Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cloth or Plastic? - The Diaper Controversy

When it comes to diapers I am totally set on cloth diapering.  I've got the brand I want picked out and as soon as the money comes into our bank account, we know exactly what we're ordering and even my husband is excited about it!

Unfortunately, the response I've gotten has been anything but supportive and most people just look at me like I have suddenly grown an extra eye in the middle of my forehead, asking why I'd want to deal with "the inconvenience of carrying around and washing gross cloth diapers" when I could just throw the "grossness" in the trash and move on.  There are many reasons and benefits for choosing to use cloth diapers.

The Environmental Benefit:
Based on a report from the Women's Environmental Network, The Real Diaper Association reports:
  • Disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product in landfills today.
  • A disposable diaper may take up to 500 years to decompose.
  • One baby in disposable diapers will contribute at least 1 ton of waste to your local landfill.
Manufacturing of disposable diapers consumes energy, trees, and plastic and then can take hundreds of years to decompose. Each year, more than 80,000 pounds of plastic and 200,000 trees are consumed in making disposable diapers for American babies alone. The plastic and chemicals along with the untreated waste ends up in landfills where it can potentially contaminate ground water. 

Cloth diapers can be used 50-200 times and then gain new life when they are recycled as rags. Waste from cloth diapers is either flushed or washed into the sewer system where they can be properly treated at wastewater plants.

The Health Benefit:  
There are many health concerns associated with disposable diaper use, as these products are filled with chemicals and gels to absorb odor and moisture.  Some chemically sensitive children have allergic reactions and diaper rashes from these substances.  I have extremely sensitive skin and I can safely assume that my children may also have sensitive skin.  Protecting their skin from disposable diapers is just something I have chosen to do because it makes the most sense to me.

In fact, disposable diapers have been linked the development of asthma. The Archives of Environmental Health tested six leading cotton and disposable diaper brands for asthma effects. The emissions from one disposable diaper were high enough to produce asthma-like symptoms in mice. Tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropylbenzene are all chemicals that outgas from disposable diapers. Not surprisingly, the study found that cloth diapers do not cause respiratory problems among the lab mice.  

The Cost Benefit:
The average parent spends $2,694.54 for 7,349 disposable, single-use diapers (source: Natural Family Online)  In contrast, my family will spend under $1,000 to purchase the name brand, top quality cloth diapers that we have chosen to be used for our daughter from birth to potty learning and reused for every additional child that we have.  There are cheaper options than what we have chosen, but this is what we feel will work the best for us.  In addition, we live in military housing so there are no energy related costs but even if we did we would STILL save money because it would cost literally pennies to run an extra 3 loads of laundry per week.   On top of that, when we are done using our cloth diapers if they are still in good condition we will be able to re-sell them to someone else, getting back some of our original investment.  The upfront cost for cloth diapers may  be higher, but the long term cost benefit is priceless!  You can use this Diaper Pin calculator to figure out how long it would take for your choice of cloth diapers to pay for themselves, and it goes on to show you how much you are saving after that!

The Cuteness Factor:

Would you rather have this on your bum?
or this on your bum?


The "Grossness" is not really Gross:
The only extra step involved in cloth diapers is washing the cloth diaper.  If it's a wet diaper, just take it off and put it in your diaper pail (no, you don't need to soak it so your diaper pail doesn't need to have liquid in it).  If it's a poopy diaper and your baby is past the newborn stage, just take the diaper to the toilet and shake the solids off and you're done.  You don't need to dunk it or swish it - just shake and done.  If the diaper is messy and the poop is not solid, just take it to the toilet, grab your handy diaper sprayer and spray the mess away.  You don't ever have to touch any poop and no matter where you change your child's diaper, you're headed to the bathroom afterward anyway to wash your hands!

The "Inconvenience" is not really Inconvenient:
Did you know that disposable diapers say right on the packaging that you are supposed to dump the solids out before disposing of the soiled diaper?  Human feces is NOT supposed to end up in our landfills!  Check it out for yourself (source Cloth Diaper Tips)

So the only extra step is a little extra laundry! I don't know about you, but it really takes me hardly any time at all to do a load of laundry.  It takes a maximum of 2 minutes to load my washer and set the cycle, then another (max) 2 minutes to switch the load to the dryer and (max) 2 minutes to unload the dryer into a laundry basket and about 10 minutes tops to go through that basket and put the items where they belong.  That's a grand total of 16 extra minutes!  I only need to do diaper laundry every 2 days so that's a total of 48 minutes per week spent on laundering my cloth diapers.  I don't know about you... but I think I can easily handle that!

Gone are the days of using giant safety pins to pin a cloth diaper onto a squirming baby!  Now you have options - from the Snappi to velcro to snaps - choose what works for you and it's as easy as putting a disposable onto a squirming baby!  If you don't want to mess with inserts, they even make all in one diapers that are exactly like a disposable except you throw them in the wash when you're done!

What about when you're out and about?  It's still the same process, except you just throw your soiled diaper into a wet/dry bag , zip it up and tuck it in your diaper bag and throw it into your diaper pail when you get home!  

What about wipes?!  Why bother with disposable when you can use cloth?  These Gerber baby wash cloths make great cloth wipes and you can even fold them so they pop up just like disposables in a disposable container!  Make up your favorite cloth wipe solution, grab a spray bottle and you're good to go!  You just store your used cloth wipes with your used cloth diapers (at home or on the go), wash your cloth wipes with your cloth diapers and there's no extra work involved and you're keeping even more waste out of our landfills!

The Bottom Line:
The bottom line is that I'm simply choosing to do what is right for our family - cloth isn't for everyone, but it has come a long way from what cloth diapers used to be and with a little research and an open mind you'll find that it can be totally convenient and not at all gross.  There are a ton of benefits to using cloth! 

Want to learn more about the cloth diapers we've chosen for our family?  Check out the website for Rumparooz or watch the video about how the company was started below:


Kathryn said...

I wrote a similar post on my blog as well! We also choose to do cloth, but it was more because it was a more inexpensive option than anything else. I bough sunbaby diapers, and am about to start using them soon!

ATALW said...

I think you may have convinced me if and that's a big IF we decide to have one more!! ;-)

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