Jennifer Labit, the owner of Cotton Babies, the cloth diaper company that manufactures BumGenius diapers, had an interesting post last week about the future of the cloth diaper industry. She believes–and I agree wholeheartedly–that cloth diapers will become more mainstream over the next few years, with a wider variety of families choosing them. I think we’re already seeing this, and for good reason: as options and availability of cloth diapers increase, more families will be drawn to the cost savings, convenience, and reduced environmental impact of cloth.
However, when Jen Labit talks about the variety and options in cloth diapers, one of the main things she’s talking about is hybrid diapers. I’m sure this is partly because Cotton Babies’s Flip diaper, which offers both 100% reusable and hybrid options, is not only a new product line for her company but also a unique product line in the industry. And to a point, she’s right: there’s no question that families are more likely to switch from disposables to hybrids than from disposables to cloth. But my question is: why?
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me clarify. Hybrid diapers are a relatively new idea in the cloth diaper industry. The first hybrid diaper was the gDiaper, but many cloth diaper companies are now offering hybrid versions. Hybrid diapers consist of a cloth cover with a disposable, usually flushable and biodegradable, liner. In theory it sounds like a brilliant idea: the convenience of disposables combined with the smaller cost and lessened environmental impact of cloth.
When I first heard about gDiapers, I thought it was a great idea, too. I planned to use them with my daughter–not all the time, but when I felt I needed it. For traveling, maybe for overnight–times when cloth might be less convenient.
But when I tried to use gDiapers, I discovered that, in our case at least, the old adage holds true: try to please everyone and you’ll please nobody. With a hybrid diaper, you lose many of what I consider the most important advantages of cloth: no chemicals on your baby’s skin, no messy or smelly trash, fewer leaks and blowouts. The gDiaper cover doesn’t have double leg gussets–which were essential for my skinny-legged baby–and so, for us, they leaked constantly. The disposable insert smells just like a disposable diaper, and the few times I flushed one, I ended up with a clogged toilet. And, of course, there was always the uncomfortable awareness that my daughter’s privates were wrapped in super absorbent polymers (that’s the ingredient that was taken out of tampons because of a possible link with toxic shock syndrome, but it’s still used in all disposable diapers). After about three hours of trying gDiapers, I had three sets of wet pants and one clogged toilet. I switched back to cotton prefolds and never looked back.
I do know several families who love gDiapers. Like any other diaper brand, your satisfaction has a lot to do with the build of your baby and the fit of the diaper. But–I’ll admit it–deep down I think that anybody who likes hybrid diapers and their disposable inserts would be even more satisfied with cloth. Like any other imitation, it’s just not as great as the real thing.
What about you? Do you think hybrid diapers are a necessary component for cloth diapers becoming mainstream? Or do you think most ordinary people would actually be happier with 100% cloth diapers if they experienced all the benefits?