Can You Use Cloth Diapers in Daycare?

By April Duffy •  Updated: 06/02/24 •  9 min read

The task to find the perfect daycare for your baby is often stressful. But for cloth diaper families, finding a daycare provider has an added layer of worry. If this is your situation, take a deep breath and read on for some tips and tools you need to work out cloth diapering with your daycare provider.

The first question you may have is if cloth diapers are even allowed in daycares in North America. Thankfully, yes, cloth diapers are legal and allowed, so no worries there. 

According to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC), which maintains and develops national (USA) health and safety standards for early care and education, cloth diapers are fine as long as:

Do all Daycares Cloth Diaper? 

Though cloth diapers are perfectly “legal,”  daycare providers don’t have to use them. This makes it important to ask any daycare you’re considering upfront if they have cloth diapered in the past or are open to it.

Some uninformed daycares have come up with a variety of excuses as to why they can’t use cloth diapers, here’s a list of common reasons they may give, along with some tips on how to deal with them if they come up:

Excuses Daycares Give to Avoid Using Cloth Diapers (and How to Overcome Them)

1) Cloth Diapers Aren’t Allowed Because of Health Regulations, Sanitary Concerns, Etc. 

An issue often cited by daycare centers is proper sanitation practices (i.e. fecal contamination concerns).

If this is a concern with your daycare, you may want to show them this study published by the American Public Health Association (APHA) in the American Journal of Public Health (Vol. 85, Issue 1 30-33 ). This study concluded that, “Analysis of the results of comparisons between cloth and paper diapers showed no significant difference in the frequency (F = .380, P < .535) or the intensity of fecal contamination in child day care centers.” 

You may also want to point out that the APHA as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all fecal matter be deposited into the toilet in order to handle waste in a safe way. 

This is stated in the instructions on most disposable diaper packaging, but it’s widely ignored by both consumers and daycare centers [Public Policy Statement #8910 Health and Environmental Hazards of Disposable Diapers].

2) We Don’t Know How To Cloth Diaper. 

Remember when you first started researching cloth diapers? It’s a confusing and scary topic for those of us who’ve never even seen a cloth diaper used before. 

If the daycare uses this excuse take the opportunity to sympathize with them and tell them how you were confused at first too; most of us are. If you’re able to, show them a cloth diaper in person. Some people have visions of 1970’s diaper pins and blue liquid when you bring up cloth diapers, which would understandably be a nightmare for a daycare, so seeing a 2020’s cloth diaper can be helpful. 

A little understanding and education can go a long way in this case, so be upbeat and take the time to educate them in a gentle way about what’s involved.  

3) it’s Against the Law for Us to Use Cloth Diapers. 

As mentioned above, there are no laws against the use of cloth diapers in daycares. However, your daycare provider may have just been misinformed. 

Although not all providers are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC),  some may claim they will lose their NAEYC certification if they accept cloth diapers. 

This was the case a long time ago, but the NAEYC changed their regulations and no longer require a doctor’s note, but allow cloth diapers with proper handling, by daycare staff. 

If your provider is stubborn and still requires a note, your pediatrician should be willing to cooperate as many children are sensitive to the plastics and chemicals in disposable diapers.

4) It’s Against Our Policy to Use Cloth Diapers

If a daycare provider says they just don’t allow cloth diapers, stay calm, it may not be the final word. Calmly ask if they’re able to discuss it first before they shut down the idea. Suggest you speak with the owner or manager, in person if possible. 

Keep in mind that this initial experience with a provider may be an indication of how you will be treated once your child is attending their program. 

Most daycares eager for your business should be open to speak with you though, which will allow you to show them a few diapers and ask them if they’d be willing to give them a try, even if for just a trial period. 

If you’re having a very difficult time finding a daycare in your area that will accept cloth diapers, consider going with an in-home daycare that may be more open to the idea, or even a nanny who can care for your baby at home if you have the means. 

Making it Easier After Getting the Green Light for Cloth Diapers

Once you find a daycare provider who is willing to use your cloth diapers, you may want to show them your diapering supplies in person (if you haven’t already) and answer any questions they may have about your preferences and needs. 

You may also want to create and send along a snap guide if your cloth diapers close with snaps instead of velcro. Here’s a quick one you can print and color in as needed (click on the image to open it in a new window and hit print):

Keep the communication positive and be accommodating should they have any requirements, like plastic bags for soiled diapers (recall the NRC does require this for their daycares). While things like putting soiled diapers in plastic bags may be irritating to cloth diaper parents, if it keeps your cloth diapers on the bum, it may be a compromise worth making. 

Don’t forget to be clear about using other products with your cloth diapers. It’s a learning process for both of you so keep the lines of communication open.

Also make sure that you’re keeping the daycare well stocked with diapers, etc. so there are no excuses to complain. 

What Type of Diapers Should You Send to Daycare?

When it comes to daycare, you want your diapers to be as easy to use at the change table as possible. All-in-ones (AIO’s) or already-stuffed pocket diapers will be your best bet because they don’t have additional steps when changing; it’s diaper off, diaper on. 

If you’re stuffing pocket diapers for daycare, make sure to add lots of absorbency. Daycares get busy during the day and the fact is that your baby may be sitting in their diaper a bit longer than at home, while the daycare personnel are busy putting out the latest “fire” (or tantrum). 

Hook and loop, otherwise known as Velcro, is also a great choice as snaps can be confusing and intimidating to a new user. 

Some people recommend pre-loading disposable liners into your diapers to make clean-up easier, but these can cause more confusion to a newbie to cloth, and you may wind up with a lot of liners in your wet bag at the end of the day, or something else thrown away that you don’t want to be. 

I would judge this one on a case-by-case basis; an experienced cloth diaper daycare provider may love them, but a fresh person may get confused by them even further. 

What Diaper Supplies to Send to Daycare

  1. Lots of diapers. Don’t skimp on the number of diapers you send to daycare. Things happen, and there may be a day where your baby soils their diaper way more than usual. Be prepared.
    Having a large “daycare stash” of diapers will also be good for you since you’ll be juggling work and home duties during the week and things happen. 
  2. Several wet bags. Most daycares will request that you send a hanging wet bag to store soiled diapers.  You may want to request they use a separate wet bag for poopy diapers as well to make cleaning easier for you. Whether you’re using one or two, you may also want to send an extra. The diapers will likely be sent home to you each day to wash, so make sure you have lots to spare.
  3. A cloth-safe diaper cream. Daycares generally require parents to send a diaper cream, so make sure to send a cloth-safe cream. Don’t forget to let the daycare know that other types of cream can damage the diapers.
  4. Wipes. Some daycares that will allow cloth diapers may not allow cloth wipes, so if you use cloth wipes make sure to bring this up with your daycare as well. Send a generous amount of wipes no matter which you’re using. Cloth wipes should be pre-moistened and ready to go. 

Now that you’re fully prepared to take on cloth diapering at daycare, you may want to take on some other tough cloth diapering tasks like: 

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.