It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Just considering…

Two of the four children in the daycare at the moment are in cloth diapers. Cloth diapers, provided by their parents.

Some caregivers are astounded I’ll “do” cloth diapers. Me, I think: “Where’s the inconvenience?” Really. It’s not like I have to wash them. I just take them off the child, put them in the bag (also provided by the parents), and put a new one on the child. How does this differ from paper diapers, except in the receptacle for the used diaper?

Oh, the poo. Of course. Well, I tip what I can of feces into the toilet. Regardless of the diaper that contains it, I put the poo where it belongs. Which, clearly, is NOT my garbage can. Little packages of shit, wrapped in plastic? In the heat we’ve been getting, double- and triple-wrapped? Eew. And from there to a landfill site where, anaerobically wrapped in all that plastic, it will remain unbiodegraded as long as the plastic does, which, I believe, is FIVE HUNDRED YEARS. Several hundred packages of gift-wrapped shit, moldering for centuries.

Now, THAT’s a legacy to leave the planet…

So, really, when people say cloth diapers are gross, I just.don’t.get it. How could swishing a little poo into a toilet be anywhere near as gross as poopy diapers fermenting in my garbage can for a week, and then lingering in revolting, stinky piles for years upon years upon years?


So, as I say, two of four in cloth. And I got to thinking, as I took a particularly revolting paper diaper to the garbage, why not all four of them? Could I arrange a diaper service? How would that work? Would they be able to accommodate shifting enrollment? Would I be required to use a commercial service, and, if so, would that cost more?

I don’t know if it’s feasible, but I’m thinking about it. And then I read a post about choosing cloth diapers, and thought, “I should blog about this, too, and see if I can get some feedback.”

Are there any caregivers/parents of multiples out there who have used a diaper service? Did it work for you? The pros, the cons? What questions should I ask of a diaper service?

July 8, 2010 - Posted by | daycare, health and safety, potty tales | ,


  1. I don’t really do the diaper service, but I’m expecting nr.3 very shortly and I have a nice stock of cloth nappies ready to be used on his bum. While I do have the choice of a nappy service over her, for me personally, it’s cheaper and easier, I think to just wash them at home. First of all, you need very little washing powder or gel to use on them. Throw a load in at the end of the day or once every 2 days and take it out on the line, and you’re done. Plus, for older children (that are done with the breastfeeding poo) fleece liners are a must. The poo doesn’t stick on them, the nappy is clean and the fleece liners come out of the washine machine almost dry. Which is why the are perfect to use as wipes too.

    Of course you’ll run out of the nappies once in a while, especially if you have a low stock. But some weeks you might not need to wash as many s the week before, etc. PLus you run out of disposables too, if you don’t shop for them in time. I’m all for the cloth nappies. But I couldn’t advice you on the service, I much preffer washing them at home 🙂

    Though I did wash and line-dry with my own offspring, I can’t with the daycare because 1) there will usually be three or four of them in diapers at a time and 2) I don’t have a dryer. Put 1 and 2 together, and I see great potential for total diaper gridlock in the spring and fall, when it’s often too rainy to hang outside and the basement is too damp for quick drying. Because never mind the loads of cloth diapers that four kids will produce, what about my poor family’s clothes? So, nope. In this circumstance, I think it has to be a service.

    Besides, these are not my children; my own family’s laundry needs are my priority. I don’t need to worry about the expense (within reason) because it will be tax-deductable and I will raise the fees, if necessary, to cover any residual cost to me.

    Comment by Nat | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. What an interesting idea! That same diaper service has a special multiples discount and they are available in multiple cities in Canada, but I don’t know if they serve your area.

    Agreed about the poo in landfills. Technically, EVERYONE is supposed to be dumping the contents of diapers into the toilet before trashing their diapers, because it’s illegal to put human waste in the landfill. Oops! How many people actually do? Then all that Ecoli and Norwalk end up leeching into our rivers… yes, clearly MUCH more sanitary than cloth diapers getting rinsed so that the poo goes into our water treatment system instead…

    Well, I can certainly contact them and see. I now have a decent list of possibilities, so that’s a good first step.

