10 Reasons Not to Use Cloth Diapers


If your looking for a few good reasons not to use cloth diapers, you’ve come to the right place. In the 7+ years I’ve been cloth diapering and helping others begin their cloth diaper journey (or not) I’ve heard all the reasons there are.

Below, I’m going to give you the top 10 reasons not to use cloth diapers that I’ve heard. Since I’m also a cloth diaper advocate, I’ll also tell you why parents who choose cloth diapers anyway ignore them.

1) My Mother Hated Cloth Diapers / It’s Too Old-Fashioned

It’s usually older parents who haven’t done any research into cloth diapers before who most often give this reason not to use cloth diapers.

These folks decided to use disposables without even giving them another look. If they had they would have quickly seen that most of the cloth diapers available today don’t resemble the cloth diapers our mothers and grandmothers used, although you can still find prefolds, plastic pants, and safety pins at the big box stores, and perhaps that’s why they are so mistaken.

Why Cloth Diaper Parents Don’t Think Cloth Diapers are Old-Fashioned

Don’t get me wrong, grandma was onto something and lots of more experienced cloth diaper users find themselves turning to prefolds and modern cloth diaper covers, but cloth diapers come in all sorts of shapes and colors to fit your personal needs.

In fact, those who do some real research into cloth diapers are often overwhelmed by all the many types and styles of cloth diapers there are.

Here’s a quick video where I run through the more popular styles. Notice, even when I’m racing through the types, it still runs over 16 minutes!

2) I Just Never Got Around to Trying Cloth

I hear this a lot from folks who didn’t start cloth diapering their baby at birth, they just figure disposable diapers are the way to go.

These folks may be finally taking a look at cloth diapers due to a new baby, or a financial burden, but they are still only mildly interested.

Why Cloth Diaper Parents Know Starting Late is Ok

Many parents who do cloth diaper already know that you don’t have to begin with cloth when your first child is a newborn to make the experience worthwhile because most of us start slowly as well.

I didn’t begin diapering my little one until about 2-months old, and even then, didn’t dive into overnight cloth diapering or use cloth diapers out of the house right away.

You *can* cloth diaper your baby part-time, and you can cloth diaper an older kiddo and still find value in it. In fact, unless your youngest child is out of diapers completely or will be soon, there is probably a cloth diapering solution for you.

3) Cloth Diapers Are Too Expensive.

Along with the belief that you have to start with cloth diapers right away is that cloth diapers are too expensive.

And it’s true that the upfront cost is greater since a single cloth diaper is far more expensive than a single disposable diaper.

Why Cloth Diaper Parents Know Cloth Diapers are Actually Cheaper

But the truth is, cloth diapers (no matter the brand) will actually save you money in the long run.

How much? Well, I’ll drop a video showing you my math around cloth diapers vs disposable diapers here, but even if you were to go with high-priced, North American-made cloth diapers, you’ll only need to spend about $432 USD to cloth diaper one baby. Buying all the disposable diapers for that same baby to get them to potty training around age three would cost you about $2,007.50 USD.

The added savings of having to spend even less on diapers for the next baby, or having the ability to sell your gently used diapers (info on used diapers here) makes the cost gap even wider.

And if you’re worried about the added costs of detergent and water, check out my post about the costs of cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers here because you’ll see that most folks who answered my polls on the added costs of cloth diapers said they don’t really notice a difference in their energy bills and the added detergent cost is about $2 USD per month. In other words they aren’t nearly high enough to make up the difference.

Having said that, I understand that many people cannot afford to lay out $400 up-front for diapers. Thankfully, there are many cheaper cloth diaper options such as inexpensive direct-from-China diapers, and prefold diapers.

There are also several cloth diaper banks and charities there to help with free diapers.

4) My Baby’s Skin Is Too Sensitive for Cloth Diapers

This is an interesting argument, mostly because those who make it haven’t tried cloth diapers, or tried one kind of cloth diaper briefly and moved on.

These folks had babies that got a rash right out of the gate and immediately blamed the diapers themselves, and when they switched back to the disposable diapers and the rash went away, concluded it was the cloth.

