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Should you invest in cloth diapers?


Ahhh… diapers, one of the less exciting aspects of caring for your cheeky babe. From nearly overflowing post-nap diapers to the kind of poonamis you need to wear a rain jacket for, diapers are an inextricable part of #momlife. But with so many options to choose from (ultra elastic, extra comfort, extra padding, anyone?), it can be overwhelming as a new mom to know which disposable diaper to choose. On top of that, there’s another alternative that’s growing in popularity and worth considering… reusable cloth diapers.    

However, mention cloth diapers to your mom or grandmother, they’ll probably roll their eyes. That’s because to their respective generations, cloth diapers were a pain in the butt (literally for those poor babies who had to wear them!). Bulky, uncomfortable and way too absorbent, the old versions were inefficient and a hassle to wash. Modern cloth diapers, though, are made with cotton, hemp or bamboo fabric or disposable inserts and breathable waterproof coverings. They are easy to use and clean, but they do take a little extra maintenance than single-use diapers.

Interested in how to use cloth diapers? Well, the first step is to work out which type of cloth diapers you’d like to use (prefold cloth diaper, all-in-one cloth diaper, etc), plus, you’ll need to consider how many diapers a day your babe usually uses. If that all sounds a little complicated, don’t worry, we’ve covered this in our “Cloth Diapers for Beginners” guide below:

Do cloth diapers help the environment? 

If you’re one of the 77% of Americans who are interested in living more sustainably, you might make the move to cloth diapers to reduce your use of plastic. After all, it’s estimated that 20 billion (yes, with a ‘b’) diapers are disposed of each year in America. So how environmentally friendly are they? Well, the idea is that you buy one set – perhaps 10 or so – of adjustable cloth diapers and they will last until your babe is toilet trained (another fun topic, for another time, my friends). So, you will definitely reduce your daily waste, but don’t forget to factor in how to clean cloth diapers. And by that we mean the amount of water and energy needed to clean those poonami parcels, as well as the water and energy used in creating them. 

Our conclusion? It’s complicated. An analysis from the NY Times found that cloth diapers can be better for the environment if they are cared for with environmentally friendly detergents and water reducing methods. So it’s up to you how good they are for the planet, really.

Will I save money?

Another tough question! The cost of cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers comes down to brands and styles. It’s not a given you will save money, but experts (with far more time than us) found that over the course of a baby’s first three years, you could save up to $270 if you factor in all the expenses. So, it might not be as cost-effective as it’s hyped up to be, but it will save you a couple hundred dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, if you have more than one cheeky monkey, you’ll be able to reuse the diapers again and again.

How much additional laundry will I need to do?

We’re not gonna lie, mama, there will be extra laundry. At least an extra load per day. But that’s to be expected, surely? If that scares you (no judgment here!), you could look into diaper cleaning services in your area. Those angels will pick up a load on a regular basis and return it super clean and even folded! But keep in mind you’ll need to make sure you purchase extra diapers to do this as you’ll have to factor in the delay. And those diaper services ain’t cheap.

How do I store cloth nappies?

Where do you store the shit-tonne of dirty diapers until wash time? We’re glad you asked. There are a few different ways to wash your cloth diapers, the simplest is to dispose of the thin bamboo insert if you use them (they catch any solids). Some can be flushed, and others need to be put in the trash. Then spray or rinse the diaper before dumping it in a bucket. Once you have a few diapers ready for a wash, use your washing machine to do a cold-water rinse, followed by a very hot wash. You can reduce the number of stains (ewwww) and longevity of the diapers by how often you do the washing.

Can you mix cloth diapers and disposable diapers?

Absolutely. You could use cloth diapers at home, for example, and disposable diapers when you’re out and about. Or some parents choose to use cloth diapers during the day and then as their babe starts to sleep for longer periods (hallelujah!) they use more absorbent night nappies to reduce those frustrating 3am diaper changes that result in two very grumpy humans the next morning.

Will my baby grow out of the cloth diapers quickly?

This all depends on which diapers you invest in and how fast your little one grows. But if you look for the adjustable diapers, they can last for several years. The other good news is that there is quite the thriving market for second-hand cloth diapers. Yes, really. So not only can you reduce your environmental footprint even further by using preloved diapers, but you’ll also save some money. Or make some money if you’re selling diapers that aren’t needed anymore. It’s a win, win.

Read next: A guide to common baby rashes

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