Choosing to use cloth diapers can be the single best decision you can make for the environment when there’s a new baby in the house. Organic cloth diapers, in particular, are made from resources grown responsibly and without nasty chemicals.
My husband and I used cloth diapers for our son, and I’ll admit that it sometimes feels like a lot of extra work. There’s a lot of laundry involved and if you’re out and about, you end up carrying at least one or two wet (or worse) cloth diapers around with you.
However, factor in the expense of disposable diapers over the 2.5-3 years that your child is wearing them, as well as the amount of waste being dumped into a landfill and it suddenly becomes worth every effort.
I was also lucky enough to be given some cotton diapers and organic bamboo diapers as shower gifts, so there was essentially no initial cost for me at all. This made it even more worthwhile!
If you’re undecided though, here are a few things to know about organic cloth diapers that might help you decide.
Cloth diapers have come a long way…baby
You no longer have to be an origami genius in order to use cloth diapers. Most these days are fitted with snaps or Velcro, which make them essentially the same as a disposable. Those that aren’t fitted are at least easily fastened using a snap clip system, which means no safety pins.
The outer waterproof layer is no longer the non-breathable plastic thing of yesteryear. Most outer shells are now soft and somewhat breathable.
Most designs are meant to grow with the baby so as your child moves from newborn to crawler to toddler, the diaper grows with them. You don’t have to reinvest in cloth diapers with every new phase.
On average, people will spend about $2,000 on disposable diapers for a child. Cloth diapers, with the cost of your at-home laundry expenses, will be about $800-$1,200. However, if you line dry your diapers, these costs will be significantly less and the sun will help naturally sterilize and whiten the diapers.
Cloth diapers aren’t as absorbent as disposables, it’s true. However, even this has come a long way in the last decade. Additional reusable inserts increase absorption of the cloth diapers, which is particularly useful for bed time.
Day trips with cloth diapers aren’t as difficult as most people think. Streamlined cloth diapers take up only a little more room than disposables really and the only extra thing you need is a wet diaper bag. Here are some tips on packing a day bag with cloth diapers:
When your child is done with diapers, cloth diapers can be passed on to someone else, whereas disposables just end up in landfills. Of course, the exception is that there are now a few varieties of compostable diapers. If your municipality collects diapers as part of their organic waste collection, then these end up as compost for the city rather than in a landfill. So, if this is the case in your city, this is a better option than plain disposables.
Last, but by no means least, purchasing organic cloth diapers means that the cotton or bamboo that goes into the product has been grown in a sustainable way. This means the soil benefits, animals benefit, ecosystems in general benefit and your baby’s skin benefits.
Five things to consider when choosing your organic cloth diapers
- Cotton or bamboo? – I can only speak from experience that the bamboo diapers I had were more absorbent than the cotton ones I had. However, the cotton diapers were softer after being line dried than the bamboo. So, it might be a matter of personal preference (Tip: add about ¼ cup of white vinegar during the last rinse of the wash and this will help whiten but also act as an eco friendly fabric softener).
- Choose styles that grow with baby – some diaper styles are better than others at growing along with the baby. The advantage of a style that grows well (in other words, you’ll only ever need one size) is that you will save quite a bit of money. The disadvantage is that your newborn will resemble the Stay Puft marshmallow man with all that extra material!
- All-in-one or two layer? – There are some styles out there that have the outer waterproof layer sewn right into the inner organic cotton or bamboo layer. These types tend to be a little more expensive, but what you end up with is essentially what looks and feels like a disposable diaper. There’s no muss or fuss at change time. Those styles that require the outer waterproof layer, however, tend to be more economical.
- Look for easy to fasten snaps – Try the snaps out as you don’t want to be messing about on the change table. If it is a Velcro fastener, be sure to wash them fastened so they don’t attach to every other item of clothing in your laundry.
- Styles with pocket inserts can have additional absorption – Styles that have a pocket or some other means of keeping an insert in place have the added benefit of being able to increase their absorption, which might be particularly handy for night time.
There’s more information on how to choose a cloth diaper in this video:
Some brands to look at:
Here are some brands of organic cloth diapers that are worth a look:
Prefolds: Bummis has put their prefold diapers into a kit containing 18 diapers, a wet bag, 4 wraps, and some liners. These are a very economical option ($169 USD) for cloth diapers and packaged as a kit like this, make a really nice gift.
Organic bamboo pods: SoftBums make an organic bamboo ‘pod’ that fits inside any cover you’ve got, not just the one they make. They’re made of 3 layers of organic bamboo fleece making them super absorbent without being super bulky.
The choices out there can be a bit overwhelming at first. However, it’s worth doing some research, asking friends who have been through the cloth diaper experience, and talking to knowledgeable staff at baby shops. Making organic cloth diapers part of your ‘green’ baby experience is a great decision for you, your baby and the environment.