Cloth Diapering Isn’t The Poop-Filled Disaster You Think It Is

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Cloth Diaper TipsI was six months pregnant with my first child when I casually mentioned to my manager that we were thinking about using cloth diapers. His response? He laughed in my face. Then he told me that he knew several people who had tried cloth diapers, and they all quit within a few weeks, having spent “so much money” on the supplies. Little did he know that would only make me more determined to try – I’m far, far too stubborn to let a challenge like that go by.


So it wasn’t long after that I found myself in a local store that specialized in cloth diaper supplies, looking apprehensively at piles and piles of things that I did not remotely understand. I am awfully glad that the owner of the store knew her stuff, because it was seriously intimidating. Without her help, I probably would have walked out – which would have been a shame, because what I discovered once I got the hang of things was that I really loved cloth diapering.


The first reaction most people have when I tell them is “EEEWWWW!!” But that’s usually followed by curiosity. What is it like having diapers that you wash and reuse instead of throwing them away? While I freely admit that cloth diapering isn’t for everyone, the truth is that poop is, well, poop; and while cloth diapering does occasionally become a messy, stinky, goopy disaster, that’s also a pretty good description of life with any baby.


The first thing I discovered was that cloth diapers today are a totally different animal from the ones my mother used, which featured yards of cloth, rubber pants, and wicked-looking diaper pins. Cloth diapers now range from prefolded inserts, already sewn together for easy use, to high-tech pocket diapers that look like a slightly plush disposable, but with cuter patterns. Prefold diapers are the cheapest, while high-end pocket diapers are expensive, but much more accessible to people who are new to cloth diapering. However, you need a lot of them: I used prefolds and covers, so I started with thirty of the seven-to-fifteen pound size and six diaper covers. The biggest difference financially is that whatever you spend on cloth diapers, you have to lay out all at once (or at least in large chunks), but the total is generally pretty good, especially when you factor it over using them on multiple kids. In the end, I spent a total of about $750 on all the cloth diapering supplies I bought for both my kids.

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  1. Jennifer Freeman

    June 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

    You had me at ‘no more blow outs’. I would love to try cloth diapers at least at home, since daycare won’t mess with them.

    • K.

      June 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

      You can! That’s what we do.

      We’ve tried 3 types and settled on AIOs (all-in-ones) but that was a compromise wiht my husband. I liked the folds + liner better, personally.

    • Jennifer Freeman

      June 25, 2014 at 7:57 am

      I will have to look into our options, because I am seriously tired of the money wasted on disposables (and the blow outs!). What do you like about the folds + liner over the all-in-ones?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 25, 2014 at 8:29 am

      What I liked best (aside from price – folds and cover are much cheaper than all-in-ones) was that, since you’re wrapping the folds and clipping/tucking under the cover, you can find a variety of ways to set it up so that it best fits your baby’s waist, legs, etc. The all-in-ones are adjustable to a large degree, but not in all directions.

      The other thing I liked about folds and cover was that laundry was faster with them – most all-in-ones require some taking apart/putting back together before and after. I did keep three or four all-in-ones for when we had sitters over, etc., but for day-to-day, I found it much easier to work with folds.

    • Jennifer Freeman

      June 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm


    • Lilly

      June 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

      check around, my daycare allowed them as long as they were easy to deal with. I brought in a days worth every morning of pocket diapers (the type that you put on like a disposable) and a wetbag for them to put the dirty ones in, then took that home at night (kept a small pack of disposables in his cubby for just in case).

      We had issues when my son developed a Buddha belly and they got too tight (they were supposed to be adjustable to 40lbs but didn’t make it that far with the belly). We switched to disposable at that point just for comfort and while he has lost the belly now we are probably 3 months from potty training completion (I hope) I haven’t bothered switching back

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      June 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      I have honestly never had one, in two years of cloth diapering! There have been a few times my kid dug into his diaper with his hands because children are animals, but I imagine that also happens with disposables.

    • Jennifer Freeman

      June 25, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Hah! Kids are definitely animals. My son is 7 months old and digs in the front of his diaper to get a hold of his penis. ALL. THE. TIME. I figured it would happen eventually, but not this soon! He’s been doing it since last month.

    • WantonWhimsy

      June 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      We also experienced way more blowouts with disposables than with cloth. My son attended 3 separate in home daycares before being potty trained and all of them were open to cloth diapering. We used the prefolds and different velcro or snap covers over the years, I would just leave a travel wet bag at the daycare in the morning and they’d dump the diaper in there for me to deal with in the evening.
      When he got older I paid out some extra money for a wool cover for the evenings and that really helped with nighttime wakings. While he didn’t potty train “early” when he did move to using the toilet we never had a night accident and I like to think it’s because he’d already started holding at night so he wouldn’t feel the dampness in the cloth diaper.

    • Linzon

      June 24, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      We have had the occasional blowout with cloth, but if he’d been wearing a disposable at the time it would have been about a bajillion times worse.

  2. Jennie Blair

    June 24, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I decided to cloth diaper before I even got pregnant, I am 20 weeks now and have about half of the total I want, but I am going to PCS shortly after its born so during that time I will have to go disposable. I’m excited to cloth cuz they are cute and if you buy the sprayer and pail you don’t even ha e to shake them out, just attach to the bottomless pail and spray the poos out.

