The 3 Key Benefits of Switching to Cloth Diapers Posted on 3 Feb 16:20
Maybe you've heard about cloth diapers and always wondered what they're all about, or maybe you know someone who uses them but you're intimidated by the idea because it seems like a lot of work. Let's talk about some of the benefits of switching from disposables to cloth diapers.
The good news is that cloth diapers have come a long way since grandma's generation. My grandmother told me she kept a pot on the stove all day long to boil cloth diapers when my mom and her sisters were small - that's not a very nice thought!
Why Use Cloth Diapers?
Over the past 15 years or so, people have really been waking up to environmental issues and realizing that the things you throw away, never REALLY go away. It can take months to years for certain materials to break down and decompose. Plastics however, never fully break down, although they can be recycled into new products. Disposable diapers fall into the category of something that never truly breaks down. Because in the grand scheme of things, disposable diapers have only been around for about 40 years, scientists estimate it could take up to 500 years for a diaper to fully decompose. Scary stuff! That's because of what makes up the inside of a diaper:
- Dioxin - Wood pulp that is bleached in chlorine acts as an absorbing agent, but is also known to be cancer-causing
- Polymers - Super-absorbent polymers can absorb 30 times their weight in urine. This is what keeps diapers thin and absorbent.
- Dyes - Not usually a cause for concern, but an additive
- Perfumes - Many diapers contain scents to keep babies smelling fresh, but can cause allergic reactions in some children.
It's estimated that you'll use 3,000 disposable diapers each year until your child is potty-trained, which is a lot of waste to send to the landfill. Of course, some new companies are offering plant-based disposables, which is an excellent option as well, but if you're considering using cloth diapers to offset your carbon footprint, these stats may be what finally convinces you.
How to use Cloth Diapers
Like I said, your Grandma may remember flat diapers with pins, covered with plastic pants, but cloth diapers are super simple and user-friendly these days.
Flats & Prefolds - Flat diapers are still used, mainly in the newborn stage, and can be used as an economical option. They're a long, thick piece of cloth which can be twisted and pinned in place and worn under a diaper cover
Fitted Diapers - A fitted diaper is a diaper that comes in small, medium, and large sizes, and usually closes with hook and loop or snaps. It looks a lot like a disposable diaper. It often has extra layers of fabric in the core for absorbency and is worn under a diaper cover.
Pocket Diaper - A pocket diaper is an easy solution for parents who are looking for the convenience of disposables while using cloth. There are inserts which slide in through the back, which can be switched out during diaper changes, or the entire diaper can be washed after wear.
Are Cloth Diapers More Expensive than Disposables?
The short answer is, they don't have to be. The life of a cloth diaper can last through multiple children when laundered properly and taken care of. Also, there's no reason to opt for the most expensive cloth diapers on the market. There are plenty of economical cloth diapers, and some can be purchased as a kit or bundle, saving more money.
What you'll need to start out on your cloth diapering journey depends on your laundry schedule. Newborns go through about 12-15 diapers a day so you'll at least want that many diapers to start with so you aren't doing multiple loads of laundry each day. You'll also likely need cloth diaper covers unless your diapers are an all-in-one system such as pocket diapers which already have a waterproof outer layer. Diaper covers are often made from PUL - polyurethane laminate which is somewhat breathable and waterproof. Others may opt for fleece or wool which wick moisture away from baby's skin, yet never feel wet. Diaper cost can range from $5-$50 each, depending on what you prefer so it's best to find something within your price range that will suit your baby's needs. Diapers also have a great re-sale value so check your local Kijiji, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace listings.
What are the Benefits?
Some people argue that the added laundry and water usage associated with cloth diapers don't outweigh the monetary cost vs. disposables. However, if you have enough diapers, you won't be washing them around the clock, and they can be added to any regular laundry cycle. For most families, the benefits of cloth diapering include:
- Not Exposing Baby to Harmful Chemicals - Cloth diapers are often made from organic fabrics and fibres which reduce the possibility of exposure to bleach, perfumes, dyes and other chemicals.
- Lower Cost over Time - Here in Canada, it's estimated that cloth diapers cost around $400-$1700 depending on what you choose vs. $2500 for disposables from newborn to potty training. This cost is even lower if you can sell off your diapers afterwards or use them for multiple children.
- Environmental Footprint - The sustainability of cloth can't be ignored. Disposable diapers won't break down for many generations, and they're a constant concern for landfills. Families who are consciously trying to offset their footprint should consider switching to cloth or plant-based diapers.
What did you choose for your children? Are you a cloth diapering advocate or curious to learn more? We are always happy to answer questions, as best we can. Happy diapering!