Pages Navigation Menu

sustainability starts at home

Why Disposable Diapers are Dirty and Dangerous

Why Disposable Diapers are Dirty and Dangerous

Babies do a lot of pooping. In fact, the average baby goes through 6-8 diapers a day. Unless you practice elimination communication, your baby will use between 6,500–10,000 diapers before potty training around 30 months old. If you use disposables and disposable wipes, this costs about $75–$100 a month retail—at least $3,000 per child!

According to a 2010 study, one-third of U.S. mothers are cutting back on basic necessities (such as food, utilities, and childcare) to buy diapers for their children. But as much as disposable diapers cost individual families, they cost us even more as a nation and as a planet.

Consider these alarming facts you may not know about disposable diapers: 

Disposable Nation

Approximately 90-95% of American babies use 27.4 billion single-use, plastic diapers every year. This generates 7.6 billion pounds of garbage each year—enough waste to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times over, or stretch to the moon and back 9 times. Every year.

Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills, and represent 30% of non-biodegradable waste. The only other items that outnumber the amount of disposables in landfills are newspapers and beverage and food containers.

Even though it may seem as if an individual child doesn’t contribute much to those numbers, each baby wearing disposable diapers creates about 2000 pounds of garbage over the course of two years. (Yeah, that’s literally a ton of toxic waste. Could you imagine having to bury it in your yard?)

It takes hundreds of years for disposable diapers to decompose when exposed to sunlight and air. Since diapers are dumped into landfills, covered and not exposed to sun or air at all, nobody knows how many hundreds—or even thousands—of years they could be around.

Without sun and air, even so-called “eco-friendly” diapers labeled biodegradable do NOT biodegrade in landfills, and cause just as much of a problem as regular diapers. Yet sadly, in the five minutes it will take you to read this article, another 200,000 throwaway diapers will enter landfills in the U.S. where they will sit for at least 500 years before decomposing.

In other words, if Christopher Columbus had worn Pampers, his poop would still be intact in some landfill today.

If the costs associated with needlessly landfilling diapers weren’t enough, consider that our landfills contain 5 million tons of untreated human waste—a breeding ground for diseases that could potentially contaminate our groundwater. The EPA notes that “…a significant portion of the disposable diaper waste dumped in American’s landfills every year is actually biodegradable human waste preserved forever.”

Ew.

When you toss a disposable into the trash can, you are adding to the 84 million pounds of raw fecal matter going into the environment every year. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Public Health Association advise parents that fecal matter and urine should NOT be disposed of in the regular trash, because it contaminates the ground water and spreads disease.

In fact, printed on the side of every disposable diaper package are instructions for rinsing the diaper and flushing the fecal material down the toilet before putting it into the trash!

Have you EVER seen anyone rinse out a disposable, much less dump out the poop into the toilet?

Me neither.

Disposables Help Increase Gas Prices

diapersWe, as a nation, pay through the nose for disposable diapers throughout their life-cycle. Even factoring in the water and energy used to launder cloth diapers, in the full-cost accounting, from farm to factory to storefront, compared to cloth diapers, disposables:

  • create 2.3 times more water waste,
  • use 3.5 times more energy,
  • use 8.3 times more non-renewable raw materials (like oil and minerals),
  • use 90 times more renewable raw materials (like tree pulp and cotton),
  • and use 4 to 30 times as much land for growing or mining raw materials.

Yikes!

Let’s break it down further…

A disposable diaper is practically dripping in oil. Oil is the raw material for the polyethylene plastic in disposables and it takes about 1 cup of crude oil just to make the plastic for 1 disposable diaper. Taking that a bit further, assuming you use at least 6,500 diapers, this means that it takes about 1,625 quarts of oil to diaper your baby for 30 months—not including the oil involved in the diapers’ manufacture and delivery.

Yes, that’s right: It takes more oil to keep your baby dry for 2-1/2 years than it does to lubricate all the cars you will ever own in your lifetime.

For the nation, this means that over 250,000 trees are destroyed and over 3.4 billion gallons of oil are used every single year to manufacture disposable diapers in the United States. For that amount of oil, we could have powered over 5,222,000 cars in the same time period.

The importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels through our diaper choices cannot be overestimated. Using up what little affordable oil we have left on this planet to improperly manage baby poop is possibly the stupidest use of oil we could think of, besides the disposable water bottle.

Such recklessly wasteful use of oil threatens not only our environmental security, but also our economic and homeland security, too. As we waste all the easy, cheap-to-produce oil we have left on unnecessary conveniences like disposable diapers and water bottles, we will increasingly have to rely on risky, costly-to-produce oil from deep in the ocean, the pristine Arctic, the Tarsands, and the Mideast and Venezuela, and suffer the price hikes, environmental disasters, and scary, scarcity politics that go with that.

(War again, anyone?)

Would you go to war for the resources to continue to cover our children’s bottoms in sweaty, chemical-laden plastic? Oh yeah, we already did.

Poison Pampers

If the toxic waste and the misuse of oil weren’t bad enough, disposable diapers are toxic to your baby too.

Baby’s poorly developed outer skin layer absorbs about 50 different chemicals if you use disposable diapers, wipes and standard baby products. This can be greatly reduced by using cloth diapers and natural baby products.

SPA

One of the dangers of disposable diapers is that they all contain something called Sodium Polyacrylate. Even the “eco-friendly” diapers contain this chemical, too. This is the chemical added to the inner pad of a disposable that makes it super-absorbent.

When the powder gets wet, it turns into a gel that:

  • Can absorb up to 100 times its weight in water.
  • Can stick to baby’s genitals, causing allergic reactions.
  • Can cause severe skin irritation, oozing blood from perineum and scrotal tissues, fever, vomiting and staph infections in babies.
  • Was banned from tampons in 1985 because of its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
  • When injected into rats, has caused hemorrhage, cardiovascular failure and death.
  • Has killed children after ingesting as little as 5 grams of it.

These are the small, shiny, gelatinous crystals that you will sometimes find in your baby’s private parts during diaper changing.

Yes, you should be alarmed.

Dioxin

Most disposable diapers also contain Dioxin. This is a chemical by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in the manufacturing of most diapers. Dioxin is carcinogenic. In fact, the EPA lists it as the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals.

In very small quantities (parts per trillion) it causes birth defects, skin disease, liver disease, immune system suppression & genetic damage in lab animals. Dioxin is banned in most countries, but not the United States.

2002 study that tested four brands of diapers and four brands of tampons found dioxins in all samples, although in much lower concentrations than the amount of dioxin exposure from one’s diet.

While some believe that the tiny size of dioxin exposure from diapers means it’s nothing to worry about, others feel that because dioxin is highly carcinogenic in even the tiniest amounts (parts per trillion), it’s worth it to reduce dioxin exposure even by that little bit.

Phthalates

And if dioxin weren’t bad enough, the plastic in all disposable diapers contains phthalates. These are the plastic softeners that were recently banned from children’s teething rings and other toys because of toxicity. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they mimic human hormones and send false signals to the body.

According to Pediatrics

Children are uniquely vulnerable to phthalate exposures given their hand-to-mouth behaviors, floor play, and developing nervous and reproductive systems.”

Yikes!

Heavy Metals

Some disposable diapers contain Tributyl Tin (TBT) and other heavy metals. Considered a highly toxic environmental pollutant, TBT spreads through the skin and has a hormone-like effect in the tiniest concentrations. TBT harms the immune system and impairs the hormonal system, and it is speculated that it could cause sterility in boys.

In 2005,  Pediatrics found that the dyes used on diapers can contain heavy metals—and heavy metals are not what you want near your baby’s skin.

Other Toxic Nasties

Even worse, in 1999, a study showed that childhood respiratory problems, including asthma, might be linked to inhaling the mixture of chemicals emitted from disposable diapers. The study identified these chemicals in emissions from two brands of disposable diapers (specific brands tested were not disclosed):

Toluene is a known central nervous system depressant. Ethylbenzene is a carcinogen. Dipentene is a skin irritant. Styrene is a respiratory irritant. Do you really want your precious one (or yourself) to be inhaling and touching all of these known toxins? 

The list of toxic nasties in disposable diapers presents a series of risks you might not be willing to take with your child. For your baby’s sake, please consider quitting the Poison Pampers (or Huggies, Luvs, etc.) right away.

