I just finished reading a column in Parents Magazine about cloth diapering. Sigh. Here it is.

Rather than go through, point by point and illustrate the many, many, MANY ways the author is wrong, oh, so very wrong, I figured I’d just write my own little article.

I started cloth diapering mainly for the cost benefits. Anyone with two butts to cover knows that buying disposables can get pricey fast. We were spending about $120 a month on the cheapest disposables you can find. So when Alice was about 4 months, I’d had it. I ordered my first set of cloth diapers.

I loved them immediately. It took a few tries to get the kinks worked out, though. After reading through a few websites for various ways to put a prefold on a baby, I had perfected my own version. Other folds are called fun things like “bikini twist” and “jelly roll fold.” I like to call my version the “wad and hope.” (Hope the poo doesn’t explode out the sides.) But after playing around with them for a few days, I discovered the best way to bum-cover. I can now change a prefold as fast as I ever could with a disposable. (Bonus: I never have that oh-so-aggravating feeling of ripping the velcro tab off the diaper and making it useless.)

I’ve talked before about how cloth diapering was the catalyst that started this whole green-living thing. I began thinking about how the disposables impact the environment. Every baby in disposables will put approximately 6,000 diapers in a landfill. (Well, their moms and dads will.) Did you know that you are supposed to flush the poo from disposables? And that most people don’t actually do this. In fact, every year, five million TONS of baby crap is put into landfills via disposable diapers. Um….ew. Of course, it doesn’t actually STAY in landfills. No, it has a most unsettling habit of leaking out and contaminating our ground water supply. Yummy. Just what you want to think about when you settle down with a nice tall glass of water, huh?

I like to think that these so-called “disposables” aren’t actually disposable at all. They have to go somewhere, and it’s somewhere pretty permanent. A disposable diaper can take around 500 years to decompose. Of course, if it’s locked inside a plastic bag, and in some cases, two plastic bags…well, you do the math.

And it’s not just the landfills that are impacted. There have been studies (conveniently conducted by disposable diaper companies) that have “proven” that cloth diapers have just as much of an impact on the environment as disposables. Pshaw, I say!

Anyone with common sense can see that is not true, once you examine the facts. Those 6,000 disposable diapers a baby will wear had to come from somewhere. Somewhere there is a factory manufacturing those diapers, making paper, plastic, and all the toxic chemicals in each diaper. This all takes water, energy, and the cutting down of trees. Then they have to be packaged, shipped to the store…the environmental impact goes on and on.

However, my baby’s thirty-eight diapers will be worn again and again and again. Yes, I’m adding about three loads of laundry each week. But I’m cutting out everything that is put into disposables, including water, wood pulp, plastic, crude oil, chlorine gas, and sodium polyacrylate, the stuff that was removed from tampons in the ‘80s because of it’s link to toxic shock syndrome. Surely a few extra loads of laundry is better than the manufacturing and disposing of all this?

Now, on to the laundry. Many people swear off cloth diapering because of the additional laundry burden. I have to admit, I’m a pretty big slacker when it comes to doing laundry. My dirty laundry pile could more accurately be called a laundry mountain. One day, the Olympics is going to call and ask if their downhill skiers can borrow my laundry for practice runs.

But I actually don’t have that hard of a time keeping up with my diapers. I do a load about every other day. If you only had one in diapers (oh, how I envy you!) you could do it less often. It truly, truly isn’t time consuming. I toss a load in the machine to soak at night before bed, and run the wash the next morning.

I have also never, never done the ol’ dunk and swish. Anything that can be put in the toilet is dropped in (to the excitement of Wesley, who thrills at getting to flush and wave bye bye to the contents) and anything that can’t goes in the washing machine. I use tea tree oil to kill icky germs.

Besides money and environmental benefits, cloth diapers also cause less rash and irritation, promote earlier potty training (yay!), less likely to leak, and are ten times cuter than disposables.  

There is one major downside to cloth diapering. It’s one that I never saw coming: It truly is addictive. I now spend much of my internet time scanning Diaper Swappers for new cute diapers. I am constantly trading online for new wool longies. I never imagined I would be so obsessed with what is basically a poop receptacle.

Be sure to read these articles at The Diaper Pin and Mothering for more information on the environmental impacts of cloth vs. disposable diapers.

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