When it was suggested that I tackle the topic of cloth diapers I was hesitant, to say the least. In doing research into the issue before my daughter was born, my wife and I suddenly became aware of an emotionally charged debate being waged on hundreds of message boards and blogs. Lines were being drawn and sides were being chosen and the whole issue was quite overwhelming. It still is, and if you go looking for an argument you can find one pretty easily. But not here (hopefully). Without wading into the cloth versus disposable fracas, I thought I'd offer a personal account of how our cloth diaper experience is going, almost five months in. If you are thinking of cloth diapering or wondering if it is right for you, hopefully you can take something away from this look inside cloth diapers. Not literally, of course. That would be gross.
My wife Anne and I had a few friends who had done cloth diapering so it wasn't completely foreign territory. The types we saw in use ranged from the old-school pre-folds to the latest offering from bumGenius, which is eventually the style we chose to go with. The initial investment was about $350 for twenty new bumGenius diapers, a few wet bags and some special laundry detergent. We also purchased some random 'pre-loved' diapers from Craigslist, namely AppleCheeks and FuzziBunz. All in all we have thirty-five cloth diapers and the total outlay has been about $425. We chose Bum Genius over other brands because we had a strong personal recommendation from a friend and we liked the fact that one diaper will expand in size and grow with our daughter.
The first two weeks we used disposables, because the bumGenius were a little too big for a 7.5 pound baby and we were too exhausted and overwhelmed to think about laundry. This was a wise choice. The following two weeks we transitioned into cloth, and as our daughter Olive grew we eventually switched over to cloth completely.
A big concern I had was odor from our diaper pail, which is just a lidless garbage can with a wet bag as a liner. So far it hasn't been an issue. I am told that once she starts to eat solids that will all change, but for now we have the pail next to the changing table in our bedroom and it has been fine, excluding a few very hot days when it got a little ripe and I moved it into the hallway. We anticipate eventually getting an odor-blocking pail when the time comes.
As the stay-at-home parent I was also concerned about all of the extra laundry I would be doing, but it isn't that big of a deal. Of course, that is easy to say when you have a high-efficiency washer, a dryer and plenty of clothesline space. If I had to go to a laundromat every few days I am not sure how I would be faring and I give major credit and kudos to those parents who make that happen. As it is, it is just another part of my new routine as dad and does not take up a major amount of my time. There is also the fact that I find myself doing more laundry than I ever have before so it blends right in.
There are many benefits of cloth diapering but the first that jumps out at me is a lack of diaper rash. Olive has had zero diaper rash, which I attribute mostly to the wicking material on the inside of the bumGenius diapers. The second is how nice they look. With a variety of bright colors to choose from the diapers look great on their own and even can become a part of your baby's outfit.
We still use disposables when we travel for long periods or when a sitter is minding the baby for an afternoon or evening, but a forty-pack lasts us a long time.
For our family, cloth diapers are a great fit and we are very satisfied with their performance thus far. We have experienced very few major 'blowouts,' I am happy to report, and I am continually impressed with the absorbency of the liners. Look for an update on how our cloth diapering experience is going in the coming months. Until then, stay dry.
(Image 1 by Richard Popovic. Image 2 by bumGenius. Image 3 by by Flickr member simplyla licensed for use under Creative Commons)