Disclaimer: If you think we're completely out of our minds and have zero interest in even knowing anything about what modern cloth diapering really is about, please feel free to stop reading. If you choose this option, keep your opinions to yourself if/when you see us in the future.
Now that that's out of the way, welcome to our story about why we have chosen cloth diapering, our attempt to provide information about modern cloth diapers (to dispel misinformation), and our quickly realized pros and cons. FYI, we had Ezra in disposables for his first few weeks of life until he got big enough to fit into the cloth ones we bought. If you with any extra questions, feel free to ask us.
Without any hesitation, we decided to have Ezra in cloth diapers. When Jessica was a baby, she was in cloth diapers. When Jessica's mom was a baby, she was in cloth diapers. And of course, when Jessica's grandma was a baby, she was in cloth diapers. The general concept and process is still the same, but the social perception and reaction is far different today as you could imagine.
Before I met Jessica, I had no prior knowledge of cloth diapers other than what I had seen in cartoons. Think of a square white cloth napkin folded corner to corner and fastened with two safety pins. But I had no preconceived opinion about the subject either. Jessica educated me on the pros and cons, and I was sold as quickly as pro #1 (see below).
For us the pros obviously outweigh the cons. For others, the opposite, and we can completely see why. The convenience of disposable diapers for busy parents is undeniable. To us, the other cons of cloth diapering are no big deal: Jessica loves laundry (really), and I just don't get grossed out by anything. The biggest con, ultimately, is that we've learned that cloth diapering quickly yields a love/hate reaction from others.
Benefits of Cloth Diapering
1) Cost Savings
While there is a high(er) up-front spend, the overall cost savings over disposable diapers for one child can range anywhere between $1,500-2,000 if laundered at home [source]. Conservatively, I'd say that the number is at least $1,000 and could reach as high as $2,000. It completely depends on the type of diapers used. Another estimate is 44-68% savings over the cost of disposables. Cloth diapers do eventually wear out, but you can continue to use them for future kids as well as long as they last--another extended cost savings benefit.
Cloth diapers greatly reduce instances of diaper rash. Rashes tend to be caused by the chemicals used in cloth diapers which include [source]: Sodium Polyacrylate (absorbency gel crystals), Ditoxins (byproduct of bleaching), Tributyl-tin (TBT), VOCs, and dyes / fragrances (potentially).
3) Helps (Future) Potty Training
The wetness absorbing chemicals included in disposable diapers are designed to prevent leaks and to help your babies feel more dry or comfortable when they wet themselves. Cloth diapers don't have these chemicals and will let your child feel wetness during potty training. In general, cloth diapered kids potty train sooner, faster. The downside is that your baby will feel less comfortable when wet long before potty training is needed.
4) Same Convenience as Disposables for Baby Sitters / Care Takers
For anyone watching the baby, the only difference in "disposing" the used diaper is tossing it into a provided waterproof bag instead of the trash can. The inconvenience is only on the parents come laundry time.
5) Environmentally Friendly
Our personal focus on natural products is mainly to reducing exposure to unhealthy chemicals. However, often with our switch to the organic/natural world are environmental benefits. The average baby uses 6,000 diapers from birth to potty-learning, producing about 4,000 pounds of waste that ends up in a landfill [source]. Overall, an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year [source]. Jessica saw a campaign on Facebook called, Change 3 Things, that has a goal of having 100,000 parents change just 3 cloth diapers a day. If achieved, the results are stunning.
6) They Look Cool
Okay, this one isn't a true benefit, but Ezra looks so good in them.
Cons of Cloth Diapering
1) Less Convenient
There's no other way to put it. Cloth diapers are not as convenient as disposables. There is nothing like being able to wrap up a diaper, toss it in the trash, and never see it again.
2) Increased Laundry
If you hate doing laundry, you will not like cloth diapering. Jessica, thankfully, loves laundry.
3) Need to Spray Off "Solids"
This goes back to the convenience factor. If you're easily grossed out and/or find the mess handling too inconvenient, cloth diapering might not be for you.
4) High Up Front Costs
Cloth diapering saves you money over time. It will cost several hundred dollars up front (varies depending on what kind) to purchase enough diapers (2-3 dozen) to last 2-3 days to start. Over the course of time, diapers will need to be replaced and you may want to add to the diaper availability count. The total costs for one child including laundry will likely reach over $1,000 over time, but compare that to over $2,500 in purchased disposables during the same time frame.
What brand or style do you use?
Our primary brand is bumGenius. Their products tend to be the on the pricier side, but we're really happy with the build quality. Most of our diapers are either the "One-Size 4.0" type which are size adjustable. Among these is a mix between the velcro style or the button-snap style. This type of cloth diaper has an additional cloth insert that needs to be stuffed inside between the inner cloth and outer waterproof layers.
We also have one sample of the "Organic/Elemental" style shown below that has multiple, non-removable cloth layers that eliminates the need for stuffing. They are much more convenient, but more expensive, of course.
We have also purchased a few diapers by Flip and Econobum which are lower priced and/or are closer to the old cloth+cover style of old. With both of these companies, there is an option to purchase disposable inserts. These would work well for travel purposes but would sort of defeat the purpose for general use.
How does sizing work as the baby grows?
For the one-size type that we buy, there are button snaps on the front that allow you three general sizes as your kid gets bigger. It works well.
What do you do with the "solids" before laundry?
Let's face it. It's not pretty. You have to spray them off into the toilet. We purchased a sprayer that hooks up to the water line of the toilet and has a lever to adjust the pressure.
In our research, they say that waste from breast-fed babies is water soluble so no pre-spraying is necessary though we do anyways. It's good practice for when Ezra starts eating solid foods.
How does laundry work?
Laundry does takes longer as there is usually two wash cycles required as well as an additional rinse. The cloth inserts are put into the dryer whereas the waterproof covers are line-dried. Also, time is needed to stuff clean inserts into the dry diapers, but that is specific to the type we use.
Specific cloth diapering detergent is needed as well (to not diminish absorbency and waterproof properties). Keep in mind, the additional cost of energy/water is factored into the money savings too.
Do cloth diapers leak?
The diapers leak out the top or sides in the same way that disposables do. Cloth diapers do not leak through the waterproof cover material.