When I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I spent a lot of time and energy researching was diapering, and specifically the pros and cons of cloth versus disposables. From the get-go I was leaning toward cloth. All of the evidence suggests cloth diapers are better. They are better for the baby, better for the environment. They cost substantially less money than disposables. The only problem is that they are also a giant pain in the ass when your level of ass-pain is already at an all time high.
The ass-pain comes from the extra laundry. Using cloth is a commitment to doing an extra load of laundry every other day - at most, every third day (no matter how many diapers you have, you really can't let the dirty ones sit too long). It IS extra trouble. And I won't bother making the "it's also extra trouble to run out to the store for more diapers" argument, because I think that's horse manure. It is way easier to use disposable diapers. Period. But you pay for that convenience.
Then there is the issue of the washing of the poop. It's way easy if you exclusively breast feed. The poop is basically cheese curds and it washes away without a second thought. If there is some formula in there, I hear it's more complicated. You have to get the poop out before the diaper goes in the wash. The same goes for once solids are introduced. If I am completely honest, I will tell you that Marlo has worn a cloth diaper about four times in the past month, since she started solids. The last time she wore a cloth diaper, she pooped in it. We were sorely unprepared. Husband had to wash it out in the toilet, old-timey washboard style. I think he is still scarred, and this was probably three weeks ago.
For me, all ass-pain and poop aside, it comes down to the fact that using cloth sits better with my conscience than disposables. Americans throw away 570 diapers every minute, according to the interweb. That is so much garbage! In our household we try to keep our garbage production to a minimum, so it just kills me to throw out a whole tall kitchen bag of dirty diapers every week. Sure, you can use biodegradable diapers (and we do), but it comes at a cost of almost twice that of traditional disposables. And there is no guarantee that once in a landfill they will actually biodegrade.
So here are my recommendations, based on our experiences with cloth over Marlo's first six months:
- Don't bother starting cloth right away. Brand new babies poop and pee constantly and their tiny little bodies don't fit in diapers very well. I would wait to start using cloth until your baby reaches the eight pound mark, and then I would use a sized all in one diaper, like a Thirsties or maybe the Bum Genius XS.
- Buy sized all-in-ones as much as your budget allows. Overall, all in one (AIO) diapers are far and away the easiest to deal with. Sure you can save a bunch of money if you use prefolds and covers or whatever, but your ass pain quotient will also be higher. If your choice to use cloth is more about the environmental impact, and the cost savings is just a nice bonus, go for the all-in-ones. You will have horrible sticker shock at first, but then you will do the math on disposables and feel way better.
- Don't feel like you have to have your baby in cloth all the time. The ladies on the Baby Center cloth diaper board might shun you for using disposables, but I will still be your friend. I promise. Marlo has always worn a disposable at night and when we go out of the house. But two or three disposables a day beats six to twelve.
- Liners! Get flushable diaper liners. That will reduce the ick factor of washing poopy diapers. I have tried the Kushies liners and I don't really like them, because they are scratchy. I have the Imse Vimse on order. A friend of mine uses them and says if they are only peed on you can wash and reuse them.
I still plan on putting her back in cloth once I get my liners (and my act together). I still plan on using cloth on any subsequent babies born into our family. Diapers are basically disgusting no matter which way you go. At least when I use cloth, I get to feel vaguely self-satisfied.