  3. LK

    June 24, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Two words: diaper sprayer. I admit I won’t be sad when my days of spraying out diapers are permanently over, but I have got that whole thing done to a science.
    We did the math comparing to my brother’s expenses, and even buying pretty nice damn cloth diapers, we have saved actual thousands of dollars between our two kids. THOUSANDS.
    And on that note, smells like it’s time for me to spring into action.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Ha! Never got to try one. It was old-school for me. Still doesn’t gross me out as much as runny noses.

    • LK

      June 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

      It’s true runny noses are the worst. Relentless and the worst. One of those things, you never imagined would gross you out, but actually drives you slowly into madness.

    • Boozy Shark Lee

      June 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I haven’t looked into these sprayers but do you think a 3 year old could use one to spray his butt clean after pooping?

    • LK

      June 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Hmm, POSSIBLE. They are strong, depending on how much pressure you use with the nozzle. Think basically like a dish sprayer from your kitchen sink attached to your toilet. I will tell you, that post-childbearing the diaper sprayer beat the HELL outta the freaking squizy bottles they send you home with . Sweet relief!

    • Boozy Shark Lee

      June 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Good to know for post childbirth. I freaking loved that peri bottle. I used to nanny for a family and the 7 year old son had muscular dystrophy. The actually attached a kitchen hose to their toilet so he didn’t have to have help wiping. I keep thinking how brilliant that was. I was hoping if I get one of these for cloth diapering #2 I could kill 2 birds with one stone.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      I saved my peri bottles and used them with cloth wipes to create wet wipes for when I was on the road – dry cloths plus a peri bottle full of water = instant wet wipe!

    • Boozy Shark Lee

      June 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Do you think a dish sprayer would work the same for spraying diapers? I looked on amazon and they are a lot cheaper.

    • LK

      June 24, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      I’ve seen tutorials online where people used them to make their own. I’d just trying “DIY diaper sprayer” or something. Bet you’d get a bunch. In my experience the diaper sprayers can get a little bit stronger spray, but not by much, and that probably just depends on the sprayer.

  4. Kendra

    June 24, 2014 at 11:17 am

    I like that this article is approached from a “here’s some facts about cloth diapering” stand point, instead of “here’s why cloth diapering is so much better” stand point. I’ve only ever been introduced to the facts about it through the other standpoint. I still don’t believe it would be a good choice for me, but I certainly don’t have anything against parents who choose this route. As with most parenting choices, I don’t think there is any black and white as to which is the “best”. I’m glad that you acknowledged that here!

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Thanks! I’m big on their being no such thing as “best”, just “best for us.”

    • LK

      June 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

      I agree. I think the santimommies give cloth diapering a bad rap sometimes. We are not all commune livin’ hippies. It’s one choice in a universe of parenting choices and there are a million different ways to diaper that involve cloth, disposable or both. You do what works.

    • JenH1986

      June 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Sanctimommies ruin EVERYTHING! (I’m feeling dramatic today, sorry!)

    • Linzon

      June 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I agree! That kind of attitude kept me from cloth diapering my first kid (because I’m contrary) and I still get some flack for putting my second kid in disposables at night. Oh, and when we go on trips. Because I’m a planet-killing monster.

    • momma425

      June 24, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      I agree. I heard absolutely no judgy tone at all, and I appreciated the facts.
      I still think disposable sounds easier for my family and me- but is is interesting to hear a different perspective.

  5. Melissa

    June 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Don’t feel like you’re missing out because you couldn’t use the disposable liners – they don’t work as well as one would hope. They tend to shift around while the baby is wearing them, especially if you have a particularly active baby, and then you just end up scraping everything into the toilet anyways.

    For anyone thinking about trying cloth diapers, although the high-end “all in one” diapers are great, they are also the most expensive, and there are some great “cheaper” pocket diaper alternatives that hold up just as well. And if you go the cloth diaper route, definitely spring for the cloth wipes as well, it’s definitely worth it.

    • geckomommy

      June 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      I had to be really careful to hang my cheap pockets to dry, though. I had a couple start leaking on me because the PUL wore out.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Good to know! I did kind of regret it, because they looked like they would be handy. But both my kids definitely qualify as “active.”

      I loved using cloth for wipes as well! I just ended up buying about a million baby washcloths to use. Now they’re great lint-free cloths for cleaning just about anything.

  6. K.

    June 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I love that you wrote this article!

    We cloth diaper and run across a lot of misconceptions, so thank you for addressing them in a friendly, encouraging way.

    (also heartening to know that we’re not the only people who cloth diaper who are kind of obsessed with cloth diapering. And gosh dang it–aren’t cloth diapers the cutest?!)

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:22 am

      They really are! People at the playgroups I went to used to squeal excitedly every time I got a new cover 🙂

    • MomofTwo

      June 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Baby butts in cloth diapers are BEYOND adorable. LOL!

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      June 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      I’m shallow, so the cuteness was definitely a major factor in my decision to do cloth.

    • geckomommy

      June 24, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      I just love the cute covers and their little fluffy butt look. Too adorable.

    • K.

