Cloth Diapering: Dispelling The Myths

Cloth Diapering Myths

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If you have never cloth diapered a baby or known anyone who has, you might have some preconceived notions about what it’s all about. But what you think you know is probably based on old-fashioned cloth diapering like your grandmother did. Things have changed a lot in the world of cloth diapering, so let’s dispell some myths and talk about the reality of modern cloth diapering!

Myth #1   Cloth diapers are ugly and gross

Cloth diapers have come a LONG way since your grandma used them! First of all, they don’t make those plastic, elastic pants to go over the cloth anymore. Instead, the outside cover of modern cloth diapers is a soft, waterproof fabric called PUL. PUL comes in a plethora of colors, patterns, prints, and designs. If you like picking out baby clothes, cloth diapers will open up a whole new avenue for coordinating your baby’s wardrobe. I am not a person with much fashion sense, so I was able to keep it pretty reigned in. But you should know that buying adorable cloth diapers seems to become a bit of an obsession for some folks. (There are worse things!) As for cloth diapers being gross, well, they are gross, because babies pee and poop in them. But they are no yuckier than disposable dipes. In fact, I personally think that disposable diapers react to babies’ urine to make it smell more, but I have no scientific evidence of this. Just personal experience and a pretty sensitive sniffer.

Cloth Diapering Myths

Myth #2    Only very crunchy moms cloth diaper

Since I started cloth diapering with my youngest, I have come across all kinds of different people who do the same. Since there are numerous reasons that might motivate someone to choose cloth (it’s eco-friendly, less toxic, and less expensive), it is logical that it attracts people from all different walks of life. Some of my cloth diapering friends include an engineer mom, a psychiatrist mom, and an Air Force mom–none of whom fit into the stereotype of “crunchy.” There is also an extensive online community of people who cloth diaper, forums to have your questions answered, and online shops like that sell a wide range of cloth diapering products. There is no shortage of information and support out there.

Myth #3    Cloth diapers cause diaper rashes

The opposite is actually true; cloth diapers can help and prevent a diaper rash. If you ask around for advice when your baby has a stubborn diaper rash, chances are that someone will recommend you put a cloth diaper on your baby (or even go without a diaper for a bit.) This is because it allows for good airflow while also taking away any potential irritants that might be in disposables. Many moms who have babies with severe food and chemical allergies and sensitivities turn to cloth diapers after exhausting other solutions. By using cloth diapers, you are able to know 100% of what is touching your baby’s skin. There is only 1) the fabric the diaper is made of and 2) the detergent that you choose to launder the diapers in. My last baby ended up having numerous food allergies during his first year, often causing painful diaper rashes. It was to our advantage that I was already cloth diapering, so we knew immediately when a food irritated him. Once we removed the foods that were causing him trouble from our diets, little O had fewer rashes than my other (disposable-diapered) babies did.  I also didn’t have to routinely use heavy duty diaper rash creams like I did with my others.

Myth #4   Cloth diapers require special, expensive laundry detergent

The recommendation used to be that to clean cloth diapers, you needed to use specialty detergents made just for cloth diapering. These detergents are in fact pretty pricey compared to mainstream ones or making your own. However, they are not necessary, nor are they even recommended any longer by the leading makers of cloth diapers. So whatever detergent you have chosen for the rest of your family’s laundry will work fine for your cloth diapers.

Myth #5   Cloth diapers aren’t absorbent 

Before little O was born, I prepared myself for the possibility of needing to make more frequent diaper changes, but to my surprise, this was not the case at all! The thing about cloth diapers is that they are incredibly adaptable to your baby’s needs. If you have a heavy wetter, you can create the perfect level and placement of absorbency. This is achieved by the type of diaper itself, as well as by pieces that can be added to a diaper to customize its absorbency. The various parts of a cloth diaper can also be made out of a range of materials, including cotton, hemp, bamboo, and microfiber, each with their own level of absorbency. For example, the hemp fitted diaper that was my go-to for overnight is advertised to hold up to 31 ounces! That’s the equivalent of 3.8 cups!

