Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom: Cloth Diapering

first cloth diaper ever!
& morning wash

I ask myself a lot these days (as I wash and rewash and then wash again): why am I cloth diapering my baby?  I don’t have a good answer.  I’ve heard a lot of good reasons touted by cloth diapering advocates, including these:

  • Baby’s comfort.  Cozy cloth is more comfy than wearing paper and plastic.
  • The environment.  Less garbage in the landfills.
  • Saving money over the long-term.  (More on this later.)
  • Supposedly potty training is easier and happens earlier because toddlers can actually feel when they are wet.  I’m holding out for this one to be true.
  • No polyacrylate gel, and I say this one tongue-in-cheek, because no one really knows that much about it yet.  But it is suspected of exacerbating asthma.
  •  Cloth diapers are cute, and–I’ll just say it right now–they are really really hip!

About that last reason.  Crunchy mamas are just kind of expected to use cloth diapers these days.  If you went through a Bradley class, if you birthed your baby tough ‘n’ natural, if you breastfeed with any kind of enthusiasm… well, where are the cloth diapers?  This is a sad and silly truth about mama-to-mama peer pressure, folks.  And I am raising my hand and admitting that I’m a pushover.

But hey, at least being a pushover in this case does probably mean better things for this earth and better things for my baby!  We’ll probably chuckle at ourselves in 20 years, about the same time we wonder why we endured so much pain for natural childbirth.  But at least right now we honestly can’t see any negatives to natural childbirth, breastfeeding, organic food, and cloth diapers.  Other than more work for Mom, these seem to be fairly positive things for our children and our world.  So, not knowing much more than this, I decided to embark into cloth diapering, foolishness or not.

& best $3 I ever spent at a yard sale: her LeapFrog table 

We started using cloth diapers when Lena was nine months old.  This was for two reasons:

  1. We were on the move from the day Lena was born.  Her homes included a Capitol Hill studio, my parents’ home in Virginia, a hotel room and various CouchSurfing residences in Israel, Elliott’s parents’ home in Virginia, a cabin in Colorado, a 19th century seaside house in St. Michaels, a hotel suite in Sicily, a carriage house apartment in San Antonio, a ranch in Santa Barbara county, and finally her own villa-home in Italy.  The laundry involved in cloth diapering was not feasible!
  2. We are on a tight budget, and investing in enough cloth diapers for Lena took more $$$ than we were willing to shell out at one time.  So we cruised along with gifted diapers as well as inexpensive deals at the commissary.  Finally I asked for cloth diapers for my birthday and for Christmas, and I bought three diapers on a Black Friday sale, and we ended up with a generous 19 BumGenius 4.0 one-size-fits-all cloth diapers by the New Year.  We were ready to begin!

Lena’s been in cloth diapers now for about two months.  There is a steep learning curve with these things, and I will not claim that it has been a cake walk.  At all.  Here are a few things I did not know when we started:

  • Poop.  You have to scrape it out of the diapers somehow.  I recommend GroVia liners.  (And maybe using your bidet, if you happen to have one.)
  • Smell.  They can give your baby’s nursery a permanent odor!  Invest in a trash can with a tight lid.  We use a Diaper Champ.
  • Wash.  You’ll be doing a lot of laundry, folks.  I do a load of diapers every other day, which involves one rise cycle and then one wash cycle [usually].  I can’t put BumGenius covers in the dryer, so I almost always dry everything outside.  Sunshine is an amazing natural bleach for any leftover stains; I had no idea!
  •  Stuffing.  No one told me that I would spend 15 minutes every other day “recreating” my cloth diapers.  At least with the BumGenius pocket-stuff type, there are two pieces that have to be snapped and fitted back together after every wash.  When the load is dry, I spend a good quarter of an hour kneeling on the floor snapping, stuffing, and stacking diapers.  
  • Mama’s job.  Daddy doesn’t do any washing, any drying, any stuffing, because he is at work when all that happens.  He changes maybe one diaper a day, maybe a couple more on weekends.  This commitment is almost entirely on my shoulders.
    stuffing diapers on my knees on the balcony
    & helping Mama with the clean laundry

    But in the end, is it worth it?  All the extra work, all the wash, all the intimate interactions with poop?  I have thought about it and decided yes, I will stick with it.  And here’s why:

    • Working with my hands.  I love to knit, to knead a loaf of bread, to fold laundry, to make a bed.  I enjoy working with my hands.  And so, poopy and stinky though this job may be, I get a deep and real sense of satisfaction as I pull clean diapers out of the wash and put up a fresh, dry stack of diapers in Lena’s changing table.  Silly as it sounds, this is the #1 reason I enjoy cloth diapering.
    • Cost.  These cloth diapers were free, almost entirely thanks to generous family members!  Disposables from the commissary are not.  We’ll stick with ’em.
    • Environment.  They say it’s better for the environment long-term.  I think I trust them… even though we do a crazy amount of laundry and use a lot of energy.  But they say it’s better.  So okay.
    • Potty training.  Like I said before, mamas and experts promise it’s easier with cloth diapers than with quick-wicking disposables.  I’m hanging on for that.
    • She couldn’t care less.  Lena doesn’t seem to mind if she’s in cloth or disposable.  (Or if she’s wet or dry, for that matter, so perhaps that makes easier potty training promises null and void?  Oh dear.)  Her skin doesn’t mind either; we haven’t had major issues with diaper rash with either option.
    • Peer pressure.  I’m a part of the cloth diapering club!  (The other name for this point is pride.  So this is not a good reason.  But I’m all about honesty here, and there it is.)
    •  Cuteness.  She looks so stinkin’ cute in these patterns and colors!  Don’t you think so too?
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    4 Responses to Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom: Cloth Diapering

    1. RDT March 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

      Yes! Cloth diapering is rewarding but I never imagined I would have to get so up close and personal with poop all day long. And it’s definitely mama’s job. Daddy figured out the best way to put the diapers on (we use prefolds with covers), but I am the one who usually executes it. So many other thoughts, but I’ll leave it at that :-)

    2. Becca March 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

      I’d love to hear your thoughts sometime, Rachel! We’re hoping to make a trip up to Boston sometime this year while we’re back in the States. We’ll definitely keep you in the loop. :-)

    3. Nikki October 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      I do all the diaper duty in our house, too. We’ve been using cloth for 17 months now (started when our baby was 4 months) and I absolutely love it! My girl got really bad rashes with disposables, and rarely gets a rash in her cloth, so that was my number 1 deciding factor to make the switch. I don’t mind the extra work at all, though I only have to wash diapers 2-3 times a week (I have a TON!). I think if I had all pockets I’d get tired of it quickly. I hate stuffing the pockets, but we only use those at night. During the day, we use prefolds and covers (or Best Bottoms), so there’s no prep before the diapers are ready to wear. Love it! ( :


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