      June 24, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      OMG. IF I can find one, I will post a pic, because his booty looks so cute. We don’t even have the ones with cute designs, but the colors just make me happy.

    • K.

      June 24, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      I’m really late on this, but let’s see if this works…

  7. Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    June 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I find cloth diapering fascinating. I wish I’d looked into it with my kids.

    About a year and a half ago, my family went (mostly) paperless. We don’t use paper towels, or paper plates, or anything. I thought it would be a hard transition, especially since my husband was NOT on board (apparently, I was becoming a tree huger ;)), but it hasn’t been. And while I love the idea of saving the environment, the real truth is, it’s so much less expensive. I found my napkins on sale, I loaded up on dish rags on clearance, and we are good to go. Even the “grosser” stuff–cleaning toilets, cleaning up dog accidents, cleaning up kid accidents–hasn’t been difficult to handle. (We do still keep toilet paper–I can’t imagine going whole hog here).

    So I kind of feel like we could have done cloth diapers, and I just discounted them without really thinking about it. What you spent on all your supplies we could easily spend on diapers in a year…so my penny-pincher side is intrigued by it.

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      June 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

      And why am I unsurprised, Katherine, that you of all people could write a funny, engaging piece on this subject without coming across as sanctimonious? 😉

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Aw, thanks! 🙂 I’m glad you liked it. It’s so important to me that parents have an idea of what options are out there without any of the foolish “I’m better than you” stuff that usually goes along with it.

    • Emil

      June 24, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      I use cloth diapers but going paperless sounds pretty tough to me. Do you have a ton of rags that you constantly wash? I’m intrigued. My garbage is always full of paper towels so it would probably be a great idea but I would be afraid my laundry room would smell like wet rags. Then again it already smells because of the diapers so I don’t know what I’m worried about.

    • Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      June 24, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      It’s really not bad. I have a set of dish rags for the kitchen, general cleaning rags for the house and a set for the bathroom. I’ve got about 20 napkins, we’re a family of four most of the time, six during the summer and holidays. I’d say all told I’ve probably double our number of rags, and I do a load of kitchen rags and bathroom rags every week, but other than that, it’s not any extra effort. I was really surprised at how well we transitioned because we used so many of them. In fact, I wanted to try it just because we were spending so much on paper towels.

  8. Harriet Meadow

    June 24, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I chose the cheapest prefolds and covers I could, and ended up spending about $200 on the supplies. We didn’t even use clips – just the prefolds and the covers – and I loved it…for the first four months. Once my son started trying to roll and be mobile, the system I had chosen seemed to be hindering his movement, which I didn’t like (and I didn’t want to shell out more $ for a different type of diaper). But the first four months were absolutely fine. Like you said, newborn poop isn’t that bad, so I didn’t even have to rinse the diapers unless there was an unusual amount of it. I did feel less bad about switching to disposable when I did because there was a drought going on in CO, and the water resources used when cloth diapering are not negligible, to say the least. But now we have cloth diapers ready for #2, and we shouldn’t need disposables (or at least, not very many) for the first several months!

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Yeah, it does take them a little extra work. My poor little guy used to try SO HARD to sit up, only to get essentially pushed over by all the cloth packed around his joints! He finally learned on a weekend we were visiting my parents, while he was in disposables. After that, funny enough, he seemed to be fine sitting in either.

  9. allisonjayne

    June 24, 2014 at 11:33 am

    This is great! Your experience was similar to mine. We did a combo of prefolds and pockets/All-in-ones. I think we spent around $600ish in total, and I sold everything but the prefolds (kept them for rags) for I think over $200 when we were done!

    We did end up switching to a disposable at night when she was a year or so (we tried all kinds of solutions but she was just peeing so much by that age. One disposable a day seemed like a pretty reasonable expense, considering how much we’d saved) and we used disposables when we were travelling for more than a few days.

    Aside from the money (truthfully, while I do appreciate that cloth diapers are ‘greener’, I fully admit I did it for the money), the biggest plus for me was no blowouts. My kid had exactly ONE blowout in cloth. But it would happen every time we were using disposables, which really sucked when we were on vacation and didn’t have a lot of extra clothes with us.

    I wouldn’t have done cloth though if we hadn’t been gifted a wee washing machine by my family for our baby shower. Not having to go anywhere to do laundry made it so much easier. I definitely wouldn’t have attempted it if we’d had to use a laundromat or even the communal machine in our basement (at $1.25 a wash).

    • Guinevere

      June 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      Many laundromats don’t allow diaper laundry, which is sad but understandable.

    • Oreo

      June 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      You may not still be in the diaper phase, but a good solution for preventing blowouts when using disposables for whatever reason is to put a (cloth) diaper cover over the disposable. If the diaper does its job, the cover stays clean, but it’s still there if you need it (and super easy to hand wash in the sink).

  10. Drstephaniedvm

    June 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I cloth diapered my twins and when I’m home I still use them at nap and night time. Which ones I used evolved overtime. Once my girls were mobile the pockets didn’t work as well but fitted with covers are still my first choice when they’re sleeping. The swim diapers are awesome too, we spend all summer going to the beach and I’ve never had to buy a disposable swimmie.

