Cloth Diapering Without Stuff

Mother holding baby

If you are serious about cutting down on stuff, it is simple to cloth diaper your child without all of the extras and accessories because the simplest diapers do the job beautifully.

Diaper-free without Stuff

If you are very serious about cutting down on stuff, go without diapers altogether. Elimination communication is a beautiful way to respond to your baby’s needs. Most diaper-free babies do wear cloth diapers occasionally, but they aren’t generally going through a dozen a day. If you are willing and able to focus on your baby enough to catch cues, you won’t need more than a few cloth diapers.

Wake Up to Marketing

Even if you decide to go full steam ahead for cloth diapers, you don’t need a stash, one of every brand, one of every color, or all of the accessories. And, you don’t need to believe the biggest ad campaigns that plant specific brand names in your mind as The Diaper to Own.

A week ago on Jian Ghomeshi’s Q on CBC, I listened to his interview with Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed. I knew I was going to be writing about cloth diapers today, so I was very excited to tell you about this interview and this book. Martin Lindstrom is a marketer who wants to helps us as consumers understand how market research leads to subtle tricks that persuade us to buy. The stories he tells as he outs his own industry will shock you, and they should. He tries to make the process of persuasion transparent for us.

Applying this to cloth diaper marketing, step back from your non-conscious reactions diaper brands’ ads, posts, and carefully shaped personas to prioritize your actual needs over what diaper brands tell you your needs are. Sure, you want a free diaper, but do you really need to buy five new diapers to get it? Sure, you like prints, but do you really need one of each? Sure, you want “eco-diapers,” but are single-use diapers inside reusable, plastic-laminated polyester covers really your idea of “eco”? Bring your reactions into consciousness to make your decisions deliberate and transparent.

Be Conscious of Your Actual Needs

The not-so-secret secret to parenting without stuff is letting your specific needs guide your buying rather than letting yourself be swept away on a wave of marketing. The five points of Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative are Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, and Reimagine. Even if we do find ourselves in need of a solution to some parenting issue, we don’t necessarily need to buy new. We can make, repair, borrow, and buy used to meet the need. We think we need diapers, but we can reimagine that need by learning more about elimination communication. There are far more answers available to us than the conventional.

Start by asking yourself what you need then give yourself some time for creative thought. How might you meet that need without buying a single-use problem solver and spending your hard-earned cash?

How Many Diapers Do You Really Need?

I’ve told the story before of my friend who has never bought a diaper. Her second child is approaching two years old. She has always used cloth diapers, but she is just open to accepting hand-me-downs. All of her diapers are passed on to her from others. I’ve seen some of my children’s old diapers in her stash, so I know those diapers are circulating around the city doing diaper duty for baby after baby. If you have a community of like-minded parents, it will be a lot easier to cut down on buying the stuff of parenting.

If you are collecting or even buying, what do you really need? Plenty of my friends used nothing more than 18 prefold diapers, a couple of wool soakers, and a bucket to hold them until wash day. You could cut up ragged towels (sew around the edge, so you don’t have strings that could hurt your baby) and knit a soaker. Don’t sew or knit? Look for used diapers. Can’t find any? Buy a few simple diapers. Start very simple then only expand your diaper stuff when you find that what you have isn’t quite working yet.

If I were starting over, even after years of using and making so many diapers, I would use flat diapers and wool covers. That’s all.


Your bonus for breastfeeding without stuffbabywearing without stuff, and cloth diapering without stuff is saving a lot of money.

A cloth diapering advocate local to me posted a photo last week of a huge pile of boxes of disposable diapers at a big box store. They were on sale—reduced some ridiculous amount. She said, “Even if you buy these diapers at this reduced cost, it will cost you more to diaper your baby than if you use cloth diapers.” If you use prefolds rather than diapers that tout useless innovations to solve problems you don’t have, you will save hundreds of dollars a year. Be vigilant!

You’ve probably already read a dozen messages today asking you to buy stuff this week. It’s the biggest sales week of the year. Saturday, I’ll share a few ideas for giving without stuff.

Image © Jason Stitt |

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