The Politics & Logistics of Cloth Diapering

Making the decision to cloth diaper is easy for some families and harder for others. The actual use and care of cloth diapers is pretty easy once you get the hang of things, but there can be politics and logistics involved. Although the the financial savings and environmental or health benefits are motivating, there are family members, caregivers, daycare policies, schedules and other factors to consider from time to time.

Perhaps you work, travel on a regular basis or visit family in the city who are without a washer and dryer in their home. Maybe your partner does a good portion of the diaper changes, but is reluctant about cloth diapers and you are afraid you will be left with a bigger work load. The baggage fees for airlines keep on rising and with space at a minimum the idea of fitting two dozen diapers in your luggage can be intimidating. I could go on for quite some time with scenarios I have heard families or friends go through or have experienced first hand, but by now you probably have many of your personal experiences in mind.

The good news is most of these obstacles or decisions typically do not affect whether or not you cloth diaper and most of them can be resolved with some compromise on both ends or taking a look at the big picture. Politics and logistics may influence, however, how often you cloth diaper, what choices you make while traveling, what brands you purchase or arrangements you make for childcare. Remember cloth diapering does not have to be an “all or nothing” decision for your family, but there are solutions for most concerns or logistics if you choose to use them. Make sure you list all the pros, cons and options for your decision and trust that you know what is best. So don’t feel guilty or stressed out by the mentality that you have to cloth diaper 24/7 no matter what.

One decision I had to tackle about a year into cloth diapering was whether to cloth diaper my 13-month-old immediately following a severe car accident we survived in 2009. I was wheelchair-bound for an extended period of time and could not care for myself or my daughter independently, so there were some disposable diapers purchased by family immediately following the incident. This is clearly an example of when there is a time and place for convenience products like disposable diapers. Could I have pressed the issue and added stress to my caregivers by having them use and wash the cloth diapers? Yes, but I was already relying on and burdening so many people that I chose not to.

After I was able to maneuver around the house and start helping from my wheelchair, cloth diapers became a blessing. Why don’t you just use disposable diapers for a while? I don’t even remember who asked me this question, and they asked with sincerity in hopes to make my life a little easier. I could not, however, take the trash to the curb or drive to the store to purchase diapers, so would still need to rely on others to help. I could place them in the washer and stuff the inserts while I rested in bed, so the answer for me was clear to continue to use cloth diapers. It empowered me since I was unable to do so much for myself or my daughter, yet I could cloth diaper her.

Now fast-forwarding almost two-and-a-half years later, we were finally able to make our big trip to Japan that had originally been planned for the fall after the accident. I never really thought about whether I was going to bring cloth diapers until my mother brought it up a couple of months ago. I guess I just assumed I would use cloth diapers and probably bring all-in-two style diapers to reduce the luggage imprint. Just to be clear my mother changes and helps wash cloth diapers at our home whenever she comes to visit, so this wasn’t an issue of cloth diapering itself. It was a logistical issue with the limited space they had for line drying laundry.

My parents live in a good-sized home for Japanese standards, but they have limited drying space for their laundry. A good portion of it hangs in the bathroom above the tub and the rest of it goes outside in their small pebbled yard (weather permitting). With six people’s laundry, bath and showers to coordinate and multiple laundry loads running each day, space in both the washing machine and drying areas is limited. I had never been to my parent’s new home to gauge the logistics to see if it would be feasible so I had to trust my mother’s concern and opinion on the matter. Now that I have been to their home I have ideas of how I could have made it work, but it still would have been difficult with the non-stop sightseeing and traveling to wash and dry the diapers in time to use them again.

I decided about a month ago I would see the glass as half-full and use this trip as an opportunity to review some alternative disposable options on the market. I had my mom scope out the diaper sections at her local grocery stores in Japan, but she did not see any eco-friendly options. They probably have some options at large baby superstores, but they don’t have any of these stores near their current home. So I decided I would probably purchase a few different brands and pack them in our check-in luggage and although bulky, I figured it would leave room for souvenirs to bring home.

I will follow up with a more detailed account of my experiences while traveling, but I am writing this for all of your cloth diaper users who go through that guilt when faced with situations where you need to make cloth diaper decisions. I am the queen of making myself feel guilty if there are situations where I cannot use “cloth diapers all the way”, but politics and laundry logistics that are a reality. Cloth diapering is a family decision, but when you are traveling, relying on other caregivers or working, other people’s preferences or comfort levels needs to be taken into consideration.

Go ahead and wow them with the fluffy goodness and easy of use, but don’t shove it in their face and leave a bad taste in their mouth. Keep an open mind and learn to be flexible or adaptable in using different styles, use cloth diaper alternatives on occasion if needed and listen to other caregivers’ preferences. If they seem open to hybrid diapers with disposable inserts go ahead and use those and once they get comfortable introduce them to a reusable option to use in the system they are already comfortable with. Then just see how things go.

What has been your biggest cloth diapering challenge, compromise or decision?

{If you enjoyed reading The Politics & Logistics of Cloth Diapering I would be tickled pink if you left a comment. To read more about my green(er) parenting aspirations, advice and adventures be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get updates via email.}


By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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  1. My big challenge will be this Christmas. My MIL announced that she had gotten lots of diapers (disposables) for when we visit at Christmas. She has several sizes that she got with coupons and on sale. What has bugged me is that she didn’t ask me what I was planning for, or for what I wanted. She just told me. I’m not sure this is worth the fight, plus I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do (this will be our first out of town, multi-day trip). I will still likely take a few cloth diapers to use, likely for at night when the baby is in a diaper all night with no changes.

  2. tiffany u says:

    The biggest hurdle Ive had so far was convincing hubby to convert in the first place, Im sure there will be more but we have only been at it for about 7 months. It took about a year of talking and finally when we were about to have to buy diapers for two kids plus wipes and I broke down the cost vs cloth he said to buy a few to try. Wouldn’t ya know about a month into doing it full time he asked why I didnt convince him sooner lol. We have had a few people make comments but then most of them assumed we were using the old school rubber pants and white prefolds too.

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