Energy Diet

The Cloth Diaper Diaries

So. I’ve been avoiding the issue and it is time to come clean. I’ve been experimenting with the cloth diapers. I am sad to say that it didn’t work for us. Here’s what went wrong:

After some research into cloth diaper brands I decided to buy six diapers I saw good reviews on from the U.S. I planned on buying six more of a local brand which looked similar, but used Velcro instead of ‘snaps’ (which is the same as those hard metal things on baby-grows [onesies] that parents are tortured with while baby is having a meltdown. The snap is normally impossible to press together, and baby soon loses patience. Someone, PLEASE make me a baby-grow with a zip!) These ones are plastic though, and not difficult to ‘operate’.

The issue with the Velcro fastenings was that apparently they don’t age so well, and I am in it for the long haul. I got myself a diaper that the manufacturer claims can be used from birth up to potty training. Not only do I want to lessen my contribution to landfills, I was very keen on saving a bit of money as well. Monia explained quite succinctly in her blog post about the economic and other benefits of cloth diapering are here. Amongst other things, I also do not appreciate the chemicals being used to make these disposables. If you smell a disposable diaper (before use!) it is positively noxious. Can’t be good for tiny bums!

The use of disposable nappies is so commonplace here that we really got a few raised eye-brows when we intimated that we want to give the washable ones a go. What about staining? We were asked. (The answer is to let damp nappies dry in the sun, a natural bleaching agent, and it saves electricity on drying too!)

What about soiling? We were asked again. Well. Luckily we also had some super excited (and strangely practical) friends who gifted us with a hand held sprayer that gets fitted onto the toilet cistern. All ‘solids’ get the spraying treatment and ultimately flushed away.

Isn’t it a drag to wash nappies every day? Well. It is if you don’t have enough nappies to begin with, (we only have six yet, remember?) but if you have the recommended 12 -18, you will probably only wash it every 2nd or 3rd day. I find myself doing laundry more regularly now anyway with Hannah going through outfits like it’s a fashion show (she’s such a girl!), so it’s not really an extra burden. If you make sure that your washing machine has a good energy rating (A to C) and doesn’t overdo it on the water, it is definitely an alternative to adding to all those landfills.

So, now for the crunch. We tried it a couple of times during the day, still opting for the disposable at night so that it can last the whole night. I knew that we would have to change the nappies more regularly, so that didn’t bother me at all. The problem was that sometimes (more often than not) the nappies ended up leaking. I was pretty determined though, and just resolved to change her as soon as I think it was needed. Then Mark pointed out that Hannah doesn’t seem to kick her legs so high up when wearing her nappy. You see, for the nappy to be a ‘one size fits all’, it gets folded over and clipped on at the front. We had to fold over so much cloth that she was practically in a diaper straight jacket, not being able to pull her legs up toward her when lying on her back. This seemed to be the deciding factor, and so we gave up and reverted to disposables.

I was quite disappointed about this, but took considerable heart after reading Monia’s post about her experience with cloth diapers. It turns out that size matters, and now at 5 months old her daughter and the cloth diapers have ‘found’ each other again and it is working like a charm.

So for now we are waiting for Hannah to fill out a bit and grow into her diapers. She is a particularly small baby, only weighing 5.3 kilos (11.6 pounds) at 4.5 months, so I also don’t blame the diaper manufacturer for the project failure. I think I will buy the local diapers next, when we get more. I realized that it is important to support the local businesses, Velcro or not.

I still think it is worth it: even with the few days we did use the cloth ones I felt a little bit like the girl who tossed the starfish back into the ocean. Just that one disposable diaper that did not get used made a small difference.


  1. Christina Nunez
    July 6, 2011, 11:27 am

    Love this post and these pictures! Here’s hoping that you will be able to return to cloth at some point.

  2. John
    July 8, 2011, 1:43 pm

    There is something to be said for expediting the potty training process rather than choosing between cloth or disposables:

  3. eileen rose
    milan, italy
    July 8, 2011, 2:49 pm

    i’ve heard some disposable diapers, napkins are not good to used because of chemicals product, much better were back to clothed one.

  4. gloria williams
    July 8, 2011, 5:28 pm

    I used cloth diapers on 6 children daily, except for camping trips…. I often wondered why, when everyone forgoes cloth for throw away, I washed diapers all the time. (I even had twins, double diapers). Imagine how many disposable diapers are thrown away, and plastic never really goes away…… the dumps are sealed, and the germs that live in airless places are not nice. You would not want to meet them. Does it leak all this into the ground water? What chemicals touch your baby from the diapers???? What do you do with all the extra time and far less money.

  5. Michelle
    July 9, 2011, 12:08 pm

    Just curious if you ever considered prefolds with covers? They are sized but cheaper and for me worked better as daytime dipes for my 8 month old. I only use the one size pocket diapers at nighttime(double stuffed).

  6. Laurie
    July 9, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I used cloth (cotton diapers) before all these new fangled things appeared. I had about 50 diapers, and used a bleach solution in the diaper pail, after I rinsed them in the toilet. So what if my hands got wet -:I could always wash them too. Every other day I emptied the pail into the washing machine and ran the load with less than 25 diapers. I used rubber pants, with diaper pins, that work best if you push them in from front to back. It avoids any punctures to the baby. Learn how to put them in with one hand while holding the other against the baby’s skin. They stay on tight, and there is no stain if washed with detergent and bleach. They stay on well unless they are wet. At the first sight of a diaper rash, diaper the baby without the rubber pants, tell yourself to change them more often, and never use anything but water to clean little bottoms, which means forget the creams and lotions because they only trap in the moisture which makes the diaper rash persist. I had three kids and none of them knew or now knows the difference.