The Truth Behind Baby’s Sensitive Bottoms

And while it’s also true that some babies do have skin sensitivities to some fabrics, those babies are often sensitive to disposable diapers as well.

While it’s certainly true a baby with no fabric issue or disposable diaper issue can develop a rash immediately after switching to cloth diapers, it’s often a moisture sensitivity.

As Dr. Garby, a board-certified Pediatrician and Neonatologist and the Chief Pediatrician of Blueberry Pediatrics recently explained in my interview with her about diaper rash, cloth diapers do not cause more diaper rashes than disposable diapers.

In my experience, the chemicals found in standard disposable diapers cause more diaper rashes than cloth diapers do, and many cloth diaper parents start because of disposable diaper rashes.

As Dr. Garby explains, the most common cause of rash is moisture, which can be solved by more frequent changing. After that, there are a plethora of causes of diaper rash including sensitivity to fabrics (most often synthetic fabrics), food sensitivities, detergent sensitivities, product allergies, teething, and others.

5) Cloth Diapers Leak

It’s true, many cloth diaper beginners (myself included) don’t know about absorbency, how to fit a cloth diaper well, choosing the right inserts, etc. at first. Often leaks are what help us learn these things.

Cloth diaper leaks can also hit when babies become heavy wetters all of a sudden and we’re not prepared for it as well.

The Truth About Cloth Diapers and Leaks

But if you experience cloth diaper leaks, you don’t have to throw in the towel and tell all your friends cloth nappies are terrible because they leak too much.

For every cause of a diaper leak, there is a fix (you can find out how to fix your cloth diaper leak here).

Similarly, when disposable diapers leak, which they do for a lot of folks with heavy wetting toddlers before potty training, there’s a cloth diaper out there that can hold more.

6) Cloth Diapers Are Gross / I Don’t Want to Handle Poo

No one wants to touch poop, I completely understand.

What Experienced Cloth Parents Know About the Whole Poop Situation

But while touching poop is absolutely a nasty thought, there are a few things wrong with this argument. The first is the idea you won’t have to handle poo if you use disposable diapers. Sorry, but any mother who has had an infant knows this isn’t the case.

Disposable diapers leak, have “blow-outs” that shoot poop all the way up to your baby’s head, and of course, there is always the need to wipe baby afterward.

No matter what side of the cloth diaper vs. disposable diaper debate you land on, if you’re a parent you’re gonna get used to handling poo.

Even more importantly, human waste in landfills is actually not allowed in most cases as it’s considered a serious health hazard.

Many parents don’t realize this, because disposable diaper packaging likes to make it tiny, but many disposable diaper brands have the instructions to flush the poop before disposing of the nappy and even Pampers and Huggies both list these instructions on their websites.

This means if you do use disposables you’re supposed to flush the solid waste down the toilet; so if you are being socially and environmentally responsible, you will end up handling poo in any case.

7) My Daycare Doesn’t Accept Cloth Diapers

Sadly, this one is probably the most difficult reason not to cloth diaper to overcome for many folks. While it’s a good reason why more people need to start cloth-diapering, it’s definitely a problem that can’t be easily solved for those with little ones already in and comfortable at a daycare they love.

How Cloth Diaper Parents Solve this Problem

While it can be a difficult problem to overcome late in the game, there are some strategies to help you choose a daycare that will allow cloth diapers, or convince a daycare to try cloth diapers before you sign a contract. I have information about daycares that are hesitant to cloth diaper here for you.

There’s no actual legal reason why a cloth diaper can’t use cloth diapers, so if it is what you want, even hesitant daycares can be convinced to at least give it a shot in many cases.

8) Cloth Diapering Is Too Complicated / Time-Consuming

I often hear this reason not to cloth diaper from my disposable diaper-loving friends and I have to admit, I feel this one in my bones — being a new mother (or father) exhausting and overwhelming, and you’re often just trying to stay afloat.

Even those who have invested in a stack of cloth diapers can put things off because they have enough going on as it is and fear it will be too much to handle.

