Guest Post: Cloth Diapering 101 – Part 1


Guest post by Lauren, mother of two, who has tried practically every form of cloth diapering method on the market and offers her advice, reviews and recommendations through her blog, Cloth Diaper Diaries. Lauren has already been a huge resource for me in figuring out some diapering issues with our little people! Thanks for sharing Lauren!

When I was about three months pregnant with my daughter and my son was 16 months old, I suddenly began to think about the overwhelming cost of keeping two children in disposable diapers.  “How will we ever be able to afford that on our budget??” I frantically wondered.   So I turned back to something I had briefly mused on while pregnant with our son: cloth diapering.  I was amazed to learn how many more reasons to cloth diaper there are than just concerns for your budget!   Then, of course, I was a little stunned by all the different diapering styles and brands – it’s just so much information to absorb!  (Whoops, no pun intended!)  Today I hope to share some information with you on the why and how of cloth diapering.

There are three main reasons that people choose to cloth diaper: environmental concerns about the abundant waste caused by disposable diapers, the potential for adverse effects on a child’s health (including excessive or perpetual diaper rash) from using disposable diapers, and the tremendous expense of disposable diapers.

Environmental Factors

I’ve read some arguments that the water and energy used to clean cloth diapers makes them not all that much “greener” than disposable diapers.  Funny thing is, when you read the fine print on these statements, I frequently discover that it was released by a parent company of a disposable diaper manufacturer!  In fact, disposable diapers use 37% more water and 70% more energy per diaper change (in production) than cloth diapers, whether the cloth diapers are laundered at home or by a service!  Click here for more details and fact credits.

It is estimated that disposable diapers make up about 3% of the total non-biodegradable contents of landfills.  This may not sound like an awful lot to many of you, but the stunning number is this: conservative estimates say that disposable diapers make up over 70% of the non-biodegradable waste contributed to landfills since 1970. If you use exclusively disposable diapers, by the time your child is completely potty-trained, you will have tossed approximately 10,000 diapers, disposable swim pants, and training pants into your trash can!  And, chances are pretty good that most people using disposable diapers are tossing the poo along with the diaper – I know I did when I was using sposies.  The only place we’re instructed to dump solid wastes in the toilet is in the teeny-tiny fine print on the side of the plastic diaper package, and who ever reads that?   Unfortunately, if you’re not emptying solid waste before disposing of the diaper, as soon as the diapers hit the landfill, so does the human waste.  Click here for more details and facts.

Health Factors

It’s hard in some respects to separate the environmental factors from the health factors, because so many of the reasons that diapers are not good for the earth are the same reasons they’re not good for your babies’ bums!

Disposable diapers contain PVCs and SAPs (super absorbent polymers; these are the gel crystals you’ve likely seen when a sposie has “exploded” on your baby).  SAPs were removed from tampons during the 1980s because of their link to toxic shock syndrome, but are still used in disposable diapers.  Both of these chemicals have been banned in the European market, but are still used in the United States.  Disposable diapers also contain significant traces of dioxin, a carcinogen, as a result of the bleaching process.  Dioxin winds up not only in the diapers, but also in the environment!   Click here for more info on dioxin and other potential health risks associated with disposable diapering.

Additionally, disposable diapers have been linked to male infertility and testicular cancer.  Click here to read more.  And on a less serious note, children who wear exclusively disposable diapers experience far more diaper rash than children who are cloth diapered.

Finally, please take a moment and read these two wonderful articles.  I found that I simply could not do them justice by summing them up.  This article has a wealth of cited information regarding how disposable diapers are manufactured.  This article gives detailed information about possible adverse health effects of disposable diapering, not only on the babies who wear them, but also on the people who work in the plants that produce them.


Now, I’ve heard my fair share of people dispute the validity of the environmental and health concerns.  I, for one, say that if there’s even a chance that using sposies could adversely affect my children’s health, not to mention the planet which God has given into our care to steward, then I am willing to try the alternative!

