Deciding to switch to cloth diapering


Have you thought about making the switch to cloth diapers but hesitated for one reason or another? Up until recently, so did I. But after a bit of learning and prep, on Sunday I put my baby in her first cloth diaper. It’s been a few days and I’m pretty happy about it so far.

Having used cloth diapers at one of my nanny jobs several years ago, I seriously considered using cloth for my baby as I was planning for her arrival. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, for our bank account, and for the environment. At the same time, I didn’t want to take on more than I could handle. We live in a nyc apartment with a shared laundry facility in the basement, so the cost and effort involved in doing laundry is significant (though not as much as it was at our last apartment where the nearest laundromat was a couple flights of stairs and several blocks away).

I researched cloth diapers and ran the numbers, and found that at $4 per load to wash and dry our laundry, the cost savings of cloth would have been negligible. There might be a little savings after additional kids, but there would probably also be extra accessories and laundry cycles for prepping and stripping the diapers that I hadn’t accounted for, and in the end the cost difference would be on the order of $100, which didn’t seem enough to convince me to make the commitment to such regular laundry.

Meanwhile the various environmental analyses, when considering the energy and water involved in doing the laundry, didn’t come out as convincingly in favor of cloth as one might expect.

The third factor, diaper rash, was something we couldn’t assess until the baby was here.

So I registered for disposables, put several cloth diapers in my “baby idea list” on amazon, and didn’t think about it again for a while. The baby came and we used disposables and tried to get through those first few bleary-eyed months.

Whenever I met New Yorkers who were using cloth for their babies, I would ask them about their laundry set up. Most admitted they weren’t saving much money with it and that they did have quite a laundry routine.

But then one day I met someone who said she had installed a portable washer in her kitchen, so she wasn’t paying per load of laundry. Excitedly, I asked her to tell me more. It turns out she had a Haier portable washing machine which uses a regular outlet and connects to the kitchen sink. I’d never heard of such a thing but it seemed it might make cloth doable for us.

In my neighborhood of Washington Heights we have an active local parents listserve, so I kept an eye out for someone to post a used one. When someone finally did I snapped it up. We brought it home and I used it for a few weeks, trying to do both the baby and adult laundry with it. It works great, and is easy to use for the small baby items. I found however that with the load size and need to find space to hang dry, I couldn’t keep up with the adult laundry with it.

Meanwhile, my daughter got to a point where she was waking almost daily with some rash, despite generous applications of Aquaphor or Boudreau’s Butt Paste and regular treatment with Triple Paste. So, I toyed with the idea that it was time to try cloth.

I asked my husband what he thought, and he said it was a great idea. His mom had switched to cloth for him because of his sensitive skin, so he felt it would be natural to do the same for our baby.

I turned to the listserve again, posting a request for used cloth diapers, and acquired about a dozen pocket diapers, 20 inserts, and several all in one’s for only about $50. What a great deal! I also had put some prefolds and covers in our Amazon cart and when my husband needed to buy something else he went ahead and ordered them.

So about a week later I had all the supplies and was ready to get started. I’ll post soon about how I prepped and what I’ve learned in the first few days.

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