Since my first daughter was born we’ve been a cloth diapering family. While we were initially interested in cloth diapers for environmental reasons, the more we learned about disposables the more scared we were of them. With the knowledge we acquired we could not use disposables in good conscience. Here are a few reasons for you to consider:
1. Cloth diapers are healthier for babies. 1) As is the norm for cloth diapered babies, we’ve never had to deal with diaper rash. 2) A 1999 study linked disposable diapers to asthma and eye/nose/throat irritations. 3) The plastic lining in disposable diapers has been linked to both testicular cancer and male infertility in several studies. 4) The chemicals used in disposable diapers – including chlorine bleach, petrolatum, perfumes, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate — are not subject to government testing or approval. No one really knows the long term effects of keeping these chemicals so close to baby’s skin 24 hours a day for three years. The polyacrylate gel in diapers is a relatively new additive but it is known that this chemical steals moisture from baby’s skin and studies strongly suggest that this chemical may cause asthma. Still not convinced? Sodium polyacrylate is the SAME substance that was removed from tampons because of its link to toxic shock syndrome. Yikes.
2. Cloth diapers are better for the environment. I am not saying that cloth diapers have a zero impact on the earth, but their impact is lighter than using thousands of disposables per child. Let’s face it, human beings create waste — it is our job to minimize the impact our waste makes on our planet. The manufacture and use of disposables uses 2.3 times more water than cloth. Disposable diapers are the third largest consumer item in landfills, representing about 4% of solid waste sitting in our earth. No one really knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but estimates range from 250-500 years all they way up to forever (meaning they may NEVER decompose). According to the EPA, cloth diapers total 2.7 million tons of garbage sitting in landfills. If the diapers aren’t cloth — they’re garbage.
3. Cloth diapers will save you THOUSANDS of dollars. I spent about $500 upfront purchasing the diapers and support items. On average, parents will spend $3000 for disposable diapers during the 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 years babies are wearing diapers. BONUS: If I take good care of the diapers, I can reuse them for future kids, so the cost per use will continue to decrease.
4. Cloth diapered babies are potty trained much sooner. Because babies in cloth diapers feel wet when they pee, they usually understand the concept behind potty training at an earlier age. Disposable diapers are so absorbent that kids don’t even realize they have a dirty diaper.
We use a few different kinds of cloth diapers — chinese pre-folds (these are the “classic” cloth diaper many people think of), SwaddleBees, Bum Genius and Terra Baby. Cloth Diapers like Bum Genius and Terra Baby are called “pocket diapers”, which means that an absorbent insert is stuffed into the shell before use. This insert is removed prior to washing. They are easy to clean, very absorbent, and beyond simple to use. In fact, a lot of people call them “husband friendly” because using them is really no different from using disposables. Husbands, babysitters, grandparents can all use these without thinking twice. BONUS: they have snaps that make them adjustable, so they will “grow” with your baby. The 25 you buy up front can be used until your baby is potty trained!
Here’s my routine:
1. If it is a pee diaper, I take it off the baby, remove the insert, and put both pieces into a pail that is lined with a waterproof bag.
2. If it is a poop diaper, I take it off the baby and dump the poop into the toilet (something you should do even with disposable diapers because landfills are not equipped to handle human waste). You can buy a little spray nozzle that attaches to the toilet to help remove all the poop. I then drop the shell and the insert into the diaper pail that has a pail liner.
3. Every three days I wash all the diapers (and the pail liner) in hot water. I use just one tablespoon of Charlie’s Laundry Powder. It is really important that you use this soap because is doesn’t cause build-up on the diapers. Build-up will negatively affect the absorbency of the diapers so please do not ignore this. It might seem like you need more soap or you need to wash them more than once, but the diapers WILL be clean and they won’t smell!
4. I hang dry the shells and put the inserts into the dryer. Once everything is dried, I sit on the floor and pleasantly chat with the little one while I stuff the inserts into the shells.
Smell really isn’t a problem for two reasons: 1) all the solid poop is dropped into the toilet, taking the stink with it and 2) you are washing the diapers every three days or so. If you notice that the diapers aren’t as fresh as you’d like, add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle next time you wash them.
Here are the tools:
Terra Baby One Size Pocket Diapers (about 25 will last you three days): http://terrababy.com/collections/all
Diaper Pail Liner: http://terrababy.com/products/sky-blue-diaper-pail-liner
Toilet Sprayer: http://astore.amazon.com/homemamother-20/detail/B000ZKHVMU
Diaper Pail (or just get a Rubbermaid garbage can with a lid at Target like I did!): http://astore.amazon.com/homemamother-20/detail/B000134XZO
Charlie’s Soap: http://astore.amazon.com/homemamother-20/detail/B0018B15FE
Wet Bag (this will hold used diapers when you are out of the house): http://terrababy.com/products/carnation-pink-wet-bag
I hope all of the above doesn’t overwhelm or discourage you. I remember feeling confused when I first started to educate myself on this, but pretty soon I had a routine and it is NO BIG DEAL now. Honestly, the only extra work is a couple extra loads of laundry every week. I’m here for you if you ever have any questions — get started now and I’ll be asking you for tips and advice!
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