The Mailbox Mondays feature is where I answer a reader submitted question, and ask my readers to help too!
Questions don’t have to be cloth diaper related, just email maria at change-diapers.com with “Mailbox Mondays” in the subject, or fill out my contact form for readers, which you will always be able to find on my Contact Page.
This week’s is sort of a multi-parter, but both of my askers (that’s probably not a word, is it?) already know that cloth rocks, they just need help convincing someone they love!
Hello I am writing this to find a way for one of my daughters to know the savings and the reason that cloth is much better than disposables. Can you explain to me the difference in the diapers and what you need to know for a new mother?
Also, my BFF (I think it’s OK to say this since none of you know who she is!) got the surprise of a lifetime a few weeks ago, when she found out that surprise (!) she was having baby #3, then just a week or so later surprise (!!) make that baby #3 and 4!! She has two questions.
Did you ever write an article or summary addressing how to get a SAHD on board to this cloth diaper thing??? I am going to need some help with that I think.
If I cloth diaper twins, should I keep their diapers separate? Like we do panties, kwim? Everyone gets their own panties – is this true for diapers, too? I know washing and everything could be together ok.
I will address the last question first, since the others run together! If I had twins, I’d want to keep it simple, and not worry about whose diapers are whose. The only problem I see with that is if you ever had a yeast issue, you might pass it to the other baby while you were trying to get it under control and make sure the diapers are clean. There are so many cute colors to choose from, that it wouldn’t be hard to keep them separate if you wanted to. Boy colors for one, girl for the other, or yellow and green for one, all others for the other etc.
As far as convincing someone of the benefits of cloth, I think it’s different when you’re talking to your husband vs. someone else. I don’t ever want someone to think I’m being pushy, holier than thou, or judging their parenting choices, and I think that is a fine line for a grandma-to-be!
If a friend or acquaintance asks about cloth, I will tell them about the benefits I see, then leave it alone. For a Grandma, I think you have to really tread lightly, since even if you have a good relationship with your daughter (or daughter-in-law) we hormonal new mamas can sometimes be easily offended. I’d say send her a couple links via email and/or mention that you had been reading about cloth diapers and they sound really neat. They are cute, can save you money, are nothing like what they had 20 years ago etc. If she seems interested, share what you know, but don’t get pushy!
It didn’t take much to convince my husband. Luckily, he’s easy to get along with for the most part, and trusts my judgement. I handle the money, so I gave him a quick rundown of how long we’d have to use diapers for them to “pay for themselves” and he was fine with it. I change most of the diapers, but he had no trouble changing pre-stuffed velcro pocket diapers (and he even does side snaps now!!) I do the laundry as well, and he was just as concerned about my son’s rashes as I was (which cloth totally cleared up by the way.)
However, I assume that a stay at home Dad is going to be the one changing the majority of the diapers and probably doing most (or at least a lot of) the diaper laundry. So, here are my thoughts on why he should at least give cloth a try (and these all apply for the grandma to be too!)
Hit him in the wallet: This is the most obvious reason in my mind. To get exact numbers, you’d have to figure out what diapers you’d want to use, how many you’d like to have, and the average price you’d normally pay for disposables, but I will run through my own math as an example. I never figured water cost (we have well water) or electricity (did not notice any difference in our electric bill.) Cheeky to Cheeky has a Diaper Cost Calculator to make it easy on you to figure out!
Here’s how I did my math:
- I assumed 10 diapers per day. When you have a newborn (or a tummy bug) you can go through 15+ diapers easily, and you might only use 6 per day when they get a bit older.
- I assumed the purchase of 20 cloth diapers. You can get along with less, but I felt most relaxed about my wash routine when I had this many. I could wash every other day and not feel rushed to get them stuffed and ready to use again.
- I assumed 20 cents/disposable diaper, which is the price at which I’d buy premium, name brand diapers (less than that and I’d stock up.) This works out to be about $6 for a jumbo pack. If you typically buy name brand diapers at full price, without coupons, your number may be double that!
The cost of using disposable diapers (on one baby) with the above numbers, for one year would be $730. If you want to be really optimistic, the best price I’ve ever gotten on diapers was 8.5 cents per diaper. Naturally, I was only able to get 2 or 3 packs at that price, but let’s just pretend you’re magically able to get that price all the time. That’s $310 for a year for diapers for one baby.
With cloth, you can do things inexpensively with prefolds and basic covers, or you can spend $30+ on a fancy diaper. I am using the price of a Bumgenius 4.0 diaper ($17.95) since they are easy to use, very similar to disposables, have a great warranty, are probably the most well known “modern cloth diaper,” and are pretty “middle of the road” price wise. There are cheap cloth diapering options, and there are even slightly less expensive pocket diapers, but hey, I had to pick a price to use! Anyhoo, 20 Bumgenius (at full price…it is cheaper per diaper when you buy packages) would be $359.
So the cloth diapers would pay off in just 6 months based on my 20 cents/diaper disposable price, and about 14 months based on that insane, never-gonna-happen 8.5 cents/diaper price.
I could go on and on with the money issue (and I haven’t even touched on wipes, disposable diaper pail liners etc.) but I will just say this. If you have to pay full price for a pack of diapers and tear through it in one day (that’s easy to do!) you have just spent $12 to diaper twins for a single day. One day!! Forgive me if I’ve messed any of my numbers up, I’m suffering from a severe case of prego brain!
Which brings me to my next, multi-part issue, convenience:
What? Cloth diapers convenient? No way. Yeah. Way.
I never, ever have to worry about running out of diapers, clipping coupons, going to the store, buying the right size (but not buying too many of one size or using up a pack of too-small diapers so they aren’t “wasted.”) I don’t have to cringe when my son poops in a diaper the second I put it on him, and I don’t have to figure out if I am changing diapers often enough, but not “too often.” It doesn’t cost me anything; I can change him as much as I want!
