Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

HOT TOPIC - Cloth Versus Disposable Diapers

A friend of mine, Gwenn, does Hot Topic discussions on her blog. I am joining in as a "guest blogger" and doing the Hot Topic this week: Cloth vs Disposable Diapers. Well, cloth versus disposable versus gdiapers. Please join in on the discussion by leaving a comment (or more - especially after seeing what others have to say). There is one big rule we all need to adhere to: use your NICE WORDS. These can get pretty heated because people have different opinions. It's fine to voice your opinion even if it's different, and it's encouraged. But we all need to be nice. With that said, here we go!!!

With my first son (nine and a half years ago), I never questioned using disposable diapers. It was just a given. I didn't consider how much waste was being produced and what I was adding to the landfills. Or what was IN the diapers and, therefore, going against my son's bum all day long. When I got pregnant this time around, I was in a different place and doing a lot of things differently - I was more green, to say the least. So, when I heard about gdiapers, I was immediately sold! These are a mix between cloth and disposable - an outer cloth pant with a snap-in waterproof liner (not plastic!) and then flushable (yes, flushable! or even compostable!!) inserts. The insert is the "disposable" part - you can toss them, too. They decompose within a couple months, whereas a disposable diaper takes more than 500 years. Anyway, we used these right away with our new baby that was born in August - left the hospital with them on him. And we've never gone back.

We have gone a little farther, though. We now use cloth inserts that a lady makes to fit the g's (here is her website in case you're curious - you know you are!). I never would have thought I would be using cloth diapers, but here I am loving it. We use the g's with cloth during the day and BumGenius cloth diapers at night (since he pees a lot but we don't change during the nighttime - they hold a lot and keep him dry). I am happy to say that we have not bought him any disposable diapers - oh, wait - we have. We bought one package of Seventh Generation diapers when he was first born, as a backup to the g's since they were a new concept and to use during those middle of the night changes that happen with every feeding with a newborn (so that we didn't need to have a light on to change the "new" diapers). We didn't even use the whole package.

So, here are some of my thoughts on the cloth versus disposable debate.... And in case you're wondering, I lump g's in with the cloth side b/c they do have a cloth component, the flushables are, well, flushable and decompose so much quicker than typical disposable, and - we use cloth in the gdiapers...

Cost - Disposables are not cheap, we all can admit to that! Cloth has a big start-up cost, but that's about it. Yes, you have to wash them, which uses money, but we use an energy efficient washer/dryer, so it doesn't factor in as a higher cost with us. Once you have a supply of cloth, there is no more cost. It can be a couple to a few hundred dollars for the cloth supply versus a couple thousand dollars for disposables.

Baby's Skin - Ok, another argument is that cloth is better for baby's bottom. Disposables have chemicals and plastics in them. Cloth does not (and you can get organic, if that suits you). Many say babies in cloth get less rashes. I don't know about this myself b/c my little one gets rashes very easily - but he has had skin issues since birth and has eczema, so it's not because of the type of diapers. (Though I wonder if it would be worse in disposables with all those chemicals - I can't see how that is good for the skin.) BUT many people (not accusing anybody but this is what I have heard and seen) think that b/c disposables are made to keep baby feeling dry, they can leave the diaper on longer. With cloth, that's not an option. I actually change diapers more often in cloth - more than many would do - b/c of his skin issues. But since I'm using cloth and it just adds a couple other diapers to the laundry load (that I would be washing anyway), it doesn't cost me more to change more often. It would with disposables. And when disposables are kept on baby longer - even if they feel dry, they still have urine up against their skin for longer, which exposes them to bacteria and other things that cause rashes and infections.

Environmental Impact - This is a BIG one for many that use cloth. Disposable diapers contribute an enormous amount to our landfills, and they take over 500 YEARS to decompose. Cloth is a greener option b/c you reuse them. You can even use the supply from one child for other children you may later have. Some say that once you factor in the use of water/energy to wash the cloth, using cloth isn't much better than disposables from a "green" standpoint. But this isn't necessarily true, especially if you use an energy efficient washer/dryer. Then you are certainly not using enough water/energy to make that a good argument.

The poop - Ok, ok - cloth can be messy. I know you're thinking that. BUT I don't see this as a great argument against cloth. While baby is exclusively breastfed (I don't know as much about formula fed b/c mine does not get formula), you simply throw the poopy diapers in with the others and wash - there is nothing to get out of the cloth b/c it (sorry if this is gross, but we ARE talking diapers here) is runny and is absorbed into the cloth. Now, once baby is on solids, there is "real" poop, and you can't throw that in the wash, no. Some "swish" it in the toilet to get it off. We have a diaper sprayer, so we touch no poop. Spray and throw in the diaper pail with the others. Simple. Now - disposable diapers... If you read the directions, you really are supposed to put the poop into the toilet before throwing out the diaper. You are not supposed to put human waste into the garbage. But who does this?? If you use disposables, do you shake out the poop and flush it down? Or do you wrap up the diaper, poop and all, and toss? I have never seen anyone flush it before throwing out the dipe. If you do, GREAT! But I've never witnessed it. Allowing the fecal matter to get into the trash takes it into landfills, where it will sit. And the bacteria and possible viruses can live in the landfills for a long time and possibly contaminate water supplies.

