Why Use Cloth Diapers? Here’s Why! – The Real Cost of Disposable Diapers

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Wondering what all the hype is about cloth diapers lately? Thinking about whether you should jump on the bandwagon yourself?

Check out these great reasons behind the cloth diapering movement, and see if it’s the right decision for you! And be sure to come back next week, when I’ll give you the lowdown on EVERYTHING you need to know about the cloth diapering process.

Why we cloth diaper
Why Use Cloth Diapers


I’ll admit it, I’m a crunchy mama, and I’m not afraid to show it! So when I first got pregnant with Jensen, I was determined to find the most eco-friendly baby products I could, for every aspect of parenting. Some things were hard to track down – like eco-friendly swings and pack-n-plays. Some things were super straightforward – like eco-friendly baby bedding. It just so happens that my mom sells an amazing line of organic baby bedding called Delano Designs Baby on her Etsy shop, which you can find here. That was definitely the fun part, I got to pick out all of our fabrics and design the entire room myself! (I’ll share his nursery with you in a future post).

Then there were things that I was a little on the fence about. One of those things was cloth diapering. There were a lot of reasons I was skeptical. First of all, there’s the obvious question of whether or not I really wanted to deal with the poop any more than I had to. (It turns out that it’s really not any harder than using a disposable.) Then there was the question of laundry – did I really want to add to the already towering piles? Not really. But now I realize that if I didn’t HAVE to wash diapers every three days, I wouldn’t wash anything…ever. So in the end it actually became an incentive to have laundry days more often than I ever would have otherwise.

So I did my research (like I did with EVERYTHING – first time mom here…Research all the things!). And after doing a lot of reading I realized that I really couldn’t ignore the financial, health, and environmental impacts of disposable diapers. Oh, and did I mention that cloth diapers are CUTE, with a capital everything?? Because holy smokes – that was the superficial tipping point right there, I’m not afraid to admit! The first two weeks of Jensen’s life, when I was too busy recovering to tackle the stairs to our laundry room, I had some raging guilt every time I tossed a sposie in the trash. I couldn’t WAIT to break out that fluff stash I had accumulated!

So, what had I read that left me feeling so guilty about doing what millions of Americans do every day? And how did I come to the conclusion that cloth diapering was the more eco-friendly choice? I mean, really, WHY use cloth diapers, anyways?

Here is some great information on the benefits to cloth diapering to help you figure out if it’s the right choice for you and your family!

Why Use Cloth Diapers - The Real Cost of Disposables - The HWL

The Comfort Comparison:

Speaking from personal experience – disposables suck. After 6 weeks of postpartum bleeding, and wearing giant pads that felt like I may as well have been wearing a diaper, I was OVER IT. I even found myself reaching for my son’s diaper rash cream. Yes. It was THAT bad. I mean, seriously, who wants to be wearing plastic next to their skin when they could be wearing cloth, instead? I tell you what, underwear is soooo much better – and I have a feeling that even though they can’t tell us verbally, our newborns would agree.

Additionally, because cloth diapers don’t soak up the wetness in the same way disposables do, children can tell when they’re wet sooner. Instead of sitting in the urine while it slowly irritates their skin, they are more likely to inform a parent of their discomfort (by crying, or verbally as they get older) – which leads to fewer instances of diaper rash. In 1955, when cloth diapering was virtually the only option (Pampers weren’t introduced until 1961), the occurrence of diaper rash hovered around 7%. By 1991, approximately 90% of babies in the United States were in disposables, and the diaper rash rate increased to a whopping 78%.

Along with the lessened likelihood of diaper rash, knowing when you’re wet is a big advantage when it comes to potty training. In 1957 92% of children were potty trained by the age of 18 months. Today, the average age of potty training is between 36 and 42 months. And with the invention of single-use pull-ups, we often see 4 and 5 year olds who still aren’t completely toilet trained.

And comfort isn’t the only category in which cloth diapering wins against disposables. Check out some of the even more alarming statistics below.

Potty Training The HWL


The Cost Comparison:

At the low end of the spectrum, if you buy used off a b/s/t site or page, you can successfully buy a stash of cloth diapers for $100 all in. If you’re buying brand new, brand name diapers, and opting for organic cotton fabrics, you can easily spend much more than that. The average amount of money people invest in cloth diapering is usually around $300, so that’s going to be our go-to figure for this post.