However, people can-NOT argue that using cloth diapers will save you money.  When you first begin to look at purchasing cloth diapers, you may think, “These are so expensive!  There’s no way this is going to save me money!” But cloth diapering is 100% a front-loaded investment, meaning that after you purchase your “stash,” you no longer need to spend any money (other than detergent) to maintain your system!

Let’s go back to what I said earlier, about how the average sposie-diapered child will go through approximately 10,000 diapers/swim pants/training pants by the time they’re fully potty-trained.  Disposable diapers, on average, cost approximately $0.24 per diaper.  This translates to around $2,400 (per child) you will have spent on something that ends up almost immediately in the garbage, and that doesn’t even include the cost of disposable wipes and special liners for the diaper pail.

Another breakdown comes from my own experience.  When my son was still in diapers (fully daytime potty trained before he was even 2 and ½, thank you cloth diapering!), I was spending approximately $13 per month on the increased utility bills plus the cost of detergent to have my children in cloth diapers full time.  Had I still been using disposables, I would have been spending about $105 a month on diapers alone, not counting the cost of wipes.  So for us, disposables = $105+/month, cloth = $13/month.  Now, I’m not a math whiz, but you just can’t argue with that!  Who couldn’t use an extra $92 each month?

Finally, the average age that a cloth-diapered child will potty train is placed somewhere between 18 and 24 months.  A child in disposable diapers will, on average, not potty train until 36 months!  And anyone who has spent time in second and third world countries where cloth is used exclusively will tell you that mothers start potty training their children – successfully! – as soon as they begin walking.  On a similar note, many cloth diapering mothers practice elimination communication with great success!

Stay tuned for part 2, where Lauren will share her recommendations and tips!

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About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

29 Responses to Guest Post: Cloth Diapering 101 – Part 1

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  2. Kay Gilanyi June 22, 2010 at 9:33 am #

    I have a 6 month old that I have been pottying since birth and we also use cloth diapers. Pottying your baby is not common in the states but there are people who do it, I was wondering if any of the readers practice this? It’s called elimination communication or EC here but in other parts of the world it’s just called “normal”. Allowing your baby to eliminate in the potty or toilet instead of on themselves is the most hygenic system, (NO diaper rash EVER) and is all about learing about your baby and allowing them to communicate with you about a need that they have (to potty). It also saves on cloth diapers and therefore water as well. I love that I started this with my son, and he is so happy to do his poops and pees on the potty (he smiles when he’s done a poop on the potty and likes to watch himself pee!) He has been doing all his poops in his potty or the toilet since about 3 months of age with an occasional miss (like when he was teething). Pees are also pretty regular but babies do a lot of urinating so it’s hard to catch them all! If you’d like more info on how this works, and also the benefits of elimination communication check out the book entitled “The Diaper Free Baby” by Christine Gross-Loh There is also a fb group that I’m a part of called Diaper Free Baby/Elimination Communication I go there for questions I have and support since no one I’ve recruited to do this with me has been willing to try it. I guess they’d rather clean up poop for 2 or 3 years and then put in lots of time un-diaper training (probably while they then will have another child to care for) than put in a little extra effort now and be all done with diapers before the next baby arrives! Go figure!

  3. Jess March 20, 2009 at 8:36 am #

    The ONLY thing that doesn’t make sense in my head is your calculation for the cost of diapering. I have NEVER spent more than $75/month, even for a newborn, on disposable diapers + wipes (thank you, Costco!). I thoroughly enjoyed the post though, it was SO informative and interesting to read! If we could come up with enough money (well, if we made it a priority to save) for the LARGE frontloaded investment so that I could cloth diaper the way that I truly desire (Bumgenius3.0s for both kids), I’d SO be all over it, but since my husband isn’t on board there’s no way I’ll ever be able to spend $600 to get started, lol! Thanks for guest posting, you did a great job Lauren!

