Simple Being cloth diaper folded on top of a grey onesie

How To Be Successful With Cloth Diapers - When Others Aren’t Supportive

If you have a child on the way, watch out. Some of the people in your life are going to become experts on every aspect of parenting, no matter how much, or how little, practical experience they have.  That’s why we’re sharing our advice about being successful with cloth diapers when other people are unsupportive.

We start with some questions to ask yourself. These will help you decide whether it’s worth engaging, what you want the result to be, and how to get there. Then, we give specific examples of things you can say or do.

We wrap up with the most common negative comments about cloth diapers, suggested responses to each, and a list of cloth diaper facts and figures that may come in useful when the “experts” share their knowledge.

Consider Your Options

Note pad with Things To Consider written on it

When there is a tiny human on the horizon, some people feel free to impart unwanted advice about every aspect of parenting, no matter their personal experience or how relevant that experience is to you.

There are various ways of dealing with this, and your approach will depend on your relationship with the person concerned, their role in the lives of you and your child, and the personalities at play.

Ask yourself:

  1. Do I need to address this? If the sourpuss is someone you see once a year or a person you don’t have to deal with, respond with “OK, thank you” or something similar and move on. 

  2. What is this person’s role? If it’s someone with equal rights and responsibilities for childrearing, discussion, persuasion, or compromise is an appropriate route. Meanwhile, your approach to a relative who’ll provide childcare might be different from a relative who won’t be expected to change diapers. 

  3. What result do I need?  Do you have to change their mind for some reason? Will an open, honest, respectful discussion that ends with opinions unchanged be OK? Is getting the person to shut up and keep their comments to themselves a win?

  4. What personalities are involved?  Adapting your approach to get the result you need is much easier than dealing with everyone the same way.

Approach #1 “Thanks” & Move On

Pink background with THANKS spelled out in black letter tiles

When someone has a different perspective, some of us automatically fall into debate mode when discussing something we see as important. Sometimes this is a positive experience, but sometimes it causes us pain and upset.

If someone speaks negatively about your cloth diapering decision, you do not have to change their mind for a specific reason, and it is making you upset, don’t get into it.

Don’t try to justify yourself, your beliefs, or your decisions; simply thank them politely for their input and move on. Start a different conversation, engage with someone else, or physically walk away.

Approach #2 Tell Them How You Feel

If the naysayer is a part of your life and it’s not practical to keep changing the subject or moving on - tell them how you feel. Sometimes, the people in your life say things without really appreciating how much they hurt you. 

Of course, how they react to that is another issue. Decent, respectful people will accept the way you feel, apologize for their role in those feelings and commit to not saying something like that again.

If you explain that you find it hurtful and they laugh, tell you you’re too sensitive, make fun of you or ignore how you feel and carry on, then you have other issues beyond a lack of support for cloth diapering.

Approach #3 Ask Questions

Post-It Note collage with questions and question marks

We are all prone to making comments about things without being incredibly knowledgeable. There are plenty of people, especially older family members, who’ll poo-poo your decision because they imagine the cloth diapers and wash instructions of the past.

And yes, that poo joke was entirely intentional!

Begin by asking people questions about cloth diapers. For example:

Did you use cloth diapers?

Start by listening and asking about their experiences. People are more open to discussions and new information when they feel that you are interested in and respectful of their experience.

What was the worst thing about cloth diapers?

Don’t assume you know where someone is coming from. You might spend time explaining all about how easy modern cloth diapers are to put on and take off, only to discover they are thinking of how they had to soak dirty diapers for hours in the tub. 

For example, one mom didn’t realize that when her parents had kids, cloth diapers were viewed as something only the most impoverished people used. They were worried that people would think she could not afford disposables and was forced to use cloth out of desperation.

Nobody should be ashamed of their social or economic standing. We include this example only to demonstrate that someone may have a perspective you are unaware of.

Have you seen modern cloth diapers? 

Show your naysayers some modern cloth diapers. Let them see how easy modern diapers are to change and launder. Share some of the gorgeous prints; you never know, they might become hooked too.

Have you seen modern washing instructions for cloth diapers?

At one time, washing cloth diapers was a day-long, labor-intensive process that involved soaking, hand wringing, and pegging out to dry. 

Many people assume it is the same today and soon talked around when they discover it’s as easy as throwing a load in the washing machine.

Are you worried I’ll want you to use cloth?

For someone who might babysit, the thought of using cloth diapers could be what’s behind their negativity. We know changing a cloth diaper is not a big deal, but some people are much less negative when you say they can always use disposables when they babysit.

Do you want to know how much we’ll save?

