Time for a Change

>A guest post by Laurie Diwakar and Lauren Walker

When it comes to diapers, there are endless health and environmental reasons to switch from disposables to reusable cloth.  Cloth diapers are better for your baby’s skin because they are breathable, free of chemicals, and gentle on sensitive body parts.  Using cloth diapers instead of disposables also reduces the occurrence of irritating and painful diaper rash. The choice to use cloth diapers can also make a massive impact on the environment.  Plus, there are immediate cash savings for you.


Most parents choose to use disposables for their perceived “ease of use,” with no idea that they are actually putting on their baby’sbottom. Disposable diapers contain many ingredients that big corporations try to keep the consumer from knowing about. Some of them include: petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, elastic, gel and perfume. “Green disposables” are often made without chlorine, fragrances, or latex, but most have sodium polyacrylate (SAP), an absorbent gel that’s a chemical. SAP was banned from tampons because of its link to toxic shock syndrome but studies have not been done on SAPs effect on babies. Also, both “green” and regular disposable diapers contain polyolefin (plastic) film. “Green diapers” inserts claim to be compostable, but they are not biodegradable, nor are they natural with their chemical SAP.

SAP gels claim to be non-toxic. However, these cross-linked polyacrylate polymers arelinked to an increase in childhood asthma, a decrease in sperm count and increase in scrotal temperature among boys and may cause problems later in life. In one study, they found that on average, the in-plastic temperatures were approximately 1.8°F higher than in cloth. The babies in cloth had cooler recorded temperatures (www.drspock.com). Other scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their toxic substances to the increase of asthma in today’s society. Laboratory rats exposed to disposable diapers straight out of the package have suffered increased eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as bronchial constriction similar to that of an asthma attack (Rosalind C. Anderson, Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions, Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999).


Disposable diapers are not really disposable at all. This information, from the Real Diaper Association, shows the impact disposables have on our landfills. Currently, 27.4 billion disposable diapers are estimated to be consumed every year in North America of which, over 92% end up in the landfill. Against manufacturers advice, less than 0.5% of fecal waste is disposed of properly in the toilet/sewage system before the diaper is discarded. It is estimated to take 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. This is long after your great, great, great grandchildren will be gone. Disposable diapers are the third largest single item in landfills. In a house with one child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste. Disposables are also expensive; you can expect to pay $2,500-$4000 for disposables from birth through potty training.


Cloth diapering has come a long way from your mother’s days of pricked fingers and artful folding. Velcro or snap closings have done away with pins, making some cloth diapers as easy to change as disposable diapers. Modern choices are simply to fasten and don’t require any folding. These come in a variety of sizes and fabrics and are not only functional, but durable.

Some think that it’s a lot of extra laundry or work to use cloth diapers, but what is another one or two washes a week? This is less work than earning the money to buy disposables. Cloth is better for your baby and the environment. Plus, cloth diapers can save you thousands of dollars, especially when you use them on more than one baby. Because they actually feel wet, babies tend to potty train earlier in cloth diapers; another bonus! There are so many pros to cloth diapering, cloth really should be the first choice. Your baby’s bottom will be in diapers 24 hours a day for the first 2-4 years of life. Choosing cloth or disposables for your baby is a big decision, but it shouldn’t be a hard one.

Laurie Diwakar, BA ENG, PSYCH, is a mother of 3 with more than 9 years of experience in the natural health industry. As a motivated entrepreneur she has committed the last 4 years to developing and testing products that work for you, your family and the environment. Her main focus is a balance between quality, comfort and health at a reasonable price. For more information on cloth diapers visit www.rearz.ca.

This article has been republished with the authors’ permission.

1 thought on “Time for a Change

  1. Shaky Mommy

    >Wow! 50% of household waste! That's crazy! Sooo glad we use cloth.

    I also agree with you that a few extra loads of laundry a week is really not a big deal.


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