completely a personal choice.
Third, for years there have been studies saying that the environmental impact of using cloth vs. using disposables is a "wash" so to speak. I can imagine this to be true, but there are a lot of variables. I would think the impact would vary depending on the type of diaper, where the diaper is shipped from, if it is bleached, non-bleached, or organic cotton or bamboo, or if the diaper is compostable (wet diapers only), etc. There are environmental pros and cons to both cloth and disposable. I would urge you if you do use disposables to dump solid waste in the toilet and flush it instead of keeping it in the diaper which will in turn go to a landfill and stay tucked away in that diaper for who knows how long. This small little step can really help when it comes to the environment. Thanks!One of the first things I usually ask a customer, or just someone who is questioning me about cloth diapers, is "Why are you thinking of using cloth." What is your motivation? It could be a lot of things. Some of the most common:
1. Price - yes, it can be much cheaper to use cloth diapers than using disposables. Again, this depends on the brand of each and the type of cloth. I will get into the different types of cloth diapers in Part II.
2. Environmental impact - I believe, depending on where you live (ie. do you live where water is scarce or landfill space is a premium) and the type of diapers you use, it can be less of an environmental impact, but see number 3. above. It is probably not a big difference either way. Having a child does impact the amount of resources you use. I have found that using cloth diapers (and ECing) has helped my children use the toilet much quicker than a lot of children who use disposable diapers, but I don't know if that is taken into consideration when doing studies on environmental impact. Also, when a child is ready to use the potty varies and I can't guarantee when your child will move out of diapers. I have several friends and customers who have used disposables for years and have asked for cloth diapers to aid in the transition away from diapers all together. So this is my next reason...
3. Ease of potty learning - yes, with cloth diapers which allow for the child to feel wet (not all of them do), it can greatly aid in teaching the child in listening (or better yet, never teaching the child to NOT listen) to their body and know when they are going to need to use the bathroom. Cloth diapers can be a feed back system. When a child gets used to peeing in a diaper which continues to feel dry, the child then forgets that they are urinating at all. It is instantly wisked away and they have no reason to want a diaper change let alone to stop playing and go to the toilet. Now, for many parents, they want a diaper (cloth or otherwise) which will keep their child dry. I am guessing this is so they can avoid diaper rash. Frequent diaper changes can also quite effectively avoid diaper rash. I've seen more cases of diaper rash for children using disposable diapers than cloth, but that is just my experience. There are reasons why cloth might cause skin issues and I'm happy to answer any questions on this to the best of my ability. Diaper rash has never been an issue in our house, knock on wood.
4. Feel - yes, cloth diapers feel soft next to baby's delicate skin. If I had a choice between disposable underwear and cloth underwear, I would choose cloth.Well, that is enough for today. Stay tuned for Part II.