Disposables Cause Rashes

Even if sodium polyacrylate was completely safe (and there is some debate about this), the super-absorbent qualities of disposable diapers are not really the blessing they seem to be. Super-absorbent disposables can do three things:

  • Facilitate less diaper changing from parents, which leads to rashes because of exposure to the super-absorbent chemicals, bacteria, and ammonia from accumulated urine in the diaper.
  • Reduce air circulation and pull natural moisture (not just urine) our of your baby’s skin—which can cause irritation.
  • Raise the temperature of a baby boy’s scrotum far above body temperature, to the point that it can stop his testicles from developing normally, according to a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Widespread diaper rash is a relatively new phenomenon that surfaced in tandem with the widespread use of disposable diapers, and is now found in over half of all U.S. babies. While diaper rashes can be caused by a variety of problems (food allergies, yeast, etc.), the majority of these rashes come from allergies to diaper and wipe chemicals, lack of air, higher temperatures (because plastic retains body heat), and being changed less often because babies feel dry when they are actually wet.

Certain dyes used to add color to disposable diapers have been shown to cause allergic reactions resulting in rashes. Repeated exposure to the dye can cause a long-term allergy. One study in Pediatrics that looked at several babies who suffered from rashes found that the rashes only occurred in places where the skin was in direct contact with the dyed part of the diaper. Researchers believe that it is the continued exposure to the dyes that causes a sensitization, or allergic reaction, in babies.

The study also found the following chemicals in disposable diapers to be associated with allergic contact dermatitis (skin rash):

  • Mercaptobenzothiazole (rubber chemical)
  • P-tert-butyl-phenol-formaldehyde resin (glue)
  • Cyclohexylthiophthalimide (found in rubber)

Since prolonged exposure to a hot, dirty, chemical-laden diaper is the most common cause of diaper rashes, super-absorbent diapers may actually encourage parents to leave them on longer, causing these rashes.

Think about it. How many times have you stuck your finger into the leg of your baby’s bulging disposable diaper, and decided it was dry enough to stay on for another hour? (Tell the truth now, we’ve all done it. ;)

With a cloth diaper, when it is wet, it feels wet inside, and must be changed, because babies really dislike the feeling of eliminating on themselves. (Who does?) It is for this same reason that using cloth diapers facilitates earlier potty learning.

Frequent changing, in addition to the cool, breathable fabric of cloth diapers, significantly reduces diaper rashes. And with no toxic chemicals, cloth diapers can’t cause allergic dermatitis either. In fact, my daughter never had a diaper rash again after we switched from so-called “green” disposables to cloth.

Making the Switch to Cloth Diapers

Reusable cloth diapers offer a solution to all the cost, health and environmental problems of disposables, but their benefits have been hidden by the billions of advertising dollars spent by Proctor & Gamble, et. al. over the last 50 years to misinform parents like us and gain a stranglehold on the market.

But even the best PR firm can’t beat the rising tide of families who demand better for their babies and the planet!

Today’s cloth diapers are as effective as any disposable, and they come in lots of styles, sizes and super-cute colors and prints! With velcro, snaps, fleece, and soft, PUL nylon covers, the old diaper pins and sweaty, plastic pants are now a relic of the past.

Have you ever seen diapers so cute?!?!

The new cloth diaper systems do not require a stinky diaper pail, and clean up easily in both regular and high-efficiency washing machines, using less water than you would need to flush the toilet each time your baby went to the bathroom.

You can learn how to start using cloth diapers and check out all the various cloth diaper systems at Nicki’s Diapers—my favorite online, mom-owned cloth diaper business. Then see how parents rate various cloth diaper brands and systems, plus get additional help and support at the Diaper Pin.

A good cloth diapering system consisting of at least 24-36 cloth diapers will usually cost you between $200-500 dollars up front retail, but you will not need to continue to buy them, and you can save them for use with future children. That’s huge savings over disposables!

Cloth diapers in good condition also have great resale value on e-Bay and other “mommy resource” sites like Cloth Diaper Clearance or Diaper Swappers, and you can often find great deals or unload your extras through these channels.

If you are good at sewing, there are many patterns out there for making your own cloth diapers, wipes and wetbags, which would probably be the cheapest option of all, if not free!

For Babyzilla, we used All-in-One cloth diapers, which behave the most like a disposable in that they are simple to change. (See photo above.) Although they cost more than other cloth diaper systems, I didn’t want extended family members or caregivers to feel intimidated by a two or three-step diaper. All-in-ones also come in One-Size as well, so you can typically use the diaper from newborn through toddler age.

We also needed two waterproof diaper bags to hold dirty diapers for the laundry, a wetbag for travel, and a diaper sprayer that attaches to our toilet. The diaper sprayer is a real joy, because you use it to quickly and easily rinse the dirty diaper right into the toilet, completely eliminating the need to “dunk” the diapers or use a water-filled diaper pail. As an added bonus, it can help you clean the toilet and bathroom too.

Lastly, we also used flannel cloth wipes sewn by a local mom, and kept them folded neatly inside a recycled wipes box from the store. I soaked the wipes in a homemade wipe solution I made with spring water blended with a dash of castile soap and lavender and tea tree essential oils.

Voila! Non-toxic, low-cost, small footprint diapering!

Diaper-Free Babies?!?!

If you thought using cloth diapers was natural, economical and environmentally friendly, imagine this prospect: not using any diapers at all!

While the idea of “natural infant hygiene” may seem radical or even impossible, throughout most of human existence, parents have kept their babies clean, dry and happy without using diapers. And today, in many cultures around the world, mothers continue to practice some form of elimination communication (EC), where they learn their babies’ cues for needing to eliminate— just as they would learn their cues for hunger or sleepiness—and hold them over a potty when they need to go.

Many progressive parents in the U.S. also practice EC, avoiding the need for diapers altogether, and enjoying potty-trained children by the age of one! We did it for the first few months of Babyzilla’s life and it was really easy, until we moved cross country and needed to switch to cloth.

Learn more about Elimination Communication and Diaper-Free Babies here.

You Can Make a Difference

If you currently use cloth diapers, you can empower other parents to use cloth diapers too. How? Here are some ideas from the Real Diaper Association for doing cloth diaper outreach in your community.

  • Share this article widely. ;)
  • Wear a cloth diaper advocacy pin (or sport other cloth diaper advocacy gear) as you go about your day.
  • Post on Facebook or Tweet, inviting friends to ask you about cloth diapers.
  • Blog or write about cloth diapering.
  • Host a Cloth Diaper 101 class with a local mom’s group, daycare center, hospital, or birth center.
  • Write to a local TV station or newspaper asking them to feature cloth diapers.

Together we can help more parents make better-informed choices about diapering their little ones. In the infamous words of Margaret Mead:

“Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Sources and More Information:

  • Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure, Pediatrics, Vol. 121 No. 2 February 1, 2008
  • Toxins in Huggies and Pampers Aren’t What You Want to Put Near Baby’s Skin, Alternet, February 18, 2014.
  • Alberta, Lauren, Susan M. Sweeney, and Karen Wiss. “Diaper Dye Dermatitis.” Pediatrics 116 (2005): 450-52.
  • Anderson RC, Anderson JH. “Acute respiratory effects of diaper emissions.” Arch Environ Health. 1999 Sep-Oct;54(5):353-8.
  • Davis, James A., James J. Leyden, Gary L. Grove, and William J. Raynor. “Comparison of Disposable Diapers with Fluff Absorbent and Fluff Plus Absorbent Polymers: Effects on Skin Hydration, Skin PH, and Diaper Dermatitis.” Pediatric Dermatology 6.2 (2008): 102-08.
  • DeVito, Michael J., and Arnold Schecter. “Exposure Assessment to Dioxins from the Use of Tampons and Diapers.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110.1 (2002): 23-28.
  • H.R.Y. Prasad, Pushplata Srivastava, and Kaushal K. Verma. “Diapers and skin care: Merits and Demerits.” Indian Journal of Pediatrics 73.10 (2004): 907-908.
  • Sutton, Marianne B., Michael Weitzman, and Jonathan Howland. “Baby Bottoms and Environmental Conundrums: Disposable Diapers and the Pediatrician.” Pediatrics 1991 85.2 (1991): 386-388.
  • Toxipedia – Diapers
  • “Why Choose Cloth Diapers,” Real Diaper Association.
  • “Your Choice Does Make a Difference,” Born to Love.
  • McDiarmid, Catherine, “What’s Wrong with ‘Disposable’ Single-Use Diapers?,” Born to Love.
  • McConnell, Jane.  “The Joy of Cloth Diapers.”
  • Flug, Rachael, “Top Ten Environmental Reasons For Choosing Cotton Diapers“.
  • The Canadian Cloth Diaper Association, “The Facts: Cloth Versus ‘Disposable’ Diapers.”
  • Michaels, Patricia A., About Guide.
  • Iowa Sate University – University Extension, “The Diaper Dilemma.”
  • Schiff, Sherry, “The Diaper Dilemma, Waterloo Centre For Groundwater Research.
  • McConnell, Jane, “The Diaper Debate: Ten Years Later”
  • Reilly, Lee, “The diaper debate: cloth vs. paper”, Vegetarian Times, March, 1997.
  • New Tests Confirm TBT Poison in Procter &  Gamble’s Pampers®:  Greenpeace Demands World-Wide Ban of Organotins in All Products,” 15 May 2000,
  • Allison, Cathy.  “Disposable Diapers: Potential Health Hazards.,” referring to: Hicks, R et al.  “Characterization of toxicity involving hemorrhage and cardiovascular failure, caused by parenteral administration of a soluble polyacrylate in the rat,” Journal of Applied Toxicology  1989 June; 9(3): 191-8.
  • Link, Ann. Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. April 2003. Women’s Environmental Network.
  • Lehrburger, Carl. 1988. Diapers in the Waste Stream: A review of waste management and public policy issues. 1988. Sheffield, MA: self-published.
  • Lehrburger, C., J. Mullen and C.V. Jones. 1991. Diapers: Environmental Impacts and Lifecycle Analysis. Philadelphia, PA: Report to The National Association of Diaper Services (NADS).
  • Allsopp, Michelle. Achieving Zero Dioxin: An emergency strategy for dioxin elimination. September 1994. Greenpeace.
  • Armstrong, Liz and Adrienne Scott Whitewash: Exposing the Health and Environmental Dangers of Women’s Sanitary Products and Disposable Diapers, What You Can Do About It. 1993. HarperCollins.
  • C-J Partsch, M Aukamp, W G Sippell Scrotal temperature is increased in disposable plastic lined nappies. Division of Paediatric Endocrinology, Department of Paediatrics, Christian-Albrechts- University of Kiel, Schwanenweg 20, D-24105 Kiel, Germany. Arch Dis Child 2000;83:364-368.
  • Swasy, Alecia, SOAP OPERA; The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble.

Store window photo credit goes to Emily  http://www.modernnaturalbaby.com
https://www.facebook.com/ModernNaturalBaby

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog, including Amazon.com links. These small earnings make it possible for me to continue writing this blog for you. That said, I only recommend products I genuinely love, and that I believe would be of value to my readers.
Thank you for your support!

MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.




115 Comments

  1. Just wanted to tell you that this article worked for me! I read this about a month ago and I’ve now been cloth diapering for three weeks! Loving it!

  2. I agree with the environmental part of this article, but I have personally took part in diaper studies at the Kimberly Clark here in WI and they hire nurses and drs with medical degrees to perform these studies, and diapers do not harm babies, now if someone is irresponsible, terrible mother that lets their baby sit in poop, then yes they can hurt them, but if your letting your baby sit in their diaper so long that the little balls come out, you have bigger problems than a disposable diaper…I have four kids and thousands of diapers later and none of my babies have EVER had a problem with diaper rash, unless they have severe diarrhea…so it’s opinion not factual to say disposable diapers are “dangerous”…more cost effective, yes, dangerous=no. And no mom should have to feel like they’re not doing something right for a sales pitch or someone thinking they’re better because they cloth diaper, it’s simply not true. I’m sorry for the rant but it’s something I have an opinion about just like people who CD.

    • Thank you for your comment. The plastic phthalates, ethylbenzene, toluene, dipentene and styrene, and trace amounts of dioxin are indeed harmful to babies and all humans in the long term; it’s not just the diaper rash at issue. These toxins are absorbed through the skin and by inhalation.

      The manufacture of plastic diapers also releases numerous toxins that are also harmful to everyone. The environmental pollution and its effects on human and planetary health should be reason enough to consider cloth diapering.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10501153

  3. What are your thoughts on NATY diapers, Nature Baby?

  4. I am expecting baby #1 in May and I have read that if/when baby gets a yeast infection, it can be a good idea to use flushable liners at least until the yeast clears up because it can be hard to get out of the cloth. I also live in an area that when baby goes to daycare, he will HAVE to use disposables. We have a stash of 35 CDs that I can’t wait to use…and we hope to avoid daycare for the first year, but after that, he will most likely have to go. So do you have any experience on the “least bad” alternative to CDs for these special situations? I’ve talked to the daycare and they are not willing to consider CDs at all. Thoughts? Thanks in advance!

    • A daycare cannot require you to use disposable diapers! As far as flushable liners, I made my own fleece liners to use when my baby gets a rash and they work wonders. I just bought a yard and a half of fleece and cut then into the same size as my inserts and surged around the outside. I use one with every diaper and have never had a problem with a diaper rash since.

  5. Hey there. I recently came across this in another article. It is amazing what a) people will use on the most important things in their lives, their kids. b) Shame on corporations for allowing such ridiculous ingredients to be added to diapers. I mean come on! It is our babies we are putting these poison filled pampers on after-all.

  6. Hello,

    We are an organic cloth diaper service based out of Los Angeles, CA. I read your article and I LOVE it! I am writing a blog for our website and would love to reference this article. Do I have your persmission?

    • Yes, you may reference this article with a link back to this site. Thanks for spreading the word!!

  7. My husband and I decided to switch our son to cloth when we realized from day ONE that disposable made his rump chafe and bleed. Even after switching to cloth diapers we noticed his skin was always red and irritated. I read on a blog to try cloth wipes so we did and BAM no more irritation, redness, or bleeding. My son is not only allergic to something in the disposable diaper but also the preservative MI that is found in wipes. (even the sensitive kind). He is now cloth diapered and wipes FULL TIME and we will never ever go back. There are way too many benefits and our son is happier than ever. It is not hard to do, you just have to find a diapers that works best for your family and life style and stick with it. Good Luck!

  8. I could not agree more!

  9. Hello,
    I am a student at UCMerced who is currently enrolled in sustainability science. I am writing a short paper on waste babies produce, and I was wondering if I could cite a couple of phrases from this article.
    Thank You!

    • Sure, with proper source crediting and a link back to the article, please. Though do remember that bloggers are secondary sources of information. My primary sources are in the links within the article and at the bottom of the post. Best to you!!

  10. I love the picture with the 500 sposies vs 24 cloth diapers. Can I share that pic on FB? Do you have the original source for it? I can’t seem to just copy and paste the picture.
    Thanks.

    • I found the image on Facebook; it’s viral at this point and I do not know the original source since there is no watermark. Sharing is caring!!

  11. your fourth course states, “Although dioxins are found in trace amounts in both cotton and pulp sanitary products, exposure to dioxins through tampons and diapers does not significantly contribute to dioxin exposures in the United States.”

    • Compared to the dioxin exposure acquired via dietary sources (which is what this study is about), this is true. Obviously you will get significantly more exposure from eating it than you would by having it near your mucous membranes. However, why would anyone want to have any dioxin at all anywhere near their bodies, or want it produced in the environment for any reason?

  12. I’m so glad that more people are learning about the dangers of disposable diapers and the benefits of cloth. Although the no-diaper thing weirded me out a bit, haha. I cloth diaper my son, and I don’t find it more difficult that using disposables. We use pocket diapers, and they are so easy, even my mom can use them!

    Check out my blog at:
    dreamingofperfect.weebly.com

  13. I tried to abandon cloth out of laziness with my 4th child, but couldn’t stomach knowing all this to be true and switched back pretty quickly. I just couldn’t take it (or the rash), and continue to be amazed by how many parents know the far-reaching consequences of disposables but still choose to look the other way.

