Working Families Can Cloth Diaper Too!
One of the big myths about cloth diapering is that it is too time-consuming for regular working families. Cloth diapering is for any family that chooses to do it – whether one or both parents stay home, or both parents work outside of the home. I wanted to share a bit about our experience cloth diapering from birth to potty training training, with two parents working full time outside of the home. I am an elementary school teacher, and my partner is a social worker. We each work at least 40 hours per week outside of the home, but we didn’t let that deter us from our decision to cloth diaper our baby from birth.
Cloth is not all or nothing
Our family chose to go 100% cloth, and we were lucky that we had childcare that was willing to use cloth (more about cloth diapers and daycares later). There’s nothing wrong with choosing to use a mix of cloth and disposables, for whatever reason. Plenty of folks use a mix, and this is totally FINE! Any amount of time that you use cloth will save you money and reduce your footprint.
When our families found out we wanted to cloth diaper, they gave us the gift of a diaper service for several months. The service dropped off clean prefolds and picked up the dirties once a week. We washed the covers with our own laundry, and the service allowed us to size up the diapers as our baby grew. We skipped having to buy a separate newborn stash, which was a great benefit! Many families choose to use disposables for the newborn phase so they don’t have to buy separate stash for the newborn phase. By the time we stopped the service, we were using larger sizes of prefolds, and we used the same prefolds until she potty trained about two years later. It was also convenient to not have to wash all of our diapers; however we found that we didn’t have enough prefolds to last the week so we always ended up doing a load or two on our own. Also, having a service can be expensive, and they are not available everywhere. Our service (which unfortunately has since closed) charged $26.50 per week. The service was nice because it got us started, but we ultimately chose to wash on our own when the gift ran out.
Finding a routine
Figuring out how washing our diapers fit into our daily routine was extremely useful. For most of the time our daughter was in diapers we washed every 2-3 days (this was when we had a full enough load of diapers and other laundry in our front loading machine). Eventually we bought a bigger machine and were able to start washing once a week. We also always added other smaller sized laundry to our second wash cycle, so it helped us stay on top of all of our laundry. As she started to soil less and less diapers, our loads shifted to less diapers and more other laundry.
On wash days, I would get home after picking her up from daycare, walk the dog, then start my prewash of just diapers (for more on wash routines, check out Fluff Love’s pages on washing in HE and standard machines). I dumped the contents of the diaper pail, as well as the wetbags from daycare right into the washer. When she was on breastmilk only I just let the poops be (breastmilk poop is water soluble, meaning it’s fully washed out with detergent in a good wash routine). Later, when she started eating solids we plopped the poop into our toilet before doing the prewash.
Before dinner I would go to the washer and start my main wash, adding whatever baby laundry needed to be washed that day. Then, before bed, I would move everything to the dryer, sometimes taking out covers to hang dry. If I didn’t get to the laundry to move to the dryer before bed, I would do that part in the morning. As long as you clean your washer regularly it’s fine for diapers (or clean laundry) to sit for a bit before moving to the dryer. The next afternoon after work, I would take everything out of the dryer, fold and sort it, and put it away. I have always loved to do our laundry, and even more so since cloth diapering, so laundry (including diapers) has remained mostly my job. My partner helps around the house in lots of other ways!
It’s also possible to use cloth if you don’t have a washing machine at home. Plenty of families hand wash
Cloth and daycare
It’s a common misconception that daycares will not use cloth diapers. We had our daughter in two different daycares that were willing to use cloth diapers without issue, and we interviewed others who were also willing. Most states do not have laws that prevent providers from using cloth diapers. Check out our page on state laws regarding cloth diapers!
The first daycare that we used had never done cloth before. I met with the main provider and showed her the diapers, explained how to use them, and explained our many reasons for having chosen cloth. I asked her to give them a try and she was open minded. We also would have bought different diapers if our provider had requested. We didn’t have to do this, because she was fine with our prefolds and covers.
Our next provider had used cloth diapers with one of her children and was happy to continue with ours. We sent a wetbag every day, and enough diapers for changes every two hours plus extras. We made sure that there were enough covers for the whole diaper to be changed every time, per state law. We also sent extra outfits in case of any leaking due to fit. Another benefit of using cloth with daycare was that I knew exactly how many times she had been changed at daycare during the time I was at work.
If your daycare provider isn’t currently cloth friendly, I recommend showing them this video and giving them an opportunity to see your diapers and learn how they work. Ask them to just try the cloth diapers, and see if it could work for them. They will probably find that it’s not a big deal at all!
The bottom line
The bottom line is don’t let other people tell you the reasons why you can’t use cloth diapers. If you want to use them, your family can make it work – whether you wash your own cloth full time, use a diaper service, or mix cloth and disposable diapers. Working families absolutely can cloth diaper, and finding your routine rhythm so that it fits into your lifestyle is key.