For a couple of years now I've been describing myself as a cloth diaper evangelist. I feel strongly that cloth diapers are better for the environment, better for your baby and you, and cheaper overall. If you know a few tricks, you can get started with cloth diapers for next to nothing. Sure you have to wash them, but that's a small sacrifice to make for all the benefits of cloth diapering and diaper laundry is not that hard if you have a washing machine in your house. I only had one child in cloth diapers, but I have one friend who is cloth diapering three at once. You can learn more about the how-to of cloth diapering on my blog, Green Lifestyle Consulting.
Cloth Diapers are Better for the Environment
In general, reusing something instead disposing of it after only one use is better for the environment. By reusing cloth diapers time and time again, we avoid the added waste being sent to the landfills as well as the consumption of plastics and other raw materials that go into making disposable diapers. Some facts about disposable diapers that may shock you:
- From birth-to-potty training, each baby will need about 6,000 diapers changes
- Disposable diapers take 250-500 years to decompose.
Cloth Diapers are Better for Your Baby and You
Most disposable diapers contain strong chemicals that absorb the urine and swell to many times their original size. Some disposable diapers have caused chemicals burns on babies. In 2010, there was a push for Pampers to continue carrying the previous generation of diapers after numerous babies experienced the burns from the new ultra thin diapers. Even though all disposable diapers say to flush the feces down the toilet, almost no one realizes you should do this, which creates a health hazard. Here are a few facts we got from the Great Cloth Diaper Change host materials that you should know:
- Once they are used, roughly 90 percent to 95 percent of the 18 billion feces-and urine-filled disposable diapers enter the household trash stream and ultimately end up in landfills, creating an immediate public health hazard. Leachate containing viruses from human feces (including live vaccines from routine childhood immunizations) can leak into the Earth and pollute underground water supplies. In addition to the potential of groundwater contamination, air-borne viruses carried by flies and other insects contribute to an unhealthy and unsanitary situation.
- Disposable diapers expose babies to harmful toxins including dioxin, TBT and sodium polyacrilite and are linked to increases in skin sensitivities, respiratory illnesses and even declining fertility rates in males!
Cloth Diapers Cost Less
While you need to invest in cloth diapers upfront, in the long run you can save $1,000 or more dollars per child if you choose to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. Average prices for disposable diapers run between 20-40 cents per diaper. Over the typical baby's progress from birth to potty training, he or she will need roughly 6,000 diaper changes. If you go the disposable route that works out to $1,200-$2,400 just for the diapers. You can comfortably cloth diapers for under $500 covering the same period from birth to potty training. Over that period you may need several sets of cloth diapers as your baby grows, but that is included in the $500 cost.
In 2011, a news report started circulating about how some people are so strapped for money that they are re-using disposable diapers because they can't afford diapers for their children. That really horrified me, in addition to the rest of the cloth diaper community, and I was really glad when Cotton Babies posted about how to make cloth diapers out of old clothes and blankets.
If you're thinking that this is an option you want to explore more, I invite you to read our article To Cloth Diaper or Not To Cloth Diaper, which contains more details about what cloth diapering is like, and how to get started.
Why do you cloth diaper or why don't you? Tell us in the comments below.