All About Diapers: Disposables vs. Cloth
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about cloth and disposables, so I'm going to try to clear them up.
First of all, a little bit about disposables that a lot of people don't know. You should always change your baby when he or she pees (or poops)—not wait until the diaper is "full." For most babies, this means at least every two hours—if not more often than that! Landfills are not meant to hold human waste. In fact it is illegal to put poop in the garbage. Even with disposables, you are supposed to dump the poop in the toilet before throwing the diaper in the trash.
Chemicals: Disposable diapers are full of chemicals. Chemicals that pull the moisture away and turn it into a jelly. Sounds convenient, sure. But then that chemical-laden jelly is against the most intimate part of your baby's body, and since most parents wait until the diaper is full to change it, it's there for HOURS. Not to mention chemicals aren't very environmentally friendly.
Rashes: When I was pregnant, one of the biggest pieces of advice I got was not to buy too many of the same brand of diaper because many babies react to certain diapers and break out in a rash. What are they reacting to? Chemicals! Chemicals in cloth? NONE!
Environment: Cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly than disposables. Disposable diapers take hundreds of years to decompose, and that's in an optimal environment. In our landfills, where there are piles and piles and piles of trash, it takes hundreds of years more.
Then there's the argument of water. Using cloth is worse (according to some) because of the amount of water and electricity used to wash them. The amount of water they use in the process of making disposables makes this false. For sure it takes water to wash the cloth diapers. But that's a sacrifice I am willing to make given all the benefits. (And BTW, I don't have water bills where I live, but I have spoken to many who do and they say their water bill went up about $5 when they started cloth diapering). I hang-dry everything I can in the summer (using the dryer less) and I wash all our clothes on cold in a HE washer. I take care to save water in other ways (not leaving the tap running, etc.).
It is true that you have to change cloth often. But as I said before, you should with disposables, too. It is true that babies can get rashes in cloth as well. Especially if you don't change them often and leave them sitting in a wet diaper. Seeing as I made the switch to cloth because I feel it is more environmentally friendly and a healthier option for my baby, I am willing to be diligent and for her sake not leaving her wet for too long. Some cloth diapers are made with synthetic fibers in order to have a stay-dry liner that pulls moisture away from the baby's skin. This works for some but not for others. Like anything else, some babies do not react well to synthetic fibers against their skin.
"But cloth diapers are gross!" I find this one funny. Whether using cloth or disposables, it's baby's poop. You have to open up the diaper, clean up the baby and put the diaper away. You still have to deal with the poop!
"Ew! I don't want poop in the machine I wash my clothes in!" Now this one is something said only by those who do not yet have kids and don't know all about diapers. Someone with a baby knows that poop doesn't always stay in the diaper. It goes all over the clothes ... and those clothes go where? In the washing machine!!
"Cloth diapers are so much more work!" I don't find this to be true. Sure it's a little more work. Two extra loads of laundry a week. There's no soaking (or poop soup bucket as I have heard it called!) like back in the day. I put the diapers in a can with a lid and dump it in the machine when it's time to wash.
Bulky: Yes cloth diapers are more bulky than a dry disposable. But you get used to it. And there's no truth to the idea that the bulkiness will impede rolling or crawling. I switched to cloth just as my baby was getting ready to crawl. Even adjusting to the new bulkiness she managed to learn to crawl by 6 1/2 months!
Cost: Cloth can be expensive upfront. I suggest to friends when they find out they're pregnant to put aside about $50 a month (what they would spend on disposables—this is what I spent and I bought big bulk boxes) during the pregnancy. Then there's eight to nine months to save up for cloth. I think the estimates are something like $2,000 to disposable diaper a child for two years vs. $400 to $500 in cloth (although this estimate does depend on what you are buying). Not to mention that you can often then use the same diapers for a second child!
There are many different types of cloth diapers out there now. It's not all folding, pinning and rubber pants. There are many much easier systems available. But I'll put this in another SPILL!
P.S. I am not totally disposable-free. I admit that I use disposables still on the odd occasion. When we are going on an overnight trip somewhere other than my parents or IL's where I feel comfortable washing. I still feel good about using eco-friendly cloth the majority of the time!