  11. Boozy Shark Lee

    June 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Thank you! I was just talking about trying cloth diapering this time around last night. My husband is not really on board and I haven’t looked into it enough to give him a good explanation. I will have to have him read this tonight.

    • K.

      June 24, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      I find husbands are hardly ever on board.

      And in all honesty, when my husband started taking over childcare (I’m at work, he’s off for the summer), he gave it up. But here are a few things that made it better for him, if it helps:
      – diaper liners, especially when the kid starts eating solids you can just dumb the liner with the crap out into the toilet and wash the diaper
      – knowing that breastmilk is water-soluble
      – sunlight (we dry ’em in the sun) sanitizes (okay, that’s not *really* true, but white lie, whatever)
      – when we use disposables, it stinks to high heaven. Our wetbags don’t really smell–partially because we’ve sprayed the diaper off, partially because they’re routinely washed
      – for some reason, my guy was really into fancy diaper cream (you can’t use “regular” butt cream with cloth). I think it’s because he hates the texture and smell of Desitin.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      My husband’s attitude was, “You’re doing most of the changes, so it’s your call.” He never got 100% comfortable with the cloth, since he wasn’t doing it as often as me, but I think it was great that he was willing to support my interest in doing it.

      And oh, boy, do I notice the difference in smell when we use disposables!

  12. JenH1986

    June 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Thank you! I’m bookmarking this so I have some more info if we have kiddos! Your posts and @allisonjayne:disqus’s definitely have me interested in this as a viable option for us (with disposables)

  13. MomofTwo

    June 24, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I definitely considered it and and have a number of friends who cloth diapered successfully (and were an EXCELLENT source for questions and info), but I ultimately decided against it since I was returning to work full time when my kids were 12 weeks old (most daycares, including mine, will not work with cloth diapers) and I live in a house with an aging septic system and doing the add’l laundry gave me pause. My decision was confirmed when, magically, each time I had a kid, one of the local drug stores cleared out all their disposable diapers at 75% off because they were changing their packaging. I got disposable diapers for less than $0.05 each, even the larger sizes. That made the cost of disposable a lot more palatable. The grossness factor didn’t play into it for me at all. I don’t see how cloth diapers are that much more gross than disposable diapers. You’re dealing with the poop one way or another! I think cloth diapering CAN be a awesome alternative though.

    • JenH1986

      June 24, 2014 at 11:50 am

      lol right? Poop is poop. In a cloth or in a disposable.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

      That was exactly what I found! I even remember saying that to my manager – “Either way, you’re still handling another human’s poop-covered butt.”

    • Larkin

      June 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Yeah, currently the plan is that our baby will be going to daycare… so it’s possible my plan to cloth diaper will be thwarted because I know a lot of places won’t deal with cloth. There’s a possibility that my husband will wind up staying home instead, and then cloth would be more feasible. We shall see…

    • Rachel Sea

      June 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      No reason you can’t do both.

  14. Jennifer

    June 24, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Our cloth diapering days are largely behind us (which OMG if you’d told me this last week, I would’ve laughed in your face!), but it was an altogether great decision for us. My very flexible employer was willing to let me work from home, but cutting my already part-time hours in half was going to give our wallets a hit. Even after the unexpected cost of preemie covers and prefolds, we still have saved so much money–and I like keeping diapers out of landfills as well (though we needed to use disposables at night since fairly early on–my daughter’s rash-prone and a very long sleeper–and I’ve had no desire to carry around dirty prefolds while we’re out). Other than a brief dalliance with Best Bottoms (the synthetic snap-in liners messed up my laundry routine), we used prefolds and covers throughout. Bonus: I only had to buy a handful of large prefolds, since we were able to pilfer about a dozen from the NICU, where they used them as all-purpose liners/burpcloths/boob-proppers/rags. Also, cloth wipes are the BOMB. We will continue to use them at home until my daughter gets really proficient at wiping herself.

    And speaking of potty training: we also fell victim to the “cloth-diapered kids train sooner” myth as well. Even in prefolds, my daughter never really cared about being wet. She turned three last month, and while she has quite a bit of interest in bodily functions, had shown no motivation to train. She needs to be out of diapers for preschool in the fall, so we had to push things. For a week she had accidents and didn’t care–what’s the difference between training underwear and a cloth diaper, right?! We had to have her go commando before it finally sunk in.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      My daughter’s training right now, and I moved her into Pull-Ups a while ago because I couldn’t take the time to really focus on her training – running around with my son as well, etc. But, while she understand what the deal is, she finds it hard to relax on a toilet or potty, and it’s just so easy to go in either a Pull-Up or cloth for her. I’m pretty sure we’ll have to do the same thing you did. We don’t have a timeline – the preschool she’s going to in the fall will take kids in Pull-Ups and/or partially trained – but she’s ready, I think. Fortunately, my son will be in a couple of day camps this summer so she and I can just sit and get’er done.