Some party poopers will change their tune when they discover how much you’ll save using cloth diapers. Just as those who used cloth decades ago are out of touch with modern innovations, they may be just as out of touch with the costs involved in throw-away diapers.

One reader’s parents were shocked to discover that disposable will literally cost thousands of dollars.

Approach #4 Discuss

Family having a discussion

Like asking questions, discussing your reasons for wanting to use cloth diapers is a productive approach for getting some people on board. However, don’t mix up discussing your thought processes and reasoning with having to justify them.

Dazzle them with knowledge

This is where you get to tell people how much money you will save with cloth, how it’s better for the environment, and how babies in cloth diapers usually potty train earlier than their disposable wearing counterparts.

Find Sources They’ll Respect

I once found my in-laws were scornful about cloth diapers, and we weren’t in a position to avoid the discussion. Explaining our feelings did nothing, and asking them questions wasn’t helpful either.

The one thing that did help was finding a supportive doctor and tracking down positive information from the type of people they respected. Once they heard that Dr. X thinks it’s a good idea and that some people in a social circle to which they aspired used cloth, it wasn’t exactly supported, but we didn’t have to hear the negativity all the time.

In an ideal world, they would have at least been respectful enough not to make comments, or I would have been able to say, “we won’t be visiting if we have to listen to this.” But sometimes, you don’t have those options and have to do the best you can in the circumstances.

Special Circumstances

Sometimes these approaches don’t work or aren’t suitable for your situation; for example, if the person is your significant other or a family member, you will rely on for childcare.

If you are in a position to be blunt, and other approaches have failed, consider telling someone to “shut up or take a hike,” “keep your opinions to yourself,” or similar.

When this is not appropriate, consider one of the following strategies.

When It’s Your Partner

If you and your partner will have equal responsibility for your child, you can compromise. This is an excellent skill to develop now as you are likely to disagree on other aspects of parenthood. 

Compromise makes you both feel like your needs and feelings are respected and that you are both equal partners.

Specifically, you can consider:

One Choice Each

When choosing between cloth and disposables is only one area you disagree on, taking one win each can be a good strategy.

List all of the areas where you disagree and can’t come to a compromise. Then divide them up. For example, your partner agrees to give cloth diapers a try, and you agree to give their choice of crying it out as a sleep strategy a chance.

Before you embark on this line of compromise, be honest with yourself. Using the same example, if you know you will crumble on the crying it out strategy, don’t agree to it. 

Plan a Trial Run

This is an excellent choice if your partner doesn’t want to use cloth diapers because they think cloth is more complicated or will make your home stinky. There are a couple of options for this:

  1. Plan to use disposables for the newborn phase.

    You’ll both be adjusting to parenthood, and the upheaval of a new baby and things like a disagreement over cloth diapers can seem monumental.

    Instead, buy your cloth diapers and accessories and set things up, ready to go at your agreed stage. This can be when your baby is a specific weight, grows out of the newborn size disposables, or reaches a particular age, maybe eight weeks.

  2. Agree to give cloth a good chance.

    Set a time for a trial and agree to revisit the discussion as you approach the end of the trial. We often find that partners who were afraid cloth will be smelly, too difficult to change, or too much work discover their fears were unfounded, and are happy to continue.

Make it easy

If your significant other is worried about folding and securing flats, invest in a set of pocket diapers for them. Having the “easier” option will address their worries, provide a solution, and still leave room for you to use your preferred method of cloth diapering.

Go 50/50
Consider cloth during the day and disposables at night as an option. Once your baby starts to sleep for longer stretches, you’ll use fewer disposables at night than you do cloth diapers during the day anyway.

This is an option that suits many couples where the cloth enthusiast does most of their diaper changing during the day, and the disposable fan is more likely to change during the night.

One 50/50 option to avoid is a “cloth for me and disposables for you” situation.

Yes, this is a form of compromise that appears to be a good idea. Still, suppose you are doing a roughly equal number of diaper changes. In that case, your partner will end up taking off cloth diapers and putting on disposables, and you will be doing the opposite. You will both effectively use cloth and disposables all day.

If you are living apart

When the two of you live in different homes, it is reasonable for each of you to have their preferred diapering method in your own home. 

Make a clear agreement that you will not be buying disposables to send with your child but that you will not expect them to use cloth diapers or send disposables back to your home.

Childcare or Babysitting With Others

First of all, you need to consider how strongly you feel about cloth diapers and your child being in disposables when they are with a care provider. Even if that care provider is someone you’re close to.

For each of these approaches, you have to balance your decision to use cloth diapers with the potential for disruption to personal relationships or even losing your childcare,

You have a couple of options.