So, let’s do the math – if you cloth diaper and factor in 8 diaper changes a day, every day, for 30 months (until they’re potty trained), that’s $300. If you have a second child, and reuse the diapers, that price goes down to $150 per child.

On the other hand, if you’re using disposable diapers, and you factor in a child going through 8 diapers a day, every day, for 30 months (until they’re potty trained), that adds up to approximately $1,800. $1,800 you are literally throwing straight into the trash! And that’s just for one child! If you have more than one, you’re going to spend that much times two, or even three.

No matter how you look at it, the act of cloth diapering is cheaper – and the investment becomes even less expensive the more children you have. Whereas using disposables is not only more expensive for one child, it becomes exponentially more-so the more children you have.

Cloth vs Disposable Cost - The HWL


The Health Comparison:

Did you know that disposable diapers contain Dioxin (considered the most toxic of all cancer causing materials – and banned by the majority of countries, outside of the United States)? What about Tributyl-tin – which is a toxic pollutant that is known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals? How about sodium polyacrylate – that super absorbent material that soaks up all the urine and becomes gel-like – which was banned from being used in tampons in the 1980s because it was linked to increased risk of TSS (toxic shock syndrome), by making a hospitable environment for the growth of toxic bacterium? The chemicals tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene, and isopropyl benzene are also present in disposable diapers – and are linked to infant respiratory distress and asthma.

Oh, and don’t forget that for baby boys, the increased scrotal temperature that is associated with wearing disposable diapers can lead to the stunting, or even total decimation of, the normal physiological mechanism that cools the scrotum – thereby permanently damaging their ability to produce normal, healthy sperm?

Once again it’s no surprise that diaper rash rates skyrocketed with the use of disposables. After reading the above list of chemicals, it’s easy to see how the most sensitive parts of your baby might break out in a rash when in constant contact with such materials.

These are just SOME of the health risks associated with disposable diapers. But it’s enough for me to think twice. By using disposables, we are exposing our infants to these harmful chemicals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the first 2+ years of their lives. All so that we can save ourselves a little bit of laundry time.

Disposable Diaper The HWL


The Environmental Comparison:

Approximately 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used every year in the United States alone – of those over 92% end up in a landfill – making them the 3rd largest single-use consumer item in landfills, and 50% of household waste. It is estimated that it will take 250-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose, which means that a single diaper will outlast your child – even your great great great grandchild – by several generations.

Not only that, but each year over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce enough disposable diapers for ONE baby. And before you ask, “but what about all the water used to wash cloth diapers, doesn’t that even the score?” – let me just say that no, it doesn’t – because the manufacture and use of disposable diapers wastes 2.3 times more water than cloth.

Any way you look at it, the environmental impact of disposable diapers is a HUGE one, one we cannot afford to ignore. And one our pocket books can’t exactly afford to pay for, either.

Trash Compactor The HWL


At the end of the day…

Disposable diapers take a toll on our wallets, our health, and our environment, and yet we let them, because we just don’t want to deal with…poop. But let’s face it – we wipe our own butts daily, we pick up after our cats and our dogs, so why can’t we do it for our infants? For their health, for their happiness, and for their future planet! The minor inconvenience of ONE extra load of laundry every three days is nothing compared to the lifetime of inconveniences we are putting upon our children by exposing them to harsh cancer-causing chemicals, reduced reproductive abilities, hormonal disruption, a depletion of natural resources, and mountains of trash piles that won’t decompose for more than one lifetime.

For myself, and my family, the answer is simple. Why use cloth diapers? Because cloth diapers are SO worth it – and, dare I say it? – they even make diapering kind of fun! The patterns are cute, we have fewer blowouts, no battles with pesky diaper rash, and I imagine they’re much more comfortable for our little one…plus I know our wallet will thank us by the time the next baby rolls around and we have everything we need to keep that bum covered.

Want to know more about the real cost of disposable diapers? Check out these great resources from The Real Diaper Association and
The Real Diaper Industry Association’s National Association of Diaper Services!

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