Better for Baby
Cloth diapers are better for your baby. It’s that simple.
Many parents mistakenly believe that disposable diapers – because they feel drier – cause less diaper rash than cloth diapers, but that is just simply not the case. Diaper rash is caused by any number of factors, and the single most important factor in preventing it is frequent diaper changes – whether the baby is in disposables or cloth. However, disposables feel dry to the touch, so parents often change their babies less frequently, which can mean that babies in disposables are actually more prone to diaper rash. Although the diaper may feel dry, bacteria from the urine is still in contact with the baby’s skin. Further, plastic doesn’t breathe to let out the ammonia that forms when urine breaks down. Cloth diapers and covers let air circulate around baby’s skin, helping to keep it healthy. (Even Procter & Gamble’s studies show that diaper rash increases with the increased use of disposable diapers (“A Review of Procter & Gamble’s Environmental Balances for Disposable and Re-usable Nappies” The Landbank Consultancy Limited, 1991).)
Disposable diapers also may contain toxic chemicals. Dioxin, which has been found to cause cancer, birth defects, and liver damage, is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in creating disposable diapers, and trace quantities may remain in the diapers. (EPA, “Integrated Risk Assessment for Dioxins and Furans from Chlorine Bleaching in Pulp and Paper Mills.”)
Not to mention, those absorbing crystals that keep the diaper feeling dry. That stuff is sodium polyacrylate, the very same stuff that was removed from tampons in 1985 because it was linked to toxic shock syndrome. No studies have been done on the effects this chemical may have on a baby.
Better for the environment
To my knowledge, there haven’t been any truly unbiased and accurate studies that really capture the environmental impact of cloth diapers or disposable diapers. There are so many factors involved in the use of either type. But consider the following.
Disposable diapers are made of processed paper and plastic. (Yep, there go those rainforests.) After use, they are tossed into a landfill (often full of human waste). Once in the landfill, they sit for years and years (as many as 500 years). Plastic is not biodegradable, and will sit in that landfill until the end of time. The human waste with the diapers, meanwhile, will leak out and slowly leach into the groundwater.
Of course, cloth diapers are not without environmental impact. Perhaps the most significant impact comes from the washing and drying involved. But consider that washing cloth diapers at home uses at most (with a conventional washer) 50-70 gallons of water every 3 days or so. This is about the same amount of water used by a potty trained child or adult flushing the toilet 5-6 times daily (source).
Better for your family’s finances
We now have a great spreadsheet here at Wallypop that walks you through some really detailed calculations.
Many parents envision those who cloth diaper as being chained to their washing machine, doing endless piles of laundry. That’s certainly not the case at my house! I wash diapers every 3 days or so. Turning on the washing machine hasn’t proven to be a hardship for me, and there’s no reason it needs to be particularly difficult for anyone!
The only time I’ve ever thought that disposables were more convenient was when I was still in the midst of those newborn I’m-not-sleeping-and-he’s-pooping-all-the-time days. I did not have any spare energy to carry a diaper pail down the stairs. But when I had my second baby, when the cloth diaper thing wasn’t completely new to me, we did cloth from the second she was born.
Just plain fun
Cloth diapers are fun, and that’s all there is to it. I generally enjoy diaper changing time because I love to look through our pile of cute diapers and covers and decide which one to put on. This even makes doing the laundry fun!
I will also admit that I think it’s fun to be using cloth just because it’s different. It’s fun for me to be the only person in the Target restroom putting cloth diapers on her baby. (Wally used to look at the other babies with pity, too.)
Not your Grandparents’ Diapers
Today’s cloth diapers are not like what your grandparents used. Diapers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes these days – there are prefolded diapers, fitted diapers, all in one diapers, pocket diapers, wool covers, fleece covers, waterproof fabric covers, printed diapers, plain diapers, printed covers, plain covers, snap diapers and covers, hook-and-loop diapers and covers, Snappis to fasten diapers, and all sorts of fun gizmos to make your cloth diapering fun.