Okay, let’s just be honest. Diapering isn’t actually the part of parenting that everyone dreams about. In fact, it’s likely the part of bringing a baby into the family that many new parents dread! From blowouts to middle of the night changes to analyzing the consistency of the contents, diapering isn’t exactly glamorous. Over the past years, huge strides have been made in cloth diapering, making it easier than to opt for cloth vs. disposable diapers, but there is still a learning curve that stand in the way for many parents and caregivers.
Meagan Johnson, founder of Milwaukee Diaper Mission, is not only passionate about working to end diaper need for local families, but also knows a thing or two about making the transition to cloth diapering a whole lot easier. She joins us today with some Cloth Diapering 101 Basics to help you get started!
Cloth Diapering 101 – Learning the Basics of Cloth Diapers
by Meagan Johnson, founder of Milwaukee Diaper Mission
Cloth diapers have come a long way since your Grandma was in diapers! Modern and convenient designs make them nearly as easy to use as disposable diapers. There’s just one difference – you wash them instead of throwing them in the garbage. Sounds pretty easy, right? For the most part it is, but like anything else in parenting, cloth diapering is not for everyone. Some families don’t have time to do the extra load of laundry every week, some don’t have access to a washer and dryer in their home, and some don’t want to think about poop any more than they have to. The truth is, whether you use disposables or cloth, you’re going touch your baby’s poop once in a while – that’s just part of the gig.
Choosing Cloth Diapers
Because there are so many brands and styles of cloth diapers, researching them can be overwhelming. Most experienced cloth diapering parents will advise you to purchase a few different styles and try them out for a while. Once you have some experience under your belt and discover your preferences, you can invest in a collection of diapers that will perfectly fit into your lifestyle.
One misconception about cloth is that you’re either a “cloth diaper family” or a “disposable diaper family”, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Many families choose to use disposables while running errands or on vacation, and stick with cloth at home. Some families use disposables during the week and cloth at night and on the weekends.
Yes, cloth diapers need to be WASHED. Washing cloth diapers can be a little intimidating at first, but keep in mind that it’s just really dirty laundry. It needs to be cleaned with an effective detergent using your machine’s heaviest wash cycle. The process is simple: after your baby pees, you toss the diaper into a waterproof laundry bag until laundry day. If your baby poops, you must remove any solid waste from the diaper before you wash it. Some families use a diaper sprayer to remove poop, others use a designated spatula, rubber gloves, or toilet paper. All About Cloth Diapers is a great resource for help with choosing a detergent and developing a good wash routine.
The Environmental Impact of Cloth Diapers
Many families choose cloth for environmental reasons. It is estimated that it takes about 500 years for a disposable diaper to degrade. The first disposable diaper ever manufactured in 1948 is still sitting in a landfill somewhere and will be there for hundreds of years to come. One baby will need approximately 6,500 disposable diapers for a 2.5 year diapering period. Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby for every year they’re in diapers. There’s no question that cloth diapers are simply better for the environment.
Do Cloth Diapers Save Me Money?
Many families choose cloth to save money. Cloth diapers will save a family thousands of dollars in the long run, especially if they have multiple children. Cloth diapers typically range from $3-$50 per diaper depending on the style, brand, and materials used. A reasonably priced stash of 40 brand new cloth diapers will cost a family an average of $450. That’s about how much disposable diapers will cost in just the first 6 months of a baby’s life. Families may choose to buy used cloth diapers and save even more money. There are several online forums and buy/sell/trade pages dedicated specifically to cloth. Gently used diapers typically re-sell for 30%-50% of their original retail value.
How Do I Know if Cloth Diapering is Right for Us?
Milwaukee Diaper Mission hosts monthly Cloth Diaper Basics classes to educate and support families interested in using cloth. These classes cover all the basics including the different styles, how to wash, care for, and fit diapers on your child.
If washing diapers at home isn’t appealing to you, there is a local cloth diaper laundry service that will do all the dirty work for you. Wholesome Diaper Co. will drop off clean diapers at your doorstep and take the dirty ones away weekly.
Whether you choose cloth, disposables, or a little bit of both, you are doing a great job keeping your baby’s bum clean and dry, and that’s what matters most. Although it may not seem like it now, someday diapers will be a distant memory. You will look back on these days knowing that you did what was best for you, your family, and your baby.
What is Diaper Need and How Can I Help?
Spending a few hundred dollars on diapers up front is easy for some families, but not so easy for the majority. Many low-income families cannot afford to make the initial investment, so cloth is not typically an option for them. That’s why basic needs organizations like Milwaukee Diaper Mission exist.
MDM provides families with access to both disposable and reusable options because dignity of choice matters, and reusable personal hygiene products should be accessible, affordable, and achievable for everyone. 1 in 3 U.S. families report experiencing diaper need. Diaper need is the lack of a sufficient supply of diapers needed to keep an infant or child clean, dry, and healthy. No state or federal child safety-net program (like SNAP or WIC) supports families with funding for diapering supplies. (National Diaper Bank Network) Because of this, organizations like Milwaukee Diaper Mission are vital for the survival of many families.