Before lil’ SPF arrived I started researching diapers. I knew that I wanted us to use cloth diapers but had no idea what kind to buy. It turns out that there are many, many different kinds of cloth diapers to choose from. We have now been using cloth diapers for over 3 months and so far we are really happy about using them. What follows are my thoughts on why cloth is more sustainable, not only for the planet but also for your pocketbook – the reasons why we use cloth diapers.
Why use Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers
The first choice to be made when it comes to diapers is whether or not to go cloth or disposable. I really wanted to go cloth mostly because of how much waste disposable diapers produce (we used disposables at my in-laws at Christmas and filled a grocery bag in two days with soiled diapers!). According to wired.com “Diapers made up 3.4 million tons of waste, or 2.1 percent of U.S. garbage, in landfills in 1998 — the last year this information was collected, according to the Environmental Protection Agency”. A LOT of waste.
Disposable Diaper Information
In addition to all the waste that disposable diapers produce, most big brand disposable diapers have a lot of stuff added to them which I am not particularly fond of nor do I want touching lil SPF’s bum. Most of the top brands of disposable diapers are made with chlorine, latex, fragrance and petroleum based lotions as well as a gel that has been linked to skin irritations and respiratory problems.
Diapers are made with all these additives so they that they are super absorbent and keep baby dry for 12 hours! In reality, baby is not dry but rather the additives in the diapers pull the moisture away from the skin but the diaper is still soiled.
Cloth diapers do not absorb similarly which means more frequent changes but baby is then always in a clean, fresh, dry diaper. For those of you who have used cloth diapers on your children, you know this also means fewer diaper rashes. The diapers that we are using are 100% cotton which from what I read are better for boys than disposables diapers which are less “breathable” and cause an increase in scrotal skin temperature which later could be linked to lower sperm count.
SPF and I cannot say that we will never use disposables as noted earlier. Chances are that for visiting friends and family we will use disposables because we really do not want to have to tote the soiled diapers around with us for the duration of our visit or ask family and friends to put poopy diapers in their washing machine. However we plan on using the “greenest” disposables we can find (which is a yet to be written article itself). I do know that from my preliminary research on disposable diapers that there are many false “green” claims.
For example many people get the compostable diapers but you need a heavy duty, industrial composter to break these down, just like you do for the compostable containers that many take-out places are using. Great idea but does not make sense for places with simple backyard composters making premium soil for free.
Cloth Diaper Information
Before becoming a parent myself, the last time that I came in contact with a cloth diaper was over a decade ago when babysitting. I was hoping there had been some advances in cloth diapers since then, to make them, well, a little less messy. During my pregnancy I started to research cloth diapers and I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes many advances had been made. But where to start?
It seemed that there were endless types of cloth diapers available. I was overwhelmed! Fortunately a good friend of ours offered to send me the research that she did in preparation for the arrival of her daughter last winter. Her work gave me a really good starting point on the main brands but also on the different kinds of cloth diapers that exist today. Thank you Steph!
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are all in one diapers which are essentially very similar to disposables in the sense that they have the cover and inside absorbent material all attached. When one gets dirty, you simply put the whole thing in the wash. Some brands are Bum Genius and GroViva and these cost about $20 CDN each.
All in two diapers are made up of a cover (or wrap as some companies refer to them) which can either be placed over a fitted diaper or over a pre-fold cloth insert. What is really nice about these is that you can use the cover multiple times before it has to be washed. Some brands are Bummis, AMP and Best Bottoms and they cost anywhere from $10 to $20 for the covers and $3-$5 for the pre-folds.
There are also pocket diapers. These are similar to the all in ones except that you stuff them with an insert (microfiber, cotton or hemp). These diapers have a stay dry top layer which can be helpful in combating diaper rash. Some brands are Bum Genius, Fuzzibunz and Kawaii. These cost about $20-25 each.
So how did we make our decision? Well I thought that spending $20 on a diaper was a lot so all but the two in ones were out. You have to consider that you only need 4 wraps at $15-20 each, not 25 diapers or so at $20 each. So two in ones are less expensive but also more environmentally friendly since you use less material to diaper your baby. ***
Further research into the pocket diapers like Fuzzibunz solidified our decision, I was a little disturbed to find this on their website in the FAQ’s section:
Q. The inside of my diaper is sticky, how do I fix this?
A. This is perfectly normal, it is laminated with a polyurethane lining to prevent leaks. Some people see this as being “sticky.”
