Why Choose Cloth?
Cloth diapers are less expensive. It doesn't happen often that you can choose an environmentally-friendly product that will actually save you money! The average cost of disposable diapers is $2000-$3000 per child ranging from $0.30 to $0.45 per diaper. From birth to 3 years of age one child will use 5000-7000 diapers or more! Cloth diapers can cost you as low as $300 to approximately $1000 depending on what style you choose, how many you buy and whether you use a diaper service versus home laundering. Cloth diapers usually pay for themselves within a six month period. Afterwards, you are diapering for free! If you have more than one child, your savings are even greater since you can re-use the same cloth diapers. For example in a family of 3 children, the average savings of using cloth diapers can be as high as $5000 or more! This is even factoring the costs of water, hydro and detergent used to launder your own diapers. The estimated cost of one load of laundry is $0.44-$0.78 depending on how efficient your washer and dryer are. Even if you wash your diapers every 2-3 days you are still saving lots of money by choosing cloth.
Cloth diapers are easy. With today's new cloth diapers, no need to scrape poopy diapers and use wet pails. You can also choose to use biodegradable liners avoiding any rinsing of poopy diapers. Just take the liner, flush it down the toilet and throw your diaper in your pail liner. On laundry day just take your pail liner to the washer, turn it inside out and dump the diapers and the bag in the wash. No need to even touch the dirty diapers. What's an extra load of laundry every 2-3 days when you have a baby? You are already doing lots of laundry anyways! Besides, putting in a load of laundry is faster than having to run to the store to buy diapers because you are running low. Today's diapers also come with aplix (Velcro) and snap closures so no need to use safety pins. Use an All-In-One (AIO) diaper or a pocket diaper and they can be as easy as disposable, even for Daddy's and babysitters. The wide array of styles and colors make cloth diapering fun and extra cute on your baby's bottom!
For your baby
Cloth diapers are soft, comfortable and healthy for your baby. Today's cloth diapers are made from various materials such as milled fleece, hemp, bamboo and velour that make them the softest and most comfy for your baby. The materials are breathable and do not contain superabsorbent gels (sodium polyacrylate) or toxic chemicals such as dioxin that can be found in disposable diapers. Dioxin, a by-product of the paper-bleaching process, has been linked to cancers, birth defects, liver damage and skin diseases. Babies in cloth diapers are usually changed more often because it's easier to tell when they are wet. This usually results in less diaper rashes due to bacteria and ammonia coming in contact with the baby's skin. There is also evidence that the use of cloth diapers can lead to earlier potty-training since the child can actually feel when he or she is wet as opposed to when they are wearing extra-absorbent disposable diapers.
For the environment
Unlike what some people think, throwing away does not mean go away! Disposable diapers are the largest non-recyclable component of household garbage. One child from birth to 3 years of age will create approximately 3 tons of garbage if using disposable diapers! In Canada, approximately 4 million disposable diapers are discarded per day (1.6 billion per year)! Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of solid waste in landfills (after paper products and food containers) and may take up to 500 years to decompose. Even more worrisome is the human waste going into our landfills (which is actually prohibited by law). Instructions on disposable diaper packaging recommend shaking fecal matters into the toilet before disposing the diaper. This is rarely done. Although no evidence of contamination has ever been documented, the presence of live viruses and bacteria in the feces can live in landfills for years and could potentially contaminate drinking water. This is even more concerning in third-world countries where landfills aren't as well constructed. Manufacturing disposable diapers that are worn by over 90% of our babies require an excessive amount of resources such as tons of plastic and millions of trees as well as lots of energy. What about the water, energy and detergent we use to launder cloth diapers? Washing your own cloth diapers every 2-3 days uses about the same amount of water as a toilet-trained child or an adult flushing the toilet. You can also choose biodegradable detergents that do not contain phosphates. Waste water from laundering your own cloth diapers is far less harmful to the environment compared to the waste water from manufacturing disposable diapers which contain chemicals and heavy metals. Some cloth diapering companies are even offering organically grown, unbleached cotton diapers which are even friendlier to the environment than other cloth diaper choices. Think about it - 7000 diapers sitting in a landfill versus 24-36 cloth diapers being used for one child or more and sometimes even re-used as second-hands for other families or even as rags later on before they are finally thrown out. You decide which is better for the environment!
Martin, J.E., 1996. Environmental impact studies of the disposal of polyacrylate polymers used in consumer products, in The Science of the Total Environment, vol. 191 p. 225-234.
McConnell, J. The Joy of Cloth Diapering. Mothering Magazine, issue 88, May/June 1998