Why We Chose Cloth Diapers, Part 4

September 1st, 2010 by Dionna | 8 Comments
Posted in Compassionate Advocacy, Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature, Environmentalism, natural parenting, Use Nurturing Touch

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This is part four in a series in which I discuss why my family uses cloth rather than disposable diapers. In part one I looked at the environmental impact of both diapering systems. I presented research on the health concerns of each system in part two. Part three included information on the cost of each system. Today’s article is about the convenience of cloth vs. disposable diapers.

red haired toddler in cloth diaper runs through grass and flowersConvenience1

Regardless of whether cloth diapers may be healthier for children, better for the environment, and significantly more affordable than disposables, some parents may be wondering more about the relative convenience of each diapering system.

Disposable diaper advocates usually cite convenience as a major reason to use single use diapers. Once the diaper is soiled, you simply drop it in the diaper pail or trash can. That assessment is not entirely true, though, since parents should flush all solid waste whether they use cloth or disposable.2 Realistically, few parents take time to shake the solids into the toilet from disposables.

So why do cloth diapers have the stigma of being less convenient? The primary reasons are laundry, travel away from home, and ease of use.


Personally, I had the most difficult time with laundry immediately after our son was born. Learning how to be a mother isn’t always easy, and finding time to run downstairs to start the pre-wash or hot wash cycle was rarely convenient with round the clock breastfeeding or marathon bouncing/burping/walking sessions. But as soon as we got into the swing of parenthood, the extra two to three loads of diaper laundry each week has been barely noticeable. And in the warmer months, I actually enjoy going outside to hang the laundry to dry on the line.

For parents who do not have the time or energy to wash extra laundry, diaper services provide incredible convenience. Every week a little gnome comes to pick up your bag of dirty diapers and leave you a bag of fresh ones. Truly magical and no less inconvenient than sorting recycling.3

The “burden” of laundry or sending your diapers off to a diaper service is balanced somewhat by never having to remember to run to the store for diapers, not to mention having to haul them to the car and then into the house. Cloth diapering parents also save on garbage bags and trips to the trash can outside.


As far as travel, day trips are no problem with cloth. Today’s cloth diapering parents are equipped with waterproof “wet bags” to store wet diapers in, and many cloth diapers are no more bulky than a large disposable. We use a regular backpack instead of a diaper bag. It comfortably holds at least five diapers, wipes, our personal items, snacks/water, and a few toys. I am no worse off carrying cloth than I would be with disposables.

For longer trips I may switch to disposables if we will not have easy access to laundry facilities, but we still use cloth during weekends at my parents’ house – it’s no big deal for me to do a load there if I need to.

Ease of Use

Most people may be accustomed to disposable diapers, but the plastic and tape are no easier to use than the snaps, Velcro, or Snappis that adorn today’s cloth. Diapering with cloth is easy.

The most popular cloth diapers are fastened with either snaps or Velcro tabs. Parents can choose to buy diapers in different sizes as their baby grows, or they can purchase “one size” diapers that grow with the child. A one size diaper has more snaps that enable it to fit a six month old as well as it does a sixteen month old.

And forget pins – if you use prefolds and covers, don’t worry about sticking your baby. One of the greatest inventions for cloth diapers is a small plastic piece called a Snappi. It has teeth that grip the diaper and keep it from falling off.

One More Potential Benefit of Using Cloth

Cloth diaper advocates assert that children who wear cloth are diaper free earlier on average than their peers in disposables.4 This might be because children in cloth can feel when they are wet, whereas disposables tend to hide the wet feeling. If this is true, it would be a great convenience to cloth-diapering parents to have their child out of diapers up to a year earlier than if the child wore disposables.


My husband and I chose cloth based on all of the factors I’ve looked at in this series. I knew that we would take care to launder the diapers in the most environmentally friendly way available to us, we were willing to invest a little extra time in return for the reduced health risks and lower cost of cloth, and we have also been happy with the convenience of using cloth diapers (nor are we so hard core that we refuse to be flexible when the situation warrants using disposables).

Another bonus for me? Cloth diapered baby bottoms are adorable. No matter what type of cloth diaper you buy, there can be little argument that cloth is cuter than the character-laden plastic. You can spice up any kind of cloth with dye or appliqués, or you can find adorable prints and patterns new or used.

Ultimately, the choice between diapering systems is a very individual decision for each family. Hopefully, one of the primary considerations is the health and well-being of the child, which is what I had in mind when writing this series. I would be happy to answer any cloth diapering questions you have, or at least refer you to someone who can.