Now why would someone go and ruin a perfectly good diaper with a plastic coating?
The final factor that made us choose Bummis was when my mum told me that the baby shower gift she wanted to give us was to pay for several weeks of diaper service for us, if they had such a service in our city. I looked into it and sure enough there was a local business offering the service! My mum had this service gifted to her with her kids and she said it really was a huge help because it gives you time as parents to figure everything else out without having to worry about poopy diapers!
As it turns out the diaper service company available to us uses Bummis. You buy the wraps and they provide the pre-folds for the time you get the service. 70 pre-folds a week. When I looked into Bummis more, I discovered that they are designed and made in my home town of Montreal, Quebec, Canada under fair labour conditions. I liked the idea of supporting a Canadian company and knowing that small children overseas were not making the wraps for our baby!
Cost for All in Two Cloth Diapers
The Bummis wraps themselves are $10 which is the lowest of any wrap price I have seen. We bought 4 small wraps. After our diaper delivery service ended we started washing the prefolds ourselves. We were lucky to find used prefolds at a consignment store here in town. So we got 24 small prefolds for $56. We also bought 4 medium wraps @ $5 a piece for $20 total.
SPF then found a seller on Kijji (kind of like Craig’s list) who was selling a diaper bucket container 4 medium covers, biodegradable liners (which we have not used yet but may when he gets to solid foods) 30 medium prefolds, 3 Bum Genius diapers and some cloth wipes. All for $50. We bought it!
So then for 2 years of diapering at least, we will pay …
- small Bummis wraps: $40
- 24 small prefolds: $56
- 4 medium wraps: $20
- kick butt bucket deal for year two: $50
Now lets look at the cost of disposable diapers. If we bought disposable diapers and figuring that you will use about 70 diapers a week for infants and 50 a week for toddlers, over two years, that would be about 6240 diapers, at an average cost of $0.25 each (cost of Pampers) would cost $1560.
By using cloth diapers, not new, we save almost $1400 in the first 2 years being parents. Nothing to sneeze at.
Starting to understand the logic behind why use cloth diapers?
Now of course there is also the cost of cleaning cloth diapers which one must account for. The city recently came by and installed a water meter at our house so soon enough we will really be paying for what we use which isn’t a bad thing, from an environmental point of view. It is hard to say now what that cost will be exactly but what I do like is the fact that we will be accountable for that cost, whereas if you put out the dirty diapers you don’te directly pay for that landfill site or walk by it everyday, etc. There is also increased costs in detergent and fabric softener but there is no way we put much of a dent in the $1400 savings we will see.
One must not forget the accessories that go with diapering a baby: a diaper pail, wipes and bum balm (for rashes). We had read that diaper pails (such as the diaper genie) were quite the waste of money and that you can simply get a normal garbage can. So we went looking. We almost purchased one when SPF pointed out that it would cost us the same as the diaper pail that the diaper service was selling for $30. However the diaper pail came with a carbon filter, solid metal close latches and scented disk to keep the poopy diaper smell away. So we bought it. Again, felt good to support a local business.
As for wipes we are going with the disposables. However I have chosen a middle of the road green product alcohol free – fragrance free – paraben free. Made with organic cotton and other naturally derived fibres at a reasonable cost of $15 for 360. We may end of using cloth wipes but for now have chosen this product. The way I see it, it is no different than us bigger people using toilet paper (preferably an environmentally friendly brand).
So total cost of diapering with cloth over 2 years will be $166 plus $270 on wipes (we estimated 9 packs in a year) and $30 for the pail for a total of $466.
If you bought disposables at $1535 and $194.40 on wipes (at $0.03 each for Pampers brand and we estimated needing 6480 wipes over 2 years). Total $1729.40
Based on these numbers using disposable diapers will cost you nearly four times as much as using cloth!!! Now we got a lot of our stuff used so I calculated that if we got all the same stuff new ($120 on covers, $270 on prefolds, $60 for Bum Genius and $15 on liners) in addition to the pail and wipes it would cost $765. Still disposable diapers would cost just over twice as much as cloth. Also keep in mind that this is for one child. Using cloth you can reuse it all with the second, third, etc child.
And for anyone who is grossed out by the idea of washing poopy diapers in your washing machine, take it from someone who felt the same way a few months ago, it really isn’t a big deal. Get some rubber gloves, some tongs to get the diapers from the pail to the washer and by the time you get them out of the dryer they are good as new.
Do you use cloth diapers on your kids? Or would you consider using cloth diapers?