If you have a newborn, you want the best for your child. But most people do not realize they have a better choice than disposable diapers. Everyone around you using disposable diaper does not mean it is the best option, and using cloth diaper does not mean it is an outdated practice. There are tons of benefits and a few drawbacks for using cloth diaper. It is new parent's decision.
I did not use cloth diaper for the first kid because I simply never think of that. Like everyone, we buy diapers at Target or online. The choice is Pampers or Huggies. That is what the hospital used when the kid was born. I use mostly cloth diaper on the second kid, except for longer trips. He does not get diaper rash except when using disposables, and he is potty trained before two years old.
Cloth diaper vs. Disposable diaper
Advantage of cloth diaper
1. Eco-friendly, does not end up in the landfill for thousands of years. Most disposable diapers don't decompose well, just like plastic bags. A baby can go through tons of diapers and the damage to our earth really adds up.
2. No diaper rashes. You rarely get diaper rashes with cloth diaper that is made of natural material, usually cotton, hemp or combination of both. For a disposable diaper user, the baby almost always gets a various degree of diaper rash at some point no matter how often you change or how expensive the diaper is. The gels absorb a lot of liquid. We have to wonder what is inside the disposable diapers. Are they safe and natural?
3. No unknown chemicals and no diaper cream needed. Simple is better. Diaper cream creates a barrier between the skin and the diaper. If we use cloth diaper, there is no need to add the barrier because the cloth does not irritate skin. Many people just use a cotton washcloth and warm water to clean. It does the job well.
4. Low cost. The disposable diapers cost a lot each month no matter which brand you buy, and they all end up in the garbage. The cloth diaper has a higher initial cost because you do have to buy it or make it, but that is all the cost besides laundry detergent and electric bills for washing machine. You can recycle the cloth diaper for several kids, or reuse them as absorbent wipes to clean around the house.
5. Easier to potty train. My boy is potty trained before 2 years old. He does not like the wetness and bulkiness of a dirty diaper, and many cloth diapers are getting too small for him. Naturally, we are both motivated to potty train. It does not take long for him to learn using a small potty, and he barely has accidents. It is a big relief that we can use a public bathroom and not carry diapers anymore. There is more work on parents part when using cloth diaper, but the period is so short. It is totally worth the effort.
The downside of cloth diaper
1. More work with washing and drying. Use more electric and water because of the frequent laundry. Laundry detergent should be suitable for the cloth diaper, so it does not clog up the fabric or add more chemical to the fabric. I like Nellie's natural laundry soda, Charlie's soap, and Molly's suds. Do your research and find what works for you, your washing machine, and the local water quality (hard, soft water). You can also line dry. Drying outdoor in the sun will bleach out stains naturally.
2. Bulky to carry around and less convenient. Cloth diaper takes more space in your diaper bag when you have to leave the house with a baby. You also need a waterproof bag or basic plastic bag to store dirty diapers to bring home. It is less convenient, but better for the baby, the earth, and your wallet.
3. Harder to train other caregivers to use cloth diapers. Most people are not familiar with a cloth diaper and will be reluctant to change a dirty diaper. Some cloth diaper needs to be folded or inserted in certain ways. There is some learning involved. And it is extra effort to put the dirty diaper in a waterproof bag to bring home or dump the stool in the toilet first and soak the diaper in a bucket with water. It is not hard to do but some people have the mental block for handling dirty diapers. Maybe use disposable diapers when other people is in charge of diaper duty, and use cloth at home when you have more control.
4. Confusing to pick the right cloth diaper. There are so many options of cloth diaper systems available today that it is very confusing for a beginner. There are pre-fold, fitted, all-in-one, pocket with inserts and many variations in between. I did research and tried many types. Each one has advantages and disadvantages.
If I need to do it all over again, I will pick simple "prefold" diapers similar to what our grandma used. It is just a square piece of fabric with a double thickness in the middle one-third. They come in different sizes according to the age and can be folded in many ways to fit a baby's changing needs. It is also very easy to clean and dry. Add a diaper pin or plastic diaper fastener and a waterproof cover. That is all you need.
Most other systems are more complicated and expensive. Inserts might leak because it does not fit properly. Babies come in different size and shape, and they grow so fast. Keeping up with the changing fitting issue can be a headache.
My conclusion is that no cloth diaper is perfect, but still a much better choice even just for preventing diaper rash or easy potty training. If all the cloth diaper systems are too confusing to choose, stick with the simple square cotton and learn how to fold it to fit your baby's changing size and shape. A lot of youtube videos are available to learn different ways of folding.
There is some learning curve to start using cloth diapers, but it is really not hard. Commercial cloth diaper industry makes everything more complicated by offering too many different choices. It is just marketing. The important thing is to start, and before we figuring out which diaper system is the best, your baby will be potty trained already. That is just my experience.
Leave a comment if you have any experience or concern with the cloth diaper.