This is part four in a series in which I discuss why my family uses cloth rather than disposable diapers. Part one was on the environmental impact of both diapering systems. Part two presented research on the health concerns of each system. Part three included information on the cost of each system. Today’s article is about the convenience of cloth vs. disposable diapers.
Regardless of whether cloth diapers may be healthier for children, better for the environment, and significantly more affordable than disposables, some parents may be wondering more about the relative convenience of each diapering system.
Disposable diaper advocates usually cite convenience as a major reason to use single use diapers. Once the diaper is soiled, you simply drop it in the diaper pail or trash can. That assessment is not entirely true, though, since parents should flush all solid waste whether they use cloth or disposable. (1) Realistically, few parents take time to shake the solids into the toilet from disposables.
So why do cloth diapers have the stigma of being less convenient? The primary reasons are laundry, travel away from home, and ease of use.
Personally, I had the most difficult time with laundry immediately after our son was born. Learning how to be a mother isn’t always easy, and finding time to run downstairs to start the pre-wash or hot wash cycle was rarely convenient with round the clock breastfeeding or marathon bouncing/burping/walking sessions. But as soon as we got into the swing of parenthood, the extra two to three loads of diaper laundry each week has been barely noticeable. And in the warmer months, I actually enjoy going outside to hang the laundry to dry on the line.
For parents who do not have the time or energy to wash extra laundry, diaper services provide incredible convenience. Every week a little gnome comes to pick up your bag of dirty diapers and leave you a bag of fresh ones. Truly magical and no less inconvenient than sorting recycling. (2)
The “burden” of laundry or sending your diapers off to a diaper service is balanced somewhat by never having to remember to run to the store for diapers, not to mention having to haul them to the car and then into the house. Cloth diapering parents also save on garbage bags and trips to the trash can outside.
As far as travel, day trips are no problem with cloth. Today’s cloth diapering parents are equipped with waterproof “wet bags” to store wet diapers in, and many cloth diapers are no more bulky than a large disposable. We use a regular backpack instead of a diaper bag. It comfortably holds at least five diapers, wipes, our personal items, snacks/water, and a few toys. I am no worse off carrying cloth than I would be with disposables.
For longer trips I may switch to disposables if we will not have easy access to laundry facilities, but we still use cloth during weekends at my parents’ house – it’s no big deal for me to do a load there if I need to.
Ease of Use
Most people may be accustomed to disposable diapers, but the plastic and tape are no easier to use than the snaps, Velcro, or Snappis that adorn today’s cloth. Diapering with cloth is easy.
The most popular cloth diapers are fastened with either snaps or Velcro tabs. Parents can choose to buy diapers in different sizes as their baby grows, or they can purchase “one size” diapers that grow with the child. A one size diaper has more snaps that enable it to fit a six month old as well as it does a sixteen month old. And forget pins – if you use prefolds and covers, don’t worry about sticking your baby. One of the greatest inventions for cloth diapers is a small plastic piece called a Snappi. It has teeth that grip the diaper and keep it from falling off.
My husband and I chose cloth based on all of the factors I’ve looked at in this series. I knew that we would take care to launder the diapers in the most environmentally friendly way available to us, we were willing to invest a little extra time in return for the reduced health risks and lower cost of cloth, and we have also been happy with the convenience of using cloth diapers (nor are we so hard core that we refuse to be flexible when the situation warrants using disposables).
Another bonus for me? Cloth diapered baby bottoms are adorable. No matter what type of cloth diaper you buy, there can be little argument that cloth is cuter than the character-laden plastic. You can spice up any kind of cloth with dye or appliqués, or you can find adorable prints and patterns new or used.
Ultimately, the choice between diapering systems is a very individual decision for each family. Hopefully, one of the primary considerations is the health and well-being of the child, which is what I had in mind when writing this series. I would be happy to answer any cloth diapering questions you have, or at least refer you to someone who can.
One More Potential Benefit of Using Cloth
Cloth diaper advocates assert that children who wear cloth are diaper free earlier on average than their peers in disposables. (3) This might be because children in cloth can feel when they are wet, whereas disposables tend to hide the wet feeling. If this is true, it would be a great convenience to cloth-diapering parents to have their child out of diapers up to a year earlier than if the child wore disposables.
Guest Blogger Bio: Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama to an amazing son. She and her hubby practice natural parenting (also known as attachment or responsive parenting) and try to live consciously. In other words, they believe in natural birth, exclusive/extended breastfeeding, delayed/selective vaccinations, cloth diapering, no circumcision, a family bed, healthy eating, and “going green” as much as possible.
On Code Name: Mama, Dionna shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler. Please take a moment to subscribe to her RSS feed for free updates.