mom cloth diapering baby on change mat
Diapers New Baby

Cloth Diapers - It Doesn't Have to Be All or None

By Laura Forrest Hopfauf

When I said I wanted to use cloth diapers while pregnant with my first baby, I got a lot of looks (not the good kind) and a lot of lectures (you won’t have time; you need an industrial washing machine; it’s already overwhelming). Like everything with a new baby, everyone has an opinion on what you’re doing whether they have a baby or not.

Truth be told, going in I thought I would cloth diaper the entire time and not use
disposables at all after she was a month old. I had a couple boxes of newborn and size one disposables because I’m a girl who likes a back-up plan and had planned on using them until the stump fell off because I could cut the diaper to keep it from rubbing her scab.

A change in plans

When I got my baby home and saw how big the cloth diapers were and how small she was, I stuck with the disposables for longer. I also was slightly overwhelmed by the amount of shitting she did. There were days I went through three diapers in a single change because I didn’t know an infant poop could last for thirty minutes. It’s like a warning shot, an after shot, and then a shot to make sure they got you.

And of course, the people who told me cloth were a bad idea were already pointing out I was using disposables at three months old like everyone else so I wasn’t any better. (Spoiler alert: I never thought I was any better, I just wanted to use cloth because I understood what was in it and I have no idea what’s in disposable diapers, and I am a low-key hipster, and I cry when I see pictures of sea turtles swimming through trash). I also wasn’t running around screaming I’M USING CLOTH DIAPERS. They were just on my registry, and that was enough to insight the opinions.

Back on track

Eventually, my baby’s poop production slowed, and I started using cloth around the four month mark. And another spoiler, it is a lot. I went exclusively cloth for about a week. But my baby didn’t sleep well in cloth. They feel wet when they are wet. They don’t pull poop away. If she peed a little in the beginning of a nap, I could guarantee that nap would be short. At night, I would have to change her three to four times, so basically every time I fed her. For my baby, a change meant that she wanted to stay up for another hour at least looking at the ceiling and
cooing, but never in the crib, only in my arms.

Beyond that, as a new mom, exclusively cloth diapering left a lot of laundry that I had to time correctly. I think the diapers look cleaner and smell better when they’ve been hung outside on the line to dry and the sun has had time to work its special stain erasing magic. But this meant that I needed to wash them on days that it wasn’t going to rain or be cloudy, because the liners take a few hours to dry.

It sounds simple, but it’s a little trickier because I’ve found that cloth diapers need some extra attention in the washing machine. A single cycle still leaves them smelling a little like bathroom, so I run them once with a deep soak and once on a quick wash. Really, this doesn’t take that long, but I have a baby and never finish anything I start, so the whole process can drag on for days.

Flexibility is key

Within the first two weeks of cloth diapering, I didn’t get to diaper laundry in time and had to use disposables because that was all I had and I needed something for my baby to shit in. I was a little ashamed, but not really. Having a baby is hard, staying at home alone with a baby is hard, caring for a baby is hard. My daughter was happy, healthy, and a shitting queen. It didn’t matter what she was pooping in as long as she was pooping.

Being a mother means being adaptable, accepting change, letting plans mold into what they are going to be whether that’s exactly what you wanted or not. So that’s what I did. I let things go. I let them be what they were going to be. I let myself and my daughter be happy by not forcing an issue but allowing it to play out.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

My daughter is 18 months now. We use cloth when she is awake, and disposables when she sleeps. The cloth is already helping to potty train her because she feels uncomfortable when she is wet and will go stand in front of the bathroom door to signal that she peed. When we go out, we use disposables to make my life easier. This way I don’t have to carry a soiled diaper around with me a whole day while pretending no one can smell it through my wet/dry bag. I can just throw it away. If disposables seem to be giving her a rash, I can slip her into cloth and it
often goes away in a day. The same vise-versa. Having the ability to switch back and forth between materials has done wonders for her skin and saving us from diaper rash. If I don’t get to the laundry, we can use disposables. If someone is coming over, I can put her in a tie-dye cloth diaper so she looks especially cute. I still feel that I am saving the world a decent amount of landfill contributions.

Although, cloth diapering and my half-and-half solution aren’t totally green, we are going in a more sustainable direction and every little bit counts. Plus, I plan on
using these for my next baby and they are still in great shape.

Changing diapers, and changing minds

My friends and family who thought cloth diapering was disgusting and impossible have now talked about using it on their own babies or recommending it for their friends’ babies. I think a lot of this is because I failed in the way I wanted to do it and allowed myself to adjust. By making it so it’s okay not to be exactly where I wanted to be but still doing it, I’ve been humbled and been open about it. I thought I would use cloth all the time, turns out I don’t, and that’s okay. There’s benefits to both. Going half-and-half is more accessible. It’s also cost effective. I never made a huge investment into cloth diapers. I have about 25 and they cost me around $125.

I know I have saved myself from buying more than three giant ass packs of
disposables, and that means I’ve broke even. Now, I save here and there by not having to buy them as often. It’s nice to have that money back in my pocket.

For some reason cloth diapers seem to be a topic where it’s all or nothing.

You’re either cloth or your disposable. There’s no in-between. But honestly, like most of life, like most of motherhood, I think that’s where the sweet spot is. So, if you’re interested, even remotely so in cloth, I’d encourage you to buy one pack, see what you think, how you feel. By the same token, if you’re all cloth and drowning in laundry, you’re just as good of a mother if you get a box of throw-aways.

Motherhood is compromise, and often the hardest ones to make are the ones we
make with ourselves. At the end of the day, your baby won’t remember what they pooped in. They’ll just remember that you were always there to clean it up.

Does the idea of doing a combo make using cloth less overwhelming?

Drop any tips or tricks you have for living that combo life in the comments below!

Our next reco: What's Great (and Not So Great) About Cloth Diapering

Leave a Comment