- Saves You Money – You will save thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars. I’ve read a couple different estimates, but it seems that a conservative estimate is that your baby will go through 6,000 diapers in just the first two years. That means that even if you buy the cheap Pampers brand Super Value pack (104 diapers) each time, you will still spend roughly $1,442, plus tax. That does not include gas to get to the store, diaper genie refills, wipes, diaper rash cream, or any other diaper accessories. In my case, I bought 70 diapers with inserts for around $420.00. This is more than double what I could have gotten away with for one child. I have smalls, mediums, one-sizes, etc. and several different brands. I could easily diaper 3 children of varying ages simultaneously. I could have several more children and not ever buy another diaper again. Instead of $1,442/child, I can diaper children for the next ten years for $420 total. That’s just the beginning of the savings:I bought all-in-ones (the cloth version of a disposable diaper) and pocket diapers, which are similar. They are also more expensive than pre-folds (like the ones your grandmother used) which can run on $1 – $3 each. I didn’t want to deal with folding and wanted optimal absorbency so I did not get any pre-folds, but if I had I could have saved even more money.I do not have to waste any money on Diaper Genie refills. One pack costs about $6/pack and comes with 270 bags, which means at the very least you’re spending $135, plus tax, in the first two years on tiny plastic bags to put your dirty diapers in. I would rather spend that $135 on groceries or gas, but that’s just one person’s opinion. Instead, I use reusable wet bags. Kanga Care bags are my favorite for when I’m running to the store or even up to the the cabin for the weekend. They’re small enough to fit in my diaper bag, but large enough to use as my “diaper pail” when we’re out of town. They can be thrown in the wash with the cloth diapers and they are smell-proof. I’ve never had any problems and I use them every day. I also love the colors and prints. They’re great for storing wet clothes and swimsuits too so you’ll be using them long after you’re done with diapers. Check out their site here. Additionally, I use a Planet Wise antibacterial pail liner. It fits any pail, doesn’t leak, and can also be washed with the diapers. It was $16.50 (compared to the $135.00 +) and after almost 9 months of continuous use, is still not showing any signs of wear such as stains or stress on the seams. Check out their products here.
I do not need to use diaper cream (see #3) which runs approximately $13 for one 16 oz canister (best value).
Finally, there’s the resale value. I was able to get my more expensive diapers so cheap because I was willing to buy them used. I bought three large lots off Craigslist and a handful of others at garage sales. I only bought those in new or like-new condition (some were still in their packaging!) and then stripped them (lots of different methods for this process online) so they were completely sanitized for my baby. Even if I had bought them new, it would still be cheaper than disposables, but then I really wouldn’t have seen a big difference in savings until my second child. After several months of use, they still look like they did when I bought them. They hold up incredibly well. The waste has not stained the insides and therefore when I am done with them I may be able to resell them (for a very cheap price, but nonetheless). This means I could recoup some of my money, even though I already saved thousands of dollars.
- No Blowouts – My friends who use disposable diapers always have a “one-upper” story about the latest diaper explosion. They lament about having to clean the sheets, the carpets, their clothes, the couch, the walls, the dog, etc. after a major blowout. I’ve often heard stories that end with, “It was all the way up his back!” That sounds awful, but fortunately I don’t have to deal with that. It’s rare to even have a leak, much less a blowout. Many cloth diaper have tighter gussets, even in the back, and they’re also far more absorbent. Additionally, many can be adjusted to fit your baby better so their messes stay where they belong – inside their diaper.
- No Diaper Rash – No, seriously. My little one is almost nine months old and has never had a case of diaper rash. Cloth diapers with inserts such as microfiber keep baby much dryer, preventing rashes. They also aren’t made with chlorine and other harsh chemicals that are found in disposables, so they won’t irritate baby’s skin. This will save you headaches and money spent on diaper rash creams. In fact, if your child does develop a rash while wearing cloth diapers, it’s most likely caused by a food allergy. This is especially helpful because you may be able to identify the food causing this reaction earlier than you would if the baby was wearing disposables.
- More Convenient – Have you ever noticed that you’re always down to your last diaper at the worst time? Now you need to plan a special trip to the store just for diapers. This can be a incredibly inconvenient, especially if you’re on a tight schedule. With cloth diapers, you will never run out. You will always have diapers in your house. Simply toss a load in the washer when you start getting low and voila, you’re all set! That’s far more convenient and less stressful than having to pack up the kids for an emergency trip to Target.
- No Harmful Chemicals – Check the box next time you’re buying disposables. They’re loaded with chemicals such as endocrine (hormone) disrupters, cancer-causing agents, chlorine, bleach, dyes (which often cause diaper rash), fragrances, and the list just keeps going. One study found that brands such as Huggies and Pampers release chemicals that can cause or exacerbate asthmatic symptoms because they are toxic to the respiratory tract. Another study correlated the super absorbent diapers to urinary tract infections in girls. This is only the tip of the iceberg, people. I cannot speak for anyone else, but cancer and asthma causing chemicals are not something I want to be smearing on my baby’s skin for the first few years of their life. Cloth diapers are really the only toxin-free option.
