Ahhh, diapers. Where would we be without them? Well, in a poopy mess, that’s where! Diapers are one of the key essentials you need when you bring a newborn home from the hospital, or, if you had a home birth, they’re the first thing you put on your new babe. They trump the cute “first outfit”, they’re more important than fuzzy baby blankets, and they are certainly more of an essential than any sound machine, stuffy, gadget or gizmo.
The problem with diapers, though, is that you need a lot of them. You use one, then you toss it. When your baby is first born, you need about 10-15 diapers a day. As your child gets older, you gradually need less, but it’s still about 5-7 per day. Your child will use diapers for about the first 2-3 years of his or her life. If you average it out at about 5 diapers per day multiplied by 3 years, that’s almost 5500 diapers. That’s a lot of diapers.
No one knows for sure, but it’s estimated that disposable diapers take about 250-500 to decompose in the landfill. That’s a really long time, and a very wasteful way to handle, well, waste. Think about how many diapers are being disposed of, then, in a large city — think of all your friends with babies, their friends, so on and so on…it’s alarming when you consider how many diapers are sitting in the landfill after just one use. In fact, Canadians throw out about 1.7 billion disposable diapers EACH YEAR. Yuck!
The alternative to disposable diapers is cloth diapering, which for many people might seem expensive, messy and overwhelming. Cloth diapers do require a bit of extra time and effort, but when you think about the 1000’s of diapers your family will be keeping out of the landfill, it’s certainly worth it. After all, if you’re raising your child to be vegetarian or vegan, environmentalism goes hand-in-hand with your lifestyle choice. We’re our kids’ best examples for how to treat the earth and others, so showing them as early as possible that it is easy to make better choices for the environment is our duty.
Now, we didn’t always use cloth diapers in our home. We only chose to use cloth diapers for our second child after doing the math on how wasteful we had been with our first (who was a disposable diaper baby through and through). Having our first baby was challenging enough and so we chose convenience over the environment. What we didn’t realize was that our first child would have benefitted in many other ways had we used cloth diapers for her as well.
But, what worked for us with kid #1 worked differently for kid #2 — and this goes for a lot more than just diapers. As with any child rearing decision we always weigh each option to see what’s right for us in every situation. So, here’s a list of pros, cons, and some tips too, to help you decide if cloth diapering is right for your family.
We’ll start with the cons, because the cons are usually what scare people away from using cloth diapers. A lot of these cons are true. But, as you get used to cloth diapers, they get easier and easier to use and you’ll be a pro in no time.
- Messy, and less absorptive; need to change more often
- Hard to use at first
- Expensive up front
- Too many choices – overwhelming when deciding what kind to buy and why
- Too much laundry
- Time consuming to change diaper
- Hard to travel or do any outing in cloth diaper. Also messy to put used diaper back in diaper bag to clean later
- Need a giant diaper bin; bin gets smelly unlike Diaper Genie, Ubba, etc.
- Other people (grandparents, babysitters, etc.) have a hard time with cloth diapers — i.e. don’t use properly, complain, etc.
- So much better for the environment! You can buy a set of cloth diapers that you can use over and over and over again; you never have to throw them away, and some cloth diapers are adjustable and “grow” with your child.
- Breathable and better for your child’s skin. Disposable diapers are made with chemicals and plastics, which can be absorbed into your baby’s system. If your baby is prone to rashes or eczema, disposable diapers can make the problems worse.
- No chemical smell. Cloth diapers don’t have that processed, plastic, chemical smell. They smell like whatever kind of detergent you use, or they smell like nothing at all.
- Cheaper over time. If you buy 5500+ disposable diapers in your child’s lifetime at about .40 cents per diaper, you’ll spend about $2200-$3000 over time. If you buy a set of disposable diapers to last you about 2-3 years, you’ll spend somewhere between $800-$1500, but all in one shot. If you use a diaper service, you’ll spend about $2000-$2800 over time. You can also reuse the cloth diapers for any additional babies you have in the future, making them an even bigger money saver.
- YOU WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF DIAPERS! Yes! You’ll never have to make a 9pm or 8am run to the store to get diapers. It’s an amazing miracle and the best thing ever.
- Helps with potty training. Cloth babies are often potty trained a whole year before disposable diaper babies. This is because cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable, so your baby feels the wetness more in cloth, which is an uncomfortable feeling. Cloth diaper babies are more likely to let their parents know when they’re wet and have a greater tendency to avoid wet diapers. So, if you potty train your child at the two-year mark, think of all the money you’ll save!
- No animal testing. The most popular (and cheapest) disposable diapers, including Huggies and Pampers, test on animals. There are many choices we need to make for our kids until they are ready to make choices on their own, but choosing cruelty-free options when we can will help us raise mindful and empathetic children.
- Diaper services are out there to help with all the cons. Pay a monthly fee (usually about $100-$120 per month) to get as many diapers you need each week. You don’t need to rinse or wash anything — just throw your dirty diaper in the bin and the service picks up the used diapers and leaves you with a new clean supply for the week. You don’t need to shell out $1000 for your own supply, you don’t need to be tied to the washing machine, and you’ll still never run out of diapers.
- You’ll teach your kids that the easiest choice isn’t always the better choice. In terms of convenience and, at times, practicality, disposable diapers are just easier. They don’t need to be changed as often, they’re cleaner, they’re faster to change, they’re more portable. You use it and you toss it. But at the end of the day, if you do three more diaper changes a day, and spend about one minute longer changing a cloth diaper, it’s really not that bad. Changing diapers is just part of your day, so spending a little extra time at it is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. There are many support groups online for cloth diapering, where any and all questions are asked and answered. Help is out there!
- Super cute baby bums! Cloth diapers and diaper covers come in a huge variety of colours and patterns. They’re also a little bulkier than disposable diapers so your baby will have a super cute puffy bum. When they’re learning to walk the extra padding is an added bonus if your baby lands with a thud on his or her derriere. You’ll get lots of compliments — and a lot of questions — on your stylish diapers, and you just might convert other families into giving it a try.