Disposable diapers may be easier to use than clothe diapers, but they cause more harm to our babies’ bums and to our environment. Our babies’ skin is sensitive, but the chemicals used to whiten the disposable diapers are similar to bleach and they irritate the skin of our babies. The same goes for the chemical that causes the diapers to be so absorbent. The chemical (sodium polyacrylate) becomes a gel when in contact with liquids, which is why you feel a gel-like substance in the lining of the soiled disposable diaper.
Did you know that diaper manufacturers are not obligated by law to disclose the products they are using? Recently a lawsuit has been filed against Pampers as their new Dry Max system has caused some serious chemical burns to the skin of some babies. Xylene and ethyl benzene are also emitted by disposable diapers, and are suspected to be endocrine, neurological and respiratory toxins. In a 1999 study on mice, some diaper brands were found to cause respiratory problems to the mice exposed.
Here is the link to an article giving information on the effects of disposable diapers on your baby’s health. I bet you will be considering going back to using moss bags after reading this!
The health of our children is our priority, but the health of our planet is also in jeopardy. The quantity of disposable diapers thrown away in the garbage will soon take over our land if we do not change our ways. Twenty billion disposable diapers are dumped in landfills each year, adding up to 3,5 million tons of waste. Remember that disposable diapers are not degradable – they just sit there! A disposable diaper is used for 5 hours but takes 200 to 500 years to partially decompose. Do you ever wonder what archeologists will think of our civilization when they dig up tons of disposable diapers???
When my fourth baby was born 8 years ago, I dedicated myself to using cloth diapers. They are now available in very cute patterns. The models are easy to use and very comfortable. It was actually quite pleasant to web shop for the models I preferred. I opted to order 1 or 2 diapers of different models so I could try them out before I ordered the quantity I needed. It was important to me that they be made in Quebec. At that time I had very few companies to choose from, but now, almost 10 years later, many more local companies offer nice models. Here is a link that presents different models, although few of the companies presented here are from Quebec; most are from the rest of Canada:
For those comfortable with the French language, here is a great web site that lists all the Quebec cloth diaper manufacturers and presents all the different cloth choices and some good tips.
If you do decide to use cloth diapers, it is generally recommended that you buy 24 diapers for a younger baby and 18 diapers for babies 6 months and over. With this quantity, you would need to do one wash every 2 to 3 days. In a full kit, you should find the cloth diapers, a few plastic covers, cloth absorbent pads, a roll of biodegradable paper lining and a diaper pail. You might want to purchase a few all-in-one diapers for outings. A full kit would cost approximately 450$. Add to this around 50$ per year for electricity and you would spend a total of 500$. Also, you would only travel once to buy them. In comparison, you will be spending 1 500 to 2 500$ for disposable diapers (according to the type and format used) and you will need to travel weekly to purchase them. You should also consider that you will be able to reuse the cloth diapers for your other children and you can pass them on to other mothers when you are done with them.
Is it difficult to use cloth diapers?
The new styles of cloth diapers are much easier to use than the older ones were. Personally, I enjoyed using them until my baby started to grow up and have more and more abundant smelly stools. Breastfed babies have very neutral smelling stools, so there is nothing gross about changing a diaper until they start to eat solids. :)
Washing a load of diapers once every 2 to 3 days is not a problem at all and you can ask a grandma or a friend to help out. In the summer, it was very pleasant to hang the diapers on the cloth line to be dried and bleached by the sun.
Here is how a typical cloth diaper routine might go:
When your baby is ready to be changed:
- Wipe his behind with the paper lining and flush it in the toilet bowl with its content.
- Wash your baby’s genital and bum area with a washcloth and warm soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
- Place an already-prepared cloth diaper (with pad and lining inside) on your baby and add the plastic cover over it.
Once your baby is safely in someone’s arms, in a crib or in another safe place close to you, then…
- Take the soiled diaper and rinse it well. If it contains stools, you might want to wipe the stool off with a toilet paper before rinsing it.
- Wring the excess water out of the diaper.
- Place the diaper in the soiled diaper pail (no soap, no bleach, no vinegar, no water…).
When the pail is full, or whenever you see you are going to be low on diapers…
- Place the diapers in the washer.
- Do a quick rinse cycle.
- Do a wash cycle with a very soft soap (diaper manufacturers usually recommend to best soap to use for their diapers). Some mothers also add a quarter cup of vinegar.
- Do another quick rinse cycle.
- Then, ideally, dry them outside on a bright sunny day. The sun bleaches out all stains! You can also air-dry them at home or in the dryer (but you might check with the manufacturer to make sure the diapers are pre-shrunk).
- Fold your diapers neatly and get them ready for your little one to use again!
Some tips that I found useful
- When folding your diapers, sort the linings, absorbent pads and diapers in different piles near your changing table and set them up all ready to be used.
- Always make one or two with added absorbent pads for nighttime sleep or a longer nap period.
- Always have some all-in-one diapers in your diaper bag for when you go on outings with your baby. The all-in-one diapers have the pads, the cloth diaper and the plactic cover sown in together, like a disposable diaper.
- Always keep some baby powder scented little bags (sold at most baby stores) in your diaper bag. You can put the soiled diapers in there until you get back home. P.S. never forget them overnight… lol
- Some diaper manufacturers make super absorbent wool pads and diapers. Those can be used for longer periods. The wool absorbs all liquids. Leaks are impossible with those! Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying. Wool diapers are magic but they take some specific care. They are also very expensive!
- Never worry about stains. I have seen the worst looking stains disappear with exposure to the sun while drying. P.S. The sun will not work its magic if the diapers are dry before you expose them.
Take it from me, you will feel good using cloth diapers. You will know you are taking care of your baby and of the land he will be living all his life on.