Cloth Diapering Myths

Myth #6   Cloth diapers leak all the time

I used disposables for my first 4 babies, and I thought blowouts were just a fact of life. With cloth diapers on my last baby, we made it 14 months before our one and only blowout happened. It was totally my fault. We’d had a marathon day of kids’ soccer games, and he had a fully saturated wet diaper and hadn’t pooped in two days… a perfect storm that of course struck while he was strapped into a restaurant high chair. Yikes. I didn’t go back there for months. But under normal circumstances, blowouts and those leaks that go up the back are practically unheard of in cloth diapered babes. And day-to-day wetness leaks…nope, not those either.

Myth #7   You have to fasten cloth diapers with diaper safety pins

Depending on what type of cloth diaper system you use, you may or may not even need anything like a diaper safety pin. Some types of diapers are so much like a disposable that they simply close with velcro (in the cloth diapering world, velcro is called aplix). If you are using a type of diaper that does require a separate fastener, there are two options other than diaper safety pins: a Snappi or a Boingo. They are both stretchy silicone pieces with sharp teeth at the ends to grab onto the cloth diaper and hold the edges together onto your baby. Snappis have three “arms,” one to grab each side and one to reach down and secure the middle. A Boingo is shorter and has two ends. You can use one for each side of the diaper, or if the diaper meets up in front of baby, just one Boingo would be enough.  While there are folks out there who still prefer to use diaper pins to fasten their baby’s cloth diapers, it has become less common because of the ease of use of the newer alternatives.

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Myth #8   Cloth diapers will stink up the whole house

Most recommendations say you should have enough cloth diapers in your “stash” to go 2-3 days between doing the diaper laundry load. So this is the longest period of time a soiled diaper would ever sit. If you’ve had a newborn before, you know that their poop actually doesn’t smell much. It’s not until they begin eating solid food that things…change. Once that happens, you will need a diaper sprayer to spray off the diaper before putting it into the diaper laundry. At that point, you are really left with nothing worse than your run of the mill soiled baby clothes. Believe me when I say that if cloth diapers had caused a stink issue, we would have had a big problem at our house. But that didn’t happen!

Myth #9   Cloth diapering creates too much extra laundry

At my house, the added laundry is negligible. We are talking about one extra load of laundry every 2 days at the peak of diapering (now that O is potty-training and only wearing diapers to sleep, it is more like every 4 days). I do regular laundry every day in order to stay on top of it, so one extra load every few days is not a big deal. And, particularly when O was a young baby and leaving the house was a production, it was SO NICE to be able to just do a load of laundry to have fresh, clean diapers, rather than having to go to the store. 

Myth #10   Cloth diapering is too hard for the other people who help care for  baby

If you are going to be placing your baby in someone else’s care, whether a daycare center or a family member, you may be concerned about their willingness to cloth diaper your baby. While you may need to do a tutorial and a little educating depending on the person, expecting someone else to use cloth on your baby while in their care really shouldn’t be a problem. It is definitely not too much to ask. There is such a range of cloth diaper types available, it is likely that you could find a setup that would work for your situation. Personally, I used a combination of prefold diapers and flat diapers with covers which are about as complicated as it can even get, and I’ve had babysitters tell me how surprisingly easy it is to change a cloth diaper. My 12-year-old son can do it…it’s not hard. 

Now that you know the truth about cloth diapering, consider this.

Cloth diapering is one of the most impactful ways you can cut down on the amount of waste your growing family is producing, while also saving money and providing a healthier, more comfortable alternative for your baby. Cloth diapering one baby will save on average 4000 diapers from being plopped into landfills. Your money savings can vary depending on the diapers you buy, but the savings will increase the longer you cloth diaper and the more children you use them on. Finally, there is the advantage of not having to worry about questionable chemicals and ingredients that can be found in disposable diapers. If you are looking for a way to green your everyday life with baby, you should consider giving cloth diapering a go!  

Cloth Diapering Myths


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