Annette Manlief was not sold on using cloth diapers for her baby at first.
"I knew people who used them, but when a friend mentioned it to me in my eighth month of pregnancy, I thought, 'Oh I am not doing this,'" she said.
But soon after her friend's suggestion, Manlief and her husband researched cloth diapers and realized they had evolved quite a bit.
"We thought about the plastic covers, the pins, and all that," Manlief said. "But I read so many reviews and looked at cost comparisons, and we decided to register for some.
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"I kept the diapers in the closet until my baby was 6 weeks old. I thought I'll just send them back," she said. "I kept thinking about the cleaning, the maintenance of them. I was so scared."
But then Manlief noticed how much garbage was created by disposable diapers. She also realized how expensive diapers were.
"I saw how much waste we generated, an extra garbage bag a week," she said. "I saw how much money we were shelling out. I knew I had to legitimately try" cloth diapers.
From then on, she was hooked.
The dilemma isn't new. Like Manlief, many new moms and dads debate the choice of cloth versus disposable diapers. Lexington mom Mika Pryor hated the thought of her baby's diapers filling a landfill.
"I am concerned with what we pass on to our kids — it is what they are going to have to deal with," Pryor said. "If we use all these disposable diapers and put them into landfills, our babies are going to have to deal with the environmental issues."
Pryor, who has used cloth diapers since her 10-month-old daughter was born, recently started her cloth and bamboo diaper line, Groovy Cheeks. She trademarked a design, worked with a retailer to have the diapers made, and ordered her first shipment.
She sells the diapers online at Groovycheeks.com out of her Lexington home and at The Cottage in Lexington Green. The diapers are $17.50 to $22.50 each, and Pryor sells a wet bag for storing soiled Groovy Cheeks diapers when you're away from home for $7.50. A starter pack includes 16 cloth diapers, a wet bag and free shipping for $275. A similar kit made with bamboo diapers sells for $350.
Pryor's diapers are the "all-in-one type." They have an insert to absorb moisture, and a cover with snaps that adjusts to a baby's size. Unlike some cloth diapers, her design does not have adjustable elastic because she noticed that caused a lot of leaking with her daughter.
Pryor chose to sell her own line to help raise awareness about cloth diapers.
"The new cloth diapers are cute and colorful. When I would go out with my baby, people would see the cloth diapers and say, 'Wow, those are pretty cool. Those aren't the plastic pants and safety pins.' I thought I could raise awareness and do something I enjoy by selling them," Pryor said.
As Pryor and Manlief explained, many people's notion of cloth diapers is old-fashioned. In the past, those who used cloth diapers often sent them out to be laundered or had to mix a solution in a diaper pail to disinfect them. This is not true anymore, said Cerise Bouchard, owner of Mother Nurture, a Lexington store that specializes in natural parenting items.
"Washing the diapers is really simple," Bouchard said of the new cloth ones. "You don't have to mix a solution today," and you can wash the diapers at home, she said.
Bouchard sells many types of cloth diapers at Mother Nurture and explained that they look very similar to disposables.
"Cloth diapers used to be giant, bed-sheet size," she said. "Cloth diapers today look like disposables. Someone finally decided you can shape them and put snaps on them."
Cloth diapers are a money saver, too, said Bouchard.
"There is more of an investment upfront," she said. "But then you have all the diapers you will ever need for all the kids you'll ever have."
Bouchard sells two types of cloth diapering systems. The first includes two sizes of pre-folds and their covers. They cost $500 to $600. The newer design, the all-in-one type, is about $600 for 24, or $900 for 36.
"I like to recommend 36, especially for newborns, but you definitely can do 24 and just wash them more frequently," she said.
Lexington mom Angie Elser has used cloth diapers with her two daughters. She said saving money played into her decision to use cloth diapers.
"I compared how much we would have spent on disposables versus what we've spent on cloth. I estimated we have saved over $2,500. And that's conservative," Elser said.
Her calculations are based on estimating that disposables would have cost her $2,700 per child, or $5,400. Her initial investment was $190 on pre-fold diapers and covers. Then she spent $460 on accessories — diaper bags, diaper pail, liners, etc. — and more diapers for an initial investment of about $650.
Since then, she has bought more diapers (the all-in-ones and some newborn sizes for her second child), bringing her total to $980. She calculated that washing the diapers during the past four-plus years has cost about $500, for a total of about $1480. That comes to a much bigger savings than her conservative estimate.
While money was a factor for Elser, she said the facts that cloth was better on her babies' skin and the diapers were environmentally friendly were key in choosing cloth diapers.
"It ended up being one of those decisions where the more research I did, the more of a no-brainer it seemed," Elser said. "You're keeping trash and human waste out of landfills, saving money, and it's better for the baby."
Megan Wilson is hosting a cloth diapering class for the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service on Dec. 8. Wilson works for Everything Birth, a company that specializes in selling cloth diapers.
"Cloth diapers have really evolved in the past 10 or so years to where they are just as easy as disposable," she said. "They are better on baby, better on the wallet and better on the environment."