  1. This post was originally published on Go Green Street. Since we are almost completely out of diapers now, I wanted to share it with my own readers before I wrote a couple of posts on potty learning.
  2. Even with Disposable Diapers, Poop in the Potty
  3. The Joy of Cloth Diapers
  4. I have not seen a scientific study that establishes this assertion. Cloth Diapers Made Simple; Why Use Cloth

8 Responses to:
"Why We Chose Cloth Diapers, Part 4"

  1. TNmommie

    You forgot one big advantage to cloth: no stinky disposable diaper pails! You might think that cloth diaper pails will stink just as bad as disposables, but its not true. Even my husband pointed it out when we switched to cloth when my son was 13 months old. When we used disposables we used a diaper champ/diaper genie thing that held a lot of diapers. I would not empty that container until it was full or began to stink so badly that I couldn’t take it any longer! With cloth, you shake the stinky part in the toilet and drop the diaper in the pail. You are washing every 2-3 days usually and the urine does not smell that bad. We actually use an open container now, where our disposable container was closed and the open cloth diaper container has very little odor as compared to the full (or empty after a while of use) diaper genie/champ.

    Another thing to consider is that a lot of daycare facilities WILL cloth diaper!!! I didn’t start out cloth diapering because I knew I would be sending my son to daycare when he was 6 months old. I didn’t want to invest in cloth for only 6 months and had no idea I could use cloth at home and disposables at daycare (which is an option also!). I ended up asking about it at my daycare when my son was about 12 months old, just for fun. And to my surprise the director/owner said “SURE” and very enthusiastically allowed the cloth diapering. Some daycares will say its “against state regulations” and its simply NOT TRUE. Ask for a copy and for them to site where it is in the regulations where it bans them. They won’t be able to find it!

    Of course, I’m the only one at my daycare that cloth diapers (I’m also one of only two moms that breastfeeds past infancy – and this is a 100+ child center), and we still use disposables on occasion (we don’t travel with cloth for many reasons), but I have thoroughly enjoyed cloth diapering both of my children over the last two years and plan to continue with #3 if I am ever graced with a third!

  2. David

    My wife & I are expecting our first in November and we plan on practing ‘elimination communication’, along with using disposable diapers. We live in an apartment complex and have to pay $3 per load to do laundry here. We’re pretty savy when it comes to pairing a coupon with a great deal or sale at the grocery and big box stores and have stocked up on disposable diapers over the past year when on sale for a few pennys a piece. If we had to pay full price for the disposables, or had our own washer & dryer, we’d probably go with cloth.

    I’ve researched cloth diaper systems extensively, and have also weighed the costs of them (plus wash, dry, detergent, time, etc), and for us disposable diapers will come out cheaper per change than cloth.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I’m sure it would be much, much harder to cloth diaper in an apartment without a washer/dryer in your unit. Good luck with EC!!

      • David

        Thanks! We’ve so far decided to homeschool & try ECing. We’re debating on how to approach immunizations & vaccinations. Have you blogged any on this? We’ve read a few books about delayed vaccination schedules, books in favor of not immunizing, and books in favor of going with whatever the CDC is currently recommending.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I haven’t blogged on vaccinations, because there are others who are far more knowledgeable than I am. I will share what I read – Cave’s “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations,” Romm’s “Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parent’s Guide,” and Sears’ “The Vaccine Book.”
        A lot of anti-vax’ers don’t like Sears, but I appreciated his more middle-of-the-road approach. And even though he advocates a delayed scheduled (and maybe selective, for those who don’t want the Chicken Pox vax), his reasoning gave me even more reason to do a far more selective schedule than he ultimately recommends.

      • Another great book to read is Wendy Lydall’s How To Raise A Vaccine Free Child. It is fully reference, she goes over common vaccine myths, and tells you what to do if your child were to get a childhood disease.

        Dr. Tenpenny on Vaccines (FB) is also a invaluable resource.

        Just to use the right terminology Dave, a child that is vaccinated is just that, vaccinated, the do not have immunity. The only way you gain immunity to a disease is to have the disease itself.

  3. Veronica   crunchyvtmommy

    Also they are so damn cute!

  4. oh man, i WISH my cd-ed 2yo would train “earlier.” we’ve been trying potty learning this summer, but as of yesterday, she is back in her cloth diapers.

    2 kids in cloth for the foreseeable future. sigh.

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