This is the most common line of questions I get asked, believe it or not. If you have these concerns, you are not alone! And you can also rest assured that your worst fears about cloth diapering will not be realized.
All diapering has an ick factor. You have to deal with baby’s poop whether you use cloth or disposables. For a breastfed baby, it couldn’t be easier – messy diapers go straight into the pail. For a formula or solid fed baby (or toddler), any solids can be shaken, sprayed, or scraped into the toilet. This is NOT a big deal, and no poop needs to go on your fingers, or anywhere else. Many people like to buy sprayers that hang near the toilet for dealing with poopy messes (they’re really handy for cleaning out potties later on, too, and for a myriad of other uses). For extra ease, you might consider purchasing disposable liners. This extra step is more than cancelled out by the fact that cloth diapered babies experience far, far fewer instances of diaper blowouts. And those are seriously messy.
As for smelliness, cloth diapers are not any more smelly than disposables. Consider, if you will, that several companies specialize in making little bags that will individually wrap used disposable diapers for the express purpose of keeping the odor contained – and you can still usually smell them! Most cloth diaper families use a diaper pail with a lid, but contrary to logic, the smell is actually reduced by NOT having a super tight lid on your pail – a bit of air circulation helps keep smells at bay. Washing every 3-4 days also helps keep odor under control. If you feel that your diaper pail is particularly stinky, there are several products available on the market specifically to spruce up your diaper pail.
Now, as a mom who’s used both cloth and disposables, let me tell you that I MUCH prefer cloth. Teddy’s been in disposables more than he’s been in cloth (while in the hospital, while dealing with C-Diff, while fighting a persistent yeast infection that could have held up his transplant, and while his transplant scar – which runs deep into his diaper – finished healing up). The disposables stink in a way that the cloth never does. I don’t know why. Even the pee diapers smell bad. (And, I mean, of course the C-Diff ones stink, but I’m excluding those from my analysis here.)
And the blow-outs! My heavens. I’ve also noticed something particularly disturbing. Even when he doesn’t have a poop blowout, the poop seems to migrate out of the diaper and down his legs. I’ll pick him up to change him, and he has bits of poop stuck to his upper thighs that’s somehow worked its way out of the diaper and has now contaminated everything he’s sat on. This never, ever happens in cloth.