  14. This is a great article, unfortunatley we can’t do anything for real nappy week this year, due to being led up after surgery has made it hard for me, but diverting 50 tonnes of waste to date isn’t so bad? thats about 270,000 disposable nappies. I’d love to share this on my facebook page and as I am not for profit, I’m not bothered about other brands, as long as babies try cloth, thats all we ask. :) xxx sarah from YummyBums

  15. My hubby and I are huge supporters of cloth diapering! We have cloth diapered our daughter since the day she was born! Yep, right into cloth in the hospital. Disposable diapers are not only bad for the environment, but they are also bad for the baby’s health.
    In addition, I really love that we used one size cloth diapers for our daughter as we are buying even less cloth diapers this way, as opposed to buying a complete stash for each size. We also use a naturally derived free and clear detergent because we have sensitive skin and it is more earth friendly than the scented chemically detergents!

    Cloth diapering just makes sense!!

  16. When was this article originally posted? I’m sure you can’t control the ads on your website but I use Honest diapers from the Honest Company (and its actually advertising on this web page right now) and it is an “earth friendly”, “biodegradable”, “chemical free” disposable diaper… Have you heard of these? And if so, what are your thoughts on them?

    • I have never heard of these, sorry!

    • My opinion is it is nice to see more conscious diapers out there, but I still think cloth is the better option. :)

    • Such a better option than typical disposables, but I have read that even the “biodegradable” diapers won’t decompose well because of the minimal amount of air circulation. Still…WAY better than conventional disposables!

  17. Thanks for an incredibly well-written and researched article.

    My 2 kids are teens now, but we used cloth for them both. One thing I noticed was that they both potty trained pretty effortlessly not long after they turned 2. I think it was because I always changed them as soon as they were wet, so they never got used to sitting around in soiled diapers. I don’t think I would have done that had I been using disposables!

  18. Love the article. I’m a huge fan of cloth diapers– we almost exclusively use Best Bottom diapers from Nicki’s– my favorite diaper retailer, too! Kudos for a well-written article and the long list of sources!

  19. Hi, I would just like to say that you did an amazing job with this article. It’s extremely well written and well researched. I would like to link you for a post I’m working on for my own blog.I started using cloth when my son was 2 months old, and we have been extremely happy with cloth diapers. I had no clue of ALL of the information that you provided in this article. Very insightful and frightening. Thank you.

    • I’m so glad this post was useful to you! Please do link!

  20. Things might be different now. I used cloth diapers with my son (now 21). He went to a babysitter who was willing to use them. When my daughter came along (now18), we needed to use a day care center. They would not allow cloth diapers, so on the days I worked, we had to do disposables. I hated them, but had no choice. Are day care centers today allowing cloth?

    • Where I live, they all allow cloth if you are using the all-in-one cloth diapers that act just like disposables.

    • I am a former PreSchool School Nurse and now a Cloth Diaper and natural parenting advocate. I can only speak for here in Kansas (and per the KS department of health and environment), Day Care providers are able to do cloth diapers, but many CHOOSE not to provide that service. Per regulations, care providers are not allowed to “process” the diaper in any way — so they can’t change a pad/prefold and reuse a cover/shell, nor can they flush a bio-liner. They can fold the diaper and send home in a wetbag. So there may need to be some tweaking to the style of cloth diaper system used — but it CAN be done!

      I have found that many of the providers just aren’t familiar with modern cloth diapering – and don’t realize how simple and ‘clean’ it is. Many times if you introduce the conversation with the provider by bringing in an example diaper they are much more accepting of the idea. Also, when you point out they will only be changing the diaper, cleaning the child and putting the diaper home in a bag (instead of putting a diaper in the trash) — what is expected of them is hardly different from throwaways.

      My provider was actually excited to have a diaper that wouldn’t ‘blow out’ at the first sign of pooh — so they actually grew to prefer cloth when given an option!

  21. What a beautiful post! Choosing to use disposable diapers is not a choice that only affects your family it is choice that concerns every human on this planet. People make excuses not use cloth saying they don’t have time, or its just not for them acting as though they are making a personal decision. It is so irritating. Thank you for laying out why disposables hurt us all.

    • Thanks so much, Amy. So many of our “personal” decisions affect the rest of the people, plants and animals on this planet very much. That’s why I started this site!

  22. I’m a big believer in cloth. I’ve had a thoroughly positive experience saving money, avoiding rashes, and enjoying the adorableness of the diapers. I also have a doctorate in an environmental field and feel confident cloth is much better for the environment. However, I do feel that this article presents the worst case scenario of disposables vs. best case scenario for cloth. As a result, it comes across a little harsh and unlikely to convert many non-believers who take a reactionary stance.
    Prefolds work fabulously for us but some babies do terribly in cotton and need stay dry materials which are synthetic. Some babies, like mine, do terribly in synthetics. It can be costly and time consuming to figure out what works. Still not as costly as sposies, and of course, you do need to figure out what works in terms of disposable brands. Of course, I like saving time by not having to run out to the store to buy disposables all the time, too, and the laundry savings of never having a leak or a blowout. However, some folks do struggle with detergent build up, stripping, rashes, etc.
    But, with diapers (disposable or cloth), there’s always going to be a small percentage of the population for whom they don’t work. That’s a reality. Disposables aren’t a cure all for everyone, nor is cloth.
    I do want to add from an environmental perspective that the water used in oil production, particularly as we move from conventional oil to bitumen, shale oil, etc., is huge! There is no comparison with laundry water usage. Even so, water usage is not best understood through absolute numbers. Using excess water in a place with a water shortage is not the same as using it where there is an abundance . The water used in oil production tends to drain ecologically vital wetlands, which can never be reclaimed. From a water standpoint alone, there is no comparison between cloth and sposies.

  23. You forgot to mention that dioxin can also be found in cloth diapers

    • Um, dioxin is discussed thoroughly in the middle of the article. :) Dioxin is only present in cloth that has been bleached by chlorine bleach. Most cloth diapers are intentionally not bleached with chlorine bleach. If you should happen to find a cloth diaper that was made with chlorine-bleached cloth, any dioxins present are removable by washing, as is true of all bleached fabric.

  24. great articles about the dangers of diposable diapers i salute everyone who has taken time to come up with such amazing articles.
    This has come at the right time when iam single handedly advocating for massive sensitisation in mothers in uganda on how to dispose of diapesr and their associated dangers both to our babys lives and the environment atlarge,i would therefore like to take up this opportunity to call up some one who can jump on board and join me develop this proposal as a major consern.I can be reached on my e-mail address :[email protected] KADDU

  25. Iam so greatful with all the informative articles that i have read about both the disposal Diapers and cloth diapers and thank god this has come in the right time when iam single handledly advocating for mass sensitization about the dangers of disposaples diapers towards our health and the environment.
    Kindly could someone come to my resque and we develop this proposal together to see that Africa at large is given knowledge about the dangers of disposal diapers please.I will be greatful if iam contacted on my e-mail address :[email protected]

  26. I love you for this awesome post, Dawn! So jam-packed with awesome information! Thanks again for a wonderfully informative post! I’m sharing on my FB page – both my personal and my blog ones :)

    Friends and family still don’t understand why we’ve switched to cloth, so this will really lay it all out there :)

  27. The way I potty trained my son. I turned him backward on the toilet. He would have his little cars up on top of the tank, he was comfortable and never felt like he was going to fall in. I would turn the water on in the sink or put his little foot in a little pan of warm water, it worked every time and there was never a need for a deflecter at all.

  28. My son turned 40 this month. When he was a baby disposable diapers didn’t exist. I remember very clearly that I had like 26 dozen cloth diapers of different kinds, some were thicker. I would put 3 or so together and fold them to fit him at the time. I rinsed them in the toilet and kept them in a diaper pail with a solution of water and Stanley Degreaser, if anyone remembers Stanley products.

    When it came to washing them I would dump the entire contents into the washing machine, run it on the spin cycle and then turn it on to start the washing cycle. I hung them on the clothes line and his diapers were always clean, white with no stains and smelled fresh. If the weather was bad I would hang them over a wooden rack that sat over the floor heater. I used plastic pants over his diapers at night and if we were going somewhere otherwise from the time he was born it was just cloth diapers.