  7. These Are the Days: )
    July 10, 2011, 3:56 am

    Gotta laugh at the: 6!?!; pre-made/formed diddies; ‘velcro’ or ‘snaps; and a sprayer?: ) No wonder there were probs! Here’s the benes of ALL the ‘old-ways’ of doing regular method WITH regular:
    – White cloth diddies, the old-fashioned, big/thinner kind
    (3 doz!.);
    – Diaper/safety-pins (6 prs.)
    *Stick/store in a bar of wrapped-soap; they slip in easy, and use your hand on the inside too, so never stick baby!
    – Plastic/rubber-pants (3 dz.):
    *A drop of baby-oil in rinse-water keeps em soft as butter.
    – Diaper pail/step-on lid and narrow to fit near potty/bathrm;
    – Dreft/other baby-soap and gal. bleach; and
    – YOUR IN BIZ!
    Besides being custom-sizable, the large, thinner white-cloth diddies, that you easily ‘kite-fold’ to perfect size (play with one, you’ll figure it out quick!):
    1. Soil-Rinse Easy/Better:
    *Just hold a tiny (dry) corner tight: For light-soiled, a guick dunk; and if heavier-soil (swish, up-n-down a few times);
    *No ‘wringing’, just pop them into the step-on/covered diddie-pail, right next to the potty; rubber-pants can go right into the pail/no rinse is usually needed;
    *The pail should have a ~1/4-full/ ‘manageable’ amt of water (to carry/lift/dump into washer) with ~3/4c. dreft and a dash of bleach; and
    * When laundering, pour the whole pail/water and all into washer and spin- NOW fill hot/wash with dreft & splash of bleach;
    2. Dry Real Fast: Even hung on a line (outside OR in!); and
    3. They’re fun to fold/stack all fresh-really (it’s like yoga)!
    *Psst- When baby gets bigger, use very inexpensive ‘cloth-diaper, paper-liners’, then there’s barely ANY effort to saving ALL that money- not to mention the planet; you NEVER ‘run-out-of-diddies’; AND later, they are the BEST dust-cloths!: )

  8. These Are the Days: )
    July 10, 2011, 4:01 am

    One other tip:
    – Use 2, layered diddies, before fold/ for the night-time ones: )

  9. Caitlin
    July 10, 2011, 8:57 am

    and yet our parents – usually with more kids – dealt with the old fashioned cloth diaper. kudos to them hey?

  10. Chay
    July 11, 2011, 4:39 pm

    Yay for cloth diapers! My son is 9.5 mos old and we’ve been through all sorts of cloth diapers. The thing is, in the beginning those “One size fits all” dont really fit. We did Prefolds with covers and when he was about your LOs age we tried the OS again and have invested more in those. I love the ease of velcro, but the snaps dont stick to eachother in the wash. I also line dry which makes me feel that much better about using cloth. Give it another go! 🙂

  11. Anna
    Sunnyside, NY
    July 11, 2011, 9:43 pm

    Cloth diapers are definitely doable, you just need to really experiment to find the type/size that work for your child and you. There are a bazillion kinds out there, the real “problem” is just wading through the variety to find what works. Scour your local Craigslist for people getting rid of used diapers (often new or gently used) or check out
    That way you can try out a variety of types/brands w/o spending lots of money.

    Anybody who wants to do this can do it! You DO need to change them more often, and, yeah, cleaning the poop takes more time/work. However apparently babies that are cloth diapered get potty trained quicker because they actually FEEL the wetness — disposable diapers wick away so much moisture that the baby really has no incentive to stop using them. We’re only in month 15, so we’ll see if it’s true for us!

    We use Gdiapers btw and sometimes at home we use Motherease one-size fitteds, with no covers and just change everytime the baby “goes,” to get her used to feeling really dry. This also eliminates diaper rash.

    Good luck and have fun to anybody cloth diapering!

  12. Rebecca
    July 13, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Great article, but a few things I’d like to point out
    -night time – cloth diapers last the whole night! My son actually leaks more when (on rare occasions) using the disposables. I use Kawaii or BumGenius with double inserts (one bamboo and one microfiber, bamboo is very trim), and it’s good for 14 hours.
    -One-size, yup it’s big on a young infant. That’s why it’s best to use prefold + wrap for a small baby until they’re about 12-14 lbs. I used sized cloth diaper (g diaper) until then.

  13. Cecilia
    September 13, 2011, 4:10 am

    Okay. I am revisiting my old blogposts. Do I have a life? NO! Just want to say I really appreciated all the posts on the diapers. Thanks “These are the Days” -step by step and very informative! Exactly what I needed to know! It seems so easy, very daunting when you don’t know. Also all the other champions rooting for cloth, thanks for writing. We are officially on cloth now (and it’s great). Still on disposables for night times, but I am going to switch now, apparently they become more absorbent the more you wash?
    I am still on the fancy -schmancy premade ‘diddies’ (“These are the Days’) but am INSPIRED to get more regular cloth ones, now that I know they work. (Of course they work, have been for years, funny how we forget that)
    Hope someone reads this.