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5 Cloth Diaper Problems that Haven’t Sent me Running Back to Disposables with Tears in my Eyes…and One That Might

May 7th, 2013 · 24 Comments · Green Living

bum genius pocket cloth diaper (2)

When my now-husband and I were preparing for our engagement, we looked at a lot of diamond rings. Ever the practical one, I was very worried about how high above my finger the stone would protrude. I was scared to death that I would constantly be spearing my babies – then just a glimmer in our eyes – with the spike, drawing their blood and my tears.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been so scared.

Not that I haven’t scratched babies with my engagement ring – I have, but in eight years of mothering three children, so have thumbnails, coffee tables, sidewalks, buttons, zippers, and forks. You can’t cushion the entire world, and you just learn to roll with the punches, even if the blood and tears are your fault.

Cloth diapering has been similar – I wanted to switch to cloth diapers when my second child was about 8 months old, but I was scared to death of trying “cloth” and worried I would pay more money than disposables.

I ended up holding out until my third baby was five months old before switching over and then trying 25 brands for this comprehensive cloth diaper review.

I’m here to tell you that a lot of the challenges a parent might worry about when considering cloth diapering will probably happen.

It’s just that they become part of the parenting landscape, usually more molehills than mountains. It’s all about perspective.

1. The language seems foreign.

This really intimidated me, that there are so many terms and kinds of cloth diapers. I was totally overwhelmed. Once I got reading just a little, I quickly built my cloth diaper vocabulary, and now I feel like a pro.

For some direction, try 7 Tips for the Cloth Diapering Newbie by Calley Pate or my Cloth Diapering Rookie Information post, including my laundry routine, opinions on what kind of diaper to buy, and the vocabulary, defined in layman’s terms.

2. Baby’s bum will look huge.

tiny tush pocket diaper (2) (475x356)

Sure does! But it will grow on you. Even my husband admits that the “fluffy buns” look pretty cute most of the time. You may need to size up on the pants, for real though, especially if you have a chunkier baby.

3. You might run out of clean diapers.

Kissaluvs Marvel cloth diaper cover (8) (475x356)

Sure. You also might run out of disposable diapers if you’re not organized. Rather than a trip to the store with a screaming baby, you take a few hours to do laundry, and you’re back in business.

I also keep disposables on hand for those times when I waited too long to do the diaper load, forgot about them in the washing machine, or simply haven’t paired them up and hubs doesn’t want to!

4. You do touch poo.

Some people actually disagree with me on this one, but I’m telling you: you will end up touching the poop at some point as you’re trying to scrape or spray or swish it off into the toilet before washing the diaper.

Luckily, parents become pretty inoculated to bodily fluids in general just by nature of having a child, I think, and also it’s not like there’s not the chance of sticking a thumb in it on any disposable diaper change. (The chances are increased with cloth though. Don’t deny it!)

The first 6 months with cloth are pure joy, however, because breastmilk-only poos can go right into the washing machine and disappear AND blow outs rarely happen. I did find that to be blissfully true; the number two deposits seem to remain trapped in the diaper much more effectively with cloth than ‘sposies. So at least there’s a little less poo-touching at that point.

5. Your spouse will never change a diaper again.

If your spouse is completely anti-cloth diapers, you really do need to have a heart to heart. There are plenty of cloth diapering dads, even some who have done You Tube videos showing how easy it is. As you decide what brand to buy, lean toward “easy to put on/take off” if this is your situation.

My husband really isn’t a fan of cloth, but he manages. We take a “Sabbath” either Saturday or Sunday when he’s home and have at least 24  hours in ‘sposies…which sometimes turns into 3 or 4 days, to be honest.

So he’ll change them…but he also says, “There’s a poopy cloth diaper for you on the bathroom counter.”

The man isn’t touching that poop spatula. Winking smile

cloth diaper poop spatula (475x356)

Is it worth it?

Buying a house is more work than renting, yet many do it.

Parenting is certainly more time consuming, emotionally exhausting, and filled with bodily fluid messes than a life without children, but, thank goodness for humankind, people keep having kids.

Like many worthwhile things in life, cloth diapers are a lot of work.

But if you’re feeling a prick on your green consciousness to save the earth from the volumes of disposable diapers your baby will create…go for it.

It will be part of normal life in no time.

I wrote this post before the numero six here…but now cloth might be on the chopping block of frustration!

6. You could wreck your expensive investment just by using the wrong detergent.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers {And How Not To} at lifeyourway.net

I didn’t know I needed to be worried about them, but after what happened to me, you’re going to want to read my post at Green Your Way today about how to wash cloth diapers (and more importantly, how not to)…

Here’s another one on the perils of homemade detergent. :(

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24 Comments so far ↓

  • Amy H.

    Thanks for furthering the cause of cloth diapers. :-) I’m a huge evangelist and appreciate anyone who breaks down all the myths out there about it!

