Cloth diapers: the gross and green of it

Friday, May 22, 2015

I started this blog to not only have an outlet for my creative energy, but also to try and share some positive and hopefully helpful information. As a new mom, I have spent countless hours discussing everything baby with other moms and one topic in particular will have me talking for hours: cloth diapers. Yes, I am one of those people. It may sound crazy, but I LOVE cloth diapering and strongly believe in its benefits. It’s better for the earth, your wallet and baby’s bum.   

There is a lot to know about cloth diapering, definitely more information than I could fit in one blog post (trust me, I tried and after the third page I realized that no one wants to read that much about diapers in one sitting). So I plan to cover the basics here about why we cloth diaper and which ones we use. I’ll get into our wash routine, cloth diaper issues and other fun stuff in another post.

First, here are some quick facts that help explain why we made the decision to cloth diaper:
Average number of diapers a child goes through in a year: 3,000 
Average time it takes a disposable diaper to decompose: About 450 years (according to the EPA) 
The average cost of disposable diapers for a child: $1,000/year 
The cost of cloth diapers: $450 (We spent about $19 per diaper and have 24). 
Chemicals found in disposable diapers: disposable diapers may contain dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, dyes, fragrances, plastics, tolulene, xylene, ethlbenzene, and other cancer causing toxins 
I was always pretty sure that I wanted to go the cloth diaper route. I wouldn’t describe myself as crunchy, but as a human being and especially now as a mother, I am concerned with the well being of our planet and the effects of my actions on it. I didn’t put our daughter in cloth diapers as a newborn. Seeing how many diapers she went through in a single day, not to mention how often we had to take the gross sausage like diaper bag to the dumpster, quickly revealed to me the benefit of cloth diapers.

If the extreme waste of disposable diapers hadn’t convinced me to try cloth, the slow draining of my bank account would have. When you compare the $500 upfront cost of cloth to the $2,000 cost of disposables for the two years until your child is potty trained, it’s pretty compelling (at least it was for my husband!) Yes, up front the cost of cloth diapers seems daunting, but in the long run, you save serious money. Especially if you’re going to have more than one child, which we’re planning. There are many more uses for that money now that I have a kid - for example, coffee - good, strong and yes sometimes overpriced coffee is a lifeline for me these days. It’s amazing what a vanilla latte can help me cope with :)

And third, but definitely not least, chemicals. Chemicals and children - they just don’t mix. According to an article I read concerning toxins in diapers, dioxins (which results from bleaching the pulp used in diapers with chlorine) “have been shown to be a carcinogen and to affect the reproductive and immune systems. Several European countries have begun phasing out the bleaching of wood pulp with chlorine due to concerns about dioxin and it potential negative effects on human health.” Call me crazy, but placing a carcinogen next to my child’s skin doesn’t seem like the wisest idea. (note: There are also several natural disposable diaper brands available that do not contain these chemicals. When not using cloth, we use Seventh Generation diapers).

Earth, wallet, baby...three important factors that compelled our family to cloth diaper. Having made the decision to cloth diaper, the next step was to buy the diapers, but which diapers to buy? A lot of people recommend buying a couple of different types of cloth diapers and trying them out to see which brand/style work best for you before stocking up. I think this logic makes sense, however, I did not do this. My sister-in-law started using BumGenius and loved them, so I bought some to try and was quickly won over by their ease of use, quality and cute colors. A year and a half later and I still love our BumGenius diapers.

We've used all three styles they make:
  • the 4.0 (a pocket diaper with a microfiber cloth insert you stuff into it)
  • the freetime (which has the microfiber cloth already attached so it's a true all in one diaper)
  • the elemental (all in ones with organic cotton inserts attached)
The 4.0's dry the fastest because you hang dry the cover but can throw the inserts in the dryer and you can stuff them with more liners if needed for nighttime. The freetime's are easy as they require no assembly since you don't have to stuff them, but they hang dry, so take longer, usually overnight to dry. The elementals are more expensive because they're organic, but the cotton liners aren't as bulky as the microfiber, so I've found they work better now that my toddler daughter is moving around more. I didn't buy any elemental ones until she turned one. They also take a lot longer to dry than the microfiber.

