April 22, 2014 at 12:15 PM ET
Fashion-conscious parents are obsessed with them. Baby gear websites sell out in minutes. Online message boards trade tips on where to find them.
Babies, meanwhile… poop on them. Really. Cloth diapers, long a staple of eco-friendly families, have turned oh-so-stylish. Parents are going gaga over stripes, florals and animal print cloth diapers. This spring the craze is for “Audrey,” a cheeky pink and black sunglasses-print diaper made by BumGenius and named for style icon Audrey Hepburn.
“There are waiting lists to get this print. Websites get it in stock and they sell out in five minutes,” says Kelly Wels, author of "Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering."
Most cloth diaper-loving moms have a laundry list of reasons they prefer them over disposable diapers — starting with environmental and economical concerns. But the cute factor has really taken off in recent years, propelling cloth diapers into trendy territory.
Laura King, a mom from Ellsworth, Maine, is currently using cloth for the first time, diapering her third child. King says she loves buying diapers in girly prints for her daughter and can’t wait for summer, when she hopes to let her go pantsless, showing off her adorable printed bottom.
“My daughter has tons of cute, patterned diapers. I accidentally threw some of them into the dryer on regular heat the other day and frantically called a fellow cloth-diapering friend because I thought I had ruined half of my beloved cloth diaper stash,” King says. (Luckily, her stash was safe!)
Message boards are one go-to spot for parents like King who are obsessed with cute patterns and hard-to-find prints. Websites such as DiaperSwappers and DiaperPin exist solely to allow parents to trade, search for and talk about the most sought-after diaper prints.
Riss Courtade of Chesapeake, Va., cloth diapered two of her children — one boy and one girl — and always matched the prints to T-shirts or used them as bloomers under dresses.
“There are so many choices available now and they are far better than the boring patterns available on so many of the disposable brands,” Courtade says. “I absolutely allowed my kids to wear their cloth diapers as pants in warm weather — why hide such an adorable pattern?”
Wels says that while stylish fashions have made cloth diapers more popular, she believes cloth diapering families ultimately want to be eco-consious and save money. Wels says cloth diapering can save a family more than $2,000 per child (from infancy to potty training) over disposable diapers, or 'sposies, as they're also known in cloth diapering circles.
Kim Mitzel, a Baltimore, Md., mom to two cloth-diapered daughters, agrees that both cost and the environment factored into her decision to use reusable diapers.
“I initially pursued cloth diapers to be green. Thinking about how many diapers babies go through in a day and how long it supposedly takes a disposable diaper to decompose in a landfill just made me sad,” says Mitzel. “After researching cloth diapers and realizing the long-term cost savings, it made my decision that much easier.”
Like most cloth-diaper devotees, Mitzel says she was initially overwhelmed by the up-front costs associated with cloth, and found the thought of cleaning out diapers and keeping up with laundry daunting.
"Cloth diapers can be challenging once your baby starts eating more solid food,” adds Mitzel, saying her “threshold for dealing with poop is quite high now."
After years of reusable diapering, however, Mitzel says the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and she recommends them to every new mom — but she doesn't sugarcoat the poopy reality. "I try not to be too pushy about it. I tell people who are considering it that they have to be OK with doing laundry daily and getting their hands dirty."
Wels agrees that laundry and initial set-up can be intimidating, and acknowledges there’s a stigma associated with cloth diapers, including the “messy squares of fabric, pins, and dunking them into the toilet.”
She says there are two options for cleaning out the diapers: either use flushable, biodegradable wipes that sit inside the diaper as a liner (she calls them “poop catchers”) or use a diaper sprayer for cleaning.
As for finding the perfect fit for cloth diaper, Wels offers this piece of advice: keep it simple — and make sure you sample.
“There are many different styles of cloth diaper — some that snap closed, some that use Velcro, some with removable liners, some that come as an all-in-one style. Because of this fact, it’s important to find a style and fit that works best for mom and baby alike.
“It’s just like a pair of jeans — you’re not going to go online and purchase 10 pairs without trying them on,” she says. “Every baby is shaped differently — chunky thighs, skinny belly — what fits for one baby might be totally different for another.”