Are Cloth Diapers an Option For Working Parents? Tips From The Experts: Working Moms!

“Why can’t we seem to interest him in the toilet?” the parents of a 26-month-old patient recently said to me, “We were assured that he would be potty trained at least 6 months earlier than kids who wear disposable diapers.” 

Parents choose to swaddle their little ones in cloth rather than disposable diapers for many reasons:  most would like to raise their children with the least environmental impact possible; many worry about rashes or other conditions caused by the chemicals and fragrances in disposable diapers; others have done cost-effectiveness calculations and found that cloth diapers may be more economical for their family; and many are hoping that, yes, cloth diapers would lead to earlier potty training.

Reusable diapers can, however, seem like more effort than disposable.  For families in which both parents work outside the home, however, time is precious, and the potential for added labor in an already stretched family may be just too much.

Here are some tips from working moms (and dads) who are making washable diapers work for them:

  • Choose the right type of cloth diaper for your family: Among the many families I have talked to who use cloth diapers, there seems to be no uniform opinion about which diapers are the best.  Some rave about the Fuzzi Bunz, or G diapers (also bumGenius, Bummis, Kushies, to name a few) while others prefer the old-fashioned flat white diaper (the so-called “pre-folds”) that my mother used, after I no longer needed them, as an excellent dusting cloth. (In fact, she still buys them today for that purpose!)  Some mothers swear by wool and others find it cumbersome.  And though modern diaper closures are much less likely to draw blood than the old diaper pins, velcro seems much easier for some families.  You will want to get advice from friends and moms online, but rest assured that you can’t go too wrong.  
  • Get creative when managing the soiled diapers:  Several diaper companies make great washable bags to store the soiled diapers between laundering cycles and on outings.  One family told me that after their little one started solids, the smell began to pervade their home. They moved the diaper bin (a conventional covered diaper can will do) out to the back porch and now the air is fresh again.  As for the poop:  some parents are very comfortable scraping off the stool and rinsing the soiled diaper in the toilet.  For those who would like to stay a little further from the action, a simple spray bottle with water and a bit of baby shampoo works great.  And for the high-tech and really poop-averse family, you can buy spray handles that attach to the toilet’s water system! 
  • Consider a diaper service: For many families, the thought of rinsing poop into the toilet and then putting stained diapers into the family’s washing machine is too much to bear (though many do it with great panache, if with a pinched nose.) Furthermore, the thought of extra loads of laundry can push a stressed family over the edge.  Many cities have a diaper service that will pick up soiled diapers and return them–fresh and clean–straight to your doorstep, a savior for many working parents.  But is it affordable?  One mom recently told me that she had done a comparative analysis of the costs of water, energy, and laundry supplies they would use if they cleaned the diapers themselves, and–even without factoring in the labor–the diaper service was cost-effective for their family.  If you do decide to launder your diapers at home, most families reported doing laundry 1-2 times a week more than they otherwise would have and finding it manageable.
  • Enlist the help of your partner: Just as families have to share other household tasks such as paying the bills and cooking, diaper duty is much more bearable when shared.  Many families have split duties: perhaps dad, who might handle the smell better than mom, does the laundry.  Mom gets another task (such as breastfeeding through the night.)  
  • Sometimes more is better:  If you choose to use the pre-fold diapers, double-diapering at night can be a great way to reduce soiling of bedclothes and help weary parents sleep easy. 
  • Give yourself a break: Even the most ardent of cloth diaper users find that there are several circumstances when they switch to disposables.  Traveling can be a real hassle with heavy, wet, soiled cloth diapers.  And there will be some babysitters or other caretakers who are less keen on the idea of the cloth diapers.  So, go ahead and take the weekend away or the date night:  it’s more important that you take good care of yourself (so you can be a better parent) than that you have a perfect cloth diapering record! 

In the end, though many parents find that cloth diapers are more work than disposables, they are committed and they make it work, even as they themselves go to work everyday!  And as fashion accessories for your little one, cloth diapers can be loads of fun: your posh baby can sport a variety of colors and prints, even zebra or cow print !  (Check out this one:  leg warmers not included, but are a fashion must!)

As for the parents desperate to toilet train their cloth-diaper-wearing toddler:  many children who wear cloth diapers do prefer the toilet to a wet or soiled diaper, learning at a younger age than those who wear super-absorbant disposables.  Some children, however, mature into this developmental stage a bit later.  Unfortunately, there are no promises in childhood!

Useful links:

  • Here is an extensive (and self-admittedly lengthy) post by a cloth-diaper-using mom with her thoughts on the different diaper types, complete with links to stores where you may purchase a wide variety of cloth diapers as well as the super hip and fashionable covers. 
  • Another article which discusses the topic with extensive details about managing the soiled diapers is here.
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1 Comment

Filed under Newborns and Infants

One response to “Are Cloth Diapers an Option For Working Parents? Tips From The Experts: Working Moms!

  1. Jennie Greene

    Hi Dr. Kim. I love the site and am so impressed by all the work you’ve put into it already. Re. cloth diapers, I was surprised that my brother (who, as you know is quite the environmentalist in his personal and professional life) used disposables with his girls. In terms of the environmental impact of cloth v. disposables, he argues that the energy that goes into cleaning cloth diapers (and water) may be about the same as the impact of trashing disposables… I just wanted to throw that into the mix of considerations for parents (or maybe I just wanted to defend my use of disposables :)).

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