    • Jennifer

      June 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I suppose the benefit of waiting until she was three (and she was really afraid of it until about a month ago, so we had no choice) is that she was actually able to express that she thought the training pants were just like her diapers: verbatim, during a discussion of where grownups and “big kids” poop, she said, “I poop in my diapers!”, while grabbing the crotch of her training pants. Sheesh. At least the first week–during which she made it to the toilet only a handful of times–helped establish the routine. Now if I can get her to stop waiting all morning to pee…

  15. guest

    June 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    I have actually heard of a lot more people around here doing cloth diapers. To each their own. I was annoyed that my Grandma laughed at my cousin’s wife when she told everyone at her baby shower that it was their plan. She did proceed to then tell us why a changing table was stupid and how it was much safer to do it on the floor which is where I was like “shhhsanticmommyshhh”. I personally, have not even the tiniest inkling to try the cloth diapers. I just hate poop, I hate dirty diapers, and I would love to throw it all away. But, with anything, as long as your baby’s butt is clean I don’t care how you choose to do it.

  16. Spongeworthy

    June 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I love the tone of this article. Informative without being sanctimonious. Well done!
    On a semi-unrelated note, what is it with people whose first impulse, when someone says they are going to attempt something, is to laugh and say they won’t be able to do it? Why would you say that? “Oh, you’re going to train for a marathon? You’ll never make it! You’ll probably just get shin splints!” Jerks.

    • geckomommy

      June 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Seriously! Haters gonna hate, naysayers gonna say nay. I’ve never understood it. It’s so strange when people have a really passionate negative reaction to something personal that has nothing to do with them. For example, your diet. Or parenting choices like diapers or cribs/cosleeping or breast/bottle. SMH

  17. Lindsey

    June 24, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Just last week, I changed my nephew’s diaper, and there was poop everywhere, in the diaper, on his legs, from top front of his groin to top back. That’s with a disposable. How is that not dealing with poop? When I tell people I plan to cloth diaper, they are like but the poop? Oh, because it disappears with disposables?

    Not to say that I don’t understand why people use disposables, just that this gross factor around cloth seems to come from people who are dealing with poop on a daily basis. And if there is a blowout, those clothes go in the wash, right?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      Sadly, I’ve known people who would throw away baby clothes that got poop on them. When there are moms who are desperate for clothes for their baby, that made me see red.

      But yeah, I found it funny that people who would wash clothes that got poop on them without blinking got all squeamish about diapers with poop on them.

    • wispy

      June 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Seriously throw the clothes away?? That is just ridiculous and the wastefulness makes me sick.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Yeah, I was horrified. This was in an area where there were so many struggling parents, too.

    • Momma425

      June 24, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Wait, people throw clothes away if poop gets on them?
      That is insane!

    • Rachel Sea

      June 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Cleaning poop out of a cloth diaper is 8 hojillion times less gross than cleaning poop off the kid. Cleaning poop out of a scrotum or vagina are the two things that make infant toilet training most attractive to me.

  18. Amanda

    June 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Excellently done. Captures my experiences with cloth as well. We aren’t all sanctimonious disposable-hating hippies!

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      June 24, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      A woman I see at the park all the time recently told me she thought I would be a crazy anti-vaxxer because my kid wears cloth diapers 🙁

      I am a vaccine enthusiast!!!!!!

  19. Liz

    June 24, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I’m planning on switching to cloth diapers when I run out of disposables. Right now, my baby is too tiny for her “one size” cloth diapers, otherwise I would’ve started cloth right away! A lot of family members think I’m crazy, but oh well.

  20. GGuest

    June 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I loved cloth diapering until one…um…incident. I told myself I will just take a week off and recoup, but I never got back to it. It’s been a few months. I just looked at my basket of cloth diapers this morning and sighed how I wished I had been successful at it. Still apprehensive about turning back to them. 🙁

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      The terrible, terrible curiosity! If you feel like venting, this is the place 🙂

      It’s hard to get back in when you’ve been out of the groove for a while. I ended up moving my daughter to disposables only once I was regularly going to a gym where the childcare room wouldn’t accept cloth, because it was hard to want to do loads of diaper laundry for only a couple of diapers a day. If you never get back to it, don’t worry! It’s not for everybody. The diapers still make great burp cloths/cleaning rags, even if you don’t use them for diapers any more.

  21. RW

    June 24, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I loved cloth diapering, but must confess I got lazy when my kid started daycare. I know he needs disposables for daycare, but I stopped using cloth in the evenings and on weekends just because I didn’t want a half-load sitting there for too long and let’s face it I’m super lazy with laundry since being back at work. I do confess that I feel guilty on the landfill-contribution level (SO MANY DIAPERS!!!), but so far my guilt doesn’t trump my energy levels.

    Once baby #2 appears though, it will be back to cloth diapers – which supposedly makes toilet training easier too for the elder? I do agree that I found using disposables at night far better, though my sister-in-law swore her kids slept better in cloth at night.

    As for the mess – flushable diaper liners are a godsend, and they make the entire process SO much cleaner.

    • Guinevere

      June 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      your daycare made you use disposables?

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Many daycares don’t allow cloth diapers, partly because of the difficulty in storing them to send home with you (as opposed to storing a diaper bin of disposables to toss) and partly because so many people are unfamiliar with using them. So lots of people use cloth at home and disposables at daycare, but it does get more unpleasant having to save loads for days.