    Five years later when I had my daughter they had started making disposables but I used cloth with her also. I did use disposables when we traveled and that was it. That was their original purpose. My babies never had diaper rash. First thing in the morning and after bowel movements they got what I call a butt bath in the sink. There were no wipes, they were cleaned with wash rags. I would just throw their sleeper up over their shoulder and lay them across my left arm and wash their bottom with soap and water, wrap a towel around them and go put a new diaper on them. To this day neither one likes to be dirty.

    As with anything to much of it is bad for you including disposable diapers. If I was having babies now I would still do it the way I did then and be a proud mama. I hear women saying they are to busy and such well I worked and ran another business out of my house. I did the house work, cooked the meals and a whole lot more and I didn’t need a pill to get through the day and still don’t. Even at my age I still do not take any prescription drugs, I am into natural health. I think people should not listen to all the prescription ads on TV and think for themselves. I think doctors are great if you have a broken bone or such but I do not go them for my preventive health. As with the diaper ads on TV, it is mind over matter and what is important to you. If it is important you will enjoy doing it.

    I’m glad I had my children at that time but even today I would do it again because it is what was best for them.
    Just my opinion….

    • Thank you for sharing this Brenda. :) I have begun following in your shoes and look forward to getting to pass this knowledge down to my children after they are grown. <3

  29. I LOVE that you wrote this article. SO many people are misenformed about disposable diapers becasue they make money telling us they are amazing! i have never seen a commercial for cloth but i think it is about time we start seeing them!

  30. Seriously? “Approximately 90% of Americans use 18 billion single-use, plastic diapers a year.” talk about a made up statistic! Sure disposables are bad, cloth is better and EC can be amazing. This would mean that on 10% of Americans do not use diapers. I am sure far more than that do not use them. Maybe 90% of American families with diaper aged children use them. Even that is a stretch for me to believe. I find it shameful when people make up their own statistics to try to make a point. In my opinion if nullifies the point they are trying to make.

    • Actually, my numbers are conservative. And of course we are talking about American babies, or American parents. That is self-evident in context with the rest of the section. I’ve added the word “babies” for greater clarity; you’re right, it should be there. But still, my numbers are conservative. Sierra Club estimates that 95% of all babies send 28 billion disposables to U.S. landfills each year. The Real Diaper Association estimates that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S. And Wikipedia states, “an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used each year in the US, resulting in a possible 3.4 million tons of used diapers adding to landfills each year.” I encourage you to check the sources above and the many footnotes at the bottom of the page.

  31. For those of you that cloth diaper and are concerned with the cost of cd safe rash cream… Have you tried organic unrefined coconut oil??? It’s about 8-10 bucks for a huge jar and a little goes a long way… My son is 10 months old and cd from 1 mo and has never had a rash….. I wish I had learned about modern cloth diapering with my first son because he had so many issues with diaper rashes in disposables…… I use one size diapers with microfiber inserts and spend $5-5.60 per diaper using Sunbaby diapers and Alva Baby diapers the prints are beyond adorable and sooooo easy to use

  32. I wasn’t able to cloth diaper at first because I just couldn’t get my husband on board. After a series of nasty rashes when my baby was nearly 6 months, I just told him straight up that it was time to get our big parent panties on and do it. I found a pocket diaper system that enabled me to start with about 34 diapers for about $150 and we never looked back. It’s easy, it’s not nasty, and the cloth is adorable. And the route we went… totally affordable. After some cloth wipes and a few accessories, our total out of pocket is $200 – 250… forever. Our water bill is the same, our electric hasn’t gone up anymore that is noticeable. It’s the best investment we’ve made for our baby boy.

  33. I hate articles like this. So much of the information on disposable diapers is incorrect and assumed. First off, you quote the cost of disposable diapers as $100 per month per child. I pay $100 per month for 2 children (using Pampers, at full price, usually it is less then this as I am a coupon user) Secondly, you assume that there are no parents who empty/rinse their disposable diapers… I will agree that a good portion of the population don’t, however that is a broad assumption that I know is untrue. Next, I’m not convinced that cloth diapering is cheaper then disposables when you factor in what your time is worth when you are spending the time to wash the diapers (plus the hot water, electricity, soap and the initial start up costs, which I have seen typically ranging between $300 and $500! And then you need the different sizes for as your child gets older!) And then of course there is the fact that your article makes it sound as if diaper rash and finding gel beads is normal among children who wear disposable, I can say that in my sons two years of life, not only have I never seen a gel bead, but neither of them have ever had a diaper rash (same goes for the years I spent babysitting before having children) Overall I think that the choice of diapers to use is a personal one, and articles like this are great, assuming you have the statistics to back it up. Otherwise it comes off sounding assumptive and degrading to those of us who choose to cloth diaper.

    • The exact statistics for the environmental, health and economical costs of using disposables vs. cloth are spread throughout the post quite liberally, with over a dozen sources and studies at the bottom. I don’t post anything without the research to back it up. :)

      I suggest that you read through the many comments to hear what parents who made the switch have to say. They would beg to differ with your assessment greatly. For example, you can get all the diapers you will ever need for less than $200, and you can use them on your next child. One commenter living on just $400 a month couldn’t have done it with cloth diapers! Also, you don’t need different sizes anymore. As for a cost by cost analysis for water, electricity, etc., I break that down very thoroughly in the comments, too. I also break down where I got the $75-$100 a month figure, using the prices available on Diapers.com. Some parents, in attempt to be healthier and more eco-friendly, pay on the high end for so-called biodegradable or unbleached diapers. And you have to include wipes and “Genie” bags and other disposable accessories too. Your mileage may vary.

      You clearly have a different experience using disposables than the over 50% of all babies wearing them that the American Academy of Pediatrics says DO get diaper rashes. And even though you are rash free, saving money and rinsing the poop, disposable diapers still are the number three item found in our overburdened landfills, they contain toxic chemicals and byproducts in every stage of their lifecycle, and the oil they require to produce, package and ship (all for something we throw away after using for only 3 hours!!) is just utterly unconscionable, in my opinion. Which is why I wrote this article.

      My intention is not to degrade but to inform. Unlike almost every other article about cloth vs. disposables, I wanted to examine the issue from EVERY angle to get a FULL COST ACCOUNTING of the impact of using disposables, in order to make it an easy choice to switch to cloth—or to even try diaper-free elimination communication, which is the cheapest, healthiest and most eco-friendly of all.

      People don’t change until the cost of not changing is greater than the cost of remaining the same. And in the FULL cost accounting (looking at personal health, public health, ecological health, oil independence/national security, natural resource usage, pollution, energy usage, waste management, overall cost to the Nation, as well as personal household costs), cloth diapering may have a few issues, sure… But I think the data compiled in this article shows that the cost of 98% of all parents making a “personal choice” to use disposables is, in aggregate, just too great for the nation to bear. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I consider cloth diapering a patriotic duty, much like growing a Victory Garden was back in WWII. That’s why I wrote this article.

      And for anyone (not necessarily you) who might claim that articles like this make them feel judged, degraded or guilty, consider that no one can make you feel bad about your choices unless you have less than 100% confidence in them yourself.

      • EXACTLY, EXACTLY, EXACTLY. Can I marry you??!!!! I think I’m in love with a fellow highly educated, cloth using, earth respecting mama!!! : )
        It makes me happy to see others as informed as me about the harm of disposables!!! It’s time for a diaper revolution before the millions of shitty diapers take this earth down with em!

        • :D Thanks! Yes, I hope that more people will wake up to just how dangerous and wasteful disposables are. The cost of their convenience is WAAAAAAAAAY too high, and the next generation is paying the price.

    • It addition to all the replies that you’ve received, Lynn, I’d like to also remind you that switching to cloth is first and foremost, about the one part of the article that you happened to leave out of your comment: the TRASH! Cost, convenience, and toxicity aside, you cannot deny the fact that every single one of those diapers will end up in the landfill, buried under the ground, where it will sit indefinitely.

      Seriously, sometimes I think if families had to manage their own waste, instead of placing it at the curb to be carted off by a big truck, never to be seen or heard from again, we’d all think twice and thrice about what we throw away. If we had to bury our diapers in our own back yard, we’d all be using cloth, that’s for sure.