    And yes, as I said to a subsequent commenter, I learned the same from a public health nurse: feces goes in the city’s septic system. And really, when you think about it? … Duh…

    Comment by IfByYes | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. That thing about poo in the landfill made me laugh (the way you put it) but also is something I think we westerners don’t even think about. Just toss the diaper. The above commenter is correct–waste is supposed to go into the sewer system. Of course, nobody tells you that!! I’m on baby #3 and the third in cloth diapers–even when we go out. When we’ll be gone for longer than an overnight, I do put him in a disposable these days, mostly because it would be a hassle to drag a bunch of diapers around, but otherwise he’s cloth diapered and I wouldn’t do it the other way now that i’ve done it. A LOT of “hip” mamas cloth diaper now. There are tons of options on the market.

    That said, i’ve never heard of a day care provider who allowed them, except for the grandmother who took care of the girl down the street (her granddaughter). I’m cheering you on.

    It was when I was teaching prenatal classes in Toronto that I learned about tipping the poo, even if you’re using disposables. A public health nurse came and spoke to my class, and one of the things she pointed out was just that: your toilet, connected to the city’s septic system, is the safest, healthiest way to dispose of feces. That’s what it’s designed to do. Feces put in the garbage and going to landfill sites is a health hazard. (Never mind just pure gross.)

    I’ve had cloth diapers intermittently through the years. Two children at the same time is unusual, but it’s gotten me thinking, and it certainly is consistent with my environmental concerns — and my dislike of waste. Disposables are so inarguably, outrageously wasteful!

    Comment by Bridgett | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  4. i live in the US and used a diaper service when my son was a baby. It worked like a charm. They provided a special pail with sanitizers in which to put the stinky diapers. the poo diapers would be tipped over into the toilet, as much as i could manage and the rest would go in the pail. Once a week, the pail would be picked up, and a fresh pack of diapers delivered.

    as far as envt better, i am not sure because washing these diapers and sanitizing them prob takes a lot of energy and water. But still better than having plastic in the landfill for years.

    Creating all those millions of diapers has got to take a lot of energy, and generate a lot of pollution. Cloth still comes out miles ahead.

    when my son got older and was highly mobile, he resisted the attempts at the cloth diaper (these were just rectangular pieces of cloth, not like the underwear looking diapers you have on your site) so as they get older, i think the fitted underwear looking diapers would be better. But i dont think diaper service provides those types of diapers – so at that pt you would be on your own.

    I used the big cloth squares on my son — with pins and vinyl pants — without difficulty. They don’t intimidate me at all. But these days, it seems that diaper services uniformly use either multi-layer cotton rectangles which fit within form-fitted covers, or fitted diapers. There’s no arguing they’re simpler!

    Comment by meera | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  5. I use a diaper service, and have with all 3 of my kids. Recently in their newsletter, they mentioned that they have some daycares that use their service. We are in Toronto, but you could contact them and ask if they know of a similar service in your area?

    Thank you! Since you’ve used a diaper service, do you have any suggestions of questions I could be asking, services I should be looking for, things to avoid?

    Comment by Naomi (Urban Mummy) | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. Funny how different things are here. Providers can choose whether or not to accept cloth diapers. It’s up to the parent to provide the pail or bag, or the diaper service. However, the providers are not permitted to rise out the diapers in the toilet, or, for that matter, rinse out underwear or clothes when older kids have accidents. The risk of being contaminated if there is any splashing is considered too great.

    They’re not permitted to rinse out diapers and soiled clothing? I’m blinking in astonishment. What a revolting notion: poop-smeared underwear, and/or poop-FILLED diapers cluttering up my home for hours on end? Eeeewwww…

    And this whole risk thing. Yes, feces carry more bacteria than urine, far more. And yes, you need to exercise due sanitary precautions when dealing with it, but surely washing your hands (and any splashed areas, though this happens very rarely for me) and/or wearing gloves (for the truly fastidious) are sufficient? Because, when we’re talking risk, the risk of your child being harmed in a five-minute drive in the car — even in an approved car seat, properly installed — has got to be much greater and more immediate than the risk of something vile happening as a result of poop-soiled water splashing on their caregiver. When we all give up driving, except in cases of purest emergency, I’ll take this whole ‘risk’ thing for much less statistically significant things far more seriously.

