Year One: Dallas-Fort Worth's Cloth Diaper Comeback / Why North Texas Moms Ditched Disposable Diapers
Dallas mom Lauren Ortega first turned to cloth diapering out of necessity: Her son had a rash that simply wouldn’t go away.
“We’d started him on disposables and he developed this terrible reaction along his legs and up his back,” Ortega explains. “Our pediatrician recommended we switch over to cloth, and his rash cleared up immediately.”
When she made the switch, she was surprised by how convenient and modern cloth diapers had become, available in a variety of bright colors and fun patterned styles. Plus, they were a lot easier to find than the organic disposables she’d been trying to track down. By the time her second son, now 2 ½, was born, she was a lifelong cloth convert.
She certainly isn’t alone. Thousands of local moms have embraced cloth diapers as a convenient, cost-effective and eco-friendlier option. Forget the image in your head of a leaky kid in the soiled rag held together by a large safety pin. Today’s cloth diapers aren’t like the ones our grandmothers used.
Support local businesses
At Nappy Shoppe, a natural parenting store in Plano, employees are trained to help parents select the best cloth diaper for their baby’s size and body type. The store also hosts a cloth diapering class (for $10/couple) that covers the basics — types of cloth diapers and how to use them — and answers questions too. And there are also several options to rent newborn cloth diapers and get store credit or money back once the diapers are returned.
Frisco-based Bububibi sells reasonably priced bamboo cloth diapers online. Or try Pooters, a virtual shop run out of Carrollton that sells a range of cloth diapers and accessories and offers three different rental options for newborn diapers, which include store credit once the diapers are brought back. Another online option is Lavon-based BubbyBums Children’s Boutique, a clothing store for kids that sells a variety of cloth diapers and training pants, many of which are handmade in Texas.
Produce less waste
“Disposable diapers make up one of the biggest things in our landfills right now,” says Sharni Vaughan, owner of Nappy Shoppe and mother of four. And lots of moms and dads cite environmentally and socially responsible choices in child-rearing when asked about why they choose cloth.
There is some recent debate, however, about whether or not cloth diapers are actually greener than disposable ones since arguments have been raised about the carbon emissions and water usage from the many cycles of laundry, which may be just as damaging to the planet.
But less in the landfills is less in the landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that there are over 3.7 million tons of disposable diapers in American landfills. One kiddo is estimated to produce about 3,800 of those in her lifetime, according to National Geographic, and each diaper takes roughly 500 years to decompose.
Kids in cloth only use about 24−48 diapers in their lifetimes and diapers can be handed down to younger siblings. Or if diapers are in “gently used condition,” the Nappy Shoppe buys back brands they carry for store credit. And there’s always the option to recycle. With her kids no longer in diapers, Barb Johnson of Roanoke, mom of four, uses her kids’ cloth diapers and inserts as dust cloths and Swiffer pads.
It’s so easy
Cheyenne Martin, manager of Nappy Shoppe, says that most moms find that cloth diapering is easier than they initially imagined.
“I love cloth diapers because I’m lazy,” Ortega admits. “If we’re low on diapers, I don't have to haul to the store; I can just go down the hall and run a load of laundry.”
Start small: Buy (or rent) a few different styles and see how each works for your baby and with your lifestyle.
“There’s no reason you can’t mix and match,” Johnson explains. “Some moms cloth diaper at home and use disposables at day care or with caregivers who are less comfortable with the idea.”
Save money in the long run
“My son cost me $4,000 in disposable diapers by the time he was [potty] trained at 3 ½,” Vaughan says.
The most recent estimates by Baby Gear Lab, a baby product comparison site, puts the lifetime cost of disposable diapers somewhere between $2,000 and $2,500. Cloth diapers are considerably less after a larger upfront investment. Individual cloth diapers range in price from $10 to $25.
“If you buy 24 prefolds with covers, it will cost $250 per child,” Vaughan explains. “If you buy 24 pockets, it will cost around $430 and if you buy 24 all-in-ones, it will cost $575.”
“Most moms wash cloth diapers at home,” Martin says.
To clean, start by scooping solid waste into the toilet (you can buy a sprayer that connects to the toilet) and running the diapers through a rinse cycle in the washing machine. After the cold rinse, add a detergent that’s free of bleach, fragrances, softeners and enzymes, which can break down the diaper over time and cause leakage, and then start a hot wash.
“But don’t run them on ‘sanitize;’ it’s too hot for some waterproof layers and elastics,” Vaughn advises.
If that seems like too much of a chore (or your husband advocates for fewer steps), local delivery service BlueBonnet Diaper Service picks up the dirty rented cloth diapers weekly, and replaces them with a freshly laundered batch immediately.
Debra Soules, owner of Blue Bonnet Diaper Service, says many of her customers find her service through doctor referrals.
“If a baby has a rash or reaction from the chemicals in disposables, doctors will often send them my way,” Soules explains. “Those customers keep using my service, so it obviously works to clear them up.”