    • Jem

      June 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      My daycare said they would take him with cloth diapers BUT they warned me they would just throw them in a bag, poop and all with no attempt to clean anything off and then give me the bag at the end of the day. So I decided that was gross and he uses disposables.

    • Guinevere

      June 24, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      My husband does all the diaper laundry, so I didn’t mind. That’s what our daycare did too, when we had her in full-time for a short time.

    • Guinevere

      June 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Interesting. We have had her in daycare with cloth. When we leave her at the YMCA for workouts or quick errands, they mostly just refuse to change her due to “‘unfamiliarity”….but I’m not buying disposables for their conveince. Their policy is that they will change them, and sometimes they do, depending on who’s working. Otherwise, no problems.

    • RW

      June 24, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Yeah, what Katherine said. They just opt not to muck with them at all, and honestly I’d just as soon not have to worry about remembering to bring grody soiled diapers home every day, even if they are in a bag.

      It would be one thing if it was somewhere occasional or part time, but when he’s there for 8+ hours a day and they’re doing the majority of the diaper changes I get why they don’t want to be responsible for that.

  22. Guinevere

    June 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    My husband and I have an “arrangement” that we made before baby was born, and have kept up for 10.5 months: I breastfeed; he does the diaper laundry. It comes out almost even, except for the sleep thing when I wish his nipples worked….

  23. wispy

    June 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Cloth diapering is definitely so intimidating at the beginning! I remember when I decided to do cloth I spent hours and hours reading online every night and had to take notes bc it was all just so confusing. I’m glad we did though. Overall it is just easier to me (we did disposables with our first) and doing diaper laundry has seriously become my zen bc I’m alone in peace folding diapers. That is so funny about discovering that falling down hurts. When my daughter is mad she will seriously slam her butt down as hard as she can and there are so many times when I’m like Thank GOD she has on a huge ass cloth diaper or she’d probably break her dang tail bone. I cringe thinking about when she’s not wearing a diaper anymore!

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      She’d probably stop if she didn’t have all that padding! But be prepared for some MAJOR indignation the first time she tries that in a disposable or in underwear 😉

  24. Jem

    June 24, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I bought all in one diapers that were supposed to fit “from birth to potty training” but I didn’t factor in that my son is a giant. So before he even turned 2 he outgrew them…We didn’t start cloth diapering until after he turned 1 due to financial reasons so we cloth diapered a total of like 4 months. But I will try again with number 2 and hopefully have a washing machine then! I like that you lay it out that it’s not all or nothing. I really like that approach better.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

      I’m so skeptical of the “birth to potty training” claims. They definitely fit a long time, but I’ve never encountered someone who really used the same set that whole time.

      Just think about it this way: you had four months of no diapers, and now you’re already set with all your supplies when you have baby 2! Although I’d recommend using disposables for at least the first week, until all the meconium is out of the kid – I hear it stains like crazy and is harder to wash off. I don’t know from personal experience, because I didn’t use cloth until after week three; we were given several large packs of newborn diapers and there wasn’t any point in saving them!

    • LK

      June 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      We used all in ones all the way through for both kids. The were RIDICULOUSLY huge on my kids for the first month or so, but whatever. In an unfortunate accident incident I even put one of my youngest’s diapers on my four year old just to get her home. But yeah it all depends on the style and the kid.

    • Jem

      June 24, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      I’ll keep that in mind. I was impressed at how much the diapers we have did not stain

    • Linzon

      June 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      My 3-year old is day trained but I still put a diaper on him for sleep, and he and my 1-year old wear the same diapers with the same snaps setup. The little guy is average and the big guy is tiny!

  25. Cruelty Cupcake

    June 24, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I bought prefolds and covers initially, but I gave up on those within a few weeks. I replaced them all with BG Freetimes because I’m a lazy brat. My family was skeptical about cloth diapering until they saw the fancy new diapers–it really isn’t all that different from using disposables, imo! Just a few extra steps, but I have time for it and the money I save makes it worthwhile.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Those are definitely easier to use – I didn’t use that particular brand, but a similar style. Mostly I stuck with prefolds and covers because I am a cheap, cheap woman 🙂

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      June 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      I’m also a cheapskate, I guess I am just more lazy than I am cheap. I do operate with fewer diapers than most people I know…I have 18, lots of cloth diapering moms I know have like, an arsenal of them.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Yeah, I had 30 of the small size, 24 of the large, so I only had to do laundry every two to three days at most. With those numbers, I wasn’t going to be getting all-in-ones!

  26. Rachel Sea

    June 24, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I really like cloth diapers, they just seem comfier. A few years ago my wife and I tried cloth menstrual pads instead of disposables, and they felt so comfortable, I’ve never looked back. I imagine it’s similar with diapers.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      I’ve been curious about cloth pads, but I’m nervous to try them because (TMI alert!) my flow is very heavy and I’m concerned about leaks. Do you find that an issue?

    • NorthernGirl

      June 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      They are fabulous. I find them to be quite absorbent. The Lunapads I use are good in that I can add more padding if needed, but I haven’t had to. I have had zero leaks when using them for the past 5 years. It takes getting used to a bit of extra bulk, but seriously, that goes away.

      Once in an emergency I had to buy a pack of the pads I previously used a few years before and I wasn’t happy in them at all. So much less comfy.

