Mastering Cloth Diapering: How to Avoid Mistakes and Enjoy the Journey

by Bailey Bouwman

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of cloth diapering? As a former cloth diaper blogger and the host of the Cloth Diaper Podcast, I've heard from countless parents who have struggled with the same challenges and misconceptions about cloth diapering that I once did, and you're feeling. 

When I first started cloth diapering, I searched for the perfect wash routine and the best cloth diapers. But things didn't go to plan. Over the years, I've learned that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cloth diapering, and that making mistakes and learning from them is a natural part of the journey.

I've also seen this in my experiences supporting new cloth diapering parents from around the world. It's taking time to listen, trust, and believe in the experiences of others that I've become more open-minded to the possibilities that cloth diapering can have. 

So if you're feeling unsure or overwhelmed about cloth diapering, know that you're not alone. In today's post, we'll explore common cloth diapering mistakes and offer tips and advice for avoiding them. My hope is that by sharing my personal experiences and learnings, we can help make your cloth diapering journey smoother and more enjoyable. This I an expanded spin from and earlier blog post that I wrote called Cloth Diaper Mistakes on my personal blog. 

Mistake #1: Chasing the Perfect Cloth Diaper Routine

Many parents make the mistake of chasing that perfect cloth diaper routine. They believe they can't start washing cloth diapers until all the pieces are together - until they know the exact steps or find the right expert, or the right blog to reference. But, if you do this - you might never start cloth diapering. 

Instead of chasing the perfect routine, it's important to recognize that cloth diapering is a journey that requires patience, flexibility, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

No one routine will work perfectly for every family, and what works well for one family may not work for another.

Rather than striving for perfection, focus on finding a routine that works well for your family, even if it's not the same as what works for others. No you don't need to use Tide. No Charlies Soap is not evil. Yes, all these bullshit rules are developed in a silo based off a limited experience. Be open to trying different methods and approaches, and seek support and advice from other cloth diapering parents.

Mistake #2: Searching for the "Perfect" Cloth Diaper

One common mistake parents make when it comes to cloth diapering is trying to find the perfect diaper - we see this every time someone asks for "the best cloth diaper" in a Facebook group. I get it, as parents we want only the best for our children but... the idea of a perfect cloth diaper is a myth.

Every family has different needs and preferences, and what works well for one family may not work for another. Instead of searching for the perfect diaper, it's important to focus on finding a diaper that works well for your family.

Here are some tips for finding the right cloth diaper for your family:

  1. Try different types of diapers: There are many different types of cloth diapers available, including pockets, all-in-ones, cloth diaper covers, and more. Experiment with different types of diapers to see what works best for your baby's shape and your lifestyle. Remembering that what works for your friend Susan, might not be practical for your vibe. 

  2. Consider your budget: Cloth diapering can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Consider your budget and look for affordable options that still meet your needs.

    But it's also okay to be like hey - I'm going to spend what I want to spend on this project. Some amazing cloth diapers are expensive, but will give you such a wonderful experience. I'm biased because I loved to cloth diaper, but in a world of cheapies some of the higher priced diapers have just been thoroughly researched, developed and designed and it's okay to spend money on something. 

  3. Think about your lifestyle: Some types of diapers may be more practical for your lifestyle than others. For example, if you're always on the go, you may prefer all-in-one diapers that are easy to use and quick to change than folding flats. But maybe you camp a lot, so flats and covers are that option. That's why trying different types of diaper is important as it helps you shift that. 

The search for the perfect diaper is one of those things I see new parents get hung up on. It's okay to buy the pretty diaper, the first diaper you see, and just give it a go. You don't have to complicate it, and you can start with what you have. 

Mistake #3: Throwing in the Towel Too Soon

One mistake that many parents make when it comes to cloth diapering is giving up too soon. It can be easy to become discouraged when things don't go as planned or when challenges arise, leading some parents to abandon cloth diapering altogether.

Just like using disposable diapers, sometimes the first diaper you try doesn't work out. Disposable diapers leak, cause rashes, and create a landfill nightmare, but very few parents seek out other ideas - they just keep using disposables. 

The same persistence can be applied to cloth diapering. Cloth diapering is a learning process, and will require some patience and time as you figure out the best way to fold, snap, and launder. 

Here are some tips for avoiding the temptation to give up and troubleshooting common issues:

  1. Don't be afraid to seek help: There are many resources available for parents who are new to cloth diapering or struggling with common issues. Don't hesitate to reach out to cloth diapering communities, podcasts, or blogs for advice and support. The best way to find help is 1:1! Avoid comments in big groups because it can get dominated and responses might not always be focused on listening to yours. 

  2. Troubleshoot common issues: Leaks, stains, and other issues are common with cloth diapering, but they can often be addressed with some simple troubleshooting. These are things we can tackle. Seek help. 

  3. Give it time: Cloth diapering is a learning process that can take some time to get right. Don't give up too soon – instead, be patient and persistent as you work through the challenges.