  34. My husband and I are expecting our first, and we ordered some cloth diapers for our little one (it’s a girl! :D). Even before we considered the monetary cost all I could think of was how I would feel wearing plastic all day. Not to overshare but it’s the same thing that turned me off feminine pads. I hated how I felt after just a couple days of them! (I’m a tampon girl lol) I knew I didn’t want that for my baby, especially on her newborn skin. Then we discovered the long term savings and my husband was sold on it too. Now after reading this I have to say whereas I was simply disgusted by disposables, I’m now completely horrified by them.

    Thank you for this! I’m definitely sharing it with everyone I know!

    • Congrats Jess! And good for you. :) I too made the switch to not only cloth diapers and wipes but to cloth feminine pads as well. Now I almost look forward to it each month cause I have so many fun and pretty pads! lol I have heard a lot of women say, myself included, that since switching, their cycles have been lighter, shorter and less painful (crampy). This is usually because the products we have been using are also packed with chemicals, much like the diapers. Benefits of cloth abound! :-D

  35. What about the launadry soap you use to wash them in? Some soap has many many cancer causing chemicals in them. Aren’t those chemcials all over your childs reproductive organs just the same? Just asking.

    • Great question! Laundry detergents are some of the most toxic products you can have in your house or near your skin for sure. But you cannot wash cloth diapers with just any detergent without chemical build-up that will just ruin your diapers. Most people who cloth diaper use a non toxic, clean rinsing detergent like Charlie’s Soap that doesn’t build up and require stripping out of your diapers.

      Also, some moms make their own detergent, saving tons of money as well as being less toxic. Here’s my recipe for homemade detergent and more information on the toxins and carcinogens in commercial laundry detergents. Thanks for commenting!

      • Because a newborn usllauy needs to be changed very frequently, the most economical way to go is prefolds and covers. You can probably get everything you need (3-4 dozen infant size prefolds and 6-8 small covers, and some pins or Snappis if you want them) for about $ 150-200. You may be able to get by with less than that, it just depends how often you want to wash diapers. I usllauy wash every other day.I’ve included a couple links for you that should really help the first is a cloth diapering community with tons of cloth diaper users, who can definitely answer any questions you have. The second is for a store with great prefolds, good information and great customer service it’s the only place I buy prefolds! I would recommend getting unbleached prefolds, they are softer than the bleached ones.You also have the option of using fitted diapers and covers this is one of the systems we use on my son now as a toddler. These come in sized or one size fits all versions.Then there are pocket diapers or all-in-one diapers. These two types are similar, except that pocket diapers have a removable absorbent part where as the AIOs are all sewn together in one piece. These also come in sized or one size fits all versions. If you go with pockets, I highly recommend BumGenius One Size pockets, we use them and love them!Good luck and congrats on your baby!

    • Laundry soaps do have a lot of chemicals in them. But you wash your kid’s other clothes in laundry detergent, right?

      • No, I wash all our clothes with my homemade laundry soap or with soap nuts. Laundry soaps are some of the most toxic products in the home, and we are desperately allergic to their fragrances and additives. Like 10-20% of the population, we can’t even be near people who have laundry product scents on their clothes.

  36. Great article!! It’s very well referenced, and I love the way you tell it straight: DIRTY AND DANGEROUS. Something you didn’t really address, though, is the idea most American parents have that cloth diapering is somehow way more disgusting than disposable diapering. I confronted that idea in my cloth diaper article.

    My son went to childcare, first in a home setting and then in a center. None of the care providers we interviewed refused to accept cloth diapers. They did have these conditions:
    1. No pins or hook-grips. Snaps or Velcro only.
    2. Take home used diapers at the end of EVERY day.
    3. No cloth wipes. We had to provide disposable wipes.
    4. The centers told us they were required by state law to seal every used diaper in a plastic bag. (They did this with disposables, too– ANOTHER layer of plastic, aargh!!) In addition to the waste of resources, this meant that when I emptied the wetbag at night I had to tear open the plastic around each diaper before I put it into the pail, which was annoying! But it was still better than disposables.

    I’d encourage anyone whose baby will be in childcare to propose the above conditions 1-3 to the childcare provider and bring along a diaper to show them what you mean. Some providers may refuse anyway, but the more often parents ask–especially if those parents then go with other providers–the more likely they are to change their minds.

    • Baby poop is pretty yucky no matter what. There is no inherent reason why using cloth would be grosser, especially if you are using one of the newer, all-in-one types. Blowouts usually happen LESS often in cloth. Thanks for sharing your ideas about getting childcare centers on board with cloth!!

      • That’s one of the things I love most about cloth and miss terribly when we use disposable for something…cloth is SO much better for us as far as blow outs are concerned. I swear every time she poops in disposable we need a whole outfit change. Hasn’t happened once with the cloth.

    • My son was allergic to all Pamper type dieaprs. The first month, I had diaper service. Was glad to get feeling better so I could do my own. They do get a bit expensive. He had a real sensitive bottom (and top).lol I just made sure he had plenty of cloth dieaprs and I changed him every time he did anything in his pants. He never even sat with a wet diaper. His skin was to sensitive to take a chance, Besides, I would not have wanted to wear one, why should he?By the time he was walking he wanted to go to his pot. I just showed it to him and let him set on it. He told me when he was ready to use it.Cloth dieaprs are a bit of work but It was much better I think.Just make sure you get them washed and rinsed really good. I washed in really hot water twice, and I rinsed them in warm water, twice. I used one of the old fashioned wringer washers.It was a trip!!

  37. I LOVE your article. Will share it a lot! Thank you so much.

    • Thank you so much! As my 6-year-old neighbor says, “Sharing is Caring!”

  38. An interesting thing to consider, however, is that disposable diapers actually have a smaller impact on the environment than reusable diapers. I am an Environmental Science major and have studied extensive life cycle analysis comparing the two. When you factor in the energy required for the washing machines, and creation of the diapers compared to the entire life cycle of the disposable diapers, disposable diapers actually have a higher Energy use.

    • I couldn’t disagree with you more strenuously as an environmental science professional for the last 20 years. Energy use is just a small part of the whole picture. When you look at the FULL cost accounting, cloth diapers win the sustainability contest hands down.

      Assuming the average baby will use 6,500 disposable diapers vs. 36 cloth diapers, you must consider:

      • water used in farming, mining and processing raw materials, as well as in manufacturing and packaging (6500 vs 36 diapers; cloth diapers use less raw materials that require less processing, and are often made from recycled materials.)
      • water used in washing diapers vs. flushing the toilet (takes less water to wash diapers than to flush the toilet an equivalent number of times, because that is how waste should be handled, NOT landfilled.)
      • land that could be used in food production lost to producing raw materials for diapers (6500 vs 36, plus cloth can be made from recycled materials.)
      • loss of non-renewable natural resources (oil, trees, topsoil, etc.) for diaper manufacture (6500 vs 36, plus cloth uses no paper/trees.)
      • collateral environmental and health costs of the tree-cutting, oil-drilling, mineral mining, pesticide spraying, etc that go into diaper manufacture (6500 vs. 36, cloth uses no paper/trees, little oil (PUL), no minerals, and are often made from organic cotton and/or recycled fleece)
      • oil used in farming, plastics manufacturing, factory machines, packaging, shipping and transport (6500 vs 36)
      • energy and resources embedded in packaging materials (6500 vs 36, plus cloth seldom uses as much, if any, packaging.)
      • electricity used in manufacture (6500 vs. 36, plus you can make cloth diapers yourself, and don’t need a factory.)
      • electricity used in washing diapers vs. electricity used in packaging, shipping, stocking and storing diapers at the store (these two are close, but you must factor in type of washing machine, hand washing, renewable energy sources at the home, hanging dry, etc.)
      • trash transfer and landfill costs, including mitigating methane and dealing with groundwater contamination (N/A for cloth)
      • staggering health and environmental costs for the manufacture and use of sodium polyacrylate, chlorine bleach and dioxin, and tributyl tin, among other chemicals (N/A for cloth)
      • health costs of diaper rashes, allergies and worse health problems caused by hot, dirty disposables. (N/A for cloth)
      • political, social and environmental costs of procuring raw materials from developing countries
      • economic opportunity for cottage industry in making cloth diapers, wipes, etc., as well as recycling/reselling diapers (N/A for disposables)

      That’s just for starters. Compared to cloth, disposable diapers are not environmentally, economically or socially sustainable in the least.

