Not Your Grandmother's Diapers
I like the cloth diapers with Velcro closures.
A little over three years ago, when my daughter was expecting her first child, she told me she was planning to use cloth diapers. I was surprised. Why would you go back in time and use cloth diapers when there was the convenience of disposable diapers? I associated cloth diapers with soggy, leaking diapers and mountains of laundry. Now, three years into grandparenting and cloth diapers, and expecting the second grandchild, I know so much more about the benefits of using cloth diapers. These are the main reasons people choose to use cloth diapers:
As a person who is very environmentally responsible in other areas of her life, my daughter was disturbed to think of throwing thousands of diapers into a landfill where it is estimated they take hundreds of years to decompose. An average child will use about 7,000 diapers before they are potty trained, leaving a big carbon footprint! There are some eco-friendly diapers, but they do cost considerably more, approximately 70 cents per diaper, as opposed to 20 cents per regular disposable diaper. They are also more difficult to find in local stores, making midnight emergency diaper runs a little more challenging.
Disposable diapers contain chemicals placed next to the baby’s skin, a critical factor for babies with sensitive skin. One of the ingredients used in disposable diapers is sodium polyacrylate, used to absorb fluid and prevent leakage in diapers. This is the same chemical removed from tampons due to concerns about toxic shock syndrome. Because it’s only been used in diapers for the last twenty years, there is no research on the long-term health effects for babies. Some of the other potentially dangerous chemicals frequently used in disposable diapers include dioxin, tributyl-tin, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene and dipentenedyes, fragrances, plastics and petrolatums.
The necessary initial investment for cloth diapering is anywhere from 150 dollars for a minimum supply to 500 dollars for a full stash of all-in-one diapers. The average age for a child to be potty trained is 30 months, which means at least 1,400 dollars spent on disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are tough enough to be used for second and maybe even third children, so the initial investment for cloth diapering is well worth it.
Thank goodness my oldest grandchild is now three years old and potty trained. Despite my initial reservations about cloth diapering, I came to believe in the advantages of it over disposable diapers. I admit I kept a stash of disposable diapers at my house, and there were times I fell back on the convenience of them. But most of the time, my grandson wore cloth diapers. Because I have some arthritis in my hands, I prefer diapers with Velcro closures.
With a new grandbaby on the way, the cloth diapers will be in use again soon. However, it’s recommended you wait at least two weeks or until the umbilical cord heals before you start using the cloth diapers. Cloth diapers are usually too big until the baby is about a month old.
My daughter couldn’t resist a few new diapers for her daughter, due in October!
Cleaning Cloth Diapers
Part of my hesitation about cloth diapering was the thought of all the logistics and the amount of work involved. I parented during the heyday of disposable diapers and loved the ease and convenience. All I could picture was loads of stinky laundry, but it didn’t turn out to be as difficult as I had imagined. This is the process:
- Unless a baby is exclusively breastfed, rinse off the solids (there is a special rinse attachment you can buy for this purpose) into the toilet.
- Put diapers in an open pail or bag; there are special wet bags designed for this purpose. It is suggested that you wash at least every other day.
- It’s recommended that you do a pre-wash to remove soil before the main wash.
- Because fabric softener can cause repelling that decreases absorbency, it is recommended you choose a detergent without fabric softener. Most mainstream detergents are fine, but if you are aiming for earth friendly, Seventh Generation, Amway, Sun or other eco-friendly detergents should work fine.
- Line drying can reduce energy use and lessen the wear and tear on diapers but can lead to stiff natural fabrics. You can throw it all in the dryer or line dry the covers and machine dry the inserts for softness.
My preconceived ideas of cloth diapering were not valid. The entire process has changed for the better, and I’m now entirely on board with cloth diapering. The revival of cloth diapering is perfect for a cost-conscious, environmentally aware, and pro-active health-conscious generation of parents.
A great online resource for information about cloth diapering is fluffloveuniversity.com.