The Ultimate Cloth Diaper Guide: Part 1 — Why?

“Why? Just… why?” My close friend was at a loss for words. I was expecting my first child and had just told her of my intention to cloth diaper.

I find that this reaction is pretty common these days. Cloth diapers fell out of common use a few decades ago with the widespread availability of disposables, and are now starting to regain popularity. Just this past weekend, I have been asked about cloth diapers three times. So, here’s a comprehensive guide on everything you could ever want to know (and more!) about cloth diapers.

In this introductory post, I’ll touch on some of the reasons that we choose to cloth diaper, and why I highly recommend cloth diapering in general.

In the next post of this series, I’ll reply in-depth to some of the most common misconceptions about cloth diapering.

Then, we’ll talk about how to choose the best type of cloth diaper for your needs.

And finally, I’ll give you a master shopping list of everything you will possibly need in order to cloth diaper successfully.

Here goes…

Why I use cloth diapers

Oh, cloth diapers, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

1. They save me so much money.

Before Pippin was born, I bought all the cloth diapers we needed. I spent a grand total of $350 on everything, including detergent and other supplies — although if I did it again today, I could probably do it for under $150 because of all the money-saving lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Disposables on the other hand, cost around $0.22 CAD each if you buy in bulk. If you use a bare minimum of 6 per 24-hour period, that’s $1.32 per day, or $9.24 per week. It may not seem like much, but that adds up to $480.48 per year. If you potty train at age 3, you will have spent $1441.44. And when kid #2 comes along, you’ll spend it all over again. In my eyes, that’s literally throwing money away.

In contrast, my $350 worth of cloth diapers diapered Pippin from birth until she had fully transitioned into underwear, and I’m using the same diapers on Merry with about $30 worth of additions, mainly because I wanted to go a day longer between washes. Even if I were to use the most expensive, top-of-the-line cloth diapers, I wouldn’t come close to the amount I’d spend on disposables.

That’s a pretty big chunk of change that gets to stay in the bank.

2. They are sustainable.

Sustainability is a huge factor in my decisions. If something isn’t sustainable, there’s no point doing it. Cloth diapers are sustainable in two major ways:

  • They’re sustainable globally, as in, better for our environment. As a society, we cannot keep throwing diapers away. Did you know that, in Canada and the USA, more than 20 000 000 000 diapers are dumped in landfills every year? These things don’t decompose. The disposable diapers that we wore as newborns are still sitting out there somewhere on the planet, stinking up our air. In fact, every single disposable diaper ever used is still sitting out there. And more will continue to join them until we, as a community, switch to a sustainable solution.
  • They’re sustainable on a more personal, family level. They last for generations. I don’t have to keep running to the store to buy new ones. I can just reuse the ones I already have. I keep reusing them, and they keep working. They last so long, that if I take care of them, I can use them for baby #2, and #3, and #4, and so on.

3. They are comfortable.

For me, this should really be reason #1, but we all know money is what makes the world go ’round. Personally, I’m a lot more concerned with what’s best for baby. With cloth diapers, I can choose whether I want natural fibres like cotton, hemp, bamboo, or wool, or synthetic fibres like microfibre, microsuede, and PUL — any of these choices would be more comfortable than a rough disposable diaper.

4. They might contribute to earlier potty training! (Or they might not, but they certainly don’t delay it.)

“In 1957, 92 percent of children were toilet-trained by the age of 18 months, studies found. Today the figure for 2-year-olds is just 4 percent, according to a large-scale Philadelphia study. Only 60 percent of children have achieved mastery of the toilet by 36 months, the study found, and 2 percent remain untrained at the age of 4 years.” (Source)

Part of the problem is the stay-dry-for-hours culture we’ve created with disposables. If babies can’t feel wetness, it takes longer to become aware of bodily functions. I can’t say with certainty that cloth makes children learn to use the potty earlier, but I do think it helps. Pippin was mostly dry at 17 months, and was in underwear full time day and night at 18 months, and I attribute a large part of that to cloth diapers helping her develop awareness of her body.

5. They look good.

Image from

Enough said. If there’s a reason I overspent on cloth diapers, it’s this. Every time I buy a new diaper, I manage to find another that’s even more adorable. And the cycle continues…

Do you use cloth diapers for any reasons that I’ve missed here? Please share them in the comments, and read part two of this series about common myths about cloth diaperspart three on choosing the perfect diaper for your needs, and part 4 on essential cloth diaper supplies!


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