Frugal Living Interview

Emi Stapler

A lot of new parents are confused about the diapering choices today, and rightly so! A lot has changed in the past few years in the way cloth diapers are made and used. We are lucky to have Emi Staper, author of the blog The Cloth Diaper Report with us today to clear up some of the confusion.

1. Hi Emi, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about cloth diapering! What are the main reasons that moms choose to use cloth diapers?

I would say the top reasons families choose to use cloth diapers are to save money (you can save an average of $2000 per child!), for health reasons (sensitive skin or to avoid exposure to the chemicals used in disposable diapers) and to reduce their eco-footprint (each child in disposable diapers adds a ton of waste to a landfill, which takes hundreds of years to decompose). I was initially lured in by how adorable and innovative modern cloth diapers have become in the past 5-10 years, and the money and health benefits were icing on the cake! The more I learn about the chemicals used in disposable diapers, the happier I am that I discovered cloth, even though those weren't the original reasons why I made the switch.

2. What are the drawbacks to using cloth diapers, or why don't more people use them?

The drawbacks are that you will have to change more frequently than most people change disposable diapers, although every 2-3 hours is how often ANY diaper is SUPPOSED to be changed. Families tend to keep diapers on longer to save money, which is not healthy, but you can get away with it in disposables because of the loads of chemicals they use in them. Be careful though, because the longer you leave a 'sposie on the higher the chance of the SAP and other toxic chemicals oozing out directly onto your baby's skin. It's bad enough against their skin, but believe me you don't want any of it ON their skin!

I would say that the biggest reason more people do not use cloth diapers, is that they automatically think of prefolds and pins. Can you still find these and use them if it is your preference? Yes, but the majority of cloth diapering families use trendy, updated, innovative diapers that are easy to use and can be laundered at home. So with better education and awareness, a lot more families would surely make the switch.

3. Are there common misconceptions about cloth diapering that we should be aware of?

I mentioned one misconception above, concerning the "old school" cloth diapering systems people think of from our childhood, including folding large, thick pieces of cotton and securing them with pins. There are many, but another common misconception worth mentioning is that people think that a diaper laundry service is needed or that they would be a hassle to wash at home. It is actually very simple to wash cloth diapers at home, and it is surprisingly not any more time consuming than getting in your car to purchase another case of disposables or taking the bags of disposable diapers to the curb. The key to washing your diapers at home is having the right detergent that won't gunk up the absorption and fibers or cause a rash on baby's skin (so no enzymes, brighteners, perfumes and things of those nature) and the right wash routine for your style of washer. There are many that fit the list of requirements for an effective cloth diaper detergent, but the easiest may be to purchase a detergent formulated for cloth diapers. And to make life easier, any detergent that is good enough to clean your diapers is good enough for any laundry, so it doesn't have to be used separately from other loads of laundry.

4. I have read that using cloth diapers can save a family $2000. with the first child. Can you break this down? Does this include the cost of laundry detergent and electricity to wash and dry the cloth diapers?

Yes, cloth diapers can indeed save a family an average of $2000 per child. The per child clause is important, because cloth diapers can be reused with 2, 3, 4 children, which will save you even more money. If you only diaper 1-2 children they also have resell value so you can get even more return on your little investment.

These average savings are based on:

1) What brand of disposable diapers you currently or would purchase if you used them (Huggies vs. generic, etc.)

2) How many cloth diapers you purchase (just the basics or a couture stash?)

3) How old your child is when they potty train

4) Detergent and type of washer or dryer used (HE washers will obviously require less energy, detergent and water).

5. How time consuming are cloth diapers versus disposable diapers?

I personally don't think there is any significant difference in the time invested between the two types of diapers. I did not discover cloth diapering until after my daughter was born, so I have experience with both sides-- disposable diapers need to be purchased on a weekly or monthly basis and the trash needs to be taken out multiple times a week, if not daily. I do not think that the 2-3 loads of cloth diapers I wash every week take me any more time than I invested when I had to purchase disposable diapers. Plus, unlike some of my friends, I never run out and have to make a mad dash to the supermarket at 10 PM!

The reality is that there may be a little bit of a learning curve, depending on the style and brand of cloth diapers you choose, because there are so many choices out there. Yet cloth diapers are anything but rocket science and will quickly become second nature and part of your daily routine. My daughter even has another part of her daily routine that reinforces the colors, patterns and animals we are learning, as she can see them on her diaper prints. I also let my daughter choose the color, pattern or style of diaper she wants to wear and it gives her a sense of independence and involvement in another part of our daily routine. Children potty train an average of 6 months earlier in cloth diapers, because they are a lot more aware of their bodily functions and feel the wetness more than with disposable diapers. So I'd say that this saves 6 months of diaper changing compared to disposable diapers, so they may save even more time for you in the long run!

6. How many children do you have? Have you used cloth diapers from the start?

I have one daughter who just turned 2 years old and started cloth diapering her when she was 3 months old. I had NO idea about the modern cloth diapers on the market until I stumbled on a small picture on a magazine when she was 2 months old that caught my eye. I couldn't believe none of my parenting books, magazines or classes even mentioned cloth diapers let alone how far they had come and how absolutely adorable they were!

We are adding baby #2 to the family this winter and I am so excited to cloth diaper another child from the moment they are born! And guess what is also exciting? I do not have to buy a single diaper or make any additional trips to the store, because I already have plenty of cloth diapers for his/her little bottom. How cool is that?

7. I thought I was going to use cloth diapers with my oldest, but that was 27 years ago, but I didn't last very long. They were quite primitive compared to what is available now; they were hard to put on and they didn't do a good job of keeping moisture in. Do you think cloth diapering has evolved as far as it can go, or will there be more improvements in the future?

In the year I have been blogging and reviewing cloth diapers I have seen more and more diapers, fabrics, styles and innovations hit the market. It seems that the sky is the limit. Our cell phones keep evolving after we think they've hit their limit, and I think cloth diapers will continue to get better, more popular, more environmentally-minded in the years to come.

More on

cloth diapers vs disposable to help you make your decision.

More Ways to Save on Baby Stuff

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