Topic of the Week: Why We Chose Cloth Diapers
When I found out I was pregnant, I immediately started researching (surprise surprise) about the expense of a new baby. How much money was a little one going to cost us and in what ways could we save our pennies? I knew from many friends of ours who are parents that two of our biggest expenses once the baby arrived would be diapers and formula. Well, formula wasn’t going to be an expense for us because I had already decided to breastfeed (see this post for details). Diaper options, on the other hand, were uncharted territory for me. I was only familiar with disposables. Let the Googling begin!
The first thing I learned was how much (on average) it cost to diaper a baby in disposable diapers from birth until potty training. You know how much we would spend PER KID on disposable diapers? Upwards of $2000! I’ve seen some numbers as high as $4000!! Yes, that is PER KID. For us, $2000 is a trip to Disney World. $4000 is a trip to Europe… I’d much rather take vacation than spend money on poo catchers. The next thing I learned is how much, on average, it costs to cloth diaper at LEAST one kid (meaning this amount buys one set of diapers that can be used for multiple children if the cloth diapers are cared for properly. It also includes energy costs to wash the diapers). On the high side: $500. That’s right folks. I was going to save at least $1500 for the first child, and at least $2000 for each child thereafter by using cloth diapers. Well, that sold me AND Josh on cloth diapers right there. I was going to have to do more laundry, but with washing machines today, how much more work is it really?
Then I found out some information that bothered me. The chemicals in run of the mill disposable diapers are nasty. Seriously nasty. Can-cause-chemical-burns-on-your-little-one’s-privates nasty. Now, some studies have claimed that the chemicals are so minimally absorbed into the baby’s skin, and the number of children who end up with a chemical reaction/burn/skin irritation is so small that it shouldn’t be a point of argument. Also, it is possible to buy organic diapers that are nearly chemical free, so for argument’s sake we can leave this one off the table, but I still found the information troubling.
Now let’s talk about the environmental impact. The average baby will go through between 2700 and 3000 disposable diapers in their first year alone. That’s a whole lotta garbage. The amount of resources used to make and wash cloth diapers doesn’t even come close to the amount used to make disposables, so disposables definitely lose the energy and environment battle.
People who have never cloth diapered say that cloth diapering is gross and they ask me “What about having to touch the “yuck” when using cloth diapers??” Guess what- I HARDLY EVER have to touch my baby’s waste. If you think you will deal with less poop and pee by using disposables, think again. Ever heard of a “blow out” diaper? That is what parents call a diaper when their baby has had a huge poop and it has “blown out” the sides or back of a diaper. Here is a great picture that I found on this blog of a blow out example. Yes, it is a particularly epic blow out, but still. SO GROSS!
When we travel, we use disposables and, in both Huggies and Pampers brand, Abby would leak poop out of the legs AND back of the diapers EVERY TIME SHE POOPED! So nasty. The poop leaks are substantially less in Honest Company diapers (when she poops she only leaks up the back, not out the legs), but why should I be dealing with leaky poop at all when the soul purpose of using a diaper is to hold in a baby’s waste? I deal with a whole lot more poop when Abby is in disposable diapers than when she is in cloth, hands down. I have had only two poop leaks in cloth diapers, and they were both fit issues, one my fault and one Josh’s, neither of which were a malfunction of the diaper itself.
Then nay-sayers ask, “doesn’t it stink, having a laundry basket full of poop and pee?” Actually, because I clean the diapers regularly, they sit for less time (3 days at the most) than disposable diapers in a garbage can would. Less time= less bacterial growth= less stink. When you walk into Abby’s room, you can’t tell there is a basket of dirty diapers in there, but I have had friends call the hallway containing their baby’s disposable diaper pail “Hobo Alley” because it stank so badly of urine and feces. Yuck.
Next question: since you use your washer to wash poop, does your washing machine get nasty? Nope! Everything is dissolved and rinsed away. Think of the other stuff that has been on your clothing and gone into the washing machine. Mud, oil, food, dust, sweat, snot, other bodily secretions… it all gets washed away. That’s your washing machine’s job! No, you can’t dump the, uh, “nuggets” into the washing machine. You have to dump them in the toilet before washing your diapers but anything that doesn’t come off of the diaper without more than a “flick” can go right in the machine. And if you’re still not excited about the excess poo in your washer, you can buy a diaper sprayer for a reasonable amount of money (or make one for even less!) and spray off any excess into the toilet before throwing the diapers into the wash. For the record, you’re supposed to empty disposables too, it’s just that nobody does. Seriously- just read the outside of your package of disposable diapers! Human waste is not supposed to go into the landfill.
I know that cloth diapers aren’t for everybody. It is a little more work, even just to remember to throw the diaper laundry in the washer at the end of the day. A cloth diaper is bulkier than a disposable on the bum making some clothing difficult to fit (this can be solved by sizing up). They definitely take up more storage space both at home and in the diaper bag. If Abby went to daycare I would be concerned sending my cloth diapers to daycare for fear they would get ruined. And cloth diapers aren’t as easily purchased- you can’t just go run to your local Target or Walmart and get some more. You have to either find a specialty baby store or purchase online to get the particular diaper you use. Not to mention there are a TON of different types of cloth diapers (more on this in another post) and they are all different in style and fit so it takes more work on the front end with research and testing.
For me, the drawbacks were definitely worth the benefits. I can’t say enough good things about cloth diapers (obviously… this blog post is over 1000 words- oops!) and I encourage everyone to give it a try. Besides, how cute is this fluff bum??
Abigail in her “Nebula” print Soft Bums brand cloth diaper