Cloth Diapering: More Green On Earth & In Your Pocket!

Written by Abigail Green on Dec 29th, 2010 | Filed under: Eco Living

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Before our first baby was even born, I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers.

I liked the idea of having soft and natural fibers against our baby’s skin, and I knew we didn’t have the financial resources to regularly buy disposable diapers, nor did I like the idea of “buying trash”…something I was just going to throw away.

When I first told friends and family that I planned to use cloth, I was confronted by many nay-sayers. I was told that I would switch to disposables as soon as I realized “how much work cloth diapers were”.

Well, here I am almost 9 months into cloth diapering, and I can honestly say that I have yet to buy a package of disposable diapers.

Most people picture an “old fashioned” pre-fold diaper with pins and rubber covers when they think of cloth diapers.

Those still exist (although pins have been replaced with something called a snappi and covers are now made out of breathable materials such as PUL or wool), but there are a huge variety of other styles of cloth diapers to aid in convenience for families who want the ease of a disposable without taking up landfill space.

Navigating Your Way Through What Type of Cloth Diaper to Use

The easiest style of cloth diaper is an All-In-One (AIO).

This style diaper goes on just like a disposable diaper. And, just like the name implies, it is a one-piece diaper with an outer waterproof layer, and an inner absorbent soaker. They come in all sorts of bright colors and your choice of either Velcro or snap closures.

Next in ease is a fitted diaper paired with an outer waterproof cover.

You can buy fitteds made of cotton, hemp or bamboo.

  • Hemp is 50% more absorbent than cotton.
  • Bamboo 60% more absorbent than cotton.

And might I mention that hemp and bamboo are also both great renewable resources, growing very quickly and without the need of any pesticides, making them environmentally friendly by nature?

Some fitted diapers even come with an outer decorative layer of jersey knit with fun prints and colors to add to the cuteness of your baby’s bum!

The most economical way to cloth diaper is with pre-folds used together with an outer waterproof cover.

Although, diaper pins are still available for purchase, I highly recommend using a “snappi” to prevent poking your little one’s tummy.

Make Your Own!

To take saving the environment and frugality a step further, you can use recycled materials to make your own diapers and covers. Old flannel shirts and receiving blankets make great diapers. Here is a great tutorial on making your own pre-fold diapers.

And, you can take an old wool sweater to create a waterproof cover

Turn the arms of the sweater into wool pants to use as an overnight diaper cover.

Cloth Wipes

If you are going to use cloth diapers, cloth wipes are much easier to use than disposables because you can throw the diaper and wipe into the same bin, as opposed to having to separate them to throw one in the diaper bin and the other in the trash.

Flannel shirts, receiving blankets, and even cotton t-shirts make great baby wipes.

I make mine 6” X 6”. The flannel wipes will need to be sewn or serged around the edges in order to prevent fraying, but if you plan to use a cotton t-shirt, just cut it up and wipe away, the edges will not fray.

Uncommon Childhood is offering you a great FREE recipe for baby wipes solution on the right side bar of their homepage.

Our “System”

Whenever I meet a mom who is eager to cloth diaper but just needs a little encouragement, her biggest question is, “What is your system?”. Here is what cloth diapering looks like in our home:

  1. Remove dirty diaper from baby’s bum.
  2. Throw dirty diaper and wipes as-is (no rinsing necessary if exclusively breast-feeding*) into a lidded garbage bin that is lined with a re-usable laundry bag.
  3. Wash diapers every 3 days (we own about 3 dozen diapers)
  4. Line dry so that the sun can naturally bleach the diapers back to white!

*If your baby drinks formula or eats solid foods, you will need to dump the solids into the toilet (a spatula works great to scrape your diaper clean!), followed by a little rinse in the toilet.

They also make biodegradable liners that you can place in your baby’s diaper to catch any solids and then flush down the toilet without having do any rinsing.

More Green On the Earth

Some facts:

  • Disposable diapers take as many as 500 years to decompose.
  • 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown in landfills each year, making them the third largest source of solid waste in landfills–a significant fact, considering they are a single product, used by a limited portion of the population.
  • It takes 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp (a quarter-million trees!) to manufacture the disposable diapers that cover the bottoms of 90 percent of the babies born in the US. 1

More Green in Your Pocket

Depending on the style of diapers you choose, you can get a nice stash of cloth diapers to last your baby’s diapering years that will cost between $400-$1,000. And remember, because they are cloth diapers, you can use them for future children as well.

Whereas with disposables, depending on the brand of diaper and the frequency you change your baby’s diaper, you are looking at spending at $2,000-$4,000 per child on diapers that will just go into the trash.

Finding What is Right for Your Family

Cloth diapering does not need to be an all-or-nothing deal.

Even if you cloth diaper only once per week, you will be saving hundreds of diapers from going in the landfill.

There are as many ways and reasons to cloth diaper as there are people who cloth diaper.

We chose to cloth diaper to go along with our vision of raising our children in a way that is sustainable for the earth, as well as financially sustainable for our family.

Do you have thoughts, questions, or experience with cloth diapering?  Share them in the comments!

About Abigail Green

Abigail Green has written 7 post in this blog.

My name is Abigail Green and I am the happy mama of our cloth diapered son Ezra, and smitten wife of my musician husband Ryan. We live part of the year touring the United States in our big green conversion van making music, and the other portion of the year at our home in sunny Tucson, AZ.