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Okay, so this post won’t apply to all of my readers, but cloth diapering our son is one of the main ways that our family has chosen to live life more sustainably. I never planned on cloth diapering and honestly was disgusted at the thought, but our doula mentioned the benefits to us (less waste, saving money, gentle on baby skin) shortly before our son was born, and now I would never turn back! Our doula and several other women helped me get started because initially it can be quite overwhelming! There is so much information and so many opinions out there, but we finally found a system that worked well for our family. I’ve gotten questions from friends or even strangers about why we chose to cloth diaper, what our routine is, and if it’s as disgusting as it seems. Although I know cloth diapering is not for every family, if you are even a little bit interested, I highly recommend doing some research and giving it a try–especially if your family is looking for ways to reduce waste.
Disposable Diaper Statistics
According to the NY Times, “A baby is likely to go through between 5,000 and 6,000 disposable diapers before becoming potty trained. A 2014 Environmental Protection Agency report found that disposable diapers account for 7 percent of nondurable household waste in landfills. Except in very limited cases, disposable diapers (regardless of what they claim) won’t compost or biodegrade in landfill.” According to The South Florida Reporter, people in the US use “18 billion disposable diapers per year, 49 million per day, and 570 per second.” That’s a lot of trash when you start thinking about it.
My hope with this blog is to share simple ways that you can pursue sustainability in your daily life, from a grace-based perspective. No one, at least no one I know or have heard of, lives life completely waste free. I think sometimes people think that if you can’t do it perfectly, what’s the point. Will it even matter? Other people are ready to point a finger every time someone passionate about sustainable living “messes up” or does something wasteful. I don’t think this is productive or helpful by any means. As a society, we have so many systems in place that make it incredibly difficult to pursue sustainability; however, I strongly believe that we can each do our part to make an impact. Maybe for you it is cloth diapering your children. Maybe it is riding your bike to work or growing your own herbs. Maybe it is buying secondhand and choosing not to always buy the newest version of something. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above or something completely different. Whatever it is, I think it is important to look at statistics and facts and to really think about the impact that our decisions make and how they will impact the earth that our children will grow up in.
My Cloth-Diapering Disclaimer
Okay, now it’s time for me to step off of my soapbox and start talking about cloth diapering. Here’s a disclaimer: some of you may not agree with me in regard to our routine, and that’s okay. There are a lot of opinions and a lot of information out there, but this routine has worked well for us for almost two years–with just a few adjustments when we moved. Find out what works best for your family and be flexible and willing to adjust as you learn more!
This is the routine that has worked for us! If you already use cloth diapers, let me know your routine below! I love getting new ideas and insight.
We have about 30 cloth diapers in our rotation. I bought about half of them secondhand because I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick with cloth and buying all-new cloth diapers is definitely an upfront investment although it saves loads of money over time–especially if you plan to have multiple children. I went through a deep-cleaning process that took almost an entire day prior to using them, and we haven’t had any issues since then! The secondhand cloth I purchased were AIO (All in Ones–basically you don’t have to stuff or pin anything into them) from BumGenius, and then I have a collection of brands from Jemma and Way, a cloth diaper boutique that sources the very best cloth diapers from around the world. My favorite brands from J&W are Bare&Boho, EcoNaps, Fluffy Ducks, and Grovia–a combination of AIOs, covers, and pockets. J&W also has an incredible pre-loved program as well as sustainable products for women for postpartum, breastfeeding, and period care.
Remember when I said grace-based sustainability? We usually don’t use cloth diapers overnight or when we travel. If we have future babies, I would love to invest in some overnight cloth diapers but because we are starting to potty train our son, we wouldn’t get much use out of them. If you are wanting to use cloth overnight, Lauren, the owner of Jemma and Way, has so many helpful tips! You can message her on Instagram if you have any questions.
The main difference between cloth diapering and disposables is what we do with them when they are done being used. After changing our son, we put his dirty diaper in a big wet bag (this big fabric bag that has a waterproof liner) stored inside of a trash can with a lid. I always remove any inserts so that I don’t have to do it later. Some people use sprayers attached to their toilet for really dirty diapers, but we have been okay just throwing the waste away in the toilet or trash. Baby poop is water soluble until they start eating solids, so you can just throw soiled diapers in as they are. Gross, I know. But I promise they come out clean!
