Common Cloth Diapering Mistakes to Avoid

Posted by Jason Rector on

Cloth diapers are growing in popularity as millions of new parents find their way back to simpler, more sustainable lifestyles. In fact, disposable diapers are more of a modern invention, with brands like Pampers first arriving on the market in the 1960s. And now, many parents are choosing cloth as an eco-friendly, frugal-minded alternative to the convenience of disposable diapers.

While many families are finding success with cloth diapering, there are more than a few cautionary tales for those who are new to it. Here are a few cloth diapering mistakes to avoid so that you can set yourself–and your baby, up for success.

Top Cloth Diaper Mistakes and What to do Instead

Cloth diapers offer many benefits, but they take a little more work. The tales of frustrated moms stem from some common mistakes. Here’s what to watch out for.

Washing with Cold Water

Modern washing machines offer the option to wash with hot, warm, or cold water. While cold water cleans dirt, it doesn’t help sanitize the clothes. Since diapers are soiled in waste that harbors all kinds of bacteria, sanitation is important.

Make sure that your cloth diapers don’t become a vector for disease by washing them in hot water.

Not Buying Enough Cloth Diapers

The cost-saving benefits of cloth diapers are generally realized over long-term use. This leaves many new parents with sticker shock at the upfront cost of buying all the diapers and supplies that they need to begin cloth diapering. However, skimping on your inventory will only cause headaches in your diapering routine.

At a minimum, buy 3-days worth of cloth diapers to start. Then, adjust based on toileting habits.

Using the Wrong Detergent

If you’re choosing cloth diapers to get away from the harmful chemicals in disposable products, be mindful of your detergent choices as well. Many commercial detergents are filled with unnecessary chemicals to add color, viscosity, and fragrance.

For a natural approach, stick with baking soda and borax. For commercial options, look for high-efficiency formulas with no fragrance and limited ingredients.

Adding Fabric Softener to the Laundry

Both fabric softener and dryer sheets give the feel of softness or the scent of fragrance by using chemicals. These products add unnecessary ingredients that defeat the purpose of using cloth diapers for a natural, holistic parenting approach. Plus, these chemicals are incompatible with high-absorbency materials like microfiber and may actually make your diapers less effective.

Use distilled white vinegar in place of fabric softener for a clean, soft fabric.

Not Changing Cloth Diapers Frequently Enough

The goal of a diaper–any diaper, is to contain human waste for infants who are not yet toilet trained. It’s not to maximize the absorbency properties of the diapering material. Most cloth diapering failures happen because the nappies aren’t checked frequently enough. How often should you change cloth diapers?

Check diapers every 1.5-2 hours, change as needed.

Using the Wrong Diaper Cream

Diaper rash is a problem, regardless of your diaper choice. And for some babies, it’s a common or more prolific problem. Commercial diaper creams contain a variety of chemicals–some of which make cloth less absorbent and many of which are hard to clean.

Choose a hypoallergenic, limited ingredient, cloth diaper-friendly diaper cream formula.

Tips for Avoiding Cloth Diapering Mistakes

Sure, there is a lot that can go wrong with cloth diapers. It takes some getting used to, but with a good routine and a little prep, anyone can use cloth diapers with success.

Do Your Homework

Before you jump in, do your homework. Cloth diapers come in different sizes and styles, and sometimes different materials. Make sure that you choose products that are compatible and appropriate.

Learn more about the benefits of cloth diapering and how to use them, including how to care for them and how to get caregivers outside the home to participate in your cloth diapering practices.

Join a Reputable Cloth Diapering Group

The online world is full of communities–making it easy to find and connect with like-minded moms (and dads). The support that comes from a community of parents invested in cloth diapering can make all the difference. Find a community, get involved, and ask lots of questions.

Buy Extra

When buying your initial stock, always buy more than you think you will need. In most cases, you don’t need to have an entire two-plus-year stock before the baby is born, but you will need extras. Make sure that you have enough to cover at least an extra day in case your washing machine breaks or you can’t get the diapers washed.

Even if you think laundry hiccups won’t get in the way, buy extra in case the baby has tummy troubles. While you will generally change nappies every 1.5-2 hours, a little digestive upset can have you changing the baby more frequently.

Be Flexible

Many times, new parents dig into an all-or-nothing approach. Choosing cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers isn’t always black and white. In fact, inflexibility can lead to failure. It’s okay to use cloth diapers at home and let other caregivers (like daycare) use disposables. It’s also okay to keep a few disposables on hand in case of an emergency. You’re still choosing cloth diapers but giving yourself some flexibility to navigate the challenges that life throws your way.

Cloth Diapering: More Control Over What Your Baby is Exposed To

Cloth diapering is a gentle, eco-friendly, and ultimately frugal decision for many new parents. It gives mom and dad more control over what chemicals the baby is exposed to, which can be good for sensitive skin conditions and holistic parenting approaches alike. While disposable diapers offer modern convenience, they ultimately end up in the landfill–and for many babies, they cause chemical burns and adverse skin reactions that lead to discomfort (and crying).

Don’t let the naysayers talk you out of choosing cloth diapering. While sanitation is a concern, you can avoid illness by washing in hot water. And while it may not be as easy as running to the drugstore to buy more, you can plan ahead and make sure that you have enough cloth diapers to cover all your needs.


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