    • Lauren March 20, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

      I think if you belong to a club like Costco and can buy the store brand diapers, you’ll probably spend less. But both the kids get really irritated bottoms with anything available at WalMart except Huggies. M used to be able to wear other stuff, but R has never been able to tolerate different stuff. Just sensitive skin, I guess! Do you remember how awful M’s bottom looked when I tried to use the Sam’s brand wipes?? Yikes.

    • Kay Gilanyi June 22, 2010 at 9:38 am #

      We only spent $150 for our diapering system! It’s paid for itself more than once! Pre-folds with covers are great, and inexpensive, just make sure you’re getting qulity Chineese pre-folds not the kind you’d get at BabiesRUs….. is a great website for all of that and they feature products made by stay-at-home moms!

  4. Jen March 20, 2009 at 7:55 am #

    Also, I wanted to share that Bethany is a blow-out queen, and we haven’t had a single blowout outside of her diaper since switching to cloth! I’m thrilled because the stains were so hard to get out of her clothing and now I know that even if she’s in the exersaucer or bumbo seat (major poo stations lol!) I’m not going to have a huge mess to clean up when she lets it all go :)

  5. susie March 20, 2009 at 5:06 am #

    I think your figures for the cost of disposables are low :) We have a great cost comparison chart at Diaper Decisions. You can find it at

    • Lauren March 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

      Thank you Susie! The estimate of $0.24 per diaper seemed low to me, too.

      • Alex March 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

        I never spend more than $0.15 per disposable diaper, and often can spend quite a bit less. For example, I just stocked up on Huggies for roughly $0.06 per diaper. I think $0.24 per diaper is quite high. If you’re willing to find coupons, you can get your cost quite low. Not to mention, when I checked into cloth diapers, most websites I looked into stated that you should expect each diaper to last 150-200 uses. I have found there isn’t much difference in cost.

        • susie March 22, 2009 at 8:05 am #

          Cost of disposable diapers is also partly dependent on your location and the cost of living in your area. As to the cost of cloth diapers, you can significantly save money by sewing your own, and even further by sewing your own from re-purposed materials, like old t-shirts and towels. There are many free diaper patterns online. I found that most of my diapers, when I had approx. 20 diapers, lasted through 4 children. I don’t know how many uses that is, but it sure beats spending even .06 per disposable diaper!

          Additionally, many people aren’t just driven by cost. Think about our oil dependency…

          “Did you know that it takes one cup of crude oil to make the plastic
          for one disposable diaper? Multiply that by the estimated 27.4
          billion disposable diapers used in the United States each year…and
          it amounts to 31,136,363.6 barrels of crude oil thrown away!
          Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels! Use cloth diapers!”

          A fellow cloth diaper business owner recently posted this to our resource group. She has the sources for these claims so if anyone wants them, let me know!

  6. Jamie March 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    It’s great to see more cloth diaper/nappy info getting out there.
    I have used cloth on my three kids. The more kids you have, the greater the savings. I have nappies I used on my first that my 3rd is still using.
    My favourites are pocket diapers/nappies. I use them day and night (overnight I now use them with a wool soaker/cover as my 3rd is a heavy wetter).

  7. Bridie March 19, 2009 at 3:57 pm #

    I love cloth nappies and this post was great!! Our boy just outgrew the size he was in so had to deal with abit of leaking but since we use the prefold/fitted nappy system we just need to upsize the covers. I make all the inners/fitted naps myself out of old sweatshirts and tshirts and its so cheap!!
    Anyway thats my 2 cents worth :)

    • Lauren March 20, 2009 at 4:17 am #

      That’s awesome! I’ve turned a few prefolds into fitteds, but I wish I had more time to do some more sewing.

  8. alexis March 19, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks for the post! This is exactly the encouragement I needed after changing my son out of a wet sleeper for the fifth time today! Although sometimes frustrating, cloth diapering is best for the environment and for my family’s budget. I feel even more sure of my decision to use cloth diapers after reading this post.

