Monday, August 18, 2008

Love is Having a Fluffy Behind: Cloth Diapers Are Making a Comeback

“Love is patient, love is kind . . . love is having a fluffy behind.” So goes the saying in today’s cloth diapering community. After decades of dedication to disposable diapers, more and more parents are coming back to cloth. But the choice to cloth diaper is still far enough from the mainstream to inspire many raised eyebrows.

The even more common response we encountered whenever we announced our intention to cloth diaper Violet before she was born was a slightly patronizing smile, accompanied by the standard, “wait until the baby is here.” (Read: you’re never gonna go through with this.)

She’s over a year old now, and is still exclusively in cloth. Which might surprise some of the skeptics, but what they may not have considered is that cloth diapers have come a long way from the folding and pins so many of us picture when we hear "cloth diapers." There are several styles of cloth diapers available today, all of them easier to use than most people imagine.

Of course, however convenient cloth diapers may have become, they do require more of an effort than their disposable counterparts; there’s just no shortcut to the additional loads of laundry. So why do we do it?

The environmental impact of cloth vs. disposable diapers is the most widely recognized reason to choose cloth. Approximately 18 billion disposable diapers end up in landfills each year; they are the third largest source of solid waste found in landfills. It’s estimated that it takes somewhere between 250 and 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.

Concern for the environment does provide us with incentive to cloth diaper our daughter. But the even more compelling, though less talked-about, reason is that we believe it’s better not just for the environment, but for her. Disposable diapers contain several toxic chemicals that we’d rather not have next to her skin for two or more years.

Dioxin. Traces of dioxin, a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers, have been found in disposable diapers. Dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical that has been banned in most countries (but not the U.S.). It has been shown to cause liver damage, immune suppression and genetic damage, in addition to cancer.

TBT. Tributyltin (TBT) , which has also been found in disposable diapers, is an extremely toxic substance which can cause hormonal problems and damage the immune system.

Sodium Polyacrylate. This stuff makes up the clear gel that makes disposable diapers “super absorbent” (beads of it are often found on a disposable-diapered baby’s bum). Sodium polyacrylate was also used in tampons until it was removed in 1985 when it was linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Equally alarming, employees in factories manufacturing sodium polyacrylate have been discovered to suffer from reproductive problems, fatigue, weight loss, and slow-healing wounds.

Disposable wipes caused us no less concern. Many physicians recommend not using disposable wipes until a baby is at least two weeks old because the chemicals in the wipes are too harsh for newborn skin. Since that didn’t sound like something we wanted to use on our baby’s skin at any age, we’ve opted for cloth wipes since she was born. Natural cleansing solutions are available for use with cloth wipes – we’ve opted to keep it simple and stick with pure water.

Even the thousands of additional loads of laundry our diapering decision has already created for us haven't dissuaded us from continuing to keep Violet in cloth. (For those concerned about water waste, don't - our HE machine keeps that to a minimum. And the resources, including water, involved in the manufacturing, distributing, and washing of cloth diapers don't even compare to those involved in the manufacture and distribution of the number of disposables a baby would go through in its diapering lifetime.) And while there have been a few hiccups in the process (buildup leading to leaks, one persistent yeast rash), we've figured out how to resolve all of those and prevent recurrence. It's absolutely been worth the effort, and we're looking forward to continuing Violet in cloth. Check back for more on cloth diapers, including our favorite diapers and accessories, in future posts!

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Liz said...

LOL I have the same picture of my daughter "helping" me with the laundry!

Charndra at Part Time Diaper Free! said...

Ahh, cloth diapers, the more environmentally responsible choice by far!

Really how hard is it to throw a diaper in the wash rather than the bin??

A very cute picky of your wee girl.

Charndra (in Australia)