I'm addicted to cloth diapering for my little one (2.5 years) and am prepared to do it with #2 when she arrives. I am not someone who I thought would have cloth diapered six months ago. I'm a pretty typical stay at home mom. I am not particularly eco-conscious and I don't spend a lot of time worrying about chemicals lurking inside diapers or plastic, though maybe I should. I have pretty mainstream wants. I've found that many cloth diapering mamas seem to be right where I am. For the most part, cloth diapering mamas seem to be a pretty diverse group and don't fit my previous stereotypes. I have found that the ones I've encountered (entirely via the Internet) are friendly, accepting and willing to teach.
There is a wealth of information online about cloth diapers, particularly through blogs. When you google "cloth diapers vs. disposables", the vast majority of results lead you to cloth diapering websites. Thus, they are heavily slanted for cloth. On the other side are articles that use information that comes from studies funded by disposable diaper makers. Who to trust? Now that I am completely indoctrinated into the idea of cloth, I agree with many of their points. I did have a lot of frustration that I couldn't find very much balanced information when I was first started researching. I used disposables happily and successfully for two years. Since I've been pregnant with my new baby I started going to pregnancy chat boards and found a lot of chatter about cloth diapers and became intrigued. Money was my main reason for looking into cloth. The attractiveness and softness of cloth diapers is what caught my attention. I've also developed an irritation for buying things over and over again if I'm just going to throw them away. I'm humored that being cheap parallels being eco-friendly.
One thing that stuck me when doing diaper research were the numbers and cost comparisons between using cloth diapers and disposables. I may be in the minority, but I'm a little dubious about the cost comparisons provided by a lot of the pro-cloth sites. Sadly, it is already hard to remember how many diapers I changed at any given stage of my daughter's life, but I am certain that I don't change her the estimated 6-8 times a day that many websites suggest I change her at this age. I don't think I've changed her that much in a REALLY long time. She usually uses about four disposables on any given day. More if her stomach is upset, less if she never poops. She rarely had a rash problem, so I feel like the changes she had were adequate. To be fair, my daughter does not seem to be a "super soaker." Maybe the estimates are based on children who pee more than my kid.
When I was buying disposables full time, I bought the Target brand for $13/ish a box and went through a big box in somewhere under a month. Before I switched to the Target brand, I went to great lengths to use coupons to save on diapers. For awhile, I consistently spent close to 13 cents per diaper change while using Pampers or Huggies. Many of the calculators put the cost per diaper closer to 20 cents. While I've spent more money than I want to think about on disposable diapers, I don't believe I've spent 2 grand or more.
In contrast, I know EXACTLY what I have spent on cloth diapers. I have spent $464 to build a pretty respectable cloth diaper stash. The retail value is closer to $950. I've bought new, used, seconds, and even won a few. I have 23 one size diapers (pockets and all in ones, one all in two), 13 prefolds, 13 Kissaluvs 0s, a handful of covers and six small or newborn pocket diapers. I'd like to have more one size diapers so that they won't wear out with frequent washing. Since I've spent more than I'd like to admit, my goal is to win them!
I plan to sell off the majority of my newborn stash to re-coup some of my costs. In the future, I plan to buy mostly new diapers so that I can care for them from the start and don't end up paying too much for diapers of questionable condition.
The energy output for cloth diapers is the first thing people usually mention when I tell them I've made the switch. They ask about the laundry. I launder every other day. My daughter still only uses 4-5 diapers a day, so I can easily go longer. However, I actually get satisfaction out of doing cloth diaper laundry. I don't think it is very hard. I do a cold rinse, hot wash, extra rinse, then I'm done. I line dry the PUL and use the dryer for everything else.
The energy output was there when I was using disposables, it was just in a different place. I visited websites that tracked diaper sales, I clipped coupons and made special trips just to get the best price on diapers. I dealt with check out clerks that mangled my coupon savings and dealt with the line of annoyed customers behind me who rolled their eyes because my coupon use was making the line go slowly. I spent extra money at the store because I bought more than the diapers I went in for.
If you are on the fence about cloth diapering, be prepared, there is a loss of convenience. This seems to be glossed over a lot on the "pro-cloth" sites. You can't just roll up the poopy diaper, toss and forget. You have to do something with the poop. However, the trade off is that your child has a cute, comfortable diaper on. The poop is also only once or twice a day. If you hold a cloth diaper next to a disposable, it is easy to see what is more comfortable. My daughter is very verbal and clearly prefers her "soft" diapers over her "paper" diapers.
What really convinced me...
We took a trip to see grandma out of town and took disposables. Within 18 hours, my daughter had a terrible rash on her back. Remember, this is the child who has worn disposables her ENTIRE life. After a month in cloth, disposables irritate her. I broke my baby. We had to make an emergency run and get a package of G-diapers. This makes me wonder whether disposables have bothered her skin her entire life and she was just used to it. That makes me sad. Now we use disposables in a pinch for an afternoon, but I'm a full time convert.