- Baby Potty Trains Faster – It’s true! Children who wear cloth diapers tend to become potty trained earlier than their disposable wearing counterparts. The main reason seems to be because babies can feel the initial wetness when wearing cloth diapers, which teaches them cues. Babies wearing disposables cannot feel the wetness because it gets absorbed so fast. A 2004 study found that using disposable diapers is detrimental to toilet training, not just because of the decreased sensation of wetness, but also because they promote a lack social detection of accidents and because they require less effort to urinate. Cloth diapers can shave months or even a year or more off of toilet training in babies!
- Always Have the Right Size – Ever buy new box of diapers and then your little one hits a growth spurt? Now the diapers don’t fit correctly and you are left with two options: try to force them to fit and deal with the leaks and blowouts that ensue, or cut your losses and go buy a whole new box in a larger size. I have a range of one-size diapers that, with a little bit of effort, can be adjusted to fit a newborn up to a three-year old. I just tighten/loosen the gussets around the legs and waist of the diaper accordingly. All of my diapers, even those that are small, medium, and large as opposed to one-size can still be adjusted with the snaps in the front to accommodate a range of sizes. Therefore, I’ve never had to deal with ill-fitting diapers. Once I realize she’s grown, I just begin adjusting the gussets or snaps accordingly. The diapers always fit!
- Better for the Environment – Remember the estimate above of needing at least 6,000 diapers in the first two years? Well, that adds up to about 1 ton (that’s 2,000 lbs, or three small adult elephants) of waste that ends up in our landfills per baby! Additionally, each diaper takes about 500 years to decompose (Margulis, 2010). That’s crazy amounts of waste that is completely preventable! Not only are my 70 cloth diapers far less than the 6,000 plus you need per child. I can use them with multiple children. I could have 10 kids and not put a single diaper in our landfills!
Next, I challenge you to read whatever box of disposable diapers you have in your home. I can almost guarantee you will find a warning somewhere telling you to put solid waste in the toilet before throwing the diaper away. That’s right, you’re not supposed to just throw away soiled disposable diapers, even though you’ve probably never seen anyone actually follow this rule. Fecal matter is a bio-hazardous material and can contain anything from diseases, harmful bacteria, and even antibiotics. Once dumped in a landfill, it can seep into the soil and further contaminate our environment, including our drinking water. If the solid waste is flushed down the toilet, it instead ends up at the appropriate treatment plant. Using cloth diapers prevents any more fecal matter from ending up in our landfills.
As aforementioned, Diaper Genie sells its consumers refills on little plastic bags to put soiled diapers in. By using cloth diapers, imagine the thousands of little plastic bags you’re not just tossing in a landfill where they’ll sit for hundreds of years!
If you’re looking to further reduce your footprint, you can line dry your diapers, which some brands call for anyway. Additionally, putting the diapers in the sun helps to bleach them and get rid of any stains inside the diapers, so that’s two birds with one stone!
Finally, there is the argument that cotton, which is found in many cloth diapers and their inserts, may use a lot of water to produce. Many brands are turning to hemp, bamboo, and other renewable resources to create their diapers that use less water to create. Check out individual brands to see what materials are available!
- Absorbency Control – Some parents prefer the all-in-one diapers over the pocket diapers because there are no extra steps involved. The all-in-ones function just like a disposable diaper. The pocket diapers must have soakers, or pads, stuffed in to their pocket (hence the name) before each use. I know that this extra step seems tedious, but I really like it because I can control the absorbency. When my little one was a newborn, she had a much smaller bladder and so I used a thin, short soaker in her pocket diaper. As she has grown, so has her bladder. I had to start using a thicker soaker, then two soakers, and now bigger soakers, etc. When she goes to bed, I put an extra soaker in her diaper so that she is still dry when she gets up in the morning. This is one reason why she has not had diaper rash before. I can stuff the pockets according to her needs or how long it might be between changes, or even as a preventative measure when we’re somewhere nice, such as a wedding, and I want to make sure she doesn’t soak through onto her dress. You can’t do that with a disposable diaper!
- Cute Prints – This is not the most practical benefit, but it is the most fun. You can build a wardrobe of beautiful colors and fun prints. The sky is the limit! Your baby’s diapers can compliment your child’s outfit and are cute enough eliminate the need for diaper covers.
Alberta, L., Sweeney, S., Wiss, K. (2005). Diaper dye dermatitus. Pediatrics, 116(3), e450-e452. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2004-2066
Anderson, R. C., & Anderson, J. H. (1999). Acute respiratory effects of diaper emissions. Archives Of Environmental Health, 54(5), 353-358.
Fahimzad, A., Taherian, M., Dalirani, R., & Shamshiri, A. (2010). Diaper type as a risk factor in urinary tract infection of children. Iranian Journal Of Pediatrics, 20(1), 97-100.
Margulis, J. (2010). Diaper diva. Oregon Business Magazine, 33(4), 10.
Tarbox, R. F., Williams, W. L., & Friman, P. C. (2004). Extended diaper wearing: Effects on continence in and out of the diaper. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37(1), 97-100.