Mistake #4: Adopting an All-or-Nothing Approach to Cloth Diapering

One common mistake that parents make when it comes to cloth diapering is thinking that it has to be an all-or-nothing approach. While cloth diapering is a great option for many families, there may be times when using disposable diapers is more practical or necessary.

You are still a cloth diapering parent if you choose to use disposable diapers. 

Here are some reasons why adopting an all-or-nothing approach to cloth diapering can be a mistake:

  1. It's impractical: Cloth diapering requires frequent changes and washing, which can be challenging when you're away from home or on the go. In these situations, using disposable diapers may be more practical.

  2. It can cause unnecessary stress: Feeling like you have to use cloth diapers exclusively can cause unnecessary stress and pressure. Every parent's situation is different, and there's no one right way to approach diapering. 

Use disposables for nights, naps, or travel. Use disposables for life's little moments, and use disposables when you want. The same goes for cloth diapering. 


Mistake #5: Being Part of a Negative Cloth Diapering Community

While cloth diapering communities can be a great source of support and advice, not all communities are safe spaces for new parents. Many of these spaces can be overwhelming

Here's why being part of a negative cloth diapering community can be a mistake:

  1. It can be mentally and emotionally draining: Participating in a community that is negative, unsupportive, or toxic can be mentally and emotionally draining, and may make you feel discouraged or overwhelmed. It might make you feel like you're not keeping up or doing enough. 

  2. It can be unhelpful: Negative or toxic communities may offer unhelpful or judgmental advice, or may not offer the kind of support and encouragement you need to succeed. If they have strict wash routine rules that don't work for you, this can give a sense of isolation and frustration. 

  3. It can be counterproductive: Instead of helping you succeed in your cloth diapering journey, a negative community may undermine your efforts or even cause you to quit altogether. 

To avoid this mistake, here are some tips for finding supportive and positive cloth diapering communities:

  1. Look for communities that prioritize positivity and encouragement: Seek out groups and communities that prioritize positivity, encouragement, and support. These communities will be more helpful and uplifting.

  2. Avoid communities that are negative or judgmental: Steer clear of communities that are negative or judgmental, or that make you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.

  3. Seek out groups with diverse membership: Remember that the cloth diapering experience is incredibly variable, and that many recommendations come from a place of privilege. Consider if the group is safe for all populations, and or if it's just for one type of person. 

  4. Create your own community: If you can't find a supportive community, consider creating your own. You may be surprised at how many other parents are looking for a supportive and positive space.

By finding a supportive and positive cloth diapering community, you can connect with other parents who share your goals and values, and get the advice and support you need to succeed in your cloth diapering journey.

Mistake #6: Judging Other Families for Their Cloth Diapering Choices

When it comes to cloth diapering, or really anything parenting related, it's easy to fall into the trap of judging other families for their choices.

Doing so is often a mistake that's hurtful, unproductive, and distracting. Criticizing other parents can make them feel unsupported and judged, which isn't helpful for anyone involved. It doesn't help you, it doesn't help the cloth diapering cause, and it only just brings people down. 

Here are some tips for being respectful and supportive of other families' choices:

  1. Refrain from negative comments or judgments: Avoid making negative comments or judgments about other families' cloth diapering choices. If you don't have anything positive or constructive to say about the person, it's better to say nothing at all. 

    I do think it's important for us to be critical about theory, products, and experiences - why does that happen, and how can it be better. Refraining from negativity doesn't mean avoiding the truth, it means don't tell Samantha she's a bad person for using ABC product or that Johnathan sucks because he does XYZ in his routine. 

  2. Stay true to your own values: Instead of worrying about what others are doing, focus on your own cloth diapering journey. Stay true to your own values and goals, and speak of what you know. 

    This is a big one for me; because yes I've had bad experiences with products and hearsay on others. I will often focus on using words like "many families have found that strategy to be ineffective because of this..." or I'll say "in my experience, this was one of the best diapers". I feel that adding that personalization and explanation can really expand our community by providing additional support information that empowers better decision making and knowledge sharing. 

  3. Offer support and encouragement: Offer support and encouragement to other families, regardless of their cloth diapering choices.

    Celebrate their successes and offer advice or support if they ask for it. Seriously. Let's get our party on. 

By being respectful and supportive of other families' cloth diapering choices, you can contribute to a positive and inclusive cloth diapering community. This can make your own cloth diapering journey more enjoyable and fulfilling.

    You can do this. 

    Avoiding these common cloth diapering mistakes can make the journey smoother and more enjoyable for both parents and their support network.

    Don't get caught up in what you should be doing, should be experiencing, or the search for perfection - focus on you, your needs, and your experience through honest and transparent communication in safe spaces.

    We hope that this guide has provided valuable insights and tips for parents on their cloth diapering journey. We encourage readers to share this guide with other parents who might benefit from this information, and to continue to support each other in the cloth diapering community.

    Remember, cloth diapering is a personal journey and what works for one family might not work for another.

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