    • Rachel Sea

      June 24, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      My wife and I both started unexpectedly when out of town for a funeral, and our old brands of pads and tampons felt so awful, we drove halfway across the county to find a store that sold cups and cloth pads. The several-years-ago-me that thought that this was some hippie bullshit can suck it.

    • wispy

      June 24, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      haha I remember reading an article where Alicia Silverstone was talking about cloth pads and I was like omg gross what is wrong with her!?!? I was clearly an idiot!

    • Rachel Sea

      June 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Mostly I use a silicone cup, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it, or need a pad at night for backup. As long as I position it correctly (just like with disposable pads), I have no problem with leaks. You can find them in a wide range of sizes, and you can make them as thick as you want by stacking liners. It’s an expensive investment, but my wife and I have been using the same dozen Gladrags since…2008, I guess (more than a few years come to think of it) and they are nowhere near needing to be replaced.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      I have problems with leaks even with the extra-long pads, so that’s why I’ve been so hesitant. On the other hand, the Always Infinity pads really do basically feel like there’s nothing there. Once again, it’s a combination of the environmental issue and cheapness that makes me consider something washable and reusable. Maybe I’ll get myself one or two at some point and test it out. Thanks!

    • dragonzflame

      June 24, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      I made my own with scraps from the same fabric you use to make cloth nappies/diapers. Think of the shape of a pad with wings. At the bottom is a layer of PUL so nothing can soak through. Then there’s a layer of thin flannel (but you could use cotton) with a rectangle of microfibre (2-3 layers depending on how heavy-duty I want the pad to be) in the shape of the pad without the wings sewn to that, just around the edges. (You don’t want to stitch through the PUL.) Then it’s all encased in pretty flannel, top and bottom and topstitched round the outside. I sewed snaps to the wings so they fasten.

      Because I use a Mooncup, I only use them for a couple of days, as well as at night, but I have used them on their own and the thick ones have never been a problem. Flannel is very absorbent and the PUL takes care of soakage. I guess the downside is that it doesn’t soak everything up quite as fast as a normal pad, but you might be able to use different cotton-based fabrics to deal with that.

      I just soak them in a bucket and throw them in the washing machine when I wash underwear.

    • Shea

      June 25, 2014 at 10:14 am

      I use cloth pads, and I’ve never had a leak (in contrast to when I was using tampons. So many ruined pairs of underpants…). I made mine using flannel fabric and scraps of cotton batting (the stuff you use in quilts), and I made some with more padding than others. I just change them out every few hours, same as you would with a tampon or disposable pad, no problem. I find them much more absorbent and and more comfortable than disposable ones. And if you’re used to cleaning cloth diapers, cleaning used pads will be no bother whatsoever :-).

    • wispy

      June 24, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      Same here. Decided to look into cloth pads after using cloth diapers for a while and they are awesome. I wish I had started them sooner.

    • keetakat

      June 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      I have been terrified to do this because the last time I tried an alternative menstrual manager, it was that stupid cup thingy that worked NOT AT ALL and it was a complete disaster…I’m talking job-interview w/ NYC ad agency-with no cash on hand (it was the 90s)-and-no way to get back to my GF’s house in Hoboken – disaster. I would love an alternative to the endless boxes of these horrible things that stink up my waste can in the waste can.

    • Rachel Sea

      June 24, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      The silicone cups now are much better than the stupid diaphragm-like things in the ’90s. It took me about two months to get the hang of it (I pinched myself with a fingernail so bad once, I almost gave up), but then I liked it a lot. Less mess, less odor, no waste, and I haven’t spent any money on menstrual products in about 6 years.

    • keetakat

      June 24, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Well, I’m going to do my (OCD) research and give it a shot. Thanks for the reminder that this alternative is out there! 😀

    • Rachel Sea

      June 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      If you do give it a try, my one piece of wisdom is to give it some sun. It takes away any lingering odor after a cycle, and bleaches it out. I store mine on a windowsill that the cats can’t get to, since my first one got chewed to bits.

    • keetakat

      June 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      LOL! Ew. LOL!

  27. jendra_berri

    June 24, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I use cloth and have a very similar experience as the author. I use BumGenius 4.0 pockets. My daycare allows them. So unless we’re doing short term travel, we use them full time.
    1. No blow-outs.
    2. Rare diaper rash (Only when he’s gone on some kind of pooping binge)
    3. Laundry every third day (And yes to needing access to your own laundry. I wouldn’t dare do this without that)
    4. I actually use fleece liners that I carry to the toilet. When baby poops on fleece, the poop slides right off into the toilet. You can buy disposable liners that can be flushed, which is what we send to daycare.
    5. I super stuff my nighttime diapers and no problems there.
    6. I also use reusable wipes that just get washed with the diapers. They work great. I still have to buy sprays, but it works out cheaper than disposable wipes, although I buy those for daycare as well.
    It can work out great, if your life allows for it.

