Cloth Diaper Benefits and Myths
Benefits of Cloth Diapering
There are so many amazing benefits to cloth diapering. Here are a few.
Cloth Diapering Saves Money
Most estimates agree that people spend between $1500-2500 from birth to potty-trained on disposable diapers. I bought my entire cloth diaper collection for under $300. This number can go up or down, depending on the style and brand of diaper you purchase.
If you are looking to save big bucks, consider buying used diapers. A well cared for cloth diaper can last a long time and will function great for the diaper life of multiple children. Bonus – that means that your diaper stash can be reused for your future children, too! If you take things a step further and use cloth wipes, you can save even more money.
Better for environment
This one is huge. I am a big advocate for doing our part in making this world a healthy and sustainable place for generations to come. One of the many ways we can do this is by reducing waste. The extensive use of disposable diapers these days leads to a significant amount of plastic (and poop) in our landfills. This is scary because the plastics, chemicals, and human waste (poop) in the disposable diapers can contaminate our water supply and spread disease.
Did you know that 20+ billion disposable diapers are used each year in the United States alone? These are not recyclable and are heartbreakingly slow to decompose. A disposable diaper in a landfill takes 500 years to decompose. At this rate, the number of diapers buried underground will continue to grow at an alarming rate. For comparison sake, Earth 911 estimates that a family will go through 7300 disposable diapers for one child, compared to 24-36 cloth diapers.
Even further, the process of making disposable diapers requires the use of many resources (energy, water, oil, trees, etc). For specific and startling statistics, see these articles written by Small Footprint Family and Livestrong. To be fair, cloth diapering also requires the use of natural resources to make and launder. However, the environmental impact is estimated to be significantly less than that of disposable diapers. Here is an in-depth article comparing environmental impact of cloth vs disposable diapers (citation: Meseldzija, J., Poznanovic, D. and Frank, R. (2013). Assessment of the differing environmental impacts between reusable and disposable diapers. Dufferin Research.).
Fewer chemicals against baby’s skin
Diapers are in contact with your baby’s skin 24 hours a day for the first 2-3 years of life. Because your child is spending such a large amount of time in diapers, it’s worth thinking about what’s in them. Disposable plastic diapers are made with a variety of potentially hazardous chemicals, such as superabsorbent polymers (SAP), chlorine and dioxins, dyes, fragrances, phthalates, Tributyltin (TBT), and/or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and respiratory irritants. They are linked to a list of medical conditions and health complications.
There is some debate in regards to whether or not these chemicals do any harm when used in disposable diapers. I found a couple articles stating disposable diapers are safe, however it’s worth noting that these studies were funded by a diaper company. Given what we know about each chemical by itself, I am certainly comforted knowing my baby isn’t in disposables 24-7.
Note: Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process. It is also found in some cloth diapers. Consider looking for unbleached options.
I mean, really, is there anything cuter than a big colorful diaper on a little baby bum? There are so many adorable cloth diapers out there! 😍
Earlier Potty Training
Many moms swear that their children potty trained early because of cloth diapers. They claim that toddlers don’t like the wet-sensation of a soiled cloth diaper, and are therefore more likely to use the toilet. Perhaps this is true, or perhaps moms using cloth diapers approach potty training earlier because they are eager to stop doing an extra load of laundry. 😉 At any rate, earlier success with potty training is a common argument for cloth diapers.
There are many misconceptions out there regarding cloth diapering. Let’s set the record straight.
Yuck, Cloth Diapers are disgusting!
Poop is gross, and no diaper job is glamorous. Possibly the number one reason people decide not to cloth diaper is due to fear of poop. Thankfully, it is much less horrifying than you think. I was very surprised by how little poop-handling is actually involved. Establishing a routine helps minimize any disgust that naturally comes along with diapering. If you are a breastfeeding mother, you will be happy to know that clean-up is even easier! Really, it can’t be too bad – even my husband jumped fully on board.
Something to ponder: All poop wrapped in a disposable diaper and thrown in the trash ends up in a landfill. This can lead to water contamination and disease spreading. Poop should be rinsed out of disposable diapers, too. When considering our environment and the health/safety of future generations, there really isn’t much difference in recommended poop clean-up for disposable vs cloth diapers.
Cloth diapers are inconvenient.
Contrary to popular belief, cloth diapering can be surprisingly simple! Technology and creative designers have made modern cloth diapers very practical. Certain cloth diaper styles closely mimic a disposable diaper. Many daycares will even allow these types of cloth diapers.
Establishing a system and routine that works for you is essential in making your cloth diapering experience successful. Once you get into a rhythm, the whole process (diaper changes, laundering, etc) becomes totally doable. One bonus for cloth diapers is that you never have to make an emergent run to the store for more diapers!
Of course, there is no arguing that disposable diapers are more convenient in some situations. There may be times when you have to weigh the pros and cons. Some cloth diapering families choose to use disposables in certain circumstances. There is no “right answer” here; it just depends on what works for your family.
If you use cloth diapers, you can’t use disposables.
There are many pro-cloth articles out there that try to make you feel like a terrible human if you even consider putting a disposable on your child. In my eyes, any use of cloth diapers is better than none. If you can’t cloth diaper 100% of the time, just do it as much as you can.
Some cloth diapering families, for instance, use disposables during the newborn stage, while they wait for their baby to grow into their cloth diapers. Some families opt to use disposables at night, for running errands, or when traveling. It’s okay to do what you need to. That said, I may have some tips for you on how to make cloth diapering successful in such situations. Contact me if you have any specific questions!
If you do use disposables, pay attention to the brand. Opting for more “green” diapers can minimize the chemicals that end up against your baby’s skin and in the landfill. Consider buying unbleached (chlorine-free), fragrance-free, and phthalate-free diapers. You might also look for diapers made with biodegradable ingredients (unfortunately, these still take an insane amount of time to degrade). Baby Gear Lab recommends Nature Babycare, Babyganics, or Seventh Generation brands. Wholesome Children also provides a list of safer disposable diaper recommendations.