Why should I use cloth diapers?

Why should I use cloth diapers?

Your baby may be wearing diapers for 2+ years, so what kind of diaper you use is a big decision, for both of you. Aside from their convenience, single-use diapers offer no real benefit to anyone. This article explores the benefits associated with using cloth diapers.
Do it for your baby...

There are many reasons why you should use cloth diapers on your baby. First and foremost, cloth diapers are the best for your baby's skin. Consider the following statistics:

"In 1955, 100% of babies born in America wore cotton diapers and only 7% of them experienced diaper rash. However, in 1998, with 90% of American babies in disposable diapers, the occurrence of diaper rash increased to 78%."

As you can see, as single-use diapers became more popular, the incidence of diaper rash has been steadily increasing. What can you do to reduce the likelihood that your baby will suffer from diaper rash? Use cloth diapers. There are two reasons why cloth diapers are the better choice for your baby's skin:

  1. Unlike single-use diapers, cotton diapers "breathe" to prevent a skin-stressing buildup of heat under the diaper.
  2. Unlike single-use diapers, the breath ability of cotton diapers also provides an escape path for the ammonia that's formed after a baby wets. Instead of trapping this potential irritant on or near the skin, cotton helps ammonia evaporate.

You must also consider all of the chemicals that a single-use diaper contains:


"A study published in the September/October issue of the journal Archives of Environmental Health indicates that the emissions given off by some disposable diapers cause "asthma-like conditions" in mice."

Single-use diapers release tolune, xylene, ethylbenzene, styrene and other chemicals that are considered bronchial irritants.

Do it for your wallet...

Granted, the initial investment in cloth diapers may seem like a lot of money, but when you consider that this initial investment will last you years, you'll realize that you can save a lot of money by using cloth diapers. Even accounting for the cost of laundering the diapers yourself, cloth diapers are still ultimately the most economical choice.

The cost of cloth diapers will vary according to the type of system you decide to go with (prefolds & wraps, all-in-ones, etc, one-size). Various studies indicate that even with the cost of laundering included, cloth diapers will save you upwards of $1,500 compared to disposable diapers over a 2.5 year period:

Home-laundered $550 to $950
Diaper service $1,500 to $2,000
Disposable diapers $1,750 to $2,400

Furthermore, well-made, well-cared for cloth diapers can be used with multiple children, and you save even more money! But what about your time, isnxt that worth money too? Of course it is, but when you consider using single-use diapers to 'save time', don't forget to factor in the extra 1,200 diaper changes you'll have to do --- those take time too!

Do it for you...

Another advantage of cloth diapers is the fact that babies will become aware of their bodily functions at an earlier age --- they will know when they wet themselves. This awareness leads to earlier potty training in cloth-diapered babies. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal:

"...babies who wear single-use diapers do not potty train until they are approximately 36-42 months (on average). On the other hand, babies who wear cloth diapers are potty trained a full year earlier."

What a big difference! Wouldn't it be nice to change 1,200 fewer diapers than you had to?

Do it for the environment

It is really ironic that society has labelled single-use diapers 'disposable.' In fact, they are anything but. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong! Diaper manufacturers claim their products are biodegradable, but in truth, they are not. The paper in the diapers must be exposed to air and sun to decompose. Thirty percent of a disposable diaper is plastic and is not compostable. Even if the rest of the diaper could be composted, waste processing plants could only handle 400 of the 10,000 tons of diapers tossed in landfills EACH DAY, assuming they didn't have to process any other compostable garbage.

Not only are single-use diapers themselves harmful to the environment, but their contents are also harmful. Most single-use diapers ultimately end up in landfills, creating an immediate public health hazard. Leachate containing viruses from human feces can leak into the ground and pollute underground water supplies. In addition to the potential of groundwater contamination, air-borne viruses carried by flies and other insects contribute to an unhealthy and unsanitary situation.

Finally, you must also consider all of the resources and energy that go into making single-use diapers. 3.4 billion gallons of oil and over 250,000 trees a year go into manufacturing single-use diapers.
But none of this is our problem, right? After all, it can take up to 500 years for these diapers to decompose, so why should we care? We should care because what we do today will affect our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. You can make a difference, all you have to do is try.