Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I like Cloth Diapers

I promised a post a while ago about why I like cloth diapers. So here goes...

1. I'm doing my bit for the environment.
OK so there's actually been some debate about this. There was a British study which suggested that using cloth might not actually be better for the environment than disposables which was widely cited as a reason not to feel bad about disposables. As I understand it, the argument went that the amount of water/energy needed to make a single disposable was about the same as it took to wash a single cloth diaper. Cloth diapering advocates around the world complain that the study wasn't fair - it made unreasonable assumptions about the washing habits of cloth using parents, had them tumble drying their diapers, using old fashioned terry toweling, and basically didn't survey enough of them to get a real answer... I still don't know what to make of the study. But I still think that using cloth has to be better for the environment than disposables. I'm happy that my daughter's disposable landfill pile is so much smaller than the average.

2. It saves money.
This is undeniable. There is a large initial outlay, but then you're pretty much set, especially if you get one-size/expandable versions. You can even use them for future children.

3. It's got to be more comfortable. Paper vs. cloth on your bottom. I rest my case.

4. Cloth diapers are cool. OK on this one maybe I'm a bit weird, but cloth diapers are pretty cool. The ones I like are one-size and have worked well since my daughter was 1 month old until now (22 months) which I think is a testament to great design. They come in lots of different colours, and just look better than disposables. In the summer little one can sleep just in a diaper and t-shirt and looks adorable. They use all sorts of super modern ultra-absorbent but quick drying cloth too. I just love the collision of an "old fashioned" method with new materials.

5. It's supposed to speed up potty training. The theory goes that because the cloth isn't quite as absorbent as a modern disposable the child feels more when they wee and so is potty trained sooner. Sounds good to me. :)

So why don't more people use cloth? I'm not really sure as you might guess, but here are some downsides I have found:

1. They're a bit bulky. Those tailored toddler jeans might not fit (why does a little girl toddler need tailored jeans though?). Sometimes I buy up a size in clothing.

2. You have to wash them and possibly assemble them. You can see by a previous post that sometimes this is a bit of work. More on that later. But we don't have to buy a stack of disposables every time we go to the supermarket, so we gain there... The kind we have need to have the absorbent bit taken out for washing, then stuffed back in. This is a bit tedious - but you can get versions which don't need this - and I generally do it in front of the TV.

3. Poop is scary. I would argue it shouldn't be for any parent, but I think some people just don't like the idea of dealing with poopy cloth diapers. We have flushable liners now we have a toddler which work well most of the time (breast milk poop is water soluble and can just be put in the wash with everything else). There are those occasional loose poops though which are a bit nasty, but I assume no worse than disposable blow outs.

4. You can't buy them in the supermarket. But you don't need to buy them all the time, so all the online stores actually work very well.

5. The initial cost is high. But you can slowly build up you stash of cloth diapers and use disposables to fill in between washes. Soon you will think disposables are a huge waste of money. :)

So here's my guide to cloth diapering. You can find a wealth of information on the internet so it's going to be brief.

1. Don't panic when you read about all the different kinds (prefolds, pockets, all-in-ones etc.) and all the acronyms (AIO, WAHM) and brand names. If you want things that work like disposables you want either pockets or all-in-ones. The difference is that pockets you stuff with the absorbent stuff (into a pocket!) so you can alter the bulkiness/absorbency, while all-in-ones have that done for you.

2. Start slow. Just buy a couple and see how you like them. It's OK to use a combination of cloth and disposable. We still do. I's also OK to have lots of different kinds of cloth. We mostly have one kind (BumGenius One-Sized) but that's just because when trying others I've never found one I like better.

3. Take a break if you get stressed out. It's OK to stop and start. Have a break when things seem too much, then go back to it. OK this kills some of the cost savings, but you still make out as long as you use them more than once or twice!

Ironically I'm writing this today with a daughter in disposables at daycare. Our washing machine broke. It took one diaper before it sank in and we realized that this meant we should stop with the cloth until it was fixed. Cloth diapering and doing washing at the launderette is a little too much for us! Hopefully the machine will get fixed tomorrow and we'll be back on track, but actually I'm thinking of taking a break over Christmas anyway what will all the travel and family visits. And the excitement of the week - little one pooped in her potty. So maybe we'll be starting to phase all this out soon anyway.


Julia Schopick said...

I am glad to see that you are a fan of cloth diapers. (And by the way, I wonder who funded the British study you referenced. It would be really interesting to find out!)

But have you ever thought about the WASTE that is caused by using disposable menstrual products -- which are used once, then tossed into the environment?

Keeper.com has recently posted a new Comparison Photo Page, which actually SHOWS (IN PICTURES) the amount of waste caused by ONE WOMAN'S tampon use in one month, one year, ten years, and forty years. (We based our photos on 18 tampons used per month, and calculated that most women menstruate for approximately 40 years.)

Please take a look at these photos:
http://www.keeper.com/photographs.html .

I think you’ll be shocked to see how much WASTE is created by using tampons. And I also think you'll agree with me that these 4 photos are worth AT LEAST A THOUSAND WORDS!

I hope you and your site visitors will enjoy looking at these photos. (Or maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word! The photos are really horrifying in the amount of waste they show.)

PS: We are in the process of putting together the figures for menstrual pad use.

Thanks for taking a look!
Julia Schopick
The Keeper, Inc.

PS: The Keeper, Inc., is the manufacturer of The Keeper Reusable Menstrual Cup. With proper care, one Keeper can last UP TO TEN YEARS. That’s quite something. (For those women who would rather use menstrual pads, there are reusable pads, as well. For an example, see www.GladRags.com .)

Astronomum said...

Thanks for the comment. Actually using cloth nappies did make me rethink this area too. I have found mixed success with the Diva Cup which sounds a bit similar to the product you're advertising here.

The study I mention was by the British Environmental Agency which I think is a government funded agency. The report did have authors from both disposable nappy companies and cloth nappy companies. Never-the-less they seem to have really missed the boat by ignoring all the recent advances in cloth nappies and sticking to the traditional terry towel version.