Imagine this, if you will: You’re expecting your first child (or maybe it’s your fifth), and you boldly proclaim to your spouse, or a friend, or a relative, “I think for this child, I’m going to use cloth diapers.” Immediately, the response you receive is one rife with confusion and a little bit of disgust. “Cloth diapers? That sounds so gross. Isn’t that what our grandmas used? Why not use disposables – they seem soooooo much easier!” Right there, in that statement are at least three myths about cloth diapers, and yet there are so many more. Read on for a few more myths we’ve busted about using cloth diapers for your baby.
Myth #1: It’s gross.
Having to touch the poop and the pee, that’s nasty! Let me blow your mind for a minute – whether your baby is using a cloth or disposable diaper, he/she is going to both poop and pee in either kind of diaper, and you are going to have to remove it and clean his/her bottom. It’s just a fact of life. It doesn’t matter which kind of diaper it is, you’ll have to clean the bottom, and in some cases, plop the waste into the toilet.
Did you know that disposable diaper manufacturers often list on their packaging that solids are to be removed into the toilet? There are actually instructions on how to remove the waste from the diaper here and more information about that here. Different brands have different instructions, but all essentially say, “dump solids into the toilet.” Guess what, that is the same thing you do with soiled cloth diapers, and it’s easier too! Why?
Because you can use a diaper sprayer. Or disposable diaper liners. Or not worry about it if your baby is exclusively breastfed, because breastmilk poo is water soluble and can be easily washed off in your washing machine! Check that out: you are reducing nasty environmental impact when you rinse off the poo in the toilet (the dirty deal is that all that human excreta poses some health hazards when they sit in a landfill – see the APHA’s statement).
If you want more information on what diaper sprayers or disposable liners to use, see this post at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer.
Myth #2: It’s the same thing our grandmas used–isn’t that antiquated??
Well, it could be. But of all the cloth diapering moms I know, none of them are using the system our grandmothers or mothers might have used (which is a long prefold wrapped up, secured with a pin, covered by a rubber diaper cover). Cloth diapering systems are much more sophisticated now and there are literally dozens of options. You can use prefolds, with a snappi (as opposed to pins, which could poke the baby), with a diaper cover not made out of rubber!; pocket diapers; all-in-one diapers; hybrids; or my personal favorite for overnight: fitted diapers.
There are so many ways to go. And even among that, you can choose one-size diapers (that have adjustable snaps to snap up or down depending on the size of your baby), or buy sized diapers for your preemie, newborn, or choose small, medium or large depending on your baby or toddler’s size. There are many popular brands with cute designs, fun names, and easy washing instructions. For beginners, I might recommend a simple pocket diaper like bumGenius!, and then branch out as you feel more comfortable.
Myth #3: Disposables feel or are better on baby’s skin.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients used in a disposable diaper (this is from a “greener” disposable brand, Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers): Chlorine free wood pulp and sodium polyacrylate (in the absorbent pad), polypropylene (in the liner layer, outer layer, moisture barrier layer)** and in the dryness layer), adhesives (in the seams and joints), polymer spandex and polyurethane (in the fastening system and leg/waist elastic).
I’m going to give Seventh Generation a thumbs-up for spelling out exactly what it is they are using and where those ingredients are located, but in most conventional brands, you’ll also find:
“Sodium Polyacrylate Crystals, […] the super absorbent gel that absorbs moisture in the disposables. It was removed from tampons when it was found to cause toxic shock syndrome. Yet this is what is next to your baby’s skin 24 hours a day for the first 3 years of life! Not only does it absorb wetness, it also absorbs your baby’s natural moisture, which is needed for healthy skin. The dryer skin, combined with the lack of breathability due to the plastic coating of disposables, makes your baby more prone to diaper rash. Dioxins are another chemical found on disposable diapers in trace amounts. Dioxins are byproducts of the bleaching process and are one of the worlds most toxic poisons, a carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.” (Read more at http://www.dnadiapers.com/benefits-of-cloth/). (Emphasis added)
Now let’s take a look at what’s in a cloth diaper, for example the Kissa’s Organic Cotton/Hemp Fitted Diaper: 55% natural hemp, 45% organic cotton.
What sounds more comfortable next to baby’s skin? Wood pulp, sodium polyacrylate crystals, and dioxins found in disposables, or hemp and cotton in cloth? If it were you, what would you prefer?
Myth #4: Cloth diapers are expensive.
When you compare the cost of 1 cloth diaper to that of 1 disposable diaper, cloth diapers do cost more. However, that cloth diaper can be used over and over again, unlike the disposable, which you have to continue purchasing. Here is a handy guide to show you the cost of cloth vs. disposable over time: Cost of Cloth Diapers
Let’s say you purchased 20 pocket cloth diapers to get your stash going (minimum recommended is 18 cloth diapers so that you can do your diaper laundry every 2 days).
20 x $17.97* = $359.40 (*price at Kelly’s Closet for a bumGenius! one-size pocket diaper; can be used from 7-35+ pounds). Even if you add in the cost of diapering accessories, like a wetbag, diaper pail liner, diaper sprayer, energy costs from washing, cloth-diaper safe laundry detergents, or special cloth diaper creams, it does not come anywhere close to the cost of disposable diapers over approximately 2 ½ years, which is $2577.35 (per Cost of Cloth Diapers).
Cloth diapers are an easy choice for frugal parents.
Myth #5: All that washing makes managing cloth diapers a big chore.
Once you figure out a wash routine, which more often depends on your type of washing machine than anything (there are different recommendations for HE washing machines than non-HE washing machines, & front or top loader), washing and drying your cloth diapers is quite easy.
At our household, where we have a front-loading HE washing machine, our routine looks like this:
1) I first do a cold rinse,
2) followed by a soak with one scoop of our detergent,
3) then a hot wash with one more scoop of our detergent, and
4) finally, do a spin/drain cycle.
Then, I dry on medium heat, or line-dry outside if time & weather permit.
Usually, I can have a load of fresh cloth diapers ready within 3-4 hours. Or, if I start at our kids’ bedtime, I can complete all the wash cycles and put them in the dryer before I go to bed and I wake up to clean, dry cloth diapers.
In actuality, it seems easier to me to do a load of cloth diapers at home than to have to run out to buy another package of cloth diapers from the store. How many times have you reached into the package of disposables to realize there’s only one left and it’s late at night and neither you nor your spouse wants to run out for more diapers? Been there. Cloth diapers save you a trip to the store just for diapers (let’s be honest, who doesn’t also add a late-night snack into the basket too?)! Those late night runs can add up!
In my experience, using cloth diapers can save you oodles of time and money, and it greatly reduces our impact on the environment and decreases the toxic load on our little ones.