Whether to choose cloth or disposable diapers is a big decision and the right decision is different for each family. I would like to provide you with different green options, so you can make a choice that's right for your baby, tot and family.
The problem with Conventional Disposables:
- 60% of babies using conventional disposable diapers get diaper rash. Diaper rash is a fairly new phenomenon that surfaced along with disposables (7% in 1955 compared to 78% in 1991). Reasons for more rashes include allergies to chemicals, lack of air, higher temperatures because plastic retains body heat, and babies get changed less often because they feel dry when wet.
- Sodium polyacrylate, is a chemical that is added in powder form to the inner pad of a disposable diaper and turns into a gel like substance when wet (You may see this as gel like crystals on your babies privates when changing him/her). This is what makes them super absorbent, allowing them to absorb 100 time their weight in water. This substance can stick to baby's private parts and cause allergic reaction. It is the same chemical that was removed from tampons in 1985 because it was linked to toxic shock syndrome. When injected into rats it has caused hemorrhage, cardiovascular failure and death.
- Disposables are typically changed less frequently due to their super absorbency. This has been linked to a rise in urinary tract infections in babies.
- Dioxin, a by-product of the diaper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposables. Dioxin has been found to be a carcinogen (cancer causing chemical). The EPA lists it as the MOST TOXIC of all cancer-linked chemicals. In small quantities, it can cause birth defects, skin/liver disease, immune system suppression & genetic damage in lab animals. This chemical has been banned in most countries, but not in the US.
- Disposables make up 5% of landfill waste in the US. It can take up to 500 years for a conventional gel-filled diaper to decompose. Given that the average baby goes through 5000 diapers before being potty trained, your decision can have a huge impact on our planet.
(1). Lynda Fassa. "Green Babies, Sage Moms"
(2). Caldwell, Ginny. "Diapers. Disposable or Cotton?," Eco-Baby Catalogue (www.ecobaby.com).
(3). Allison, Cathy. "Disposable Diapers: Potential Health Hazards.," referring to: Hicks, R et al. "Characterization of toxicity involving hemorrhage and cardiovascular failure, caused by parenteral administration of a soluble polyacrylate in the rat," J Appl. Toxicol. 1989 June; 9(3): 191-8.
When I was pregnant with my son, I started looking into cloth diapers. I was very intimidated at first and skeptical about needing to wash them every few days. Also, I had the image of an old fashioned cloth diaper that required pins and was a pain to change. Let me tell you how surprised I was when I looked more closely into the cloth diapering options available today. They have surely come a long way! Also, in addition to all the health benefits for your tot, and the benefits for the planet, there is also a significant economic advantage to using cloth diapers. Using cloth diapers can save you from 44-68% of what you would spend on disposables, even considering home laundry costs!!! Of course, you save even more if you use them with more than one child. Read Dollars and Sense - Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers in the final smackdown of cost value!
I know that many of you may be intimidated by washing your own diapers. This was my biggest issue in deciding to cloth diaper. So, I thought I would address some of your concerns here. First of all, let me assure you that it really isn't such a big deal. Doing a couple extra loads of laundry really doesn't make a big difference for me. There are many different options of how to wash your diapers, but let me tell you a little bit more about what works for us. We use a regular diaper pail that stands on our balcony (a regular trash can with lid would work as well). If the diaper is wet only, we pull the insert out of the cover and dump both right into the pail. A piece of cake! If it is a poopy diaper, we shake the poop into the toilet. Our bathtub is right next to the toilet, so our shower hose will actually reach over the toilet and we use this to spray off any remaining poop. This takes about 40 seconds. The diaper gets then tossed into the diaper pail. If you don't have a bathtub next to your toilet there is a great bumGenius Diaper Sprayer you can buy. It is a small shower hose that attaches right to your toilet and is very powerful and super easy to use. It costs about $40.
We typically wash our diapers (1 load) every three days. So you can see that it really isn't much extra laundry. We wash the diapers on hot (with detergent-here is a list of ones that are safe for cloth diapers) and often do an extra rinse cycle afterwards. If you add a few drops of vinegar, tea tree oil or lavender oil, it will kill all the smell and any germs. We typically hang our diapers and let them dry on the balcony. You could also plop them in the dryer though. Okay, so I hope I have convinced some of you, who were like me, that the laundry part really isn't that big of a deal.
For those of you interested in cloth diapering, there are many different options out there. The diaper I chose for our family is an all in one cloth diaper by bumGenius. It is a one size diaper, so it grows with your baby. It is very similar to a disposable diaper, in that it has Velcro and is super easy to use, even for daddies and babysitters. We have about 2 dozen of these. If you buy larger quantities (3+), you will get a discount. Individually, they run about $17 each.
...to be continued!
Stay Tuned for my next post, where I will share about each kind of diapering option; from the different types of cloth, to green-disposable options!
Please see our Did You Know ~ disclaimer here.