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Are Cloth Diapers Right for Your Family?

20 Jun 2014 – 03:23 PM EDT

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Ask any parent: little ones need diaper changes – a lot. The average kid wears thousands of diapers until they learn the art of using the potty. In ancient times, babes’ waste was contained in leaf wraps, moss packed sealskin, grass tucked into rabbit skin covers among other creative absorbers and containers. Cloth diapers seem to have taken hold in Elizabethan times, continuing for generations until Johnson and Johnson released the first disposable in 1948. Disposable diapers are now the norm but cloth is again gaining popularity.

Why Cloth?

Cloth diapers are more expensive up front but save money in the long run, especially if the same stash is used on additional kids. Cloth diapering families report that their babies create fewer blowouts, have diaper rash less often and even potty train earlier. There is also concern of chemicals in disposable diapers and the use of nonrenewable petroleum to produce them. The debate is not quite settled as to if greener disposables have a similar ecological footprint as cloth which need to be washed and dried. Find some conversations about the debate at Just Mommies and the Real Diaper Association.

Varieties of Cloth Diapers

There are a great number of varieties, materials and brands of contemporary cloth diapers on the market. They always entail an absorbent liner and an outside – usually colorful – waterproof cover. The liner of Pocket Diapers is inserted into the cover and so can be switched out and easier dried. Liners stays attached to the covers of All In One Diapers and are easier to assemble. With Hybrid Diapers, parents have the choice of washable or disposable/ compostable liners, always using the washable covers. Grandma’s Flats or Prefolds, are still available which require safety pins and “plastic pants.” Kelly’s Closet has a table comparing cost, ease of use, closure type and so forth of more varieties.

Storing and Washing

There are many ways to store cloth diapers post soiling, prior to washing. A diaper pail like that used for disposables works well. Most cloth diaper companies also sell “wet bags” that zip or snap closed to contain stink. It is necessary to remove solids from diapers before storing: just shake it into the toilet. Like any article of clothing, cloth diapers do come with washing instructions, although a bit incomplete. Depending on the type of washer, diapers usually need a few wash cycles including a hot soak. Dye and fragrance free detergent is recommended. Hang drying diapers greatly reduces their ecological footprint, which is often a concern. Cloth diapering families usually find the process not nearly as foul as expected.


The most important consideration about committing to cloth diapering is the willingness of everyone to participate. If your tot attends a day care five days a week that won’t cooperate, then maybe cloth diapering isn’t for you. If baby has persistent diaper rash and a willing grandma watches him, trying cloth might help.

Read more at another Piccolo Universe article that discusses natural parenting.