Capital Region cloth diaper services

baby diaper butt

No pins required: Diaper covers make cloth diapers easy.

By Akum Norder

Cloth or paper? Which one would you prefer cradling your butt?

On second thought, don't answer that. I'll just jump right in to talking about diapers.

With my first baby, I chose cloth. It was soft. I liked that it "breathed" better than disposables. And I liked the fact that we weren't sending extra crap (ahem) to the landfill. But washing diapers at home was not an option: We were renting; the landlord had shut off the hot-water line to the washing machine, and you can't wash diapers in cold.

So we contracted with a diaper service. Easy: They provided the diapers. We just tossed the used ones into a bin, set them out once a week, and fresh clean diapers would magically appear the next morning.

But by the time our second daughter came around, the diaper service we'd used had gone out of business. We went with disposables. Yeah, she got diaper rash more often. Yeah, we threw out a lot of trash. But whether we deserved the eco-guilt we felt isn't completely clear: When you take the laundering into account, reusables aren't exactly guilt-free, either. Studies comparing the environmental impact of cloth and disposables have shown mixed results, and even the Natural Resources Defense Council has reported that "environmentalists from various organizations declared a draw, suggesting we all move on to issues where the costs and benefits were more clear-cut."

Me, my heart's still with cloth; but whatever your feelings, it's nice that parents have options. There are now several diapering businesses in the Capital Region, and they make it as easy as could be to go cloth with your baby.

Read on to learn more about three of the area's cloth diaper services.

Sonrise Diaper Service
Based in Latham, with a retail diaper store in Guilderland

Communities served: All of Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties; northern Columbia and Greene counties; and southern Saratoga and Washington counties.

Price for 100 diapers per week: $25

Sonrise opened in 2009. The owner, Vikki Casey-Ahmed, had wished the Capital Region had a diaper service when her twins were small. "After I had our third baby," she said, "I thought, 'This has to happen'" -- so she started a service herself. "I love meeting and talking to new moms and moms-to-be. ... Truly, I have had a wonderful experience."

"Cloth-diapering your child is really nostalgic for many moms and grandmoms," Vikki said. "It brings back memories of childhood, theirs and their children's."

In addition to providing the diapers, the laundering service and the accessories you need to get started, Sonrise offers an in-home consultation to answer questions and demonstrate techniques. "I feel like people want a person to talk to, someone having experience with cloth diapering, to help them sort out all the information -- because there is a lot -- provided to them online," Vikki said.

Green Horizon Diaper Service
Based in East Greenbush

Communities served: Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga counties. They will go beyond those areas for an additional charge. Contact for details.

Price for 100 diapers per week: $25

As with Sonrise's Vikki, it was Ashlee Phelan's experiences with her own baby that prompted her to start a diaper service.

"I started Green Horizon because of my daughter," Ashlee said. "She had a horrible diaper rash and I had read that cloth diapers may help. Sure enough, her rash cleared right up! I have been hooked ever since."

She started her business in the fall of 2009. "With more and more people getting on the 'green trend' I knew I had to offer a service like this. ... We really needed an alternative to disposables in the area!"

Ashlee said some people are hesitant to go with cloth because they think they'll be hard to use. "But I find once we show someone exactly how easy it is, they are quick to get on board," Ashlee said.

Most of her customers cite environmental concerns as their reason for choosing cloth diapering. "Our families are very aware of what disposables do to the landfills (taking about 500 years to decompose), whereas cloth diapers can be used for probably all of your children and then reused as rags around the house."

Diaper Envy
Based in Glenville

Communities served: Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties. Or, as they put it, "We cover from Selkirk to Saratoga and Schodack to Scotia. And all places in between."

Price for 100 diapers per week: $25 (sale price: $22.50)

Diaper Envy, too, started because of its founder's own experiences as a mom. When Beth Smassanow found she was pregnant, she says, she started doing research comparing cloth and disposables. "It soon became obvious that cloth diapers, while initially expensive, would ultimately be cheaper, healthier for our baby, and better for the environment," she writes on her website.

But she found that many of the moms she knew didn't have cloth on their radar. "When I told people we were going to use [cloth], so many people asked, 'Why?' And 'Isn't it gross?' ... "Lots of people are set in their ways," she says. "It's tough to persuade them to try something new."

