How I Became a Cloth Diaper Addict
Like most women, the day I found out I was pregnant was one of the most exciting,- and let’s face it, terrifying!- days of my life. I spent countless hours researching everything. Would I breastfeed or bottle feed? Get a crib or co-sleep? Use cloth diapers or disposables? I was overwhelmed with all the choices I was suddenly going to have to make for myself and the new life I would be bringing into the world.
I planned on staying at home with my baby girl and working here and there (I was a budding photographer at the time so I set my own schedule). I am one of the few people who enjoys doing laundry so I started looking into cloth diapers. For anyone who has never personally known someone who cloth diapers, the options were daunting. All-in-one, all-in-two, pre-folds, covers, one size, sized, natural fibers, microfiber, snaps, Velcro (weirdly known as “hook and loop”); the list went on and on. My internet search history was filled with articles on the environmental impact of disposable diapers, statistics on the cost of cloth vs. disposable, as well as information on different types of diapers. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who cloth diapered so I couldn’t ask for advice. I was plunging headfirst into the plethora of information alone.
I finally settled on some covers and unbleached cotton pre-folds. I washed and washed and washed those pre-folds (per the manufacturer’s instructions) until they looked more like a wash cloth than a diaper. I had no idea how that would ever fit on a baby in a diaper fold. The pre-folds were officially prepped and the covers were ready for a baby. After my first daughter, Mikaela, was born, I tried a few times to get them to work. The pre-folds had shrunk up as they were supposed to, but I couldn’t figure out how to get them on my daughter. I had the big, gaudy safety pins but the thought of one opening up and stabbing my newborn was more than I could bear in those postpartum days. I only ended up frustrated and confused, and gave up on cloth diapering.
Mikaela spent the first nine months of her life in disposable diapers. I absolutely despised them! She had constant blowouts so I was changing her outfit practically every time she needed a diaper change. Persistent diaper rash plagued my poor baby’s bum. They had a chemical smell (unlike the fresh, clean scent of fresh laundry) and EVERY. Single. Time. that line turned blue on the diaper, I felt I had to change it even if there was only a tiny drop of urine.
The days of disposable diapers slowly drew to an end when I became fed up with spending $40 on a box of diapers that would be gone in less than a week and one day after dealing with an up-the-back blowout and a long bath (seriously- how does it get into their hair?! Shudder), I put out a plea on Facebook for someone, anyone, to help me! My savior came in the form of my cousin April, who introduced me to the idea of the pocket diaper and I decided to try cloth again.
I was determined that cloth diapering was going to work for us. I only had a few photography clients here and there and I was looking at more ways for our growing family to save money. I also got pregnant with my second daughter, Cambria, around that same time and thought of how much money we could save by having two in cloth instead of in disposables.
Apart from the money-saving aspect of cloth, other benefits over disposables that appealed to me were less instances of diaper rash, softer materials against my baby’s sensitive skin, none of the chemicals that are found in disposables, the ability to re-sell the diapers once we were done with them, and the fact that cloth-diapered children usually potty train earlier. Plus, come on, the prints that are available now are just so cute, not like the plastic pants from times past!
Pocket diapers were so much different than pre-folds and covers. For me, they were simpler but the diapers leaked out of the leg seams. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I understood about compression leaking and how microfiber is the least desirable insert type. I decided to forge ahead full force anyway, leg leaks and all. I ditched bodysuit-type clothes since they put added pressure on the leg elastics and started double-stuffing the diapers (where you use two inserts instead of one) to help with the absorbency.
Mikaela grew up and out of her cloth diapers, deciding one day at 2 ½, all on her own, to potty train and she never even shot a glance back. The microfiber inserts had gotten a little more absorbent (which usually happens as the material is washed more), but I also discovered hemp inserts. I was blown away by how much those thin little inserts could hold!
Just out of sheer curiosity one day, I bought a few all-in-one diapers (AIO), where the inserts are sewn right onto the cover. What was this sorcery I was seeing?! I didn’t have to pull soaking wet or soiled inserts out of a pocket before tossing the diaper into the washer? I didn’t have to re-stuff said diaper after it was dry? No extra steps, no extra pieces to keep track of, no extra work for a busy, exhausted, pregnant mom of two toddlers!
Once I discovered the ease and simplicity of the all-in-one diaper system, I was hooked and slowly started to switch my (I mean, my kids’) cloth diaper stash. Smart Bottoms quickly became my favorite! They fit my chunky baby better than other brands and I loved that I could fold the soaker tongue in different ways.
I loved the ease of the AIOs and gone were the days of stuffing, stuffing, stuffing those pockets. I could still add extra absorbency; although, if I am being honest, I have never needed to add extra absorbency to my Smart Bottoms after they were fully prepped, even with my heavy-wetting baby.
Now, I can’t imagine ever going back to disposable diapers. I honestly LOVE cloth diapering: the smell of freshly laundered cloth, the beautiful array of prints, the amazing customer service from the small shops who sell it, and the amazing community of moms and dads who are there to help in the cloth diapering journey.
My only regret is that I didn’t find Smart Bottoms right away, five years ago, when I was a terrified, overwhelmed, and excited new mom who wanted to give her baby the best from the start but had no idea what the heck she was doing. Plenty of information on cloth diapering exists on the internet now, as well as forums and Facebook groups.
But be careful, you might discover some day that, like me, you feel the urge to buy ALL the Smart Bottoms!
I’m Sarah, stay-at-home-mom to three beautiful little girls aged 4.5, 3, and ten months. I am passionate about cloth diapering, co-sleeping, baby-wearing and breastfeeding. When I am doing none of those things, I enjoy photography, writing, and being outdoors. I have a bachelor of science in communication from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.