    Comment by jwg | July 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Hey, I don’t write the regs, I just teach them. They are not allowed to use wading pools, either. Just pools with pumps and filters, or sprinklers. I don’t like sprinklers, they concentrate too many running kids in a small space. In my center days we used a soaker hose. Spread it out for 100 feet and everyone gets wet without the chaos. It also cooled down the blacktop which cooled down the building. Or we’d take all the chairs outside, put the kids in bathing suits and turn them loose with sponges, buckets of water and a hose. The next day we did the cots, then my car. Have you noticed the kids don’t give a damn about the heat? It’s the poor adults who are suffering!

      Oh, I’m not blaming you. I tend to assume that there have to be some regulations that have you shaking your head, but, as you say, you don’t write them. This one has me shaking my head, and glad I don’t have to deal with it!

      YES, I have noticed that! One of the moms commented the other evening, and I think she’s quite right: “You just have to wrap your head around the fact that you’re going to sweat. Once you accept that… it’s just sweat.” And of course, the little ones don’t have to do those mental gymnastics: they just sweat.

      Though I confess that one day, when they’d been running and running and running in the outrageous heat, I put a stop to it, saying “You’re all going to get heat prostration. Sit down and have a drink of water.” (I’m not entirely sure if ‘heat prostration’ is a valid term, but it’s one that was used in my family when I was young. In probably exactly the same way!)

      Comment by jwg | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  7. I found these two that service your area. I have to say that I think it’s a great idea! Sweet Peach seems to have a better deal for bulk orders and multiple children.

    Thank you! I’d found that second company, but hadn’t yet run across the first. I shall check it out!

    Comment by Sarah | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  8. I used cloth on Scoop. When I thought I would be going back to work my daycare told me she would have to be in disposables while there. I was disappointed because as you say, it’s not as if they had to wash them. I didn’t use a service because she was my only one in diapers and I didn’t mind the washing. I would have gladly paid a bit extra for a daycare that not only accommodated my desire for cloth but had their own service.

    That’s good to know. I’m thinking that in this neighbourhood, there could easily be a reasonably significant percentage of parents who will feel the same way.

    Comment by Bethany | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  9. We hemmed and hawed about using them with Elena. I wanted to use them, but I wasn’t sure how our daycare would deal with it. I had used disposables with Jeffrey because, well one more thing to think about with him may have put me over the edge. With E, I’m not sure why we didn’t use cloth. There aren’t any services in our area, but in the end I think it just became a matter of doing the same thing as last time. Looking back, I wish we had gone the way of cloth. I would have been very excited to have a provider that brought it up or gave it as an option!

    Comment by Dani | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  10. I should find out about this. I don’t know ANYONE over here who uses cloth diapers, but from what I read on British, American and Canadian blogs they can’t be that bad.

    Comment by Mwa | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  11. Ok, the idea that heating up water to wash your diapers is even close to the same sort of pollution as throwing away hundreds of soiled diapers during your child’s diapering days is ludicrous. My diaper load is one extra load per week. I have an HE front loader that uses scant amounts of water. During warm months I dry on the line–the sun kills most germs, although I do use hot water to wash.. The largest mass of stuff in our landfills is newspapers, followed by disposable diapers. Neither of which should be there–compost or recycle the paper and use cloth!


    Comment by Bridgett | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  12. (Not sure how I missed this entry when it was written … )

    I totally understand the “eeeewwwww” reaction to cloth diapers. I’ve always had the same reaction – the first thing that came to mind was the diaper pail odors of the 70s and 80s (particularly the in-home day care where I worked after school). I was totally surprised to learn from some of my friends what “modern” cloth diapering is like.

    Hubby and I decided to use cloth with baby #3, and I couldn’t be happier about it! We save money, never have to run to the store for diapers, baby is comfortable, they actually contain messes much better than disposables (so I do less clothing laundry), and they are CUTE! What’s not to like? No, seriously … what’s not to like about cloth diapers. 😉

    Mary, I hope you’ll follow up on this post and let your dear readers know whether you decide to switch all the babies to cloth! (Heck, maybe you’ll convince their parents to switch too, once they learn what cloth diapering is really like.)

    Comment by BookMama | August 4, 2010 | Reply

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