Before Little Smith was born, I actually spent a lot of time researching and worrying about diapering. I had read some insane statistics about how many diapers the average child uses and I hated to think about that volume in a landfill, not to mention all of the materials and resources that go into manufacturing diapers.
I looked into various types of 'greener' disposable diapers, hybrid diapers, laundering services for cloth inserts, and also wash-your-own cloth diapers. Then Little Smith surprised us by showing up a month early, before we'd had time to finalize our decision. With all of the challenges and delights of adjusting to a newborn, we really didn't have a spare moment to figure out cloth diapers. Instead we went with disposables that were biodegradable (a combination of Earth's Best, Seventh Generation, and 365 Whole Foods brands) and also biodegradable garbage bags so that they could actually break down in that landfill (hopefully).
At the six month mark, we were finally getting a little more sleep and felt like we could revisit the issue. I knew I wanted to do cloth diapers that I would wash myself, but was totally overwhelmed by the options and brands. We were lucky to have the resource of the Diaper Lab. It's a cloth diaper store, but it also has a fantastic program where you get a whole bunch of new diapers to test out for a few weeks, and you only keep what you like. In the end most of my favorite fabrics and designs just didn't work for Little Smith's body type, they either leaked or left marks on his thighs. We ended up going with a combination of FuzziBunz and BumGenius, in a rainbow of colors for a little added fun.
I love using cloth and there are lots of benefits, but I'm always very clear when I'm asked for advice that it is a lot more work. I've heard and read from many cloth diaperers who say that it is easier and only involves an extra load of laundry every few days, but that just hasn't been my experience. We wash the diapers every other day, and then there's the somewhat tedious process of stuffing all of the pads into the liners. It's not difficult and there are moments where I find it a relaxing chore... but it is a chore and for parents who are already spread thin, it's something to consider. Cloth diapering also means a much more up close and personal relationship with the yucky stuff. Again, I've heard from other's who say it's simple, and I wouldn't say it's difficult, but at best you are bringing the diaper into the bathroom to 'roll' the contents into the toilet, and at worst you're spraying or scraping and dunking.
It was this last point that became a deal breaker for me during my very queasy first trimester of this second pregnancy. I just could not handle it, so we stopped using cloth for the most part and went back to disposables. We were already using disposables occasionally, for travel or when we were behind with the washing, so it was a natural transition. It also reaffirmed my suspicions that, at least in our house, cloth diapering does take a significant extra effort.
In the last few weeks, we've dusted off our cloth and are back to using them regularly. I like giving Little Smith a break from the plastic, I like that our very reluctant potty trainer has a better sense of when he's wet (this kid is seriously going to be a challenge with that potty), I like that we have again reduced our waste and increased our weekly grocery budget (hello ice cream!), and I'm willing to put in the effort for those benefits. There are also those days where I just don't feel like dealing and use disposables instead, and I'm okay with that too.
We will be using cloth, with a dash of disposables, for baby number two as well. If we can convince Little Smith to use the potty before this little girl is big enough to inherit his diapers, it should be a pretty perfect and budget friendly transition. It's been a good balance for us, and if nothing else, it's just so fun to look at that colorful padded tushy, one can't underestimate the value of cuteness!