Inspired by my friend, Carly, I have decided to write up a cloth diaper review. Kessa is almost 8 months old and we have been using cloth diapers since she was about 2 weeks old. So how have things been going? Do I regret my decision? Am I loving it? How about since Kessa started eating solids? Well, let’s talk.
We have been using bumGenius 3.0 AIO (all-in-one) diapers. Basically, that means they do everything that a cloth diaper does. It’s on the high end of cloth diapering. Yes, that means they cost more, but for us, it was worth not having to worry about pins (or other devices to keep a diaper closed), folding, covers, etc. And it also means that babysitters are more willing to use them. Instead of having a cloth diaper with a plastic cover, it has a fleece inside with a PUL (a type of waterproof fabric) outside. There is a pocket between the two where I put in inserts. (I do this after I wash them so that they’re all ready to go when it’s diapering time. Babysitters, etc. do not have to worry about stuffing diapers.) They are one-size. Kessa wore the same diapers at two weeks that she’ll (hopefully) be wearing when she potty trains. There are adjustable snaps that change the size of the diaper and the inserts so that the diapers grow with her. And they’re durable enough that I should be able to use them with multiple children.
Our experience? Mostly good. Yes, we’ve had some hiccups and complaints, but I don’t regret my decision at all. So, let’s discuss the pros and cons.
- Laundry tabs. bumGenius 3.0 diapers close with velcro. Because of this, there has to be a way to secure the sticky tabs in the laundry so they don’t catch on everything. So they put laundry tabs on the diapers. It appears to be a kind of fleece or something that the sticky side of the velcro sticks to. And for several months, it worked just fine. But slowly I noticed that here and there a laundry tab would stop sticking. The sticky part would catch on the other diapers and start pulling threads off of them. More and more laundry tabs stopped working and soon I would pull out long diaper chains out of my washer. I remedied the problem by just sticking the tabs to the velcro I close the diaper with, essentially turning the diaper inside out. But that was annoying. So I contacted Cotton Babies (the manufacturer) and the allowed me to return the defective ones. I’ve actually returned the majority of my diapers now in two batches and I plan on sending the rest of them back soon. (They’ve all just taken their time to loose their stickiness.) In good news, their customer service is great and I haven’t had any hassle at all with the returns. (The diapers come with a 1-year warranty against product defects.) And even better, the replacement diapers actually use velcro for the laundry tabs instead of fleece, or whatever it was. So now the laundry tabs work wonderfully. Overall, though, I probably wouldn’t recommend velcro closures. I think I’ll try snaps next time.
- Leaks. I still don’t know if it’s the diapers that are prone to leak, or if it’s just Kessa. I’m leaning towards Kessa, because we’ve been putting her in disposables at night for months now, and she leaks out of those probably 4-5 nights a week. One of the problems with adjustable-sized inserts is that you have to fold over the insert, creating bulk on just one end. The worst is the middle size, because the fold is maybe an inch long. So it really pushes out either the front or back top of the diaper, depending on how you put the insert in. The problem with pushing the diaper out is, obviously, the increased potential for leaks. Kessa tends to leak out the front (I assume thanks to gravity and Kessa’s love for being on her tummy) so at first we put the fold in the front, figuring it’d give extra room to absorb, but I’m starting to wonder if it contributed to the leaking, so I switched them to the back and so far I think it’s making a difference. She also tends to leak around the legs. I’m not sure if it’s because the inserts are rectangular, so they bunch up easier, or if I just don’t put them on tightly enough around her legs. Or, again, perhaps it’s just her shape. Not sure.
Ummm… that’s about all we can think of for cons. Two cons aren’t really that bad. (Yeah, they’re annoying cons, sure. But there could be so many worse.)
- Solid waste. Ok, so as cloth diapering goes, I think we got lucky. One of the biggest fears of switching to cloth is dealing with stinky diapers. Before babies starts solids, you can just throw the diapers straight into the washer. But after they start solids… well, you’ll notice a big difference in their stools. Time to pop them in the toilet! I say we got lucky because I think I’ve had to “scrape” Kessa’s diapers … maybe two times. And really, it was still solid enough that I could just use a wad of toilet paper to scrape it off and not even get my hands dirty. The downside is the cause. Kessa is easily constipated. So while we have other problems dealing with major discomfort for her, it at least has made cloth diapering much easier for us. I’ve never had to even longed to have a diaper sprayer. This may change in the future, who knows. And it may be very different for anyone else.
- Laundry. This may be a con for someone else, but I really haven’t had much of a problem with it. Every other night after Kessa goes to bed, I throw a load of laundry into the washer while I do other things. I let them dry while I sleep, and in the morning I fold them and put them away. Sure, it doesn’t always work so smoothly. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I’ve sent 9 diapers to be returned so I have fewer diapers to work with and have to wash them daily. But overall, it’s a good system. Laundry has never really been a task that has bugged me. (Unless, of course, I have to use a laundromat. But that’s an entirely different issue.) And in the case that I don’t get them washed in time, I keep a stock of disposables on hand for nighttime use, so I can use those in case of laundry emergency.
