A mum-of-two explains why sometimes it’s better to go back to the basics.
Ever looked at pictures of cute cloth diapers on Instagram and thought they looked lovely, but dismissed the thought of cloth diapering your own baby because it seemed difficult? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can do it much more easily than you imagined. There are also plenty of reasons why you should cloth diaper. So here’s everything you need to know before you get started.
Why you should cloth diaper
1. Environmental impact
I never gave much thought towards how much waste a baby’s diapers create. Chances are that you may not have either, until you went through the first week with your new baby tossing around 12 disposable diapers a day! While I cared about the environment, it wasn’t my top reason for cloth diapering, until I saw first hand the amount of waste I was creating with my little newborn.
What about those eco-friendly disposable diapers? Yes, they are indeed much better for the environment than the usual disposables (especially brands like Bambo Nature, who ensure that every step of the production chain is as sustainably done as possible), but, because of the way trash is treated, it often can’t break down as quickly as it should. So that doesn’t stop the soil and water pollution that disposables often cause. It helps a lot, but the environmental footprint is still nowhere near as low as that of reusable diapers.
Sassy Mama tip: Even with disposable diapers, you’re supposed to first toss the poo in the toilet for proper sewage treatment before throwing the diaper away!
This was my top reason for wanting to cloth diaper my baby. Disposable diapers have been around for only one generation. They just haven’t been around long enough for us to know what the chemicals they contain do to the body (especially having such close and sustained contact with our little one’s most delicate parts). We part-time cloth diapered my first child as we got the hang of things and we noticed there was always this eczema patch on his bum that got quite itchy and raw at times.
As we started to cloth diaper him more and reduce our usage of disposables, we noticed a marked improvement in his skin. In hindsight, we realised it probably had a lot to do with our use of disposable diapers. Some babies are very sensitive to the chemicals and materials used in, or on, traditional disposable diapers (for others, you just can’t see what the effects are!). Have you ever noticed a foul smell once your baby has soiled their nappy? That’s their pee or poo reacting with the chemicals – which can’t be good!
The cost for a full set of reusable diapers can be very large, so I’ll just use rounded average prices for a set of 24 diapers (which is roughly what a full stash would be, although you could make do with less too). An All-In-One cloth diaper system, which includes everything, costs an average of $200. So, for a stash of 24 diapers, that works out around $4,800.
There are also more economical cloth diaper systems, like pockets and AI2, which use prefolds and covers. If you use a hybrid system with flushable liners, that will be an additional cost (if all of this is Greek and Latin to you, read this quick explainer). You can use your regular household detergent, so let’s round that up to $5,000 at the upper end, for as many years as you choose to cloth diaper.
A pack of disposable diapers, on the other hand, costs approximately $100 for 60 pieces depending on the brand and size. A baby uses 2,500 to 3,000 diapers in their first year, so already that’s somewhere between $4,170 and $5,000 in the first year alone. Your baby will likely use diapers until they are three years old (or longer). Whereas cloth diapers can be used for multiple babies, so the savings become astronomical after the first child. If you don’t plan on having more children, they can be sold or passed on to friends and family.
Sassy Mama tip: Another point worth noting is that some people feel that cloth-diapered children are often easier to potty train because parents and the babies themselves are more aware of when they have peed or pooped. It’s yet to be conclusively proven by studies, but read an interesting opinion here.
4. You’ll never run out of diapers!
Have you ever sent the husband on a panicked diaper run because you didn’t notice you had used the last one and supermarkets were closed (or about to)? Sounds familiar, right? Many cloth diapers are so versatile that you can use a receiving blanket, a tea towel or anything else you have on hand as an insert (if you’re waiting for laundry day), and the covers dry very quickly.
This one is last on the list because it’s the least practical, but a completely legitimate reason to cloth diaper! There is so much opportunity for outfit matching and it’s much more pleasing on the eye than what is effectively a plastic bag around the bum. Particularly in the summer, lots of our cloth-diapered babies roam around naked with nothing on but their diaper. It’s also great for newborn photoshoots and those precious moments caught on camera at home!
Best cloth diaper brands
Cloth-diapering mums won’t stop raving about CHARLIE BANANA. The brand offers an award-winning 2-in-1 reusable diaper system that truly grows with your baby. This is a one-size-fits-all cloth diaper, with a front panel that gives you an option to use washable or disposable inserts. The diaper lining is made of comfortable, super-soft fleece that’s stain-resistant and quick-drying (great to keep your bub’s bottom dry and help prevent rashes!).
CHARLIE BANANA has an exclusive new line featuring the famed Sophie La Girafe prints. With whimsical designs, punchy colours and retro graphics, it’s amazing how far reusable nappies have evolved from the days of safety pins! The brand is available at most baby and toddler stores across the city and on the company website.
15% off your entire order with code SassyCB (valid until Wednesday, 1 April, 2020, HK site only).
These are very cute and have a great fit due to the elastic that goes all around the front and back of the waist, and the ruffled leg stitch which serves to prevent leaks (notice that disposables have the same ruffling!). AppleCheeks now has a brand new AIO diaper that features its signature bamboo insert material, sewn into the cover for parents who really want a no-brainer cloth diaper.
Make excellent quality diapers and offers an easy-to-use nighttime diaper solution (the O.N.E.) that doesn’t involve multiple parts. Its newborn diapers are also irresistibly cute.
This new brand of easy-fit cloth diapers is perfect for newborns right through to tots in potty-training. The pull-up style pants also have an unsnap option, perfect for poonamis. Reuse the cover and change the inserts in the All in Two option, or use customised inserts for the Pocket style diaper.
Its signature hemp inserts are some of the trimmest, yet most absorbent, contoured inserts I’ve ever used. They offer pockets, AIOs and AI2 options, so there’s something for every family.
*Editor’s note: After a lot of experimentation with different cloth diapers and diapering systems, the author of this piece designed and launched her own brand of cloth diapers, Just Peachy, in March 2021.
Pro tips before you start cloth diapering
- Don’t buy your entire stash in one go. When you’re starting out, buy a variety of systems and brands to find out what kind of diapers you prefer. At Petit Tippi, we offer a beginner’s trial pack in newborn and larger one-size options so you can do just that. There are always beautiful new colours and prints being released, so take your time in building your stash.
- Invest in some newborn diapers, even if it’s just a few. Despite what many companies claim, it’s very hard to get a good fit on a newborn with a one-size-fits-all cloth diaper, and that can often to lead to leaks and frustration with cloth diapering. Because newborn diapers are usually used for only a few months, many mums sell what’s left over, and they’re often in very good condition.
- Leaks are caused because of two main reasons – fit and absorbency. If you’re getting leaks, first check whether the diaper was completely drenched when it leaked. If yes, you need to increase absorbency or change more frequently. If it wasn’t, you need to check your fit and make sure there are no gaps, especially in the legs and hips. You could also perhaps do a deep clean (what we call stripping – GroVia’s Mighty Bubbles is convenient and does this very well) to make sure that the build-up of detergent, minerals, enzymes etc. is not causing your diapers to repel liquid.
I hope this has helped you to feel more confident when embarking on your cloth-diapering journey with your bub. You’ve got this!