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The Joys of Cloth Diapers–Making the Leap to Green Baby

By Kim Robson and Fredrica Syren

Let’s face it, diapers are no fun. It’s easy to be “green” when you are recycling clean bottles, but it’s a whole other issue when you’ve got a smelly mess on your hands. Still, parents interested in saving a nickel along with the environment will find there are many advantages to using cloth diapers for their babies.

The dizzying array of choices presented to a new mother is daunting to say the least. Not so long ago, all babies were swaddled in cloth diapers. I certainly was. While my mom hired a service to pick up the dirties and deliver cleans, door-to-door diaper delivery isn’t a luxury that everyone can afford. But not to worry—these days there are so many easy options for cloth diapers that make it a simple and efficient process, even without a delivery truck each week.

There is an intimidating wealth of information out there about the benefits of cloth diapers versus disposable diapers. Let’s break it down a bit. Cloth diapers are re-usable and therefore clearly better for the environment. You won’t be generating extra garbage for the collectors to pick up, and most medical experts agree that the toxin-free materials of cloth diapers prevent rashes and other issues like toxic shock syndrome. A wide variety of colorful and stylish options are available now, such as “All-in-Ones” (easy like disposables), “All-in-Twos” (cover and pad separates), waterproof diaper covers, inserts and soakers. Velcro makes them easy and safe to fasten. You can find a great comparison guide at diaperpin.com.

Perhaps most importantly, cloth diapers offer a significant cost savings over disposables, even if you use a diaper service. While most families who use disposable diapers spend at least $2500 dollars per child, cloth diapers can cost as little as a tenth of that! Afterward, they can also be re-purposed as burp rags and dust cloths once you are finished using them.

There are many good reasons to avoid disposable diapers. Aside from their frightful bulk and expense, disposables are also non-biodegradable and terrible for the environment—it takes approximately 550 years for just one to decompose! In addition, they may actually prolong the potty-training period because the child can’t always feel that they’re wet.

With our first-born we didn’t feel confident enough to try cloth diapers, so we used Seventh Generation’s non-bleached diapers and wipes, bought in bulk from Amazon.com. With our second child we took the leap to cloth diapers, settling on bumGenius after a few trials and errors. They are super cute and come a bunch of different colors, and are easy to use with an insert and liner. They also have buttons to adjust the sizes for a snug but comfortable fit for babies 7-35 lbs. No need to presoak; I just wash them with soap nuts and about 5 drops of tea-tree oil to disinfect and prevent mold build up. Hang dry them in the sun to naturally bleach out any stains. The diapers keep my son dry during long periods of sleep and even when he has very loose stool. I also notice that he has never had any diaper rash since transferring to cloth diapers.

My baby is a “big” pooper so the diapers get quite messy sometimes, but so far there have been no stains on the covers or the inserts. To make clean up easy, I do use a biodegradable and flushable diaper liner that catches just about everything. I figured out that I only needed 14 covers in order to avoid laundering them every day, keeping the dirty ones in a plastic box with a lid in my bathroom to avoid making the house smell bad. I make sure to keep a closeable plastic bag with us at all times when we’re out and about.

After we jumped to cloth diapers, moving to cloth wipes seemed a natural way to go and we use Satsuma organic cloth wipes and California baby bum wash. They are super soft and the wash is great on any red bums. My son loves when I spray him with it. The major difference I notice with using cloth diapers and wipes is the reduction of trash we create each week. With my daughter, our trash can used to be loaded with diapers by the time it would get picked up on Friday. Now we usually have two or three small bags of trash in the bottom of our can.

Raising children is increasingly expensive, especially in today’s economy. Reducing or eliminating the ongoing expense of disposables is a huge motivator for trying cloth diapers and wipes, along with literally cleaning up the environment. Now that cloth diapers are becoming more convenient, cost-efficient, and as earth-friendly as ever, you’ll be hard-pressed for a reason not to make that choice. I certainly don’t regret it, and I don’t think you will either.

Did You Know?

An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used in the United States each year, contributing about 3.4 million tons of non-biodegradable garbage to landfills. Check out this link for more information.

Americans spend approximately 7 billion dollars annually on disposable diapers. If every family switched to home-laundered cloth diapers, 6 billion dollars could be saved annually. That’s enough money to feed 2.5 million children a year (there were 2.3 million children under six living in poverty in 2003). Find more information here.

Disposable diapers contain traces of carcinogenic chemicals, including Dioxin (the toxic by-product of paper bleaching), Tributyl-tin (a pollutant known to cause hormonal problems), and Sodium Polyacrylate (a gel-like absorbent banned for use in tampons), Volatile Organic Compounds (such as ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and dipentene), and other chemicals in the form of dyes, fragrances, and adhesives. Click here for more information about these chemicals.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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