I wanted to post a little something about cloth diapers. I have a few friends who recently started their journey into cloth diapering and a couple others who have expressed interest. Well, maybe interest is too strong of a word. Perhaps it was more like morbid curiosity. But yeah, I really do love cloth diapers. A few of my reasons are as follows:
1. COST -
Yes, I will admit that this is the #1 reason for us using cloth diapers. The savings are really, really huge. I mean huge. I've read several different sources that have figured the cost of cloth vs disposable, and while the amount varies, it is always a big chunk of money. So far I've spent a grand total of $420.90* to diaper Moses. He is now almost 15 months old and he may or may not need one more batch of toddler-size diapers before he potty trains (about 2 dozen). That will run about $40.00/doz new from an online store, or $30.00/doz new from eBay. So add $60-$80 and our grand total for diapering one child is $480-$500*. Now figure in that I'll be reusing all these diapers once our new baby is born, and the cost is now only $240-$250* per child! (Feel free to email me if you want to see an itemized list of my costs). The only downfall is the initial up-front investment is a lot with cloth. At least with disposables, the cost gets divided up over the years, whereas you'll have to drop a chunk of money all at once with cloth. However, it certainly pays in the long run!
*This doesn't include the cost of laundering and detergent, because I have no idea how to figure that. It's probably between $100 and $200 a year, give or take. Even with those costs added in, we've still only spent a fraction of what it would have cost to use disposables. The figures I've seen put the cost of using disposables for 2 years between $1,200 - $2,000. And of course not every kid potty trains at 2, so it can be much more. So the cost of cloth is pretty cool.
Here's some links showing cost comparison of cloth vs disposables:
Diaper Pin Cost Calculator
Very Baby Dollars and Sense
Do Cloth Diapers Seem Too Expensive?
Cloth Diaper Review
Save Thousands of Dollars with Cloth
The True Cost of Diapering: More Than Money
2. HEALTH -
The health benefits play a big role in our decision to use cloth. Because diapers are in contact with your baby's skin pretty much 24/7 for at least 2 years, and because they're covering such a sensitive area, it's probably a good idea to know what's in them! Here's some info from the Real Diaper Association:
Disposable diapers contain traces of Dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper-bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not the U.S.
Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals.
Disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP), which becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar substance had been used in super-absorbancy tampons until the early 1980s when it was revealed that the material increased the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis.
(Sources for this information are listed on their website).
No studies have been done on the long-term affects of these chemicals being in constant contact with a baby's skin (and reproductive organs) for several years. That's scary!
Having a little boy, I'm especially concerned about the link between disposable diapers and increased infertility in men:
Pediatric Updates: Diapers & Infertility?
In boys, the scrotal sac is marvelously designed to maintain the testicles within a narrow temperature range, just below normal body temperature. When it is cold out, the sac constricts and draws the testicles close to the body for warmth; when hot, the sac is loose to keep them cooler.
When an undescended testicle is left untreated (especially beyond a year), its higher temperature causes an increasing risk down the road of infertility and testicular cancer.
Here’s the news -- disposable, plastic-lined diapers keep testicles hotter than core body temperature (and as much as 1.8 degrees F higher than testicles in cloth diapers)! The October 2000 issue of Archives of Disease in Childhood speculates that perhaps the significant rise in male infertility over the last 25 years is due to the widespread use of diapers that keep kids too warm. This has certainly not been proven, but time will tell. For now, the reasoning makes a lot of sense to me.
Dr. Alan Greene MD FAAP
Diaper rash is also more common in babies wearing disposables. Here's a quote from an article entitled "DIAPERS! DISPOSABLE OR COTTON?",
"Widespread diaper rash is a fairly new phenomenon that surfaced along with disposable diapers. Reasons for more rashes include allergies to chemicals, lack of air, higher temperatures because plastic retains body heat, and babies are probably changed less often because they feel dry when wet."
Here's some great articles on the health concerns involved with disposable diapers. If you read nothing else, please read some of these!
An Apple a Day
Diaper Rash: Comparing Diaper Choices
Are Disposable Diapers Dangerous?
Health Concerns of Disposable Diapers
Cloth Diapers and Your Child's Health
Disposable Diapers Linked to Asthma
3. ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS -
I'm not what I would consider "green". I don't drive a hybrid car or use solar power in my home. However, I do take seriously God's command to be good stewards of the earth, so this is of some importance to me. "Reusing" instead of "disposing" seems to be a good idea in many cases. We don't eat off paper plates (much). We use cloth napkins instead of paper. I don't stock my diaper bag with those handy disposable bibs and changing pads. We use washable cloth toilet paper (JUST KIDDING!!) But seriously, cloth wins in this department. Here's some of my concerns:
A study prepared by The Landbank Consultancy for The Women's Environmental Network shows that single-use diapers use 3.5 times as much energy, 8 times as much non-regenerable raw materials, and 90 times as much renewable material as cloth diapers.
(The Landbank Consultancy Limited, "A Review of Proctor & Gamble's Environmental Balances for Disposable and Re-usable Nappies" July 1991)
The fact that landfills are being filled with billions of plastic diapers that don't fully (if ever) biodegrade is not a happy thought. Then add in this fact: All disposable diapers in landfills are supposed to be free from solid waste! Read the small print on your package of diapers. It instructs you to rinse the diaper and dispose of the fecal matter in the toilet before throwing the diaper away!! Sending human waste to the landfill is a violation of the World Health Organization standards. This is raw sewage, a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria, being left untreated and posing a serious risk of contaminating groundwater. Poop is needs to go to sewage treatment plants. So do you rinse out your diapers before you toss them? I know I never did!
Here's a couple of articles that look at the environmental issues:
An Apple a Day
Real Diaper Facts
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: What Do They Mean For You and Your Baby?
4. CUTENESS -
Yeah, I know, not the greatest reason, but it's true. They are so cute. I just love putting soft, poofy, fluffiness on my baby's cute little behind. I mean, look at some of these diapers!
Wouldn't you want to put your baby in one of these??
Some Final Thoughts -
The convenience factor: I will be the first to admit that cloth diapers are NOT as convenient as disposables. And in a culture where convenience is the #1 thing everyone wants and is willing to pay up the wazoo for, that's a definite downfall for cloth. However, I think it's important to look at the real of this convenience. Yes, disposable diapers are easy. But toll on your budget, the health risks and the questionable stewardship of resources make me view the inconvenience of cloth as minor in comparison. I've decided that I don't mind having to change diapers more often because it means healthier skin for my baby. I don't mind rinsing poopy diapers out in the toilet, because now my conscience would make me do that with disposables as well! Plus, with today's technology, cloth diapers are easier than ever to use. My diapers don't leak or smell yucky. I have a diapering "system" that works great and really is not a burden for me. I'd be happy to explain it (or demonstrate it) to anyone who's interested.
Check out "These Ain't Your Grandma's Cloth Diapers", "Cloth Diapering: Simple and Sweet!" and "The Top 10 Cloth Diaper Myths" if you're not convinced.
If you want more info, I've listed some great resources on the side bar. There's a lot of time and research that goes into switching from disposable to cloth, so if you're interested but feel overwhelmed, I'd love to help in any way I can!