    BUT. I am so, so, so deeply tired of the “myth” that husbands are somehow too incompetent, stubborn, or disengaged to participate in cloth diapering. Can we stop with that now? Does one of these “problems” really have to be “your spouse will never change a diaper again”? — how does that make cloth diapering seem accessible and possible to parents who are considering it? I know plenty of dads who have no problem cloth diapering their babies, who — yes — even empty them out into the toilet. My husband is one of them.

    The attitude that fathers are, as a homogenous group, flat-out unwilling to consider cloth diapering (or anything green/natural/”hippie”) is just so tired and antiquated. Please, give dads some credit.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amy,
    Point taken. But…I do think it’s a possible “concern” people may have before beginning, and in our family, it remains a concern. But yes, many dads even are the driving force behind CDing. Credit given! ;) Katie

    'Becca Reply:

    Thanks for making that point, Amy! I can see from Katie’s article, though, that HER husband does resist taking full responsibility for a dirty cloth diaper, so that’s why she made the point.

    Among families I know, I haven’t seen dads resisting cloth diapers so much as trying to dodge diaper-changing in general. Many families who use only disposables have frequent arguments about how come dad is handing off the baby with a dirty diaper. I’m grateful that this was only a minor, occasional issue in my family and that we were absolutely in agreement about cloth vs. disposable. The few times we used disposables, we spent hours ranting to each other about how inferior they were and how bad they smelled!!

    Amy H. Reply:

    Oh yeah, I do see why Katie included that “problem” in her list — it sucks that she has to deal with it. I just take exception to our normalizing that kind of reaction from our husbands — I think it leads moms to just kind of quietly accept it rather than holding dads to a higher standard. I am very thankful that my own husband has no problem at all with diapering in general — after all, it’s his kid too, and he’s just as much a parent as I am. Therefore, he changes diapers just as much as I do.

  • Lindsey

    Charlie’s Soap, my friend, Charlie’s Soap!! Honestly, if you haven’t pitched your diapers already, I’d give it a try. It is what I moved to about 5 1/2 years ago when I moved to cloth diapering with my second child – I was pregnant with her and baby #1 was 14 months and 2 weeks when she was born. Switched them both when DD turned 5 weeks and 6 days. My diapers STAYED looking new – nobody believed me when I’d show them my used diapers. Not kidding. I know you just did a whole thing on this – and I didn’t read any of it, as my 3 are now out of diapers. I have invested a TON of time researching this, though! It has been years, but still. I don’t plan to ever use anything other than Charlie’s – and haven’t for 5.5 years. I’d be happy to send you some, even. :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Lindsey,
    I tried Charlie’s Soap as a regular laundry person before I did cloth, and it never impressed me. ??? It’s all about different water types, too, so what is perfect for you isn’t always for others. But thank you for the hearty recommendation! :) katie

    Lindsey Reply:

    Man! Sorry you weren’t impressed with Charlie’s. I’ve had nothing but great results with it (esp. for cloth diapers). Didn’t mean to say it’d be perfect for everyone, although I do tend to think that what works for me will work for everyone else (working on that). :)

  • Sarah

    I totally agree with you on most of these, but now that I’m using cloth for the first time on my 4th child, wonder what all the fuss was about! My husband never changed diapers to begin with, my laundry routine takes about 3 minutes total every other day and using the diaper duck it’s pretty easy to get the poop off. Once you get the lingo down, it’s cake! I love my simple prefolds and Thirstiest covers and I never have leaks which is something I couldn’t say with sposies.

    I’m just glad you did all the research so I didn’t have to :)

    Rachel Reply:

    Hi Sarah – Do you mind me asking what the diaper duck is. I need something to clean poop off my cloth that’s easy :) TIA!

    Helen @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hi Rachel,

    I remembered reading about the Diaper Duck here: http://dirtydiaperlaundry.com/tag/diaper-duck/

    Rachel Reply:

    Helen! Thanks so much, that was so incredibly helpful. I feel a load lifted off me me from watching that video. I am just starting out. with CDing.

    Helen @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Dirty Diaper Laundry is a great blog to follow, as is Cloth Diaper Geek :) If you are at all able to find a rental service near you or a friend with a stash I’d recommend it! After my son was done with diapers I actually sold them all and got a different sort (prefolds and covers instead of pockets) because I liked them better. It is definitely trial and error and there is a LOT out there.

    Rachel Reply:

    I spent all day yesterday reading those 2 sites you suggested. I appreciate you mentoring me. I have watched nearly all your CD videos as well. Thank you for the help. I decided to buy a few different styles (new and used) and figure out what works for us. I have a 1 year old, so he is more predictable than a newborn in the diaper dept :). I hope he will like CD ok. He is developing a rash to disposables, so I am looking for natural fiber diapers. This is our 4th and last kid, so I am hoping to sell them after he is potty trained.

  • Amanda Jensen

    When I bought my diapers, I piggybacked a friend’s research and bought from greenmountaindiapers.com. In every box they send out, they send a booklet on washing diapers. It covers what ingredients are in laundry soaps and detergents, what options there are to avoid problems, what options for sensitive skin babies, and more. It was wonderful.

    My husband never changes diapers either. That was kind of our deal. I could use whatever diapers I wanted, and he didn’t have to deal with them.

