If I’d asked myself ten years ago if I would have ever considered cloth diapering, you would have gotten a pretty accurate rendition of the Sheldon Cooper facial expression suggesting you’d gone mad. I didn’t even have a babysitting career to speak of because I was not into the whole diaper changing thing. Never mind keeping and reusing those things.
Now asking my older, wiser, more mature self, the answer would be “Why wouldn’t I cloth diaper?!” In fact, Little Miss has not known a disposable since we got home from the hospital!
Everything old is new again, and diapering solutions are no different! Cloth diapering has come a loooong way in the last ten years. I was cloth diapered for a while a few decades ago. I vaguely remember those big, white flannel squares of yesteryear’s cloth diapering generation. When that’s the solution, you can’t really blame the disposables for cornering the market. Now there is a plethora of styles, colours, fits, fasteners, and companies available with their own unique twist on cloth diapering. For devotees of this movement, they back their chosen brands with a fiery passion and utility moves into obsession. Like one popular company says, they didn’t invent cloth diapering, they just perfected it!
But fashion and cult followings aside, there are A LOT of good reasons to choose cloth diapering for your little (or not so little) squish! Here are some of mine!
This might not be what you expect to attract one to cloth diapering. I know it wasn’t what I expected when I started looking into it before Little Miss was born.
As part of my research, I joined several different brands’ online communities. How better to get a feel for real challenges associated with any one style or brand than to witness the experiences of others (and those of their competitors)? The information I gleaned from those more experienced cloth-diapering mamas was invaluable in making my decision.
But even more useful and important to me was the fantastic community fostered on those pages! So many different women (and men) from so many different walks of life with a rainbow of reasons for choosing cloth diapering, all coming together to support, encourage, and help one another with more than just cloth diapering for no other reason than because they all chose to cloth diaper their babies. Sure, you run across the odd sanctimommy let loose on a keyboard, but they are far outnumbered by the wonderful, kind, generous souls that compose the vast majority of these communities.
Being a mom can be isolating, not unlike going AIP, so the profound sense of community in some of these groups was a huge draw for me!
The average age for a child to potty train is 30 months, or two and a half years. When Scott and I ran the numbers on cloth diapers versus eco-friendly disposables over that time, cloth won. Hands down. The cost savings of cloth diapering is what initially won Scott over to the idea in the first place, winning out over the “ick” factor.
To purchase everything brand new for our chosen cloth diaper system, it would cost us roughly $1,500, but there are much cheaper cloth systems out there than the one we decided to go with. That $1,500 would get us everything we would ever need to cloth diaper our child from birth to potty training. Over that time, the eco-friendly disposable diapers we were considering would have cost us well over $3,000! Even after factoring in increased water, electricity, and detergent costs, that still ended up being a HUGE saving over the long-term.
To further save on costs, I have purchased most of our diapers second hand, and to lessen the blow of that initial investment, I started buying diapers a few at a time well before Little Miss was expected to arrive. If you make a point of purchasing brands and/or styles that retain their resale value down the road, you recoup 50% or more of your original purchase price, further reducing your long-term expenses.
And none of this takes into account the additional savings you would accrue if you use your previously-purchased cloth diapers for a second (or third) child!
Reducing Exposure to Toxins
When I think of a baby spending the first two and half years of his life constantly wearing diapers, and all the crucial development going on during that time, it makes me very vigilant of what Little Miss is exposed to. The skin is one of the largest and most absorbent organs of the body and there are some very sensitive areas in direct contact with diapers at all times. I want to make sure that what is potentially being absorbed is as safe for her as possible! Since I already know Little Miss has a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease, I want to be as on top of her environmental exposures as possible to give her the best shot at a healthy, disease-free life!
Disposable diapers have been found to contain xylene (neurotoxin and endocrine disrupter), ethyl benzene (respiratory irritant and neurotoxin), styrene (carcinogen and neurotoxin), isopropylene (hormone disrupter and neurotoxin), sodium polyacrylate (respiratory and skin irritant), dioxin (fat soluable – meaning it crosses the blood-brain barrier -, bioaccumulative immunosuppressant , hormone disrupter, neurotoxin, and carcinogen) , polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (immunosuppressant, carcinogen, respiratory and skin irritant), phthalates (endocrine disrupters, carcinogens), and parabens (endocrine disrupters, xenoestrogens and carcinogens). And that’s just the ones we know about! Eco-friendly diapers tend to be better in this department, but there is a large range of just how “green” the various brands are. Most still use some of the same chemicals, just in smaller amounts. Many also use plant-based materials often derived from wheat or corn, which can be skin irritants and problematic due to their highly allergenic nature and prevalence of GMOs.
Cloth diapers are not without their own potential issues, either. Many are lined with fleece, which is usually made of polyethylene terephthalate (a xenoestrogen and endocrine disrupter), but there are some purely natural fibre options available as well. Unlike disposables, there are ways to minimize baby’s exposure to the synthetic materials. There are some talented mums who make their own diapers and can customize the materials used. I am not that talented. The diapers we settled on do have a fleece lining. We lay the organic bamboo insert on top of the fleece lining to reduce what skin contact Little Miss would otherwise have with the fleece in the diaper, and it has worked well for us!
I’m just going to leave these here…
‘Nuff said, IMO.
Environmental concerns were pretty far down our list of considerations in all honesty. But they did register, and we do think they are an important consideration.
The average disposable diaper will take over 500 years to decompose in your local landfill. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of Lydia’s diapers still being around when her grandchildren are having grandchildren. In the mean time, they will be leaching the chemicals I mentioned above, plus who knows what else, into the ground and surrounding environment. One cloth diaper replaces roughly 260 (or more) diapers over the diapering life of one child.
Some people criticize cloth diapers as being environmentally unfriendly because of materials used and the resources needed to clean them to be able to reuse them. Cloth diapers that are no longer usable as diapers are often repurposed, but if they do end up in the landfill, I’m of the opinion that if one cloth diaper hits the landfill in place of 260+ disposables, we’ve done the Earth a favour. Since we’ve been washing diapers, our water usage has not changed noticeably. When comparing our water usage now versus this time last year, some months we actually use less than we did a year ago! There are a lot of other areas to conserve water usage, and I believe that the overall benefit of cloth diapers outweighs the slightly increased water usage required.