One of the biggest regrets I have about cloth diapering is that we never purchased, made, or figured out how to use cloth wipes. A lot of people will store them in a wipe warmer with liquid or spray them with a spray bottle, but we just used disposable wipes (which is a pain because then you have to dispose of them separately). If you’re planning to cloth diaper, don’t do this. I still don’t know why I haven’t done something about it… I need to either make or order some cloth wipes like these soon!
When we go out of the house, I take a small wet bag in our son’s diaper bag that can hold up to 3 cloth diapers and then I put it in the larger wet bag, inside out when we get home!
This is probably the area where most cloth-diapering families have differing opinions, but this routine has worked well for us! We wash about every 3 days now and we did every other day when our son was younger and went through more diapers a day.
First Wash Cycle
We wash everything on normal with warm water. I put in a scoop (up to the first line) of Tide Free & Gentle Unscented Powdered Detergent. I would love to find a more natural alternative, but when I first started, this was recommended for ensuring a deep clean, which was a big concern of mine.
Second Wash Cycle
I wash on the hottest, heaviest setting with a double rinse which differs between machines. I put another scoop of detergent to the 3rd or 4th line and add a little bit of Calgon Water Softener because we have really hard water. If you don’t know the hardness of your water, I believe you can call your city or buy a home testing kit like this one.
I used to dry the diapers on low in our dryer, but overtime this can cause them to wear out and become less effective. Now, I use this drying rack which folds up easily when not in use and dry them in the sun. The sun acts as a natural bleach and helps get rid of any lingering stains.
We fold our diapers and keep them in a cabinet in the dining room for easy access because it is the most central location in our home. Before we moved, I kept some diapers and wipes in our other most-used rooms of the house, but I keep forgetting to do that here. Maybe I should go do that now… You can use cute baskets like these to store your little cloth diapering kits!
Can you summarize all of that for me?
Sure! Here’s a brief, less wordy summary of our cloth diapering routine:
- Diaper Stash: mix of secondhand AIO’s from BumGenius and AIO’s, pockets, and covers from Jemma and Way.
- Overnight & Traveling: disposables
- Disposal: wet bag in trash can with lid, toss waste in toilet & spray if needed
- Wipes: disposable. Please learn from my mistake and don’t do this. And send all of the tips for cloth wipes my way!
- Outings: bring a small wet bag for the diaper bag
- First wash: normal, warm, Tide Free & Clear Powder, 1 scoop (first line)
- Second wash: hot, heavy, double rinse, Tide Free & Clear Powder, 1 scoop (fourth line), 1 capful of Calgon Water Softener for hard water
- Drying: foldable drying rack, set outside
- Storage: fold and store in the most-used room of your house
- Do I need different sizes as my baby grows?
- The amazing thing about cloth diapers is that they are adjustable and grow with your baby–you just have to readjust the snaps! You can buy newborn cloth diapers, but we decided not to start until Lincoln was 2 months old. As a first time mom, I was so exhausted from trying to learn so many new things and the idea of cloth diapering at birth when he was going through 14+ diapers a day was really overwhelming to me. If we have another baby, I would like to start cloth from birth because we have a routine now.
- Do you have problems with smells?
- Nope! In our almost two years of cloth diapering, we haven’t had any issues with smells or stains with the method used above! If you are having issues, you might just need to tweak your routine.
- Won’t it ruin my washing machine?
- It is recommended to wash your washing machine before you start cloth diapering and then once a month to keep it extra clean. Sometimes I go a lot longer between washes, but I haven’t had any issues! To wash your washing machine, sprinkle in some baking soda and top with a few cups of vinegar and a few drops of essential oils. Then wash on the hottest setting without anything else in it, and wipe it clean!
- How do you deal with negative comments from other people?
- We have gotten some negative comments regarding our decision to cloth diaper–often because people don’t understand the benefits or think it is really gross. I think it helps when you explain the pros and your reasoning to help it seem less taboo. Disposable diapers were only invented in the late 1940s and people all around the world use cloth but a lot of people can’t imagine any other option than disposables due to recent marketing. Regardless of what other people say or think, you make the decision that is best for your family and be confident in that choice!
If you ever have any other questions regarding cloth diapering, I’m happy to chat or connect you with someone who knows more than me! As with most things, learning is a continuous process. I’m trying to embrace a growth mindset in regard to sustainable living. There are so many ways I can improve and that I still have yet to learn, but I can keep trying and can keep making small changes every day for my family. Even if you want to try cloth diapering just on weekends or one day a week, think about how much waste you will reduce overtime!