The reasons to choose cloth diapering over "traditional" disposable diapers are staggering. Here are just a few, to give you an idea:
Your baby's health
Cloth diapers are comprised of cotton, micro-suede, hemp, bamboo, and other natural materials. Disposable diapers however, are often comprised of layers of pressed wood pulp, surrounded by a film of polypropylene, polyethylene and other plastic materials. Inside a disposable diaper is a layer of sodium polyacrylate (the crystals which turn the urine into a gel-like substance). This chemical is the same type that was removed from tampons because it was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome. Many infants and toddlers will get a rash because of all of the chemicals in a disposable diaper. Some have even been known to cause chemical burns on more sensitive skin.
Many parents are concerned about switching to cloth diapers because their baby is prone to diaper rash. You may notice that switching to cloth diapers actually reduces your baby’s diaper rash, thanks to a lack of these harmful chemicals! Even if your baby is not showing a reaction to the chemicals in disposable diapers, you should be aware that most disposable diapers contain a toxic chemical called dioxin. Dioxin has been linked to cancer, birth defects, liver damage, skin diseases, and genetic disorders. It may be a small percentage possibility, but why take the risk with your baby? Cloth diapers are highly absorbent (even for heavy wetters with the right insert) without the aid of harmful chemicals. Furthermore, cotton (which is often a primary material in cloth diapers) naturally “breathes”, allowing for evaporation, and reducing the risk of skin irritation.
The average infant requires 70-80 diaper changes per week. That’s anywhere between 7,280 to 8,320 diapers being thrown out for every child who wears disposable diapers over a two year span. That’s a lot of garbage, and a huge carbon footprint being left behind! No one knows exactly how long it takes for these disposable diapers to completely decompose (because none have decomposed yet!), but it has been estimated to be anywhere between 250 to 500 years! That’s a huge responsibility to leave on the shoulders of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Disposable diapers represent the third largest consumer item in landfills. In an average household, used disposable diapers represent 50% of all of the household waste.
While it is true that cloth diapers need to be washed after every use, the washing machine washes away the bio-degradable “mess” left behind by your child. The used water is cleaned by sanitation plants and is returned for reuse by the public. Compare this with disposable diapers, which use over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum fuels and 20 pounds of chlorine – to diaper one child for one year. Remember, that’s all landfill waste that will not decompose for the next 250-500 years! Additionally, while the diapers sit in the landfill, these harmful chemicals as well as the human waste (including viruses, bacteria and antibiotics) seep into the groundwater effecting local wildlife and contaminating the land for centuries to come.
Finally, cost. How much you spend will depend on the type of system that you purchase. If cost is an important issue for you, pre-folds with covers are the least expensive route. A lot of parents will attest that by using a pre-fold system, they have been able to diaper one child from infancy to potty training for $100 to $150! That’s an amazing long-term savings when comparing the pre-fold system to that of a few boxes of diapers from the big box stores. Even the most expensive and elabourate cloth diapering solutions can save you thousands of dollars over the course of your child’s diapering stage. Especially if you have more children! For parents or care givers who watch their water bill, most have reported a monthly increase of between only $3 and $6.
With most cloth diapers being used 100 to 200 times per diaper, you are guaranteed to see positive financial results. Just ask anyone who has cloth diapered before, and they will tell you – the proof is in the cloth diapering!