Some people are absolutely sure they want to use cloth diapers and some are just as sure that they will never ever ever use cloth diapers. I never had any intention of using cloth diapers but ended up switching from disposables to cloth when my first child was one.
If you answer YES to even 5 of the following questions, maybe cloth diapers really are for you.
Quiz: Are Cloth Diapers Right for You?
Cloth diapers are one of your options!
2. Do you feel like you are flushing money down the toilet every time you change a diaper?
Cloth diapers are cheaper than disposables and can be significantly cheaper depending on what kind of cloth diapering system you use and how many children you diaper. Financial considerations were not enough to get me to switch to cloth, but I can remember days that I had to change my baby's diaper so many times that I was calculating the money lost in my head as I changed his diaper.
3. Are you able to change a dirty diaper without feeling ill?
When I was pregnant, I had to use a swimmer's nose plug to change my kid's diaper because the smell grossed me out so much. But usually, poop is just poop. That being said I never and I mean never volunteer to change another child's diaper, because I really do not enjoy changing diapers. And yet I can handle washing cloth diapers. If you have changed over 100 diapers, then you are familiar enough with poop that removing the poop from a cloth diaper (and you have several options for doing so) and putting your cloth diapers in the washer shouldn't be too traumatic. My mother-in-law washed cloth diapers by hand, and that makes me believe that most people can definitely handle putting cloth diapers in the washing machine.
4. Do you want grandchildren?
One study found that the scrotal temperature of baby boys was higher in a disposable than in cloth. Some researchers think disposables might partially explain the increase in male infertility in the last several decades. One hot day (no A/C) I opened my son's diaper and literally felt a wave of heat come out of it. That's when I really started thinking about using cloth diapers. How comfortable can it be to have impermeable plastic wrapped around your bottom on a hot day?
5. Do you have misgivings about the ingredients of disposable diapers? Or, have you ever found little gel beads on your child's bottom and wondered "What the heck are those?"
If you are a bit concerned about all the toxic chemicals in your child's world, then both the known ingredients (such as the Super Absorbent Polymers pictured above) and the undisclosed ingredients (such as the components of the fragrance) of disposable diapers will give you pause. If you are going to pay attention to the ingredients in any product, it might as well be one of the products that comes in contact with your baby's private parts all day or several times a day (for example, diaper cream, wipes, and diapers). These considerations were the #1 reason I switched to cloth diapers.
6. Do you feel a little guilty about dumping gallons and gallons of non-degradable plastic as well as human poop that could seep into ground water into landfills?
A little known fact is that all disposable diapers packages have instructions that tell you that you really are supposed to remove the poop from your disposable diapers and flush it down the toilet before throwing your diaper away (rather than putting the poop with the diaper in the garbage, as 99.99% of all disposable diapers do). Poop belongs in the sewage system, not the garbage dump, where human waste can create public health issues. Also, you know those disposable diapers aren't going anywhere for millions and gazillions of years, maybe forever. Some folks think the environmental impact of disposables versus cloth is a wash. If you take a few simple steps (for example: don't use several extra rinses, use cold/warm water instead of hot, occasionally line-dry, purchase some used diapers, use diapers for multiple children, resell your diapers), I think you can be pretty sure you are leaving a smaller footprint by using cloth diapers.
Dealing with leaky diapers at night can drive you crazy, especially when you are already sleep-deprived. I co-sleep with my babies, so they nurse (and pee) A LOT at night. I tried nighttime disposables (so expensive!), 2 disposable diapers (one on top of the other), changing diapers during the night -- nothing worked consistently until. . . cloth diapers! You have so many more options with cloth. I found a solution that worked for me, and now we enjoy dry nights every night.
8. Do you own a washing machine?
Some folks are so dedicated to using cloth that they do so even though they have to lug their cloth diapers to the laundromat or the apartment building's laundry room. But if you do have your own washing machine, than using cloth diapers can be even more convenient than disposables. Oh no! Are you out of diapers? Just throw a load in the washer instead of packing the kids into the car and driving to the store.
9. Are you daunted and confused by the choices out there for cloth diapers?
In many ways, the bewildering number of cloth diapering options is the biggest obstacle to using cloth diapers. Once I found a system that worked for me, I found that using cloth diapers was no more difficult or time-consuming than using disposable diapers. I also found there were many advantages to using cloth, so much so that when we travel (and use disposables for a week or so), my husband and I are both anxious to get back to using cloth. If you are thinking of switching to cloth diapers, I recommend asking a cloth-diapering friend or a local baby store to show you in person a few of your cloth diapering options, or you can use one of the many cloth diapering trials offered by online diapering stores to help you decide which styles fit your baby and your lifestyle. For a brief introduction to your cloth diapering choices described in terms any disposable-diaper-using parent can understand, read this post.
10. Do you think it is so darn fun to dress your kids in those tiny little clothes and hats and hair ribbons?
Some moms go nuts over all the cute prints and colors of cloth diapers. Some moms (not me) actually have to control themselves from spending too much money on diapers. If you love dressing and accessorizing your child, you might love this aspect of cloth diapers. They are way cuter than disposables.
What do you think? Are cloth diapers maybe for you?
Eco-novice's Cloth Diapering 101
Cloth Diapers Explained in Disposable-eese
What Do You Do with the POOP???
Cloth Diaper Tutorial - The EASIEST Way to Use a Prefold
Washing Cloth Diapers
Wiping my Baby's Bottom
Why I Love Cloth Diapers
My Favorite Nighttime Cloth Diapers
My Favorite Daytime Cloth Diapers
Other Useful Diapering Resources
Diapers: Cloth, Disposable, Stinky Pails & More (Healthy Child Healthy World)
Quick Tips: Cloth Diapering System (Healthy Child Healthy World)
First Steps: The Diaper Debate (Healthy Child Healthy World)
New to Cloth Diapers? (Jillian's Drawers)
Note: this is an updated version of a post first published July 2010.