  1. Say things are going to be 100% cloth, and that’s the end of it. No cloth? Then no childcare, babysitting, sleepovers, etc.

  2. Agree they can use disposables during childcare hours or babysitting, but if they want to use disposables, they will have to buy them.

  3. Allow them to use disposables, and provide them yourself.

Additional Tips

Other ways to be successful with cloth diapers when others are not supportive include:

Find Other Support Systems

Check out some cloth diaper groups on Facebook or join a cloth diapering sub-Reddit. These are both excellent ways to find like-minded parents who will be supportive of using cloth diapers. 

Cloth diapering Facebook groups range from those where the members are moms who are deeply committed to a more sustainable, environmentally positive lifestyle to those where the members chose cloth diapers to save money and avoid waste.

You may have to try a few groups to find the right fit for you, but they provide a wealth of knowledge, support, and positivity.

Stay Confident

Don’t let other people get you down. Just because they do not understand or support your decision doesn’t mean you have to let their attitude spoil things for you.

Practice listening to their negativity and letting it wash over you, rather than taking it to heart and second-guessing yourself.

Ask for Cloth Diapers

Make it easier for people to gift you cloth and more challenging to give you disposables.

  • Choose cloth diapers for your registry or baby shower wish list. 
  • Set up a cloth diaper raffle instead of the usual kind of raffle where people bring disposables.
  • Share pictures of diaper cakes made from cloth and ask for one at your shower.
  • Add a line to your gift registry and baby shower invitations with the wording, “We greatly appreciate it if you are thinking of gifting us disposable diapers. However, we will be using cloth diapers. Don’t Panic! We’ve included plenty of cloth diaper gift options if you want to help us out with this.”

Responses to Common Comments

These are our favorite comebacks for common cloth diaper comments.

With that big bulky diaper, their development will be behind. They’ll be late walking and crawling.

  • Oh, I didn’t realize that before disposables babies were all developmentally delayed and late walking.

Gross - why would you want to touch all of that poop?

  • I’m not planning to stick my hands in dirty diapers.
  • You have to deal with poop in disposables too you know.
  • That’s what diaper liners are for. Easy to flush or throw away.
  • Babies in cloth diapers get fewer blowouts, so I’ll be less likely to end up cleaning poop off crib sheets, clothes, strollers, car seats, etc.

The house will stink.

  • A diaper pail holds all of the smell, just the same as a diaper gene for disposables.
  • I’ll be flushing poop down the toilet and washing diapers every day. That’s less likely to stink than throwing disposables with poop in them in the trash can. Speaking of which, did you know that disposable diaper packages tell you to flush the poop and not throw it in the trash?

Why would you want all of that work?

  • You drop cloth in the washing machine and turn in on, where’s the work?
  • Yes, having to get dressed, get the baby ready, go out and buy disposables, disposing of the boxes and packaging, and deal with the extra garbage is much easier than having everything you need at home whenever you need it and dropping diapers in the washing machine is so much easier.

Disposables are easier to put on/aren’t you scared of sticking the baby with a pin?

  • Today’s cloth diapers can be as easy to put on as a disposable, and you don’t need pins anymore.

It will cost a fortune, all of that washing.

  • Studies show that washing diapers every other day increases utility bills by up to $2 per month. That’s water and electricity together. Disposables cost roughly $75 a month - no contest.

Aren’t all these fancy modern diapers just as expensive?

  • You can buy all of the cloth diapers you need from birth to potty training for less than $100. Plus, they have resale value. That’s way less than the roughly $2,700 you’ll spend on disposables. 

Cloth Diaper Facts 

As promised, here are some cloth diaper facts that may be useful in your discussions.

  1. Children in cloth diapers usually potty train sooner than those in disposables. This is because kids in disposables are less likely to feel discomfort from wetness than their cloth diapered counterparts.

  2. Babies in cloth diapers are less likely to suffer diaper rash.
  1. Cloth diapers hold your child’s hips in a healthier position than disposables.

  2. Average disposable brands cost around $2,700 for three years; premium disposables can cost up to $5,000 for three years. You can use cloth diapers for less than $100 for diapers, $125 for detergent, and an extra $72 in utility costs for three years. PLUS, you can use cloth for multiple children, AND the diapers have resale value.

  3. Using modern dry diaper pails makes odors less of an issue than throwing disposables in a trash can in your home.

  4. Disposable diapers provide the third-largest volume of any consumer product in landfills. If more people used cloth, we would spend fewer tax dollars on garbage collection and processing.

  5. For one child, we use 3.4 billion gallons of fuel oil and 200,000 trees each year. Can you imagine how much less fuel and lumbar would cost if more people used cloth?
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