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Life with Baby

The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapers

Here's what to know if you're considering cloth diapers over disposables

Cloth diapers have come a long way from your grandma’s day. From pocket diapers with disposable inserts to all-in-ones that include covers, there are cute options that fit (and grow with!) your baby and your family's budget.

If you're thinking about giving cloth diapers a try, know that they aren’t as absorbent as disposables, notes Stan Spinner, M.D., chief medical officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics. But if you're vigilant about diaper changes, your baby’s bum is less likely to get irritated when you use cloth.

It's important to keep in mind that it’s not clear which option is more Earth-friendly. Disposable diapers do clog up landfills, creating about 3.6 million tons of waste, according to the EPA. But cleaning cloth diapers requires a lot of detergent, hot water, and energy.

In the end, like everything else with parenting, you need to make the choice that feels right for you. We asked three moms why they opted for cloth diapers—and what the experience is really like!

1. “I Never Need to Make Late-Night Diaper Runs to the Store”

Kerry Steinmann Goldberg, mom of two

Why she went for cloth: A huge factor was environmental. I would have said the savings, but I bought a ton more than necessary because they're so cute!

What’s great about them: I find cloth diapers with elastic tend to hold blowouts better than disposables—and that means fewer clothing changes. I use one-size diapers, so my 2-year-old fits into the same diaper as my 6-month-old. If we’re going out, I just throw a few in the bag and don’t worry about which child needs which size.

Downsides: They're bulkier, so not all clothes fit correctly over the diapers. I have a diaper sprayer to make cleaning easier and spraying poopy diapers is pretty gross, so I don’t always feel like doing it.

Unexpected perks: There's resale value in cloth diapers! When your kids are potty-trained, you can sell them and make back some money. Plus, I never run out of diapers—I just throw in a load of laundry instead of making late-night runs to the store.

2. “They’re Just as Easy to Use as Disposables”

Alanna Gallo, mom of two

Why she went for cloth: I started with disposables and used those for the first four months with my first. But then I realized I’d save a ton of money in the long run by making the switch to cloth.

What’s great about them: No harsh chemicals next to my baby’s skin. And some designs come with liners to make clean up easier, so they’re as easy to use as disposables. Plus, I feel good that we’re keeping garbage out of the landfills.

Downsides: It’s extra laundry...but you’re already doing a ton of laundry if you have kids, so what's two or three more loads per week? The poop can be a bit much to handle.

Unexpected perks: Thanks to my adorable diaper stash, diapering can be fun. The cloth diaper community is a great support too, especially when it comes to trouble-shooting problems with washing or fit.

3. “You Can Alternate Cloth Diapers with Disposables”

Melissa Diaz, mom of one

Why she went for cloth: At first, we did it for financial reasons. And I also wasn’t happy about the chemicals in disposables.

What’s great about them: I feel so good about using an option that is chemical-free and cheaper in the long run. We mostly use cloth at home and disposables when we’re out.

Downsides: Washing! Especially the mushy poops! Sometimes the diapers get a peculiar odor, but I put them out to dry in the sun and that solves the problem.

Unexpected perks: Having used both, I find cloth diapers are truly the simplest and most inexpensive choice.