  39. Thank you for such a well written article! I am going to share this with my customers and fellow mammas.

  40. Great post! We are getting ready for baby #2 to be born next week and have all our new born cloth diapers ready to go!

  41. Thank you for posting a well informed article!!

    Using cloth is so much better, I wish more people would realize it can actually be so easy. In Canada, we have a Cloth for a Cause Collective that donates used diapers onto needy families who can’t always afford the start up cost of cloth diapers.

    Thanks again for writing this!

  42. This is a great article and one of the most comprehensive I have seen concerning disposables vs cloth! My only nitpick is that you talk (rightly so) about disposables production being dependent on oil and the problem that poses. However, you then mention PUL covers as being an acceptable option in cloth. PUL is polyurethane which also relies on an oil based production. So not the most Eco-friendly option, if you want to make a perfectly fair comparison.

    • Technically, every article of clothing on your body right now required oil to produce, if only to farm, weave, sew and deliver the cotton. Cloth diapers, given that the PUL covers are made once and then are reused indefinitely, are significantly less oil dependent than disposables. However, only elimination communication is oil-free, cost-free and the most healthy for baby and the planet.

  43. I have a 3 year old, who is potty trained now, but we used the Bum Genius one size with him from day one. Now my 7 month old is using the same set. Even more savings ! Our only problem has been overnight. Both boys have a tendency to develop red splatches (doctor has us put Lotrimon on it- I am looking for a more natural alternative.) Our compromise has been to use one disposable per day- overnight, which pretty much eliminates the problem. If anyone has any tips on that, I would love to eliminate the one disposable. I think it’s because they’re in the urine soaked cloth diaper for so long when they’re sleeping.

    • Angelyn, Have you tried a fitted diaper and cover? These usually work better for over night. I like the AMPs hemp fitted or the bamboozles with a PUL or wool cover.

    • I find great success in using Hemp or Bamboo added to my pockets at night. If you put it behind the microfiber insert, it will pull the urine farther away from baby by pulling it out of the microfiber insert. It works wonders for us. We have also had success with using SuperDoos or 6rSoakers which also include either hemp or bamboo at night.

  44. I am cloth diapering my now 9 month old son and am so glad I made the decision prior to his birth. Looking for local “diaper swaps” allowed us to save more and buy some gently used pocket diapers and covers (for prefolds). I also found a website lovelypocketdiapers.com that sells ultra cheap (many cute solids and prints from $7-7.50 a piece, including microfiber inserts.) I have used them the whole time and they still look clean and resale worthy. I do also use special soap on my diapers that I bought in bulk from Amazon (Charlie’s Soap); it cleans so well with just a tablespoon amt, amazing really! I think if you decide you want to do it and plan ahead it can be affordable and doable for anyone. I am sad to hear about the daycares that don’t “allow” cloth diapers, that just sounds ridiculous. I am happy to say my son’s daycare has several cloth diapered bums.

  45. As a low-income family, we have found the switch to cloth to be more cost effective. I purchase 2-3 cloth diapers at a time, and slowly build my collection. If I can find new or used for $10 or less, I buy 4. We are now up to 20, I do believe, and it cost me about $200 (give or take some) over the course of 4-5 weeks. We still use disposable at night, though.
    One mistruth I’d like to address is “If you use disposables, this costs about $75–$100 a month retail …” … Even a box of Pampers cost about $30 and will last 2-3 weeks (about $60/month). Using Luvs is even cheaper (Box for $20, about $40/month), and Walmart store brand even cheaper ($6/pack, 1 pack/week, about $24/month). I’m not sure what diapers are that expensive that you’re spending $100/month? Unless you have twins, or you’re changing baby every hour, even through out the night. Maybe someone could clear that up for me?

    • Online it is $13 for a pack of 30 Pampers at Diapers.com. This is actually better than the cost at my local supermarket in San Diego, CA, where they are $15. Using 6 diapers a day (the APA recommends changing at least every 2-3 hours), a package lasts 5 days, and I need 6 packages to cover a 30-day month, which costs a total of $78, not including taxes, shipping, transportation, the cost of wipes, rash cream and other things that people buy to go with disposables. If you are buying Nature Babycare or Seventh Generation in attempt to be “greener,” you are paying even more. You might be able to cut this cost by living in a cheaper state, or by buying on sale or by the case—but why bother at all when cloth is cheaper, safer and healthier in every way!

      • I didn’t consider wipes and rash ointment and what not only because I use them as well with my cloth. And I’ve found that fluff-safe ointment is more costly than disposable friendly!
        I also didn’t consider shipping and what not. I live in NY (no, not the city! Upstate), where it’s some what cheaper than it is in other big cities. This is my 3rd child, and the first one I’ve cloth diapered. And I got into it late (she’s 7 months, we’re about a month in). I’m LOVING it so far. However, it IS an addiction, and I can see this costing me more than disposables. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend it. I do. I love it! The prints are SO cute, and I LOVE finding outfits to match the new diapers I just bought (my excuse to shop- like I need an excuse). But they are AWESOME!!

  46. We have Bum Genius one size diapers and love them! Thanks for sharing at Healthy 2Day Wednesday and come back tomorrow to see if you were featured!

  47. I agree, cloth diapers and EC worked wonders in our household! 2 boys completely potty trained and taking themselves to the potty, both by 18 months. Here is how we worked with them to achieve this goal. http://www.livingcrunchy.com/2012/03/how-i-potty-trained-two-boys-by-18-months/

    • After having them for a while now I’d say that the veclro ones I like much better. The snaps on my 21 lb boy have really tight leg elastic. Even on the loosest setting they leave marks on his legs. I have more control of fit with the veclro. Also, the snap ones have a different inner fabric that looks more worn with time, whereas my veclro ones still look like new! It did take a while to come though, almost 2 weeks, but with free shipping I didn’t mind.

  48. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all this information in one fantastic post! I am featuring this on Sunday’s Seasonal Celebration! Best wishes for a very Happy Easter!
    Warmly, Rebecca x

  49. Love this! As someone who hasn’t been able to have children — but hopeful that someday I will — I am holding on to this article. This is great stuff! Thanks for sharing. I am especially interested in the EC method! Thanks for the researched article and sharing it on FF! Great stuff!

  50. I thought about looking into EC with our third baby, but I felt that since he wasn’t the only one I had to look after, there would be lots of “accidents.” Since my attention is divided between 3 kids, house, garden, hubby, etc, I just didn’t know if I would see all of those cues for when he needed to eliminate. Do the books address any of that?

    • The book I used was much more of a basic primer, but DiaperFreeBaby.org has tons of forums and local group listings where real parents with multiple kids can give you real-world, personal advice. On their site, look under Join Our Community. Best to you!

  51. Thanks for this post! We used cloth diapers and some EC techniques with our son and he was fully potty trained at 2. That is late by EC standards, I guess, but I’m very happy with how everything turned out for us. I would highly recommend cloth diapering to anyone!

  52. Wow. This is amazing. I always thought when my husband and I started our family, we would be all natural with the exception of the cloth diapers but you have me convinced! Just the thought of putting all those toxic chemicals on a baby’s bottom is horrible- and the fact that disposable diapers (and all of their waste!) is one of the largest fillers of landfills makes me so sad. I will definitely be researching this more once we start a family. Thank you for this eye opening, honest look at diapering! :) -Nicole @ Working Kansas Homemaker

  53. Thank you for taking the time to present all the information on cloth diapers. I think cloth diapers are important for many of the reasons you outlined above. I can’t imagine my greatx5 grandchildren dealing with disposable diapers that were used on my son! Thank goodness cloth is so easy to use!

  54. I believe that this article is “preaching to the choir” so to speak. Yes, it is a well researched and informative article, and I don’t think anyone believes that cloth diapers are a “worse” option for their family or children. However, the article’s writer doesn’t address one of the most common reasons that disposable diapers are used-daycare. For those working parents who have limited daycare options due to cost, geographic location, state regulations, or private insurance policies at private daycares, those parents are simiply NOT ALLOWED to use cloth diapers. It’s unfortunate, and I’d like to see this author address how to handle that issue.