    • Lauren March 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm #


      Trust me, it happens to all of us! I keep reminding myself that my kids leaked out of diapers when I was using sposies too. I just have heavy wetters! For my daughter, who is in a crib, I layer the crib sheets with waterproof protectors under each sheet. (Crib-sized pads come in 2-packs at Babies R Us – definitely worth the money when I don’t have to change a crib sheet in the middle of the night!) Then, when she tee-tees out of a diaper, I can just remove the soiled sheet without having to go through the whole crib sheet-changing wrestling match, lol. We also keep a large waterproof pad under the “diaper area” section of my toddler son’s sheets, because he naps in underwear and occasionally has accidents.

  9. Jen March 19, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I just started CD’ng Bethany and WE LOOOOVVVEE IT!!!!! She looks so adorable and I’m finding that I don’t need as many clothes this way because the diapers are so cute…add a pair of baby leg warmers and a tee or dress and you’re good! So now I’m able to sell some of her clothes that have onesie snaps or otherwise don’t fit a diaper well to help with my stash.

    I have tried a little bit of everything, but keep coming back to Fuzzibunz.

    Arm & Hammer Essentials detergent is perfect for cloth diapers (free of all ingredients you’re not supposed to use on cloth) and very cheap, less than $3 a bottle! I like my homemade laundry soap for clothing but I’ve read that the ingredients in it aren’t great for dipes.

    A couple more hints: a long-established diaper vendor, Nicki’s Diapers, recently started two great frugal websites:, which features seconds and overstocks of almost all brands and deep discounts, plus great deals like Babylegs at almost half price! and, which is an ebay-style cloth diaper auction website. You set your price and can list auction style with a minimum bid, or set a reserve price and even a buy it now. She charges a small final value fee but for a limited time there are no fees!! The more people who know about it the more successful it will be.

    Looking forward to the next post! I so wish I had figured out CDng with my son! Now he’s 2.5 and close to potty-learning, but wants nothing to do with cloth diapers (he says no Mommy, I don’t want yucky Bethany diapers, I want my REAL diapers back). Oh dear!

    • Lauren March 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm #


      Thank you so much for your input on detergent and the links to those wonderful sites! Nicki’s Diapers is my main shopping site that I have used, and I love that she now has discount sites open too. Good point about the BabyLegs, too – I love them! :o )

      As far as your son goes, using cloth will be a wonderful stimulus for him to potty train! :o ) Just tell him, “I’m sorry baby, but these are the diapers we use now. Just think – if you start using the potty, you won’t have to wear them anymore!”

      • Jen March 20, 2009 at 7:45 am #

        Thanks Lauren! Shortly after I wrote that, I got very concerned about the link to testicular cancer and male infertility, and immediately put Bryden in my BumGenius 3.0′s and he liked them! I had tried a Motherease one-size fitted and cover on him before and that didn’t fly. My hope was to use cloth for a transition, now that I know he’ll wear a pocket or AIO I need to get a few more! I have lots of friends locally who cloth diaper so I should be able to come up with a few. I really do hope it helps him learn for the potty. Thanks!

  10. Sarah M March 19, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    oh my goodness. I use cloth diapers sometimes, but have 2 kids under 2 and we only have 9 diapers from craigslist and they are sized for my 2 year old. I am astounded how many diapers we have gone through in this last month! (Our little girl was born 4 weeks ago). I really needed to read this again to become dedicated to cloth diapers! I have wanted to buy about 7-8 ones that will fit from N-3 yr. old (bum genius), so I am so happy to read yoru rec. tomorrow!! Thanks for this great post! I can’t wait to show it to my husband.
    PS–I have NEVER heard that even disposables one is supposed to throw the waste in the toilet!
    Sarah M

    • Lauren March 19, 2009 at 1:13 pm #

      Congrats on your new little one, and good luck with cloth diapering! It is a little tough to make it the routine, but I truly can’t imagine doing it any other way now. Especially when I go grocery shopping and can just sail right past that aisle! :o )

  11. Kama March 19, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks for the post! I was needing some help!! I just posted today on our blog about cloth diapering and some problems I’ve been having with mine. I am seeking some advice, so any of you that know a little about them, please head over there and let me know what you think I should do about my predicament! Thanks!!

