Diapers: Cloth vs. Disposable

1 Mar

diaperingBefore I got pregnant, I had heard all of the success stories and “It’s so much cheaper!” testimonials about cloth diapers and just assumed that of course, we would cloth diaper. After all, I was going to be a stay-at-home mom and doing a few loads of diapers every 2-3 days seemed doable, and totally worth it to save money and not send thousands of diapers to a landfill.

Well, then I started hearing the other side of the story. Cloth diapers use more water and electricity in the home than disposables. Cloth diapers leak more. They require the diaper to be changed more often. It’s hard to find the right fit.

And my plans for after maternity leave now include working 3 days a week (which I will post about later). Is it reasonable to 1) ask the daycare provider to use cloth diapers and 2) expect to have time to wash cloth diapers when I’m working 8 hours a day?

Suddenly, the disposable vs. cloth issue isn’t as clear cut.

After a little more online research (and without the benefit of being able to conduct my own), I have concluded that yes, cloth diapers, from a sheer financial perspective, are way cheaper on the whole. The upfront costs are steeper, and your electricity and water bills may go up slightly, but even with buying 24 of the more expensive bumGenius All-in-One diapers ($18 each), the diapers pay for themselves within 6 months when compared to disposables. Then you’re only incurring the slightly increased utility bills (if that happens at all – some people say their utilities didn’t go up when they started cloth diapering).

I’m not going to get into the ‘which is greener’ environmental issues. Besides liking the idea of not filling up landfills with diapers, my motivation for choosing cloth diapering would be financial, not environmental. (It doesn’t seem like anyone will win that debate anyway.)

That leaves mainly the feasibility question. Is this realistic? At the very least, I’m willing to give it a try.

So here’s what our loose plan is:

We’ve heard from many people that cloth diapers, even the all-in-one One Size bumGenius diapers that we plan on buying (they fit from 8 – 35 lbs), don’t fit newborns very well. And I don’t want to buy newborn-size cloth diapers. There’s also the whole “figuring out how to take care of a newborn when I’ve never even held one before” thing. So until Emma is about 9-11 lbs, or for a month or two, we’re going to use disposable diapers.

After that, we’re going to *try* cloth diapers. I had initially planned to buy the recommended 24 diapers to have enough for 2-3 days, but now I’m thinking that maybe 5-10 is enough to get a feel of how we like cloth diapers. Do they really leak a lot more? Do they fit Emma well? How feasible is it to wash them in time?

I’m also toying with the idea of going half and half – cloth diapers on the weekends and the days I don’t work, disposables on the days she goes to daycare. But maybe that’s even more complicated than just choosing one method and running with it?

Edited to add: If we decide to stick with cloth diapering at least part of the time, I’m hoping to also use reusable wipes. It seems fairly easy – you can either spray your baby’s bum with a cleaner and wipe off with a cloth wipe, or soak your cloth wipe in the cleaner and put in a wipes warmer, and then you just wash the wipes with your diapers. There are ready-made ‘bum cleaners’ that you can buy, or natural ones that only require a few ingredients. I’ll probably start off with a ready-made cleaner, and then transition to making my own. I’m really trying to not set a bunch of lofty goals having no idea what being a mother is like. Baby steps people.

On this side of motherhood, making decisions like this seems thoroughly overwhelming. But I’m sure (at least I hope) that once Emma is actually here and I start to get the hang of things, the right choice will seem clearer and more intuitive than it does now, when I’m trying to work through hypotheticals without knowing the reality.

What kind of diaper do you use/plan to use? Why? Are you satisfied with your choice?

9 Responses to “Diapers: Cloth vs. Disposable”

  1. Natalie O (@WillJogForFood) March 1, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    I’m planning on using disposable diapers. There is no way I want to be laundering diapers on top of everything else, I am way too lazy! haha

  2. D Wiedeman March 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    OMW… disposable!! The decision will become crystal clear 24-48 hours after you get home from the hospital. ;o)

  3. Jen March 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Hey Kathy,

    I use Softbums cloth diapers while at home and disposables if I’m out for a long time running errands or if we go on a longer outing, and also at church nursery. I also use prefolds with thirsties covers, but I much prefer the Softbums. They have been a great fit too! No leaks! They are also a “one size fits all” system, which is great. You just adjust with little elastic toggles built within the diaper. I didn’t start cloth diapering until Ernie was about 3 months old. I think it is just fine to do cloth sometimes and disposable sometimes; it has worked for us :). Hope this helps. Also, if you want any further information about how we cloth diaper, feel free to shoot me a message!


  4. realanonymousgirl2011 March 2, 2013 at 1:53 am #

    This was very interesting. I did disposable, but I’m also a great shopper so I saved a lot with coupons. But my real curiosity is with cleaning cloth diapers, obviously there’s a lot of “stuff” in there, so do you have to rinse it before you put it in the wash, scrape it in the toilet? Maybe I’m missing the obvious. I can’t imagine just throwing the whole thing in the washer.

  5. Ashley March 2, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    I used disposable diapers with my DS who is 2 and will with this newborn. I work 3, twelve hour days and cloth diapers just weren’t feasible with that schedule.

  6. specialkkluthe March 2, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    @realanonymousgirl – I’ve read that breastfed poo is water soluble and that you can either rinse it off in the toilet (which I’ll probably do – we installed a shower head on a hose in our shower which will reach to the toilet), or just rinse it in the washing machine before washing it.

  7. specialkkluthe March 2, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    @Jen – Thanks! I definitely will let you know if I have any questions about your cloth diapering experience.

  8. Stephanie March 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    I have a friend who swears by the cloth diapers. Then again she is also a stay at home mom so I can see where that is more viable. I don’t know exactly the kind she uses (she always talks about a brand called Fuzzibunz) but it sounds like they have some sort of insert that comes out of the diaper, gets thrown in a washable bag, and then the whole bag goes in the wash. I’m not sure how it all works out. She loves them though, and has been using them since her baby was a newborn–she’s almost 14 months now. Plus they’re super cute!

  9. Erin P. March 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    We used cloth diapers and loved them. We used the bumGenius Flips and only had enough that we washed a load of diapers every night. (I think we had 12 covers and 24 inserts.) It really wasn’t that big of a deal to wash the extra load. (For the first 8 months, I was running my own business, working 7 days a week. I still had time to wash diapers.) Do they leak more? Only if you let them get REALLY wet. And we never had the poop-splosions my friends who used disposables talked about. We did use disposables when we traveled… that was just a no-brainer. You may want to check with the day-care provider you have picked out, not all of them are amenable to using cloth.

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