Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Defense of Cloth Diapers - Part 1

Warning: This was intended to be a single entry, but I've gotten a little carried away and am apparently writing a cloth diaper exposé. If you have no interest in cloth diapers, you will want to avoid this blog for a few days. If, however, you are interested, or if you think I've lost my mind to be using cloth diapers and want to explore my madness, stay tuned for more posts over the next few days.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3

When I was pregnant, I had a few people ask me if I was going to use cloth diapers. I gave a hands down, unequivocal “NO WAY”. To me, the only people who used cloth diapers were crazy environmentalists and… well… that’s it. I couldn’t understand why, with all the varieties of disposables, anyone would choose cloth.

And then Larkin was born.

We were given almost a thousand dollars worth of diapers at our baby showers. We had some trial and error with brand and fit, and ended up only liking Pampers Swaddlers – the most expensive regular disposable. Larkin wasn’t a tiny baby, but he was long and skinny, and wore newborn sized diapers for quite awhile. Most people do not gift newborn sized diapers, because many babies don’t wear them for long – or at all. So even with a e of gifted diapers in the garage, we quickly found ourselves making frequent runs to buy more newborn diapers.

I was astounded at how much diapers cost. You look at a box of Pampers, and it doesn’t seem like an insane amount. But then you have a baby and realize how. much. they. poop. It’s insane. We were going through diapers like water. Every two days, the Diaper Genie would be full, and every few days the diaper box would be empty.

We experimented with more cost effective diapers, and were left with a mess. Larkin was fussy about his diaper situation. He’d start pitching a fit mid-pee, wanting a clean diaper, and would tug and fuss at the rough plastic of the cheaper brands. The kid did not appreciate that in order to keep his mommy at home all day while his daddy was in the process of starting his own business meant we all had to cut costs. Finally I started doing some cloth diaper research.

Right away, I found a calculator that allowed you to enter in exact numbers to compare the cost of your disposables versus the cost of your specific choice of cloth diaper. It let you enter associated costs for both diapering options (Diaper Genie refills, laundry detergent, water and energy use for laundering). We figured that by using the cloth diapers we ended up selecting (more on those later), we could save approximately $2000 over Larkin’s diapering life (from three months old – when we began CDing until an approximated age of potty training). TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS. And that doesn’t include the fact that a single set of diapers can be used for future children, and even re-sold once they’ve outlived their usefulness for our family.

I was completely sold, but was worried about Jonathan. Being the primary diaper changer in the family (yes, I’m a lucky girl), I wanted to make sure he was 100% on board. We discussed the ins and outs of the purchase and the laundering. We worried over the logistics of keeping soiled diapers in our tiny apartment between washes. We contemplated the time commitment. Then I told him the cost savings – DONE. He handed me a credit card and demanded I go buy the cloth diapers.

First, though, came hours of research.

I was pretty overwhelmed at the variety of cloth diaper options. There are pre-folds, all in ones, and pocket diapers. Then you get into the sized or one size selection. Then choose between micro fleece or bamboo and suede cloth or micro fiber and snap or velcro and on and on and on. I had no idea which was best, and the internet offered lots of advice but little help. Some cloth diapering moms tend to get a little rabid over their choices and I ended up with a major headache.

I finally decided I wanted a one size diaper. These diapers come with snap sizing, which allows you to size them as your baby grows. Most of these can take a baby from newborn through potty training with one set of diapers, which seemed a way more economical choice. I also decided on a pocket diaper. These diapers have a small pocket in the back where you can stuff an insert. You can choose the insert material and thickness (or even ‘double stuff’ for extra leak protection) for customizable protection.

Now I just needed to choose a brand. I was shocked at how EXPENSIVE these diapers can be. Even though the long term cost would still come out lower than using disposables, it was too steep of an initial investment for us. An average diaper could cost upwards of $18 apiece. I figured we’d have to build up our supply slowly, probably alternating between cloth and disposables for awhile.

Luckily, I put some feelers out on Facebook, and my friend Jana responded recommending Kawaii diapers. They were pocket diapers, and only cost $7 apiece (Kawaii diapers each come with two inserts – many diapers, the insert costs extra). After a few positive reviews, I was sold. I bought a full supply of 30 diapers, paid tax and had them shipped to my door for under $200.

I’ll be writing a more extensive review of my Kawaiis soon, but I’ll say for now that we fell in love with them. They were honestly as easy to use as disposables.

During my research, I found some statistics that backed up my economical reasons to choose cloth. First and foremost, I was surprised to discover how many nasty chemicals are in disposable diapers. When changing Larkin’s diapers, I’d sometimes find these weird gel clumps on his little tush. The diaper company’s website assured everyone this is common and nothing to cause concern. That gel? Yeah, that’s a chemical that has been banned throughout most of the world. It was even banned in the US as an ingredient for tampon because it causes toxic shock syndrome. Eek. Add the amounts of bleach, chlorine, dye, and fragrance that are added to disposable diapers, and I started feeling twitchy about constantly exposing my son to them.

Then you have the environment. I confess that I’m no green nut, but I do make an effort to do my part for the environment. I knew diapers were an environmental hazard, but I didn’t realize how major the problem was. From the New Parent’s Guide:

It is estimated that roughly 5 million tons of untreated waste and a total of 2 billion tons of urine, feces, plastic and paper are added to landfills annually. It takes around 80,000 pounds of plastic and over 200,000 trees a year to manufacture the disposable diapers for American babies alone.  Although some disposables are said to be biodegradable; in order for these diapers to decompose, they must be exposed to air (oxygen) and sun.  Since this is highly unlikely, it can take several hundred years for the decomposition of disposables to take place, with some of the plastic material never decomposing.

Oh, and for all those people that think it’s yucky to use cloth diapers because you have to deal with poop? Did you know that LEGALLY you are supposed to dispose of all solid waste from disposables in the toilet before throwing them away? Yup, it even says it on the side of the diaper boxes.

Also a very important benefit? They're really, really, seriously adorable.
 The diapers arrived, and I was PUMPED. However, I was still figuring out the logistics...


  1. Great post! I am still on the fence about switching over, but you are very convincing! Can't wait for more! (and that is interesting about it being illegal to not dump the poop- I had no idea!)

  2. I think we are FINALLY in our Kawaii's permanently. They really ARE as easy as disposables, and the laundry isn't bad. I ordered my first two patterned ones yesterday.

    I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again. I love reading what you write.

  3. It's hilarious when i mention Cloth Nappies (what we call them in Oz) to friends. They have visions of that square piece of towel, with a lot of bad pin injuries. But the modern ones are completely different... I bought my first hemp ones last week (the husband had a bit of chuckle about that!) and I can't wait to try them on bub in a few months!