  28. geckomommy

    June 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    We cloth diaper my daughter. In the beginning, since she was exclusively breastfed, it was easy – just throw them in the wash. Then she started solids around 6 months, and I had to start supplementing with formula. And OH MY, the poop… I don’t mind dealing with it in cloth, but my husband has said multiple times in the past couple of months that he wants to stop using cloth because “it’s sooo gross” even though I’M the one who always takes care of the poopy diapers. I told him I’d like to make it to a year. We’re at 10 months, so we might make it…

    We don’t exclusively cloth diaper, either. I’ve never understood the preachy all-or-nothing approach to anything in parenting; my philosophy is to take some from all the different choices and see what works for you. We use disposables at night, when traveling and occasionally for other reasons.

    I do, however, try to get disposable diapers that have fewer chemicals and dyes, as those will irritate her bottom if I use them too much. We haven’t had a full-blown diaper rash yet, thankfully. Whenever we see any irritation, we use a cloth diaper safe cream and it usually nixes it quickly.

  29. Jen

    June 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    We use cloth diapers as well! I’ve got 18 all-in-ones: 6 Bumgenius Freetimes and 12 Bumgenius Elementals. I think I spent around $500 getting all the supplies. The worst that happens is he occasionally pees through them, but I don’t remember the last time we had a blowout. He’s also never had diaper rash! We do use disposables if we’re going to be away from home overnight.

  30. Alexandra

    June 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    We use cloth but disposable overnight because my twins (especially the boy) are peeing machines and they would feel wet and wake up. But 1-2 disposables a night is much cheaper and better for their bottoms (imo!) Although, we always consider it a “score” when they poop in a disposable, but the spray pal and hose attachment for the toilet ensure all poop goes in the toilet where it belongs, versus in our garbage can where it can stink!

  31. Kris

    June 24, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    I love our cloth diaper. But I won’t lie – I didn’t start until my son was 5 months old. There was no way I was going to deal with a new baby and extra laundry. Plus he was very small and I didn’t want to buy the newborn diapers. Lazy mom. Whateve

    But now, he’s 14 months old and still cloth diapered. I don’t like flushing his poop down the drain it’s gross. But. We are saving money. Lots. We have spent about $400 total on our diapers and we love seeing how cute he looks in them.

    We cheat. When we go out of town or to someone’s home we don’t know well we bring disposables. I’m going on vacation soon and will be cheating then too. Cloth diapers are cute but I don’t want to do laundry at someone else’s home!!

  32. OptimusPrime*

    June 24, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Have any of you guys used the cloth diapers for preemie through actual newborn sizes? Kushies is one brand, but I think there are a few others? Just wondering if they are worth the investment since most AIOs don’t start until 7lbs.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 24, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      It was recommended to me not to use diapers in the first week or two, because the meconium is hard to clean off and has a tendency to stain, so I started with the 7 to 15 pound size. Honestly, unless your baby is really petite, I think you’d probably find they outgrow the preemie-newborn size cloth diapers really fast. For that size, you probably would spend less on a pack or two of newborn size disposables.

      Alternately, there are some great tutorials on making small-sized cloth prefolds yourself, which is very cheap, and you could easily use a 7+ pound cover over a smaller prefold – just Velcro it up super tight.

    • OptimusPrime*

      June 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm


    • Sally C

      June 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Try flour sack towels! They are super cheap (around $1 apiece) and very thin so you can fold them down to fit tiny babies. Look on YouTube for how to fold a flat diaper. They don’t work well alone on older babies who wet more, but in the newborn stage when you change them all the time anyway, they’re perfect. And if you use pocket diapers later they make great inserts.

  33. NotTakenNotAvailable

    June 24, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    I wasn’t going to read this article since it has no practical relevance to my life (seriously, I’ve never even babysat before, and I don’t think I should start anytime soon–or ever), but then I saw the byline. Well done, Katherine! There have been several articles that presented the author’s choices in such a way that I’ve shaken my head and said, “Is she deliberately TRYING to stir shit?” but this was definitely a reasonable, straightforward, nonjudgmental presentation–not that I’d expect anything different after reading your comments.

    • Katherine Handcock

      June 25, 2014 at 8:42 am

      Aw, thank you so much! It really means a lot that multiple people have commented on the tone of the article, especially since I respect the opinions of people here so much.

  34. Jessifer

    June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am

    My husband is from a third world country and his family is very poor. I was fascinated to see how his cousin actually RE-USES disposable diapers to make them last longer. It sounds gross but it’s actually quite clever. Once the baby uses the disposable diaper, a slit is made in the lining of the diaper order to remove the gel pack that absorbed the urine. The diaper is then cleaned in hot water and soap, dried on a clothes line. Afterwards, some folded cloths, or even super absorbent maxi pads (if found at a good price) are inserted into the slit that was made. And ta-da, disposable diaper can be reused about 6-7 times, until the elastic is worn down. It’s a lot of work, of course, but for them it’s way better than using the “old-school” cloth diapers with the safety pins and everything (that’s all they have there), and more economical than tossing out the disposable diaper each time. I thought it was quite brilliant and resourceful.

  35. Lcferna

    June 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Because of a colossal effup, t my work I haven’t been paid maternity leave for 3x paycycles. If we were using disposables, we would be making decisions about getting diapers or getting food. Having cloth has made such a huge difference. I didn’t even realise that benefit until my hubby pointed out that if we had been using disposables and ran out of cash we would be up shit creek so to speak.

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