Cloth Reality Check | challenges and solutions

cloth reality check

I love cloth diapering and recommend it to anyone willing to listen. However, my opinion wouldn't be balanced if I didn't take off the rose-colored glasses for a minute to clue you in to some of the negative aspects. So, here they are.

In true trying-to-convince-others-to-do-this-thing-I-love fashion, I've included the solutions we use to to get over these potential challenges. See, in the end, there's no good excuse to not cloth diaper.

1 | Cloth diapers will likely stink at some point.

What dirty diaper doesn't stink? They're dirty! While a diaper genie is about the only option out there for hiding disposable diaper stink, there are cheaper, more natural ways to minimize cloth diaper stink.

solutions for cloth diaper stink

1. Keep the diaper pail open. I know, the tendency is to cover it in attempt to hide any stink, but this will only magnify what otherwise wouldn't be an issue.
2. Sprinkle baking soda (we use a glass parmesan shaker) in after each diaper.
3. Properly care for the diapers. If too much detergent is used and not completely rinsed, the detergent builds up and stink becomes an issue even with just a wet diaper.
4. Choose diapers with natural materials like cotton. Microfiber and other materials are a little tougher to care for and keep completely clean, and stripping becomes essential more frequently. One of the many reasons I love prefolds: no stink and just about any wash routine will work!

2 | Cloth diapers might not help diaper rashes.

When you read that cloth is better for baby's skin, it's tempting to assume diaper rashes will disappear or not be an issue. Our son hasn't had diaper rashes in his cloth diapers and our daughter had the worst diaper rashes I've ever seen in her disposable diapers. However, I've also heard enough stories of people stopping cloth because of terrible diaper rashes to know it can be a problem for some. Diaper rashes happen, and whether a baby is in cloth or disposable, it's just a matter of figuring out how to solve the problem.

solutions for cloth diaper rashes

1. Find out the cause. It's most likely not the moisture, because that alone doesn't generally cause rashes. But if you're concerned, then change more frequently (why not? it's free), try a stay-dry liner made of microfleece, or use cornstarch as a natural baby powder. However, it likely has something to do with that build up I've mentioned before. Rinse the heck out of your diapers; if there's suds in the rinse cycle, then you're adding too much detergent and they need rinsed even more. That build-up could cause ugly rashes. (Another plug for prefolds?  I think so.) There's also the potential that your baby is eating something that is causing the poop to irritate the skin, so look into that as well.
2. Use cloth-friendly diaper rash cream. There are plenty of options made of natural ingredients that will wash out easily. (Otherwise you'll end up with, you guessed it, build-up.) If you notice baby's skin getting a little rosy, just rub on some cream. We use Aquaphor, which doesn't happen to be cloth diaper-friendly, but it works on baby, so we just put a baby wash cloth in the diaper to keep the cream from soaking into (and potentially ruining) the diaper.

3 | Cloth diapers can be pricey.

The point of cloth is to save money, right? Well, for most of us, yes. But there are plenty of people that get into cloth for many other factors and become addicted to the cute patterns and various options, collecting large stashes that include all sizes and colors and materials--which can add up quickly.

solutions for cloth diaper expense

Of course, spending lots of money on cute prints isn't necessary.
1. Look into prefolds and covers. If cost is your main concern, covers and prefolds are far cheaper than disposables and other cloth diaper options.
2. Choose your system and stick with it. If you're concerned with cost, but still not on board with prefolds, there are plenty of other options that, when chosen carefully, are still cheaper than disposables. Just buy the products you need and have self-control against buying the things you don't need.
3. Reuse or sell. In the end, if you spent more than you had imagined or bought too much, there's always the option of reusing on future children or selling to other cloth users to offset your costs.
4. Maybe you didn't spend as much as you thought. Keep your costs below $1000 and you're likely still saving money from the cost of 2-3 years using disposables.

4 | Cloth diapers are bulky.

We're so accustomed to paper-thin disposables, even clothes have shrunk in the rear to adjust to the trend.
So it's natural to want a "trim" cloth diaper. That was one of my concerns in the beginning, because I cared what people might think about my baby's big fluff butt. Then, I finally realized, more cloth makes a more absorbent diaper and thus creates a bulky rear. And that's okay.

solutions for cloth diaper bulk

1. Just get over it. I have quickly gotten used to my baby's big badonkadonk and I like cloth too much to care. I also like an absorbent diaper too much to sacrifice for a trimmer diaper.
2. Buy a size bigger. We had hand-me-down pants that I would pull out a little sooner. These size-bigger pants fit in the bum, then I'd fold over the top of the pants (if they were sweats) or roll up the bottoms (if they were jeans) to make the length fit right.
3. Choose loose or stretchy clothes. Why does a baby need to wear fancy fitted jeans on an average day, anyway?!
4. Look for wider brands. There are also some brands that tend to run a little wider--take note of these when you find them. Our youngest had a pair of Circo brand (from Target) pants that fit great over his squishy tush without being too long.

5 | Cloth diapers take a little more time.

There's just no way around it: Unless you sign up for a diaper service and have someone else do the dirty work (literally) for you, cloth diapering will take more time than disposables. A typical diaper change might take a little longer (i.e., Snappi-ing a prefold and flushing poop), and washing will be added to your routine.

solution for saving time on cloth diapering

It's not as noticeable once you get into the routine. Washing diapers every 2-3 days (depending on how many you have in rotation), certainly adds to the to-do list. But so does washing towels and I haven't switched to only disposable versions of those :)

6 | Cloth diapers increase energy usage.

We use our washer and dryer now 3 extra times a week, so I imagine our costs to run them have gone up as well.

solution for cloth diaper energy usage

It hasn't been enough for us to notice, and still isn't comparable to what we pay when using disposables, so I personally don't really consider this a problem. You could always hang-dry your diapers to save electricity, or find the just the right amount of detergent and rinsing to get your diapers clean so you don't use more water than necessary.

7 | Cloth diapers are potentially messy.

Poop happens. It's tempting to just wrap it up and throw it away to not deal with it anymore. However, my worst poop experiences have been with disposables as they don't hold runny or loose poop very well.

solutions for cloth diaper messes

1. Choose well-contained diapers/covers. The fold we use with our prefolds provides a leg gusset of sorts that stalls messes, and our favorite diaper covers have elastic around the back, stomach and legs to contain messes. We have not had a poop leak with cloth, but we have had many with disposables.
2. Remind yourself of all the reasons you decided cloth was a good idea. I can't stand the idea of adding several full diapers each day to the landfill. For my husband, it's the cost that each diaper represents. Whatever motivates you, remember that--especially in the tough times.
3. Have a plan to handle the tough stuff. Originally, we thought we'd use a diaper sprayer to handle messes, but quickly learned that wasn't necessary. (Although I've heard some say they wouldn't use cloth without it.) A good wet bag and extra supplies make it all easier for me. We also keep a package of disposables for those times we need a quick break (i.e., we're all sick and I can't imagine having to wash diapers on top of everything else).

Those are some of our challenges of cloth diapering, and how we get over them. What are yours?

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