Laundry - Another one that many people seem to think is a good argument. You'll be doing so much laundry if you use cloth. No fun. Well, not-so-much. If you have a baby, you know you are already doing a TON of laundry. Probably every other day or so. We do. So, what is another load along with that? I wash the diapers every three days, at least. It's simply one other load to do, and it's not a lot of work. Dump the diapers in the washer (I don't have to touch them b/c they're in a lined bag, so I just push them out from the bottom of the bag and throw in the bag, as well), do the wash, put them in the dryer, and then fold. Whoop-de-do, right? :) I feel that it takes just as much time to do this as it would to have to go buy diapers and take them out to the trash when the pail is full of dirties. And I spend no time trying to find coupons or the best deal on diapers. I know if I used disposable, this would be another effort I would have to make. If you really aren't into the laundering thing, another option is using a diaper service. This would still cost less than using disposables, from what I understand.

Another issue with laundry is what to launder with, as in detergent. You can't just use any ol' detergent and you can't use fabric softeners. They coat the cloth and will prevent absorbancy. We have looked into this some and use the same detergent for all of our laundry (and it's one that's better for the environment than most typical detergents). We use Country Save and love it so far. We also cut out using fabric softeners and use dryer balls. So the detergent issue isn't really an issue for us b/c we found something that works for the diapers and everything else. Just thought I would mention in case some people were thinking they would have to use a separate detergent for the diapers (which I guess I'm saying you kinda do). Also, the detergent we use is cheaper than most. We bought a case from Amazon and got a two-three years' supply for $40 (when using subscribe and save), free shipping - not bad. This stuff is better for the environment and better for us anyway, especially with both boys having eczema - and Aiden's being pretty bad and easily aggravated.

Potty Training - Ahhhhh...potty training. I haven't experienced this with a child that has been in cloth diapers yet, but it is said that babes in cloth potty train earlier. They feel wet when they go in the cloth, unlike when they wear disposables. Now, when my older child was potty training, I will say that I did NOT use pull-ups. In my opinion, they are just disposables that pull up instead of fasten with tabs. I did use cloth trainers. And he was trained in NO time. Seriously.

gDiapers - I haven't really said much about these like I meant to. So, I'll just write a little bit here. G's are kind of the best of both worlds - disposable inserts with cloth pants and a waterproof (that is not plastic so it is breathable) liner. About 18 BILLION diapers go into landfills each year, taking about 500 years to break down. gDiapers take just a couple months to break down. There is an obvious and significant difference there. And there are no plastics, chemicals, chlorine, perfumes, etc. Oh - and no diaper smell!! I mean, if you flush the insert with all the pee and poop down the toilet, you have no diapers sitting around, and therefore...no smell. (I can honestly say, though, that the only time I smell any "diaper smell" from using cloth is when I open the pail to take out the bag of diapers to put them in the laundry - and really, I can hold the bag closed and barely smell a thing!) Some people say that gdiapers are more expensive, but I would have to disagree. They are actually about the same. The cost of disposables goes up with the size changes (I can't remember if the dollar amt per package goes up or if the amount of diapers in the package goes down, but the cost per diaper does increase.) With g's, there are two sizes of inserts - small and med/large. After all things are considered, the cost is very similar. And from what I hear, the cost of disposables is going up lately. The cost of g's is not. (Plus, if you use cloth.....well, then the cost definitely does not increase.)

Oh, and we use cloth wipes, too! We actually just bought some microfiber cloths (from Target - in the automotive department, of all places!). They were really cheap and do a great job. So, one more thing we never have to shop for. And we don't have to worry about all the things they put in disposable wipes. This wasn't something we planned on doing (whereas the diapers were planned). Our little one had some skin issues when he was born, and we didn't want anything to contribute and possibly make things worse, especially while we were still going through all the tests to find out what was going on. So, it was a very easy decision for us to eliminate any possible skin irritants, such as the disposables and wipes.

OK, so I think that's the majority of my argument. You might say I'm a little biased. ;) And I think my baby's bottom would agree with me. Plus, cloth diapering is just CUTE! Case in point...

Now, it's your turn. Say what you think BUT keep it clean and keep it nice. And be sure to read others' comments and comment again, if you would like.