I don’t have to smell stinky diaper pails. I don’t have to take poopy diapers directly outside to avoid the stench. I don’t have to touch/smell them three times between changing the diaper, emptying the pail, then taking the can to the curb on trash day. (Seriously? Week old sposies, even pee only, are rank.)
Ok, so you’d think the washing part would be inconvenient, but I disagree. When we used disposables, the “blowout” was a common occurrence, especially when my kids were breastfed. I would have to change not just diapers, but pants, shirts, socks, often blankets, my clothes, and even give the poor kid a bath at times. I’ve had maybe one or two blowouts in my cloth diapering “career” and they were due to either an ill fitting diaper, or user error. Even stomach viruses were no match for my cloth.
Poop isn’t scary!
Breastfed baby poop can go straight into the washer. I have always liked to pull inserts out before I throw them in the pail though, so I don’t have to touch them again. I just dump the whole shebang into the washer! When they are older, you can just shake the poop into the toilet. In that in-between stage, I’d just scrape off what I could with a piece of toilet paper, then throw the rest in the wash!
Washing cloth doesn’t have to be hard!!
I know I will get a ticket from the detergent police for this, but detergent is near & dear to me since it was the #1 reason I didn’t switch to cloth sooner, and I struggled with it for 6 months before breaking the rules and having no problems since. Please note that many cloth diaper companies say you have to use certain detergents to maintain your warranty, and the cloth diapering community is split between people/companies that recommend certain “safe” detergents without enzymes and so forth, and those who recommend standard detergents that specifically contain enyzmes. You ultimately have to make the choice for yourself and I’m not responsible for voided warranties, injuries or damage, I’m just sharing my opinions!!
For some of us, “safe” detergents aren’t readily available, are expensive, and don’t necessarily work. I wouldn’t recommend using a detergent that contains bleach or fabric softener, but consider just washing your diapers in the detergent you already have. Determining the amount you need to use is trial and error based on your load size, washer and water, but I’d start with half the lowest load line for a load of diapers. If they don’t smell clean out of the wash, try using a bit more. If they smell exceptionally stinky after the baby pees, try using a bit less and/or adding an extra rinse. If you find the detergent isn’t working, all is not lost. Several hot washes with no detergent will rinse residue out, and you can try something else.
Your wash routine doesn’t need to be complex or difficult either. I do a warm quick wash (you can do cold, or even just a cold rinse) with no detergent first. I select “no spin” since I have an HE washer & need to trick the washer into using more water. Follow up with a hot wash with detergent, adding an extra rinse if your washer allows. I put my inserts in the dryer, and hang my shells to dry, to extend their life. I know of several people who have an even simpler routine than me, they wash & dry their diapers just like their clothes, and have no trouble. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple sweetie!) Don’t over think it and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Cloth diapers aren’t that different from disposables:
My husband had never held a baby, let alone changed a diaper before our daughter was born. He had no trouble at all with velcro closure cloth. He didn’t think they were any different than disposables!
Cloth is better for baby:
Most families see fewer diaper rashes with cloth. Modern cloth diapers have inner fabrics that wick moisture away from baby, but they don’t contain the chemicals that disposables do. You do have to change cloth more often, which is probably also a help as far as rashes go. I aim for every 2-3 hours, but I have plenty of diapers that will last for 4 if we end up with an unexpected car ride nap. My diapers last for 12 hours at night with a superdo insert too! I know of several moms whose children were such super-soakers that disposable diapers actually burst and leaked gel while the baby was sleeping.
Wouldn’t you rather wear cloth underwear than paper? I can’t help but feel happy that I’m doing the best for my kids (for less money too!)
Cloth is cute:
Yeah, maybe it’s dumb but darn it…it’s cute!!
I could go on and on here. I know some people want to debate the environmental aspect, saying that producing the cloth diaper, washing it etc. has as much impact as disposables in the landfill, but I don’t believe that. Quick google searches will show you what a year’s worth of diapers for ONE child look like and how much petroleum is needed to make a disposable diaper. Cloth is reused, can be re-sold or handed down, and can be easily repaired if in need of new elastic, closures etc. after it’s been through one child. Lets see you try that with a used disposable (ewwww…) The Mailbox Mondays question for next week is specifically about the environmental aspect of cloth vs. sposies so stay tuned for that…I just finished researching & writing last night!
It’s not all or nothing:
I won’t tell anyone if you decide to use disposables part of the time. There are even hybrid options like Flip, GroVia and gDiapers, that allow you to reuse a shell, but compost, flush or trash the absorbent pad.
It doesn’t have to be a big commitment:
When we decided to take the plunge, we bought just three to try out. We figured if we used those diapers once per day for 3 months (or every other day for 6 months) they would be “paid for.” Or, we could just throw in the towel and re-sell them.
Several cloth diaper retailers have try me type packages, where you pay a deposit, receive a variety of diapers to try, and you only pay for what you decide to keep. If you send them all back, you get your deposit back (usually less the shipping cost.)
Diaper Junction’s Test Drive allows you to choose from a number of popular cloth diapers. Buy them, try them for 30 days, and if you’re not in love? Send ‘em back!
Cheeky to Cheeky has a Try it First program that sends you a variety to try, and all you pay is return shipping, plus the cost of anything you decide to keep.
There are lots of other retailers out there that have similar programs!
Has anyone cloth diapered twins? I know that SAPsDaDa is a SAHD, has anyone else convinced a SAHD to cloth diaper? I know I am leaving things out!! What are some of your favorite things about cloth?