I buy all of my diapers with the snap closures instead of the hook and loops. I’ve heard that the snaps hold up better after multiple washes - and cloth diapers are washed A LOT. In total we have 24 diapers and that seems to be a good amount for us with washing them every other day. You can buy BumGenius diapers here, here and here as well as at Buy Buy Baby, Target and Babies R Us.

In addition to diapers, there are a few other supplies you'll need to get started. Below are some of my favorite products:
  • Rockin Green laundry detergent has worked best for us, but I have also heard people like Charlie's Soap. I also use Rockin Green’s Funk Rock once a month to help with any detergent build-up or smell issues.
  • Wipes - at first I wasn't planning to use cloth wipes, but it turned out to be so easy to make my own and it's convenient to just throw the wipes and diapers into the wash together. To make the wipes, I just cut up a bunch of the extra receiving blankets I had. They've worked great but you can also buy flannel wipes. I put them in a container with a little bit of Lusa's baby wipe juice mixed with water.
  • Diaper rash cream - One bummer with cloth diapers is that you can't use many diaper rash creams, but there are lots of cloth safe options. I've tried a lot of different brands before finding the one that worked best, Angel Baby Bottom Balm. It's cloth diaper safe. You can also use liners to help protect your cloth diapers when using diaper rash creams.
  • Wet bags - I have two small ones for travel and two large ones for at home used as a "diaper pail"
  • A diaper sprayer - to me this is a must and I have no idea how people cloth diaper without it. It makes cleaning off the diapers a million times easier and easily connects to your toilet.
And that's the why and what of our cloth diaper experience. A small part gross, but a larger part green, for the earth and your wallet.

If you’re looking for more information on cloth diapering, check out my friend Rachel’s blog over at Baby Blythe Blog. She is a cloth diapering phenom and has cracked the code of many cloth diapering challenges! I also frequently visit Kelly’s Closet for tips and trouble shooting. As I mentioned earlier, I'll share more information regarding the how of our cloth diaper routine in future blog posts.

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  1. Hi Sarah! I love your blog! I don't have an account, but this is cousin Megan! I didn't know you use cloth diapers! I began using cloth when Fiona was 2 weeks old, we use SoftBums and LOVE them! I also use cloth wipes. Jonathan's mother bought the diapers as a shower gift for us - such a blessing. We had newborn size disposables, too, and I wanted to wait until Fiona's cord fell off before using the cloth diapers (she was so small that the cloth diapers covered her cord). We ran out of disposables so quickly that I had to send Jonathan out to the store twice to get more during the first two weeks! He quickly started asking, "so when are you going to start using the cloth diapers?$$$"

    Anyway, I am very conscious about what comes into contact with Fiona's skin. I research before purchases, and also pick the brains of the docs I work with and other moms. I'd love your advice - what sunscreen and bug repellants do you recommend?

  2. Hi Megan! Thanks so much for reading the blog!! I could write several posts regarding the frustrations of trying to find chemical free options for kids - it should not be so hard!!
    For sun protection, I always try to keep Tatum covered up as much as possible and love the iplay brand for suits, hats and swim diapers. For sunscreen we use California Baby and it's worked well. I also like the Honest brand for sunscreen and you can get it at CostCo!
    For bug spray, we use Burt's Bees. It's oil based and I spray it on my hands and then rub it on Tatum's skin so she doesn't breathe it in and it doesn't get in her eyes. I've gotten a few bug bites when using it, but Tatum hasn't yet. Hopefully the Mosquitos just like me better and will stay away from her :) she also goes to bed early so isn't outside at night a lot, which helps.
    Hope this helps and if you have any good natural products or tips, I'd love to hear them!


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