What Cloth Diaper Parents Realize When They Dive In

The thing about cloth diapers is, if all your doing is reading about it on websites (like this one) or on Facebook, it’s going to sound WAY more complicated and time-consuming than it actually is.

Using cloth diapers simplifies them.

And remember, you don’t have to jump into full-time cloth diapering; part-time is just fine. Or even try to do just one day and see. Start slowly and with a limit you set, and chances are you’ll prove to yourself you’ll be surprised at just how little of your time cloth diapering actually takes.

If you’re on the fence about cloth diapers because you feel worried it will be too complicated, scroll back up to excuse #2, and don’t let that be you.

9) Disposable Diapers Are More Convenient / Cloth Diapers Are a Hassle

This is probably the most common excuse I hear from naysayers, and the hardest to get around.

The invention of disposable diapers back in the 1940’s made life easier for lots of moms because they didn’t have to scrub their diapers by hand in a wash tub anymore in between waxing their floors and not using a microwave or dishwasher.

That idea of the convenience of disposable diapers, which was totally true in 1940, is impossible to shake it seems even though we now have washing machines and dryers to do most of the work for us.

What Cloth Diaper Parents Understand

Sure cloth diapering does require some extra steps, and there is some extra laundry involved, it’s not that bad, and after a few loads of cloth diaper laundry most cloth diaper parents actually comment about how satisfying cloth diaper laundry is. Every reused diaper becomes a victory and kind of a little parenting win that a lot of folks love feeling.

There’s also the convenience of no late-night trips for diapers. Whatever the cause, the chances are good if you use disposable diapers that at some point you’re going to find yourself with just a diaper or two left and you’ll need to make that inconvenient trip to whatever store happens to be open at the time (because it always seems to happen at night).

10) Cloth Diapers Aren’t Better for the Environment

This one grinds my gears.

A total of 3.5 million tons of waste are generated by disposable diapers added to landfills every year in the United States alone, according to the EPA. Additionally, most single-use diapers aren’t biodegradable, and it’s estimated that each diaper will take 500 years to decompose in a landfill. 

The environmental advantages of buying one product and using it over and over again instead of buying thousands of products that end up in the landfill only to not decompose should be pretty self-evident. After all, we don’t wear disposable underwear.

But of course, somebody somewhere had to prove the obvious wrong.

Specifically, the media likes to point to this popular study from 2008 that suggests the environmental benefit of cloth diapers over disposables is “unclear.”

The study says that based on “average laundry habits and appliance efficiency” when washing with 60 °C (140 °F) water and mostly line-drying, the overall carbon emissions created by cloth diapering were about the same as using disposables. 

The Problem with These Environmental Impact Studies

The study does thankfully say that using cloth diapers for a second child or getting them secondhand, exclusively line-drying them, and washing them in fuller loads could reduce that amount by up to 40 percent, which would change their conclusion, but even this is not taking into account the fact that washers get more and more efficient every year.

If you take a closer look at the study, you’ll also see it only looked at two types of cotton diapers, even though it’s well known the environmental impact of cotton production can make diapers less environmentally friendly. Most good cloth diaper brands now use sustainably sourced cotton, if they use cotton at all, because of the impact to the environment.

Without getting too deep into my beef with this particular study (because yes, there’s more I take issue with), just know that you shouldn’t take these studies at face value.

Most cloth diaper parents trust our gut here; and if you still have doubts there are a number of things you can do to make your cloth diapering journey even more environmentally friendly including line drying, using plant-based detergents, and reusing their diapers on future babies.

Conclusion: Cloth Diapering is Not For Everyone

While I’ve kind of rebutted each reason for not cloth diapering here (I’m a little biased, I admit), the truth is if you’re looking for reasons not to cloth diaper your baby, it just may not be right for your family.

If however, you’re still not sure, maybe this article about the 8 Unexpected Benefits of Cloth Diapers & 5 Downsides can help.

You can also take a look at this head-to-head comparison between cloth diapers and disposable diapers to help you make the best decision for you and your children.

In the end, do what you feel comfortable and don’t let anyone tell you what’s best for you.

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