    • Increasingly, more and more day care centers are accepting All-in-One cloth diapers. An educated parent or group of parents can easily offer a short workshop to their daycare providers in order to show them how easy it really is. It really does fall to individual parents who care to make the difference, which is why I included information about how cloth diapering parents can get involved in International Real Diaper Week and find resources to help them provide education within their communities all year long.

      • Over here in the UK childcare is regulated by a body called Offsted which monitors and grades all educational establishments.According to their rules no childcare can refuse a parents wishes to use cloth diapers. My childcare used them with my daughter and it was fine. These places should be using them as they are going to be generating so much waste and at the end of the day they won’t be washing them! Just stuff them in the bag for mum and dad!

  55. Excellent post! I have friends who just can’t get past the perceived “ick” factor. Maybe sharing this on FB will help! Would you also consider sharing this post on my blog’s new link-up? It fits right in with our sustainable living theme. http://littlefarminthebigcity.blogspot.com/2012/04/homestead-helps-wednesday-homestead-hop.html

    • Please share on FB! As my neighbor says, “Sharing is Caring!” I’ve linked up at your Homestead Helps Hop! What fun, thanks!

  56. I love the article! We to ourselves are slowly switching to cloth diapers.. here is my problem with the main promotion of cloth diapers though and shaming people who buy disposable many many mothers i know would love to convert to cloth mainly those that are low income ! These women however do not have the option of the convenience of purchasing the 25 to 30 or so diapers that would be needed to diaper a child daily at around 500 or more for the set. Even used as we have been working out it is going to cost us about 250 300 to purchase used (aio and pocket) There is cheaper alternatives but then we have to factor in that these women are going to have to come up with the change to do laundry on a more regular basis as not everyone has access to a washing machine . I know the cost break down over the long term is a much shorter cost but when you have very little money forking out even that 30 for diapers that they can make stretch for maybe a month can be a hard done buy let alone coming up with the cash to get the cloth diapers needed even prefolds and covers are a expensive up front cost. Most times also there is no one to teach these women how to use this option or where to even purchase them. So it may sound like I am saying dont use cloth. I am not here is what I am saying. I think company’s should donate cloth diapers to pregnancy resource centers to hospitals to teen moms shelters and more importantly I think those of us who are able to afford to purchase the diapers new or even gently used as second hand should in turn when we are done using them fix them up and find a family we could help use them. Instead of turning around and selling them again for a larger chunk of cash. My view wont be popular but if we really want to convert to cloth as a nation then we need to help those who cant afford to and we also need to be titus 2 women and be there to educate help and promote and push company’s to help those cant as well.

    • I agree that upfront cost can be prohibitive for many moms, although the cost of cloth diapering is significantly lower in the long run. This is why I included some info about going diaper-free (which really works well!), as well as resources for buying gently-used cloth diapers. I really hope that moms who already cloth diaper will get involved in International Real Diaper Week this month and host workshops in their communities to spread the “good word” about cloth diapering. Thanks for your comments!

    • I agree, Michelle! Another thing charitable organizations could do is help low-income parents get their own washing machine. Of course some people live in places where they couldn’t hook it up, but most single-family homes, rowhouses, and duplexes have the hookups for a machine if you can get one, and a used washing machine is one of those things that is “not so expensive” to a middle-class person but out of the reach of someone living paycheck-to-paycheck. It’s a great gift to the family even aside from diapering because it’ll save them a LOT of time and money on washing their clothes and bedding too; the cost of coin laundry really adds up, and it’s very inconvenient to do with a baby in tow, especially if you have to travel to a different building!

    • If you’re looking for cheap cloth diaper brands, I always recommend Sunbaby and Kawaii. Sunbabys are $5-6, and Kawaii cost less than $10 a piece. I know some people prefer to buy American or Canadian, but some simply can’t afford those options.

    • I am one of those low-income parents you are speaking of. My abusive husband and I splint up while my daughter was still in diapers. I ended up using my tax money to buy a set of 18 pocket diapers, wipes, and a wet bag, which cost me less than $200. Honestly this saved me financially. For my first year as a single mom, I was living off of $400 a month and food stamps while I finished school. The cost of even cheap disposables would have put me under, especially considering that my girl had sensitive skin and had to be changed often. I had only 18 diapers and had to wash every other day, but it worked out fine. My babysitter liked them enough to buy her soon-to-be-born daughter a set too.

      I hear this argument all the time against cloth diapers, and while it has some validity to it, really it is a reason *to* cloth diaper and not a reason against it. My recommendation is that the day a poor family finds out they are pregnant that they start saving what they would be spending on disposables every month. Once the child is born, even at $50 a month for 6 months, they will have enough to buy a set. I saved so much money cloth diapering!!

  57. Great, awesome article!! I hope it creates some converts, every cloth diaper blog post of mine is meant to get more Moms interested. It is SO much easier and worthwhile than people think !

  58. You may have created a new convert. Thanks for making this article so usable…usually people just say you should go cloth but give you no way to go about it. The resources are greatly appreciated.

  59. We cloth diapered 3 of our 4 and part of the reason was it was cheaper, and part of it was because it is better for baby and the home and the environment. I didn’t mind it at all either!

  60. Wow! So much information here. If I wasn’t already determined to cloth diaper I think you would’ve convinced me.

    That’s funny that they have biodegradable diapers. Like you said, any “biodegradable” thing that’s sent to a landfill will be just as much of a problem as anything else in there. Landfills are actually designed to prevent decomposition, since decomposing trash could contaminate groundwater.

    • Yeah, biodegradable diapers is silly, but they sell. What kills me is not that diapers are the number 3 most common item in landfills—it’s that they come after newspapers and food and beverage containers—both of which are recyclable! Sigh. Thanks so much for commenting!

  61. WONDERFUL article! We used cloth diapers for the first year of my daughters life but had to switch when she went to daycare :( We used the bum genusis 3.0 and anyone who had to change her always commented on hom easy the cloth diapers were. They are far and above the way to go!

    • We used Bum Genius all-in-ones too. They were great, especially for people less experienced with cloth diapers. Thanks for commenting! I hope you will share the article widely!

  62. Bravo! This article is well written and informative. Hopefully it will reach some members of the disposable generation.

    • Thanks! Please share!

      • I started cloth dipaers with my daughter when she was about a year old. If you want to go cheap use plain prefolds. You simply fold them in half twice, and place them inside a velcro wrap. For wraps, my favourite with the prefolds is the Bummi Super Whisper Wrap.My all-time favourite diaper is from a Canadian company called Mother-Ease. They have a one-size-fits-all diaper, that supposedly fits babies from 10 35lbs. My daughter has been wearing them since she was about 18lbs, and is now 22lbs and they are awesome. They are the best in terms of leakage. When used with the snap-in liner, her clothes are never wet in the morning like she is with almost every other diaper, including disposables. They also have great wraps. For a newborn, I would suggest going with one of their packages to save money, if money is an issue. Keep in mind that cloth dipaers are a big initial cost, but will save you tons in the long run, especially if you wash them yourself. Here is my recomendation:-20 mother-ease one-size dipaers (you probably won’t need liners yet as they don’t pee that much yet anyway) if your budget allows it, the stay-dry ones are really nice!)-6 wraps (either the airflow or Rikki wrap is great)Just a hint I purhcased two all-in-one Fuzzy Bunz pocket dipaers, and although they look cute and are fairly compact, they are terrible. My daughter soaks through them in about an hour, even during the day. Mother-ease makes really nice all-in-one dipaers if you are looking for them.Good luck!

  63. EC is definitely the way to go. We started at 8 weeks and learned our daughter’s cues for bowel movements early on. Since then we could probably count on two hands the number of poopy diapers we have changed since we started, that alone made EC worth it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Eco-Tip Tuesday: Diaper Duty EC Baby - [...] Read more from the original source: Eco-Tip Tuesday: Diaper Duty [...]
  2. Eco-Tip Tuesday: Diaper Duty - LZ power - [...] Read the original:  Eco-Tip Tuesday: Diaper Duty [...]

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ 7 = 13

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Pin It on Pinterest

Like what you read?

Help others go green and get healthy by spreading the word!

 

Get great articles, gardening tips, Amazon freebies
and more on our Facebook page!