I wish I could say that cloth diapers are easier than disposables or less disgusting. But I can’t. Yes, it is more work. And poop is gross. Always. You can wrap it up in a cute little multi-colored, polka-dotted package with a bow, and it’s still poop. But I can say that cloth diapers are cost beneficial, environmental-friendly, healthier, and absolutely adorable.
Some people have already made up their minds against cloth diapers, and this post is not intended to persuade them otherwise. Instead, I hope to inform those who are curious and considering cloth.
Let’s look at the cost benefit first:
According to Consumer Reports, parents spend on average $2,500 per child from birth to potty training. Now, we can assume that number is for your mainstream diaper brands: Pampers, Huggies, etc. By using off-brands, some parents will spend less. Some parents will choose supposedly eco-friendly disposable brands like Seventh Generation and the Honest Company and pay more. No matter the brand, each child in disposables will cost more than $1,000 by the time he or she is potty trained.
Cloth diapering is undeniably cheaper than disposables. There are several different types of cloth diapers, and a plethora of brands. The very basic prefold with one-size cover system can cost under $200, depending on the brands and how many waterproof covers you buy.
Many cloth diaper stores, like Diaper Junction, sell cloth diaper packages between $350-500 that include popular brands and styles of diapers and accessories like cloth wipes, wet bags, or pail liners. These packages will diaper a child from birth to potty training. If you use the same system with multiple children, your savings keep rising.
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Many cloth diapers can be purchased previously owned, lowering your costs even further. After your child has been potty trained, you can sell your diapers on Ebay, Craigslist, or sites like Diaper Swapper and gain back some of the money you spent.
There are laundry costs associated with cloth diapers, of course, but these costs should be less than $200 a year, depending on the type of washing machine and the wash routine. If you line dry all or most of your cloth diapers, you will also save on electricity.
All in all, using the same cloth diapers, you can diaper several children from birth to potty training for under $1,000.
Now the environmental benefits:
Most parents never read the instructions on disposable diaper packaging, but all fecal matter should be flushed down the toilet. However, the majority of it ends up in our landfills. This means there’s a possibility that fecal matter can seep into our ground water. Although it’s still yet unknown how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, it has been estimated to be at least 250 years per diaper. They are the third largest single consumer item in landfills. As well, “eco-friendly” brands of disposable diapers are not much better than regular disposables in terms of biodegradability and chemical properties.
If you were diapered in disposables, your poop-filled diapers are still sitting in a landfill somewhere.
Also, to make a diaper, manufacturers use wood, petroleum, and chlorine. One year of diapering a baby in disposables uses over 300 pounds of wood! These are just a few of the known negative environmental impacts of disposable diapers.
At this point, some of you are probably saying, “Well, what about cloth? What about the water and energy used to make and wash a cloth diaper?”
Those in the cloth diapering community will argue in return that water is used in the manufacturing process of disposable diapers.
Yes, it is true that water and energy is used to make and launder cloth diapers. Many CD users reduce the energy they use by washing in warm or cold temperatures instead of hot, and hanging cloth diapers to dry, like I do. Keep in mind that cloth diapers are biodegradable. In ideal conditions, this will happen as quickly as six months.
To determine which is better in this case -cloth or disposable- you need to decide what is more important to you: filling up landfills with human excrement and diapers that may never decompose or using water. If you live in an area prone to droughts, then disposable diapers may appeal to you over cloth.
The health benefits:
I’m not going to cite studies linking low male sperm counts and childhood asthma to disposable diapers, although there are several by reputable organizations. Skeptics will argue that a study can be made to say whatever the researcher wants. What I will do is talk about what is in a disposable diaper, and let you make your own decision regarding possible health problems associated with a disposable.
The super absorbent gel in disposable diapers is sodium polyacrylate, which was outlawed from being used in tampons in 1985 after being linked to toxic shock syndrome. However, it has not been proven that sodium polyacrylate in feminine napkins or diapers (outerwear) causes TSS.
The chlorine used to bleach disposable diapers produces a byproduct called dioxin. This extremely dangerous toxin causes cancer, birth defects, liver disease, and immune system suppression. However, the U.S. government considers exposure to dioxins from diapers extremely low.
You say, “I thought you were supposed to convince me that disposables are bad for your health??”
I’m giving you both sides, so you can make your own decision. I was diapered in disposables, and other than a bout of varicella pneumonia caused by childhood chickenpox, I have never had serious or chronic health problems. I’m rarely ever ill.
Quite a few cloth diaper users insist their children have less diaper rash in cloth diapers. On the other hand, some experts say disposables cause less diaper rash since the sodium polyacrylate draws the moisture away from the baby’s skin. But this absorbency and moisture-wicking property may result in parents leaving a disposable diaper on their child for several hours before changing it. When this happens, the child’s skin is exposed to ammonia for a long period of time, which in turn can cause diaper rash and other adverse affects.
I have to talk about the cuteness! Warning: “fluff” (cloth diapers) is addictive! Cloth diapers come in a myriad of colors and patterns. Since it’s warm outside, I usually take my son in public with just a shirt, no shorts, to show off his cutsie diaper!
Finally, when I first held an organic cotton cloth diaper, I knew that I never wanted to put a disposable on my son again. No matter how much disposable diaper companies try to make their products feel like “cloth,” they don’t. I wanted my son to be comfortable; I didn’t want any chemical-filled product against his skin; and I didn’t want to contribute to our already overflowing landfills. That was the decision that I made.
If you’re curious about cloth diapers, Diaper Junction has a 30-day trial program. Buy the diaper; try it out for 30 days. If you don’t like it, return for a full refund.
Note: This post contains affiliate links.