Monday, April 15, 2013

Cloth for two: Why cloth diapers?

First of all, I'll be honest with you - I'm not what you might consider a typical eco-friendly, crunchy, natural, green mama. Life with baby twins just hasn't lent itself to consistently making those sorts of choices. I do, however, strive to make choices that are best for our family, best for those around us (including those who must live with the consequences of our actions now and in the future) and most in line with God's plan, as best I can discern.

So what does this have to do with green living, and more specifically with cloth diapering? Well, first of all, it's entirely true that twins go through twice as many diapers as single babies. If we are exclusively using disposables, which we have done for the majority of Emily and Erin's life (about 7 months out of 10 so far) we go through an average of 400 diapers a month. When they were younger and woke up during the night to be fed and changed, that was more like 500.

Another reason to give cloth a try: fluffy cloth bums=adorable!
When Emily and Erin were first born, we lived in an apartment with a communal dumpster for our garbage. This meant that when we emptied the Diaper Genie, a nifty contraption that compresses used diapers into a plastic bag tube not unlike a sausage casing, we could just take the diaper sausage downstairs and not think about it again. When we moved into our current home this fall, however, this was no longer an option. We had to pay for garbage service, and we quickly realized that diapers were filling up our trash can so fast we needed the biggest can available. This meant it cost almost double to have our garbage emptied weekly.

I did the math. We were buying diapers - to throw away - and paying extra to have them hauled off. This didn't take into account other effects of disposable diapers, which include environmental impact, rash issues, and potential chemical hazards. I decided to try cloth diapers mainly for the cost, but I considered these other factors in my decision at the time. Emily and Erin were about 5 months old the first time we tried cloth diapers.

I made more than a few mistakes my first time around. For one thing, the thin cloth diapers readily available in stores are excellent for many things, but not really that great as diapers. I can't speak for newborns, because they might work just fine for that stage where you change diapers every 45 minutes, but for older babies they lead to untold frustration. We also started cloth diapers during Advent, which coincided with all of us being sick, and countless activities for the family. Needless to say, we gave up quickly. I think we made it about a month, and it was just long enough to see how awesome it was to not empty the Diaper Genie constantly (and see how much it stinks - literally - to do cloth wrong!)

The cloth diaper stash got washed, folded, and set out by the washer and dryer in our garage. I couldn't bring myself to think of selling them, though I did give most of the inexpensive "burp rag" cloth diapers to a fellow twin mama who was suffering through reflux with her babies. I couldn't figure out why I wanted to keep them, other than I really wanted cloth diapering to work. I'm stubborn like that.

After about a month of looking at the diapers every day while I did laundry, I suddenly found myself with more time and less money. Erin and Emily started to self-wean at around 7.5 months, and we were buying more and more formula. Eventually, I weaned them off their last night feeding, since it's the one I miss 2-3 times a week for work, and we went to all formula. We were able to switch to Kirkland (Costco) infant formula, which I'm happy about for multiple reasons (primarily the fact it does NOT contain HFCS, secondarily the 50% savings over Similac). I still found myself called to try cloth diapering again. The nagging little voice in my head pointed out that not nursing offered me 4-6 extra hours a day to make cloth work, and that we could buy better diapers and save tons of money in the long run. I brought this up at the perfect moment to gain my husband's approval, and we started cloth diapering again about a week later.

It's been about three weeks since we started round two of cloth diapering, and while we don't do it full time for multiple reasons, I notice a huge difference in how I feel about diapers and how Emily and Erin react to them.. Tomorrow, I'll share some of the specific things I've done differently to make cloth work for us, my favorite diapers thus far, and later this week, I'll share how to balance working outside the home with cloth diapering. If you're a fellow twin mama (or mama of any number) and there's anything you're dying to know about cloth for two, email me ( or ask in the comments!


  1. I'm so upset we never got to use our cloth diaper stash with Ethan, my toddler! I had started his life out with 7th Generation disposables (I am a "green freak" mom, I admit! Haha!) and started building up a great cloth stash. But then he ended up being allergic to any cleanser that was able to clean the diapers adequately. We use a plant-based cleanser on his clothes because of his sensitive skin and allergies. I ended up getting rid of the cloth stash and we've been exclusively in 7th Generation diapers since.

    It's really crazy how expensive disposables can literally are paying just to throw stuff out!

    1. Oh, that must have been so disappointing! We have been using Method detergent, which is plant based, on our clothes for a long time now and it seems to do a reasonable job with diapers. I don't really have a lot of experience with super sensitive skin, though. I'm glad you were able to find something that works well for him! We have had good luck with Huggies Pure and Natural for our girls - they seem to react much better than to the disposables we were using previously. I haven't really tried 7th Generation for more than a couple of days, though.

      Thank you for sharing your story! I think it's very important for mamas to realize that what's best is what's best for your family.

  2. I really enjoyed this post! We just started cloth diapering so I am interested in hearing other "just starting" stories! I plan on writing about my experience soon!

  3. Yeah those super-thin Gerber prefolds are pretty worthless beyond the first month or so - we used them for a while because some friends gifted us a few months of a diaper service when the twins were born, but we still had to double them up to make them work. *Real* prefolds definitely work a lot better :)