But diapering her baby left her convinced that cloth was very easy to use. "And washing them was no big deal to me," Beth says. "So we decided to spread the word on their ease of use and try to get more people in the community to use them by offering a diaper laundry service and support."

She started Diaper Envy in March of last year.

"Truly, it is just as easy as using disposable diapers," Beth says. "We can assure you that once you get started you will feel the same as we do about cloth diapering."

Photo: Flickr user 114bberry


I read on some cloth company's web sites that babies swaddled in cloth also potty train earlier-- something about the feel of the wet diaper being an impetous for them to go. Anyone know if there's any truth to that?

Can't anyone find a solution that is both disposable and biodegradable?

@kab: There are more eco-friendly disposable diapers available but there is no incentive to come up with biodegradable ones when they will end up in a land-fill (i.e. a giant airtight holding container) in any case. In order for biodegradable waste to become advantageous, we need a new way of handling it so that it can be allowed to degrade and then be released back into the environment rather than locked away with all the plastic and everything else for all time.

@pondering: my guess would be that it is true, but probably too dwarfed by other variables (gender and character of the child for example) to be a useful guide unless you're pondering a statistically significant number of children!

Nice article. I think it's right to present this as a choice for parents rather than a right/wrong ecological issue.

I happened upon the Sonrise Diaper store unexpectedly the other day (it's inside of Polkadots Consignment shop) and was just in awe of all that fluff within walking distance of my house. They had an especially nice selection of used newborn sized AIOs. Back in my day, we had to order our cloth diapers on the internet!

@ kab--Disposable and biodegradable

@kab: The ecological impact of disposables isn't just in the space they take up in landfills (and remember, even something that's "biodegradable" takes up space in a landfill while it's biodegrading). It's also in the energy costs for manufacturing and transporting the single-use diapers.

We've cloth diapered both of our kids and it's been wonderful. Financially it's a big saver. We use the same diapers for the second kid and will resell when we're done. Ecologically, Albany has copious water but limited landfill space. No rashes, no leaks.

I know some kids do potty learn earlier with cloth; my experience said this was not true. However it does mean that you're not nearly as anxious to push your child because it's not costing you more money each week to continue in diapers.

We wash our cloth at home. I wish these diapers services had been around 4 years ago -- the closest place was in Hudson back then. A few months of service is a fantastic baby shower gift!

There is a 'tweener option: G-diapers. Its a reusable cover. And two types of inserts -- washable or tossable.

@kab there are a few disposable biodegradable options, but I prefer cloth over any of them. It's cheaper, cuter, easier, softer, and better for my kid's bum.

When I say easier - it's easier to buy a stash of diapers once (for 2 kids) and throw them in the wash twice a week than to run out to the store with 2 kids in tow whenever I'm running low!

Interesting article. You start off asking "Cloth or paper?" but it's really cloth vs chemicals covered in plastic. I went to cloth more because disposables are just so gross and I didn't want that in constant contact with my baby's skin. I love that there are so many more options to make it convenient now.

We used Sonrise for a while (up until daycare). Vikki was great to work with. I highly recommend.

Thanks for this! It's refreshing not to have the right or wrong presentation on cloth vs disposable. I did exclusively cloth with my first, had no washer and went disposable with my second, and have found a nice balance with cloth during the day and eco-friendly / biodegradable disposable at night for my heavy sleeping third. We happily use Sonrise Diaper Service and love that they have a cloth wipes add on with their service. I love cloth wipes versus disposable.

All three of my kids used cloth (though we used disposable for travel--which I think was their original intended use). All three were diaper-trained between 2 and 2 1/2, which seems on the early side these days. It's not just that the baby with the wet butt is more motivated to cast off cloth diapers, but the parents washing those damned diapers are too! Disposable is easier, no question, but for us cloth was far cheaper (3 kids in mostly the same ones) and felt much better landfill-wise.

All these links are broken, so I assume these services no longer exist. Does anyone know if there are any current services locally?

Hey AOA - any chance you'd be interested in doing a follow up to this? None of them are open anymore and I can't seem to find anything locally - maybe your crowdsourcing would have better luck?

I am also looking for a service but cannot find one. Please help?

Women at Work magazine (from TU) just printed an article about a lady who does this...

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