- Travel. Some people balk at the idea of using cloth diapers when on the go, at church, etc. Sure, they take up more room in the diaper bag, but other than that, I don’t see how it’s any different than disposables. A disposable you throw away, leaving everyone else to smell it (man, there was a horrible one in the mother’s room in church on Sunday); a cloth you put in a plastic bag or a wet bag in your diaper bag that keeps out the smell until you can get home to put it in the diaper pail.
- Cost. Ok, admittedly it’s a much larger up-front investment. But in the long run, it saves lots and lots of money. I’ve been really curious as to how much money we’ve saved, so I’ve been keeping track of every load of laundry I do, what day it was and how many diapers I washed. I’ve then put those in a very elaborate spreadsheet to figure out how many diapers I’ve “paid off.” Or, in other words, when would I have spent the same amount of money buying disposables? The one thing I haven’t factored in is the cost of washing and drying. Yes, I know that’s a big factor to leave out. I just haven’t yet taken the time to figure it out. Someday I want to do a post on the cost of cloth diapering, in which I will include that. So the following is cost of diapers only. Also, it should be noted that I was pretty frugal in figuring the cost per diaper of disposables. I looked up the cost for buying Huggies at CostCo in their largest quantities so I could get the cheapest price. (Mostly because I knew I would have done something similar.) So, cost of Newborn diapers was $0.39/diaper (They don’t sell those at CostCo and babies don’t go through hundreds and hundreds of newborn diapers anyway. So that was the Walmart price, I believe.) Size 1 were $0.16/diaper and Size 2 were $0.19/diaper. (That’s as big as Kessa has gotten. I’ll post prices for bigger sizes when I do my more detailed blog later.) We’ve gone through approx. 773 cloth diapers in that time. (The first few weeks I wasn’t keeping as detailed a log. Also, keep in mind we have had a few weeks (vacations) where we’ve used disposables, not cloth, and that we use disposables at night. This number is solely for cloth.) Those 773 diapers would have cost us $240.90 in disposables. We spent $300.58 to buy cloth (I averaged $15.03 per diaper. That includes shipping), so we haven’t paid for all of them yet, but we have paid for about 16 of them. So… probably another month or two and we’ll break even (minus cost of laundry).
- Carbon Footprint. Ok, this definitely isn’t my main motivation for cloth diapering. But I have to admit, it’s kind of nice knowing that I’m not filling up landfills as much as I could be. Especially when I realize that we’ve used 773 cloth diapers. Yipes! That’s a lot of diapers.
- BJ doesn’t have to take out the garbage as often. And we never have stinky diapers sitting around, waiting to go out.
Ok, so there aren’t that many pros, either. I guess the question is whether the vast amounts of money I’ll save in the long run is worth having to deal with leaks. Especially since she leaks in disposables, too.
The observant reader will notice that at one point I said, “I think I’ll try snaps next time.” (No, I’m not pregnant.) We did not buy the recommended amount of cloth diapers. (Something like 32! Which I think is ridiculous. I don’t go through that many between washes since I wash every other day, as recommended.) We bought 20 total, two of which were size X-small. Effectively, we have 18 diapers. Thus, we won’t have enough to have two babies in diapers at the same time. As I highly doubt that Kessa will be potty trained before Baby #2 arrives, I will have to buy more cloth diapers. I won’t have to buy as many, since Kessa doesn’t go through all of her diapers between washings, so Baby #2 will be able to share diapers with Kessa. But I will have to buy some. I like bumGenius well enough, but I do think I want to try some other brands.
And just because I don’t think this post is long enough yet, [rolls eyes] let’s talk about cost a little bit more. One huge turn off for many people is that cloth diapers are a much larger up-front cost. I spent $300. For disposable diapers, that cost is spread out over 7.5 months (assuming you spend $40/month on disposables). $40 every month is a lot easier to swallow than $300 all at once. Even if you can see the long-term cost benefits, many people simply don’t have $300 to spend on diapers. I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot lately, actually. For those of you who want to cloth diaper, but just can’t pay the $300 up front, I think I’ve found a solution for you. (At least, those of you thinking about it while you're pregnant or before you become pregnant.)
When your precious little one is born, you’re going to start forking out $40/month for diapers, right? That’s just the way it is. So, what if you started saving that $40 every month while you’re pregnant? In 7.5 months of pregnancy (or less if you use less expensive cloth diapers), you could save up enough money to buy all of the cloth diapers you will need. Even better, once the baby is born, keep pulling that $40 out every month. Put it in a high interest savings account (or mutual fund, or whatever tickles your fancy) and use the money that you would have spent on disposable diapers to start funding your baby’s college education.
Just think. You could spend $1,440 on diapering your kid* … or you could extend that by 7.5 months and spend $300 on diapers and put $1,440 into an account to earn interest for your child’s future.**
*Assuming $40/month for 3 years.
**For the record, I’m not trying to sound snobby or anything. I wish I would have been this smart. As it stands, I just barely had the idea and just opened an ING savings account today to do just this.