  • Beth

    I would like to know which brands were ruined if you don’t mind sharing. I have always used homemade detergent on my cloth, but they are mostly prefolds and Econobum covers – maybe it’s not the same stuff? I feel I have had a couple start to leak in the past, but I figured it was because they were stretched out or second hand. Now I am wondering if it was something else . . .

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Beth,
    I did update this post with those notes:
    http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2012/04/24/cloth-diaper-review-whats-the-best-cloth-diaper-for-you/

    The Econobum I use, I think, was safe. They were mostly the pretty brushed looked PUL:
    *Softbums
    *Willow
    *Oh Katy
    Maybe the Flip and the Marvel covers.

    So sad! :( Katie

  • Aubrey

    Bwahahaha about the poop spatula. I can just imagine a guest spotting that and thinking of all sorts of horrible scenarios for why it’s there. But it’s still a good idea. I’d do it.

  • Joanna

    If you’re touching poop (apart from the random, all parents touch poop type of incidents) you should totally try flushable liners. During those first couple of weeks of transition to solids & breastmilk with my daughter I almost gave up on cloth because the poop was just so disgusting. That’s when I discovered flushable liners and I am here to tell you they are lovely. I use Imse Vimse, toddler size. If she poops I literally just hold the diaper above the toilet and the poop & liner fall in. And if she pees I actually wash & dry them w/ the dipes and reuse them (until they fall apart after a couple of washes). I can’t say enough good things about them. They are awesome! They’re so easy, in fact, that they even dumped her poop for me at the daycare when she was using cloth there. And they also dump at the church nursery. I also recently learned on a FB cloth diapering group that I’m a member of that some folks are out there actually swishing cloth wipes in the toilet if they get poop on them. Maybe I’m lazy but I just plop those suckers straight into the dry bag and wash them when it’s time (3x weekly). I haven’t had any problems at all with staining or having leftover poo in the wash. My philosophy is try the lay way first and then if it doesn’t work you can always bump up your game. ;)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Joanna,
    Believe it or not, I do! Imse Vimse liners too – it’s just that my kiddo’s poo doesn’t always stay where it belongs, I guess. Or I forget to line and Murphy’s Law always says that will be the messiest poop, right?! ;) Katie

    Joanna Reply:

    LOL. I have had a couple of those but I usually chalk that up to poop I would have been touching whether she was in cloth or disposables. I’m also (I think) a LOT less fastidious than some about getting 100% of it off. (You might call it lazy!) So far I haven’t had any issues with poo in the washer. I was going to tell you, though, one thing I do so that we never forget to line is that when I stuff the dipes I actually place the liner in there then fold in half & put in the basket on her changing table. I started doing this bc we were sending them to day care so I couldn’t really ask them to rip off the liner & place it in there while changing her. It’s also been tremendously helpful, though, with me not having to remember and particularly with the hubs, auntie, grandparents, etc. It’s my evening/tv watching multitasking activity 3 nights a week so lining them ahead of time really hasn’t been burdensome at all.

  • Rosebriars

    Having honestly tried to cloth diaper for months and given it up I would like to share a slightly different perspective. I wanted to cloth diaper baby #4, so I bought several different kinds before his birth, but got sidetracked by an impending move. By the time I started Baby #4 was eating solids although still breastfed and Baby #3 was 2 years old.

    I had a really, really difficult time. Laundry is already a huge pet peeve of mine and trying to cloth diaper 2 little ones made it unbearable. Older child’s poop always stained the diapers, and despite using the ‘right’ soap and the ‘right’ washing techniques (I had spent possibly 100 hours doing research) they never smelled right and never really looked clean. Youngest also got really bad rashes. I did love using them overnight when I knew he would just be wet, because it kept it in amazingly, but that was the only upside other than the adorable fluffy bum.

    I finally decided to give it up after yet another tearful phone call to my mother. I was doing it for a combination of ecological and financial reasons but once Mom offered to pay for ‘sposies, there was no question. And although yes, it’s waste in landfills, and often made with toxins, cloth diapering does not use less water than disposables.

    Over a year later I still think it was the right decision for my family, although I still occasionally grieve that I couldn’t make it work. The emotional and functional resources which were going to cloth diapering are now being used in ways which have higher priority for me.

    However, my advice to anyone who wants to cloth diaper is TRY IT. You’ll know whether it works for you pretty clearly after a 1 to 2 month trial. You don’t have to spend a lot to do it (although you certainly can), so you don’t need to let start up costs keep you from making what can feel like a permanent investment. Check out this awesome post on how to start cheaply. http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2011/08/affording-cloth-diapers-on-a-low-income.html

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Thank you so much for adding this perspective! I really empathize with your situation and like the advice to “just try it.” :) Katie

  • Cori

    I just sold all my cloth diapers because I was just sick of washing them…now we have leaks everyday with our sposies because of the cut of the only diapers that don’t cause rashes for us. I’m going back to cloth and can’t believe I have to buy all new diapers!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Augh, painful!

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I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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