My Experience with Cloth Diapering
When I was pregnant with Small Fry, at first I never even thought of doing anything besides disposable diapers; that’s what I’d done with the other two kids, and it was easy. But then a few things happened nearly simultaneously.
First, hubby had to take some things to the “dump.” We were living near the actual landfill at the time, not near a “transfer center” like we do now, so the landfill is where he went. He was appalled. It is a huge mountain that you drive your car up and then, once you’re atop the heap, you literally just toss your stuff onto what’s already there. Eventually, they come through with the proper equipment and do what they need to do to make it “safe,” although I’ve come to learn that there’s really no such thing as a safe landfill. A few days later, he took the rest of us to see what we have since dubbed “Junk Mountain.” In the beginning, hubby had given it a less savory name, but we quickly changed it to a more kid-friendly version ;).
The other thing that happened was that there was an ad in my email box (not the actual box, but off to the side – if you have gmail, you know what I mean) for a company called gDiapers. The ad boasted “flushable diapers.” After our trip to the landfill, I was all over this. If I could prevent my baby from sending over 2,000 diapers to the landfill over the course of his diaper-wearing days, I was all over that! I clicked through the ad and read everything I could on their site. I was in love with the concept. Cloth on the outside, flushable on the inside, and nothing to send to the landfill. Brilliant! The only drawback was the price; gDiapers are quite expensive.
We bought a starter set anyway. That came with 2 cloth outers, 2 waterproof liners, and 40 flushable inserts. They were definitely more work than disposable diapers (we didn’t get the g’s until Small Fry was about 6 weeks old), but I didn’t care. It was worth it to me to do just a small part to “save the Earth.”
Something else happened a few weeks into our gDiapering experience (I’m not going to go into the details) that made me want to explore full-on cloth diapering. I spent hours trying to figure out all the different terms (pocket diapers, all-in-ones, the list goes on…), materials, etc involved in cloth diapering, and, like with my initial sticker shock at gDiapers, was dismayed at the cost. Some of the diapers are upwards of $20 apiece! And you need at least 15, but preferably in the neighborhood of 30 or more to cloth diaper full time. One of the best deals I found at the time was a six-pack of reusable diapers for $100. You can do the math, I’m sure. That would mean $300-$500 dollars for diapers! That’s way too much, even if you are using them over and over again.
So I went back to the drawing board.
I was browsing Amazon, drooling over the cloth diapers and gDiapers (don’t mock me), when it suggested that I might like this book: How to Make All-in-One, One-Size-Fits-Most Cloth Diapers. I got the Kindle sample, and was instantly intrigued. So I talked to hubby to make sure there was enough money on our pre-paid card (we never use our real bank card for online purchases…) and bought the Kindle version. For $4.99 I didn’t think I could really go wrong.
I was right!
That was the very best money I spent in my desire to cloth diaper. I spent about a week with the book, going over her suggestions for the materials, and pricing everything through online retailers and JoAnn. I planned my trip carefully to maximize the JoAnn coupons (I didn’t want to wait for online shipping!), and was able to get enough PUL (the outer, waterproof fabric), Alova Suede (the interior, wicking fabric), Velcro, elastic, and thread to make 15 diapers for $32. For another $10 at WalMart, I got a package of 15 microfiber cloths to use as the absorbent layer inside the diapers.
So, for less than $50 and about 20 hours of my time, I was able to make 15 cloth diapers. In case you don’t have your calculator handy, that comes out to just about $3 a diaper. Compared to $20. I call that a win. And the best part is that we don’t have the same “oh, no, we’re out of diapers and it’s the middle of the night” panic attacks that other people go through. Double win.
So. That covers my journey to getting the diapers. What about how they’ve worked since we implemented them?
I could not be happier with them. They are just as easy to use as disposables (I made all-in-one diapers, which means no pockets to stuff or pieces to separate before laundering), and I know we’ve saved so much money going this route. Even if you count all my experiments (with gDiapering, mostly), we’re way ahead in the money-saving department. And there are about a thousand fewer diapers in the landfill than there would be otherwise.
That said, there are a couple of things I wish I could change. First, I wish I’d just embraced that fact that I had a third baby boy; as it is, I chose yellow for the diaper covers because it was a “gender neutral” color, and in case we have a baby girl someday, I wanted to be able to use the same diapers. A year in, I suspect that these diapers won’t hold up for another baby. Don’t get me wrong – these are wonderful diapers, and I recommend them to anyone, but since I made only 15 instead of 30 or 45, they’re taking a bit of a beating. Several of them need to have the Velcro replaced soon (still peanuts compared to Pampers), and one of them needs new elastic, which will involve taking the whole diaper apart and reassembling it. I haven’t tackled that project yet. Plus, after reading a post on The Minimalist Mom, I was convicted by the notion that “saving” clothes from one child to another, outside of those that you really love, isn’t necessarily as frugal as you think. Her main arguments against it were a) you have to have the space to store them, and if you’re living a minimalist lifestyle in a small house, that may not be something you have, and b) clothes still wear out, even if you’re not actively using them. Cotton fibers wear with age, not necessarily use. Elastic gets old and brittle in storage. So it’s better to pass your cloth diapers along to someone who needs them when your baby is done with them than to put them in storage for the elusive “next baby.” If I’d read that post before I made the diapers, I would’ve chosen a cute, very boyish fabric for the outside (monsters or robots, probably) rather than plain yellow.
The second thing is that sometimes I wish I had two or three pocket diapers for nighttime. Going the pocket route allows you to add more of the absorbent layers when baby needs them most – at night. So we do sometimes buy the throwaways for overnight. Right now, we’re using our trusty yellow diapers, but depending on how much liquid the baby’s had before bed, they don’t always last all night. So that is a definite con. Even when we do use disposables at night, hubby reminds me that we’re still doing a good thing, both for our pocketbook and our planet. A package of Pampers lasts an entire month when you only use one a day, rather than half a week if you use them exclusively. And sending one diaper a day to the landfill, while not perfect, is loads better than sending eight diapers a day there. That has to count for something, right?
So there you go. My personal experience with cloth diapering.
I didn’t write this to try to guilt anyone into using cloth, by the way. I just wanted to share my experience and how it’s worked so well for our family. If I inspire you to try, great! If not, that’s okay too.