There are many, many different kinds of baby products on the market and new parents can get overwhelmed with what they might or might not truly need. In my house, we are always trying to get a single item to perform several duties so that we can maximize the bang for our buck. That got me thinking about whether or not using cloth diapers as burp cloths could be an option.
Cloth diapers are designed to be both super absorbent and tough but also soft and gentle on a baby’s skin. This, along with their superior affordability and versatility, means that using cloth diapers as burp cloths is a solid option. The biggest downside is that they do not come in as many fun styles as burp cloths.
Although I was initially skeptical about buying cloth diapers to use as burp cloths, my family was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Let’s see what makes these a good overall option while addressing their shortcomings at the same time.
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Cloth diapers can make great burp cloths
Burp cloths exist to make sure that anything that drops, dribbles, or otherwise exits your baby’s mouth when she burps doesn’t make its way onto the floor, furniture, or something else that’s hard to clean. They are great for wiping faces, hands, feeding areas, and all sorts of other things. Because they are so useful, they fall into the ‘must have’ category for most parents and I know that we’ve personally gotten a lot of mileage out of the ones we’ve used in the past.
So, why would we want to use cloth diapers instead of a ‘real’ burp cloth?
If you aren’t using cloth diapers as diapers for your baby yet, or haven’t done it in the past, then you probably never even considered the fact that you might want to use them for another purpose. Without going into too much detail about cloth diapering in general, you at least need to know that we’ll be talking about the prefold style because they will make the best replacement for traditional burp clothes.
This style gets its name because there is a lot of fabric or other material ‘pre-folded’ into the center of a larger square of fabric. This extra padding turns them into a larger, more durable, thicker, more absorbent cousin of a burp cloth.
There won’t be any issues with these diapers getting the job done when it comes to burp cloth duties!
Cloth diapers are more affordable
One of the biggest reasons to consider using cloth diapers as burp cloths is that they are just plain cheaper while being the same or higher quality. As a parent, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to save money with my baby because costs can add up so quickly as you start accumulating all of the things that she needs or wants.
For an apples-to-apples comparison, I’m going to be looking at 100% cotton options for both styles and that’s my personal preference for overall durability and performance. When you start looking at burp cloths, you’ll notice that there are a lot of them made from fleece, flannel, and other lightweight materials that simply don’t hold up to regular use and washing in my personal experience and they definitely don’t absorb as much either.
Typically, you’ll find cloth diapers in packs of 10 or 12. Burp cloths, on the other hand, are normally sold in smaller packages of 5 or 6 for around the same price. Here are two examples to highlight the difference:
- Humble Bebe unbleached prefold cloth diapers (12 pack) – For about 30 bucks, you get 12 extremely high-quality 14×14 inch cloths (about $2.75 each). These are made from 100% cotton, they’re unbleached, and will last a long, long time. They are 4-ply cotton on the sides with 8-ply in the middle (for extra absorbency when used as a diaper). These are seriously thick and hardy – you won’t be expecting it! For the latest reviews and price, check these out here.
- Burt’s Bees 100% organic cotton burp cloths (5 pack) – For about 25 bucks, you will get 5 high-quality 16×12 inch designer burp cloths (about $5 each). These are on the thicker side of traditional burp cloths, but still only 2-ply all the way around. Made with a rib knit that provides some stretch. For the latest reviews and price, check these out here.
Obviously, there are going to be many options available to you when you start shopping around for cloth diapers or burp cloths, but both of these are popular, quality choices from each category that can give you a good idea of how the prices shake out between the two.
Cloth diapers are more durable than burp cloths
I’ve already mentioned this, but I want to reiterate that a high-quality cloth diaper can be used and abused for a long time and will only get better over time.
In the example above, you will get at least 4 layers of cotton (8 in the middle panel) which is seriously thick. Because they are made from cotton, they will tend to get softer over time as the machine washer works the fabric and loosens it up a little. In the same way, they will also become more absorbent over time.
Many parents report getting years of use out of cloth diapers and it’s not uncommon for them to last through several children before being retired. In fact, there is a whole market devoted to purchasing used cloth diapers (a little gross!) just because of the simple fact that they tend to get better over time. There are countless resources for learning how to care for and maintain these things in such a way that they stay clean looking, odor-free, and high-performing.
Cloth diapers are more versatile than burp cloths
Since your cloth diapers are so affordable and durable, you’ll be able to do more things with them without worrying as much about messing them up.
In addition to the normal baby stuff, you can also use these clothes on lots of other things around the house. Here are a few examples:
- Kids and baby – Changing pad, car seat adjustment, nursing cover, first aid
- Kitchen – Cleaning/dusting rag, pot holder, kitchen towel, paper towel substitute, drying mat, Swiffer mop pad
- Utility – Shop towel, gym towel, blotting cloth for painters
- Crafts – Cut them up and use them for rag dolls, quilts, blankets, stuffing, etc.
- Pets – Bedding, tug toy, emergency diaper
This list is by no means exhaustive – just the first things that came to mind that we’ve either done ourselves or thought about doing in the past!
Cloth diapers lose style points compared to most burp cloths
Really the only downside that I see to making the switch to cloth diapers is that you aren’t likely to find them in cute styles with fun designs or cartoon characters. For the most part, they will be plain-Jane white or unbleached off-white fabric without many bells and whistles.
If you are looking at these from a purely utilitarian perspective, then it really doesn’t matter and you’re better off not having to pay for the extra cost of color and licensing fees. Of course, the baby isn’t really going to care what their burp cloth looks like (or even if you are using one for that matter!) so it really comes down to what you want as a parent.
Those of you feeling frisky could always dye the diapers into different colors to spice them up a little. It might also be helpful to make them all different colors so that you can try to keep them sorted a little better in terms of which one was used last.
You will be ready to experiment with cloth diapering
Even if you are getting the cloth diapers to use as burp cloths, having some on hand could be a great excuse to give cloth diapering a try.
It’s not for everybody, but there can be perks to the system and once the upfront cost is taken care of you’ll be saving a boatload of money on disposable diapers over time. There is definitely a learning curve and it can be gross having to deal with the reality of baby poop disposal without the convenience of just rolling up the diaper and throwing it away. But, at least you’ll be able to say that you tried it!
You’ll also be doing the environment a huge favor because most diapers are not properly biodegradable and about 3.5 million tons of them end up in landfills each year in the United States alone. As they slowly break down over the course of a few hundred years, they can also release toxic gasses in the process.