Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Resolve to go green in the New Year - Cloth diapers

I have guilt. I used disposables with my first 3 children. When I discovered how EASY and CONVENIENT cloth diapers were after I had my 4th, I vowed to inform as many people as possible about cloth diapers. I've "converted" more than 3 (to offset my 3 disposable-wearers), but I still feel compelled to share my knowledge. So, here you go, an abridged version of everything you need to know about cloth diapers....or at least how a busy, mother of 4 does cloth diapers.

You should know that I am a career-student. I finished my bachelor's program on a Thursday and started graduate school on the following Monday. I LOVE research and get completely absorbed (to the exclusion of everything else) in learning something new. Cloth diapers were no different. In fact, they were more intriguing, because I knew NOTHING! My mom used cloth diapers, diaper pins, and plastic pants on my youngest sister, who was allergic to disposables, 30 years ago!!!! I knew nothing of MODERN cloth diapers.

Why Cloth? Better for baby.
The bleaching process used to make disposable diapers pretty and white produces a chemical called dioxin. Dioxin is listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all carcinogenic chemicals. In fact, it is banned in most countries except ours. You want to stay far away from Dioxin! Disposable diapers contain Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals. Also, the substance that makes disposable diapers SUPER absorbant is called sodium polyacrylate and is the same type of chemical that was removed from tampons after they found it increased one's risk of getting toxic shock syndrome! Basically, we won't stick this stuff up our hoo-has 4 days a month, BUT we have no qualms about wrapping our babies up in it 24/7 for the first 2-3 years of their lives??!! (Remember, I said I had guilt in the beginning...I'm just sharing the love).

It's not your fault though for not knowing. I swear I'm not a conspiracy theorist, BUT I must say that in this case, it has definitely been in the best interest of the disposable diaper industry to keep this information quiet. The cloth diaper advocates, frankly, don't have the money that Pampers and Huggies and those companies have. They simply can't compete with the propaganda. So, again, it's not your fault. Now you know.

Better for the environment.This is why I first switched to cloth. It wasn't until after I made the decision that I learned of the health risks of using disposables. No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.

Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste. Additionally, fecal matter is SUPPOSED to be flushed, so that it can go to the water treatment plant and be properly processed. However, who flushes their fecal matter BEFORE throwing their diaper away? Uh, no one. Fecal matter in the landfills is polluting the groundwater and producing harmful greenhouse gases to boot.

The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth. So, lazy people will often say that cloth is worse for the environment than disposables, because of water usage....not true! The water used to wash cloth diapers is the equivolent of if that child had used the toilet and flushed that day.

Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR. It takes one cup of crude oil to produce ONE disposable diaper!

Better for your wallet.Although this wasn't the reason I switched to cloth, it certainly helps! It's so nice being able to completely bypass the baby section at the store. I remember spending $20 every 2 weeks on diapers alone. There are a ton of calculations of this, but I will tell you my personal experience. Okay, so I spent $20 every 2 weeks. That's $40 a month and $480 a year. My kids potty-trained, on average, at age 3. That's $1440 for 3 years of disposables...more or less. You can spend as little as nothing (if you have a really nice friend that will give you her diapers when she's done) or several hundred if you want top of the line, super convenient, many days worth of diapers. Either way, you'll save at least almost $1000. Now, that's just for one child. In most cases, your diapers will last through another child as well. So, if that's the case, you'll save the whole $1480 on the NEXT child!!

Types of diapers. (in order of cost/convenience...high to low)All in ones - these diapers are closest to disposables in function. They are one piece, usually velcro closure, go on and off just like a disposable. Dads, day care providers, grandparents, anyone can use these. They're easy and familiar. And, the most expensive. All in ones range from $15 to $30 each. And, they come in different sizes. So, you'll need a new set each time your baby outgrows his current stash. This CAN be economical if you don't mind laundry. I personally wash my diapers every day. I have a high efficiency washer and dryer, and like having fresh, clean diapers every morning. Plus, I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars at one time. So, I only have to have enough to get me through a day or two. All in one's also take a while to dry in the dryer. If your machine isn't very efficient at drying, I'd suggest line drying these or using a different system.

