The Benefits and Tips on Cloth Diapering

Rear of a caucasian baby crawling and lifting his/her durable cloth diaper high up isolated on white background.

These days, moms have the freedom to be any type of parent they want to be. They can raise their children on vegan or Paleo diets if they wish, incorporate a variety of parenting styles and more. If you can think of it, there’s a book and a product out there for it.

One parenting choice that’s quickly becoming popular – or coming back in style, depending on how you look at it – is cloth diapering. Many families are choosing cloth diapers over disposable for their longevity, lack of waste and chemical-free makeup.

If any of these benefits sound appealing, then cloth diapers may be for you! Here, we break down their styles and dispel any myths you may have heard.

A set of cloth diapers sitting on a shelf.Cloth diapers come in tons of colors and patterns!

Different types of cloth diapers: All shapes and sizes!

Cloth diapers, as you might expect, are made of fabric and meant to be reused. Unlike their disposable counterparts, they generally aren’t treated with any chemicals, and they help reduce landfill waste.

They work by using various layers of cloth to build absorbency, then sealing in any mess with a waterproof outer shell. They also come in a variety of styles, from flat to hybrid to all-in-one:

Flats

These cloth diapers are the most old-school. They consist of a thin piece of fabric that can be folded many ways to fit your baby. While they do take longer to diaper than other types, you can customize their absorbency by the number of folds you create.

Pre-folds

As their name suggests, these come with extra layers of cloth pre-folded and sewn in. This means they are nicely absorbent, but you can’t change them to meet your baby’s needs. That said, pre-folds are designed to be pretty universal, so you shouldn’t have any problems.

If you go the pre-fold route, you’ll need to buy diaper covers: a waterproof outer casing that prevents waste from leaking. These generally look like disposable diapers and fasten at the hips with Velcro or snaps.

Hybrids

Hybrid cloth diapers come with a waterproof outer cover and an insert made of an absorbent material – either cloth or something disposable. They’re designed to combine the benefits of both diapering methods, generating less waste while keeping the changing process quick and easy when you’re on the go.

“Cloth diapering isn’t more or less messy than disposable diapers.”

All-in-one

These combine the absorbent layer and waterproof outer shell into one piece, making them like an all-cloth version of disposable diapers. Like the standalone covers, all-in-one cloth diapers fasten with Velcro or snaps at the hips.

Cloth diapering: Less messy than you think!

Many moms are afraid of dealing with the waste that comes with cloth diapering. In actuality, this style isn’t more or less messy than disposable diapers. Clean up is quick and easy; just follow the steps below:

  • When the diaper is soiled, shake any solids into the toilet.
  • Put the diaper in a pail lined with plastic.
  • Once the pail is full, put all of the diapers in the wash without any other items.
  • Wash once on hot using a baby-safe detergent. Do not use bleach.
  • After the rinse cycle, wash and rinse the diapers again.
  • Dry them on hot air.

If you absolutely can’t stand the thought of handling a poopy piece of cloth, your other option is to use a service that will pick up and wash dirty diapers while leaving you with clean ones in the interim. This choice is also great for busy parents who insist on using cloth. That said, diaper services typically give you fewer options in terms of cloth patterns, and their long-term cost tends to be just as expensive as disposable ones.

How many diapers do I need?

That answer depends on how frequently your baby uses the potty and how often you feel like washing diapers. If you plan on doing laundry every three days or so, you’ll need at least two dozen cloth diapers if not more.

Cloth diapering myths

Many moms think of cloth diapers as a magical cure-all for the environment, but unfortunately, they’re not as green as marketing makes them appear. Here are a few truths about cloth diapers:

  • They’re more eco-friendly than disposable, but not by much. While cloth diapers cut down on landfill waste, they still require resources to create and clean. And if you use a cloth diaper service, well, that means gas was used to bring the diapers to your house.
  • They’re more expensive than disposable … at first. Cloth diapers cost a lot of money up front, but they can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. You also might be able to get your hands on some unused one from a mom who bought too many or sell your extra stock and recoup some of the cost.

Are cloth diapers for me?

Many moms love cloth diapering, while others can’t stand the thought. Whether or not this style is for you depends on how much time you want to spend changing your baby’s diaper and cleaning up the mess.

Still don’t know if you’re the cloth diaper type? Check out our mom quizzes to discover your parenting style!

Autumn Green is an artist-turned-writer who traded the sweet tea of the south for the deep dish pizza of Chicago. Her favorite subjects include art, culture, design, small business/entrepreneurship and healthful living.