Diapers. They happen, even to the best of us. They stink. They need changing. Usually about 5 times a day. For a few years. Yeah, even on your perfect angel child. (Cue Dinosaur Train song "Every Dinosaur Poops...") Hah. [Note: As if to prove my point, I just had to take a break to change a truly loaded dipe. Thanks, son. Keepin' it real.]
So. Why in the world would anyone CHOOSE to revert to cave-man ages involving diapers that must be not only reused, but washed? Isn't that disgusting? Unsanitary? Extra-poopy? Time consuming? Wasteful of water? Well.... maybe not so much. Here are the reasons why many parents (ourselves included) have chosen to be so "unmodern" in the diaper arena:
1. Money don't grow on trees-- I'll be honest; this was the first jaw-dropping motivator for us as young parents. When you go shopping for those cute little plastic packages & see the prices increasing with diaper size even as number of diapers per package decreases, you quickly realize that a much larger portion of your paycheck than you ever thought will literally be thrown into the trash. There are several articles calculating the cost of disposable diapers, from $800 for the first year alone if you bought Huggies, to several thousand over the 2+ years most American kids are diapered. True, there are ways to save, from diaper subscriptions to coupons to buying generic brands ($425-600 is this couponing mama's best estimate,) but there is no way to beat reusable. It is entirely possible to diaper your child, birth to potty training, for $100 if you use the cheapest option (or make them yourself, or even use household items) & restrain yourself from buying any more. Most families spend more like $200-400 for their "stash," buying a mix of used, new, more expensive or cheaper styles, using coupons, buying in bulk to get free shipping and/or freebies (sometimes splitting them with friends), and getting amenities like a diaper sprayer and wet bags. Where the truly spectacular savings comes in is when Baby #2 comes along (or when Baby #1 doesn't potty train as quickly/easily as you'd like, though, cloth-diapered kids usually train earlier!)... you spend nothing. We have spent around $300 for both kids, birth to potty-training, and I foresee our current stash of diapers lasting easily through 2 more kids! Or, if we don't have any more, I could easily get most if not all of my money back by reselling them, or bless another mom by just gifting them along. [I hope to post soon about our own favorite diapers, how we care for them, and where to get them.]
2. Diapers don't grow on trees-- by this I mean they are extremely "unnatural." Yes, there are now brands of disposable diapers with fewer chemicals, etc, and for this I rejoice!! However, they are pricier and they aren't most people's go-to. In most diapers (Huggies, Pampers, CVS, Luvs) reside the following chemicals: sodium polycarbonate, dioxin (carcinogen & endocrine disruptor), toluene, xylene, ethylbezene, styrene & isoproplybenzene (respiratory irritants), not to mention plain old plastic and bleach. Considering that infants wear them around the clock while they are developing incredibly quickly, this is concerning. If there's ever a time to avoid toxins, hormone disruptors and carcinogens, it's childhood. Also, since disposable diapers don't breathe as well as natural materials, they have been found to raise the scrotal temperatures in little boys, to the point where researchers fear it will cause lowered sperm count (possible infertility) later in life.
3. Diapers don't turn into trees (decompose)-- right now the average American child contributes a LOT of diaper waste to our landfills, estimates ranging from 1/2 ton- 2 tons over its diapered life. Then, those tons of diapers (usually with feces in them) sit around for at least 500 years. Honestly, diapers haven't been around long enough to decompose, so we don't really know how long it will take. We don't tend to think much about our trash, but it doesn't evaporate when the garbage truck comes by! Waste is a big deal environmentally. Even if it doesn't affect us personally, it will affect someone, a someone who is our "neighbor." I think I'd rather leave other legacies... [While critics of cloth diapers argue back that cloth diapers use more water (to wash), I would point out that water is endlessly reusable. Land, however, is not. We only have so much of it. Also, the amount of water used to wash cloth diapers is about the amount that person will use for the rest of their life (through plumbing & clothes washing).]
4. Diapers don't help trees (or the environment)-- The process by which diapers are made is also quite environmentally unfriendly, using both crude oil and wood pulp, and producing large amounts of chemicals as by-products (usually dumped into water). This is a figure from 1991, so it may be less now, but this source estimates 300+ lbs of wood, 50 lbs of petroleum and 20 lbs of chlorine are used to make ONE baby's diapers for ONE year. I like how this mom put it here.
"Dear Customer,ok enough about trees... :)
Our diapers are made from a variety of non-child friendly products including bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate, and perfumes. Some or all of these ingredients may cause adverse reactions to the wearer, including reduced respiratory function, so please exercise appropriate caution when using our product.
Our products are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly and they may contribute greatly to environmental pollution. Although recycling disposable diapers is a possibility, we do not, at this time, use any of these available methods as the monetary costs are too great. Thank you kindly for using our products anyway.
Sincerely, A Large Disposable Diaper Company"
5. Poop is gross anyway-- changing cloth diapers is only marginally grosser than changing disposables. Either way you've got to wipe off the poop. I've found that cloth leads to fewer blowouts, so it's less full-body poop wipe-ups (yay!). Then there's the question of what to do with the poop. With disposables, most parents don't do as they "should" and dump the solids into the toilet, but rather throw the whole thing into a diaper genie or trash can, where its smell will linger. With cloth, you "deal" with the poop by somehow getting it into the toilet, flushing, and then it's gone. At least you don't have to smell it for days! As for whether or not it's gross in the washing machine, well, I wash puke-soaked clothing and all sorts of other filth in there. I'm just thankful I don't have to scrub by hand! Hot water, detergent, white vinegar, enzymes, periodic oxygen or chlorine bleach, and UV (from the sun) are all disinfectants used to clean cloth diapers (and your machine) quite effectively of fungal (yeast), bacterial & viral particles.
6. Cloth diapers aren't that hard-- there are some that look just like a disposable diaper, and so are very easy to figure out. Even the most "intimidating" (flats & covers) only take a few seconds for a pro (tri-fold or bikini twist, then snap or velcro the cover shut). Throw the bin or bag full of dirties into the washing machine every 2-3 days, rinse and repeat. I like to line-dry most of mine (UV disinfects!), but am thankful for the dryer too. I really like diaper laundry; it's so fluffy and cute! Babies bring lots of laundry... and then little kids do... and then boys do... so it's best to get in the habit of staying on top of laundry, right? :)
Fellow CD-ers, what were your primary motives?