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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cloth vs. disposable? Does it matter?

Toddler in Chief has always worn cloth diapers. Sadly he is the only kid I know who wears cloth diapers. We have a diaper service and everything. It's great.

There are a lot of misconceptions about having cloth diapers and having a diaper service. First of all, people think there is more work. There is no extra work. I just take the dirty diapers off TIC and put them in the bin. I don't rinse them. I don't scrape off extra goodies. They just go in the bin. Then once a week, my super fabulous diaper service comes by and takes away the dirty ones and leaves a bag of clean ones. I don't have huge bags of extra garbage to throw away and I feel good because I'm not loading up the landfill with extra waste.

Some people also think that disposable diapers are actually *better* for the environment because use have to use soap and chlorine and water to wash cloth diapers. They fail to recognize that it takes water and energy and chemicals to create disposable diapers. Check out this chart that compares water and energy consumption for both types of diapers. Two days worth of diapers can be laundered in water equivalent to one toilet flush.

I also like that I know when TIC's diaper is dirty. With a disposable diaper you can't always tell. Plus, cotton diapers are super soft on his skin, which I like. Whenever we travel and TIC needs to wear disposable diapers, he always gets a horrible rash from all that plastic/elastic. Icky.

I don't usually get up on my horse in this matter, but sometimes I do feel self-righteous. But the other day I was out with my fantastic therapist friend. Her kid wears "green" disposable diapers, which TIC also wears occasionally. And she had a great point. Instead of getting down on other moms about what kind of diaper their kids wear, how about focusing our energy on ending the war, reducing poverty, bettering our schools.

Still, at least with the diapers, I feel like I can actually make a difference by not putting all that extra garbage in the landfills. All that other stuff? Well, I'm not sure how to have an impact on reducing poverty or increasing literacy. I feel helpless in those other areas, so I latch onto stuff that I can control in my own house. And I try not to judge other moms. Whatever gets us through the day.


  1. Anonymous5:25 PM

    It’s not a matter of getting down on moms who use disposables, it just if you use cloth diapers you know how great they are.

    The disposable diaper companies have done an amazing job of marketing and most people just assume cloth diapers are a lot of work -- I haven’t found it so. This from a mom who has been cloth diapering for two years without a diaper service (there no longer any in my town). It's just three extra loads a week and if you have your own washer & dryer it is less trouble than running out of diapers and having to make a trip to the grocery store late at night.

    And there are so many benefits

    - 1 - Lower incidence of diaper rash with cloth diapers. It may seem counter intuitive since disposables keep babies drier but studies show there's a lower incidence of diaper rash with cloth than with disposables. Interestingly, a study commissioned by Procter & Gamble showed diaper rash increases from 7.1% to 61% with the use of their products. (1)

    Statically there has been an increase in diaper rash that correlates with the increase use of disposables diapers: In 1955,100% of American babies wore cloth & 7% experienced diaper rash. In 1991, 90% of American babies wore disposables & 78% experienced diaper rash. (2)

    - 2 - Cloth diapers are much cheaper. You can save $1,000-$2,000 using cloth diapers

    - 3 - Cloth diapers don’t stink as much. The reason people buy these elaborate diaper pails is that there seems to be something about disposable that make them stink more. Ask any mom who has used both disposable & cloth.

    - 4 - The environmental issues – which you have already covered.

    The cloth diapers of today are not your Mom’s cloth diapers (or Grandma’s depending on your age). There is a dizzying array to chose from - Prefolds, Contoured Diapers, Fitted Diapers, All-In-Ones, Pocket Diapers, and One-Size Diapers. Most people who cloth diaper today never lay eye on a diaper pin. Cloth diapers may not be for everyone but with all the options to chose from today, folks should at least give them a chance.

    (1) Allison, Cathy. "Disposable Diapers: Potential Health Hazards.
    (2) Journal of Pediatrics 1959, Vol 54 pp. 793-800
    "Relationship of Peri-Anal Dermititis to Fecal pH" by Drs. Tamio, Steiner, Benjamin. and Clinical Pedriatrics May 1991, Vol 30, Department of Internal Medicine & Pedriatrics, Loyola University Medical Ctr. "Newborn Chemical Exposure from over-the-counter Skin-Care Products" by Drs. Cetta, Lambert, & Ross

  2. Instead of pins, we use Snappi Clips, which are super easy. They just grab onto the diaper and hold the diaper wherever we want--although one service we had said that we don't need any kind of clip or pin because the cover holds the diaper in place. We found that the clip helps contain things a little better. Also, everyone I tell about my diaper service is surprised at how inexpensive it is... I spend about $13 a week on diapers. (That does not include the the diaper covers that I've bought along the way, which last until TIC outgrows them). But if I did them at home, it would be even cheaper. I just think it's worth the money and we're fortunate enough (unlike Tammy) to have a service nearby.

  3. hey there, :)
    we cloth diaper too and have been since my dd was born. we had a diaper service for the 1st month (grandma paid for it) and then bought dipes and have been washing them myself ever since. i don't think it's a big deal at all (not much work), and like you, i feel good about not adding even more trash to the landfills.
    it's frustrating to me how many ppl just assume that cloth diapering is such a PITA.
    anyway, kudos to you for cding. it may not end poverty or stop the war, but i think that every baby that's cloth diapered does make a difference. :)

  4. Anonymous1:47 PM

    We've been using cloth diapers since our son was born in 2002 and we LOVE them. We've bought all sorts of types - velcro covers, all in ones, you name it. And now our daughter uses them. We tried the service for a couple of months but had so many problems with their delivery and pick up that we turned to our own washer & dryer and it's so easy. I also notice that diaper rashes decreased with cloth too!