Are Cloth Diapers Too Complicated?
Is it me, or is there a baby boom going on this year? I think I know about 20 people who were pregnant at the same time as I was and many of them are first time moms. I'm not really a closet cloth diaperer so I got lots of different Facebook messages asking me all sorts of questions. I've been familiar with cloth diapers for a long time and through a couple of years of research and experience I've learned terms such as “cross-over snaps,” “gussets,” and “soakers.” To someone just starting out however, this might as well be Greek. There are a LOT of options to choose from and it can be completely overwhelming. I think most people know that modern cloth diapers are now an option, which is why so many are considering them. They've probably seen a cloth diapers such as a bumGenius pocket diaper or a Thirsties Duo Wrap over a prefold. Or, maybe, they've seen the gDiapers that some Babies R Us stores carry, or the Charlie Banana's that Target now keeps in stock. Some of them (like me, once upon a time), might still be thinking of prefolds and plastic pants when cloth diapers are mentioned...who knows? In any case, unless they've researched cloth diapers or used them, they have no idea the wealth of options available to them nowadays. When using cloth diapers there are these main cloth diaper types: AIO diapers, pockets, hybrids, AI2, covers, prefolds, fitteds, contour diapers, and flats. In addition, each of these can be broken down into things such as closures, fibers, pocket type, and a whole slew of special features--especially in WAHM diapers because diaper creators are all looking for a way to make their diapers stand out. For a newbie, this can be overwhelming. I didn't realize how overwhelming until I started trying to answer questions and I ended up writing one l-o-n-g message after another to each of my interested friends.
On the one hand, it is really great that there are options. There are cloth options for every type of parent--diapers for a budget, one-step diapers, extremely adorable printed diapers, old-school diapers, and nearly hands-off diapers. Cloth diapering is not a one-size-fits-all choice (though you can choose one-size-fits-all diapers). On the other hand, when you're trying to decide which type of diaper is best for you before you've even had your baby, it can be overwhelming. You find yourself asking questions like:
-How much poop will I have to deal with if I used prefolds?
-Does wool really keep out leaks?
-Will that diaper be easy to use?
-How do I know what size to get?
-Which diapers are easiest on my laundry routine?
-Can I really afford 12 of those?
Where do you turn for help?If you're a cloth newbie you may find yourself utterly overwhelmed by the options, I feel your pain. I've been doing this nearly four years now and I'm still overwhelmed. If you don't have your own experience, the best option is to borrow someone else's. Talk to a friend (or a couple friends) who uses cloth diapers. Ask which diapers they prefer and why, and see if they can demonstrate them to you. Seeing the diapers in person is a great first step in decoding the weird, new language. When my friends come to me with questions, it helps to know what they're looking for. Some are pretty open to many different options. Others are on a budget and need something quick but not too expensive. And others want their cloth diapering experience to be as easy as disposables. Most of them, are just concerned with not having to touch the poop. In any case, I've found from these interactions that the advice of someone you know and trust goes a lot further than information you found on the Internet.
If you don't have a friend to talk to or you still aren't sure about your options after discussing them with someone, the second thing you should do is to see if there is a cloth diaper retailer close to you. Go into the store, look at the different systems so you can touch them and see them for yourself. Then, ask an employee to break it down for you and demonstrate some of the options.
Finally, if you have neither a friend nor a store nearby, look for a dictionary of sorts--a book or a website that breaks down the main cloth diapering systems. Honestly, I started figuring it all out as I shopped. Online retailers usually organize their cloth diapering options into different systems and you can shop by subheadings such as “one size diapers” or “diaper covers.” As you peruse each product, there are usually customer reviews that are helpful as well. This helps you not only to figure out what each of these terms mean, but to know how well each product was received by the consumers.
After looking through the eyes of many friends who are new to cloth diapers, I realize just how complicated the options can be. So try not to be overwhelmed. My advice for everyone--no matter their initial ideas about cloth--is not to buy their whole stash at once. Buy one of a couple of different diapers and/or systems, try them out on your baby, and wait to complete your stash until you've decided which you like best. You may find--like me--that you like to keep around a little bit of everything because you like it all!