New mamas have so many decisions to make–where will I give birth? Are we going to co-sleep? Should I pump or breast-feed? What diapers should I use? We know mama–it’s a lot. Today we’re going to help you cross off at least one of those question marks, and talk a little bit about your diaper options beyond just what brand to buy.
Cloth versus disposable diapers
Most parents opt for the ease and convenience of disposable diapers–and it’s so easy to understand why. That doesn’t negate however that there are many benefits to using cloth diapers as an alternative. We’re not here to tell you which is better, but we’ll compare the two so you can decide what works best for your lifestyle and budget.
Some hard facts for you: it’s reported about 20 billion disposable diapers are trashed in landfills through the country every year–about 3.5 million tons of waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that disposable diapers introduce pathogens into the environment from the solid waste they have. Why is this a problem? The waste could make it’s way into a water source, possibly even polluting our drinking water.
Back in the day, cloth diapers were merely a piece of fabric pinned on the baby with some hot and sticky rubber pants over them. Today though, there are just as many brands of cloth diapers as there are disposable ones and they come in a variety of fabrics, patterns, and sizes to suit your fancy.
There are many cost comparison calculators on the interweb where you can input your specific diaper and electricity costs, and see how much money you could potentially save by switching to cloth diapers.
For simplicity’s sake, here’s one scenario: let’s look at the cost of diapers from birth to 2.5 years of age (the average age of a potty trained child in the U.S. is almost 3 years old).
On average, kids use 2000 diapers per year and each diaper costs roughly 30 cents. Multiply that by 2.5 years and you get = $1500
For an average cloth diaper stash with accessories included, you’ll probably spend between $400-$800, with an additional estimated $40 per month on water and electricity to wash the extra 2-3 loads of laundry per week. (You have to wash the diapers somehow right?)
For some, the savings alone is enough to make the switch, but some families prefer the hassle-free ease of those good old paper diapers you can toss out.
What really makes cloth diapers the most cost effective choice are these two factors:
Good quality cloth diapers can be reused on two, three, or even four children before they start to unravel at the seams. Even when the elastics wear out, you can continue using prefolds as a bathroom cleaning rag or to wipe down your car.
You mean, people buy used cloth diapers? Yep–most people who only use cloth diapers on one or two children can get at least 50% of their diapers value back when they resell them. I’ve witnessed many different cloth diapers actually sell for more than what they were worth initially if it was a popular pattern or only sold for a limited time.
Today’s parents are concerned with the environmental impact of their purchases like never before. They want to make choices that are sustainable and eco-conscious.
Obviously, filling up our landfill with potential contaminants is not eco-friendly. Many disposable diaper brands are in the race to see who can make the world’s first compostable diaper and some come very close. Brands such as Babyganics, Andy Pandy, and Abby and Finn are using natural absorbent materials such as bamboo to help the diapers be more biodegradable than the competition. Unfortunately, that comes with a price tag because such diapers are more expensive.
Some cloth diaper nay-sayers claim that since cotton is one of the most thirsty crops, the amount of water needed to create the cotton and wash the diapers after use defeats the purpose. If this is a concern for you, you can use diapers made from hemp or bamboo fabric, as both plants need much less water and grow more easily than cotton.
Baby’s health and skin care
Most mainstream brands of disposable diapers have toxins and fragrances that have been linked to adverse health effects and possible hormone disruptors. This is a common reason for the use of cloth diapers, since your baby’s skin is so new and delicate.
On the other hand, having wet cotton against your baby’s skin for a long period of time is known to cause rashes. Also, using heavy diaper creams can be damaging to cloth diaper materials and hard to wash out.
Parents can choose a more natural brand of disposable diapers or purchase cloth diapers which have a “stay dry” effect to wick away moisture. There is also a host of diaper rash creams on the market specifically for cloth diapers.
Considering your family’s needs first
For the boss-mamas working hard at their 9-5 jobs, or busy families with multiple children, the lower cost of cloth diapers might not be worth the maintenance.
Also note, although childcare providers are becoming more and more open to using cloth diapers, not all will accept them. The only way to know is to ask, and maybe even teach whoever would be diapering your child how to properly put on and adjust the diapers.
In other cases, families are taking a big cut to their income, so in that case cloth diapers might make sense for your budget.
One alternative is to use cloth diapers part-time. You can switch to disposables while running errands, during the night, or while traveling, and then use the cloth diapers the rest of the time.
Hey–there’s no right answer and we’re not judging! Whether you choose cloth or disposable, you have to do what works best for you and your family.
Have you tried using cloth diapers before? We’d love to hear about what worked for you in the comments below!