  • Monica Gee March 19, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    OK, this is so helpful! I have more questions though! What kind of wipes to you usually use? Are they cloth? What sort of liquid do you put on the wipes to get those little bums clean? As a soon to be first time mom, the thought of buying a lot of cloth diapers without knowing how well they will work is scary. How do you suggest that a parent finds the “perfect pair”?

    • Kate March 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

      I never used wipes, but I do use disposable diapers (and NO diaper rashes here, I changed my babies often, wet diapers is the cause of diaper rashes). I simply use, baby wash cloths, w/some baby soap and WATER. that’s what my mom used, and it’s good enough for me. If we are going to be out and about, I simply make a few wash cloths (soaked in water and soap) and place in baggie. (I do wring them out, to almost damp).

    • Lauren March 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm #

      Hi Monica! I use cloth wipes, because I’m already washing stuff anyway! If you go to my cloth blog (link in the intro to today’s post), there’s a Quick-Click table of contents on the right-hand side of the page. The fourth item is a link to info about cloth wipes and wipe solution. I hope that helps! You can also use disposable wipes if you like (some people are really grossed out by cloth wipes), and just throw them in the trash. Or you could buy flushable wet wipes, like the Kandoo toddler wipes. But they’re quite expensive to use all the time. But I find that my whole system is just easier with cloth wipes! :o )

      As far as finding the “perfect” cloth option for your family, that’s tough! The post tomorrow will go a bit more into that. I recommend finding a comprehensive “try it” kit that includes several different styles and brands, because that allows you to see which style you prefer (again, more on that tomorrow). Many cloth sites offer discounted packages on things like that. You can also check out the website The Diaper Pin to read reviews on different brands to see what other moms say about specific brands for certain body types (chunky, string bean babies, long rise, etc). That definitely affects what diapers I try out!

      However, I just try a lot of different stuff. (I’m actually currently awaiting a package of 3 more brand new styles/brands that I’ve never tried before!) When I’ve had people over to my home to do a cloth demo, they’re often overwhelmed at how many different diapers I have! I just try things, and if they work, then I keep them. If they don’t work for us, fortunately, cloth diapers retain their resale value quite well, and I sell them on craigslist, diaper swappers, or in consignment sales.

      Hope that helps! Please come back tomorrow when I discuss the different styles, and the pros and cons of each, and feel free to visit my own cloth blog where I discuss all of this stuff more in-depth.

  • sara March 19, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    I have totally been a cloth diaper user with both my children, but with number two, we did elimination communication which I think is the most awesome thing ever if you are willing to give it a try.
    However, the reason I am commenting is because if you do choose cloth diapers for environmental reasons, another important consideration is whether or not the diapers are organic. The non-organic cotton industry is not good for the environment at all and if you weigh that in on the consideration, non organic cloth diapers probably do not rank as highly in the argument for environmently friendly.

  • Jen March 19, 2009 at 7:13 am #

    I cloth diaper my Triplets and have been doing so since shortly after they were discharged from the NIUC!

  • Candice March 19, 2009 at 7:13 am #

    Don’t forget the cute-ness factor! All those boring plastic sposies look alike and cloth has a variety of possibilities to make diaper changing a little less of a chore (or even dare I say fun?). :D Not to mention.. cloth is more comfortable than plastic.

    • Lauren March 19, 2009 at 8:09 am #

      Great point, Candice! I didn’t include that in the reasons, but I get compliments on our precious diapers all the time! :o )

  • Nicole March 19, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    This post is exactly what I’ve needed. We are thinking of making the switch to cloth but needed just a little more info! Great post and looking anxiously forward to part two.