A pocket diaper is a variation of the all in one. It has an opening that allows you to customize the absorbant layer. For example, you can use a thin hemp or microfiber insert when you're going out, so your baby can wear trim fitting clothing. Or stuff it with something really thick and absorbant for naptime and night time. Also, you take the insert out when laundering, so they dry faster than true all in ones. Most pocket diapers are also sized, making you have to buy new ones every so often.

The exception to this rule, however, is the Bum Genius one size pocket diaper. It has snaps in the front that allow you to adjust the rise, and velcro all the way across the front so you can adjust the circumference. They are intended for use from birth to potty-training. They come with super trim microfiber inserts and feature a microfleece (which makes your baby feel dry) skin layer. They come in a ton of colors and are a one-time investment, as you don't have to replace them as your baby grows. They retail for about $18! This is the one that Autumn is wearing in the picture.

The most ecomonical system is prefolds and covers. This is what I use during the day at home when we aren't going anywhere special. I have the same 9 prefolds that I got when she was a newborn and have only replaced the covers twice. You can get by with only 2 covers at a time. Unless they get poop on them, you can wipe them out with a baby wipe, or allow to air day and reuse. I use the same cover all day unless it gets soiled. And, then I wash it with my prefolds. You can get prefolds for $1.50 a piece and covers range from $10-$16. Do not buy the prefold diapers in the discount stores....those are great burp cloths, but are not great diapers. Buy Chinese or Indian prefolds online.

Washing your diapers
Again, there are many different suggestions on how to care for your cloth diapers. I'll tell you what I do. I throw my diapers into the washing machine throughout the day. Unless it's laundry day, and then I put them into a plastic grocery bag in my laundry room until that evening. After the baby is in bed, I wash them and then dry them that night or first thing in the morning. I use my own detergent that is both earth friendly AND free of perfumes and dyes. I sometimes use Oxy-clean. I sometimes use the stain treat or presoak option. I sometimes use hot water. But, usually, I do a simple warm wash, cold rinse. I use a 1/4 cup of white vinegar in my fabric softener dispenser on ALL my laundry. It is especially helpful with cloth diapers though, because it strips away any absorbancy-inhibiting build-up and leaves your diapers naturally soft. Do NOT use fabric softener on your cloth diapers!!! Commercial fabric softeners coat the fibers with a substance that will repel liquid....not something you want on your diapers!

Cloth baby wipes
If you already have to wash diapers, you might as well throw some cloth wipes in the washer as well. I use cloth wipes and a homemade, all natural wipe solution on Autumn. She has sensitive skin and gets a rash and redness whenever I use disposable wipes on her. Plus, trust me, you don't want to have to seperate out disposable wipes from cloth diapers before's yucky. I keep them in an empty wipes container and pour the solution over them, so that they are ready to go. Again, you'll be saving the environment AND some money.

Check out my shop for cloth wipes, wipe solution, laundry detergent and dryer sachets

Check out this awesome baby boutique for a great selection of cloth diapers


Crochet by Momma J said...


Leah said...

THANK you for this post! wondering if I can use my g-diaper covers as pocket diapers....

earth baby said...

Yes, Leah, you can! I did. Fold a prefold in thirds and put it inside the liner that your flushable insert goes into. That is a super economical way to use the g-diapers. Then, you can save the flushable ones for when you're away from home :)

Erika said...

Great post! I am going to definitely use cloth on my new baby arriving in a few months. I do, however, have trouble keeping them on my 'love to be naked' 18 month old.

lifeduringnaptime said...

thanks so much for this post. very informative!

CassB said...

Awesome post! I didn't CD my first 2 out of being unknowledgeable of them. But I started with my third when she was a month old (5 months now). I LOVE it and wont change a thing! Def CDing my next one!!