We are committed to cloth diapering the babe, until he is completely ready to use the potty. Since coming home from the hospital, he has worn cotton prefolds with PUL or wool covers (we prefer wool, now). We decided to use cloth diapers for many reasons including our desire to lessen our impact on the planet by reducing our waste contribution.
Dioxin, which in various forms has been shown to cause cancer, birth defects, liver damage, and skin diseases, is a by-product of the paper-bleaching process used in manufacturing disposable diapers, and trace quantities may exist in the diapers themselves.
Disposable diaper manufacturers would like us to believe that their diapers prevent diaper rash, because the “pull the wetness away from the skin”. The reality is that a variety of factors cause diapers rash; reactions to chemicals in the diapers, wipes, detergents, foods, etc…Frequent changes and plenty of air with careful attention to chemical exposure greatly reduce the risk of rashes. Babes diapered in disposables typically are changed less because the diapers feel dry. The outer plastic shell of a disposable diaper prevents the little bum from being able to “breathe”.
Super absorbent disposable diapers contain sodium polyacrylate gel, which absorbs up to 100 times its weight in water. Sodium polyacrylate is the same substance that was removed from tampons in 1985 because of its link to toxic shock syndrome. No studies have been done on the long-term effects of this chemical being in contact with a baby’s reproductive organs 24 hours a day for upwards of two years.
If water usage is a concern, consider that 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown in landfills each year, taking as many as 500 years to decompose. Disposable diapers make up the third largest source of solid waste in landfills. It takes upwards of 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, or a quarter-million trees, to manufacture the disposable diapers that cover the bottoms of 90 percent of the babies born in the US.
Many people question whether or not cloth diapers are sanitary. It is the handling of diapers and the diaper changing process that requires attention, in the area of sanitation. Hand washing and proper storage of dirty diapers (both cloth and disposable) are paramount in maintaining a safe diaper changing process. The disposal of human waste in public landfills is prohibited, so the instructions provided by the disposable diaper manufacturers is to scrape any solid waste into the toilet, before disposing of the diaper. Have you ever seen anyone do that?
Another concern that people are express is that a cloth diaper pail smells. Ours does not. We keep the pails clean, and experience no foul odors. The smell of waste in a disposable diaper is truly nasty.
What about the time that it takes? It takes less time to dump a load of cloth diapers into the washing machine and transfer them to the dryer than it does to shop for disposables, load them into the car, unload them at home, and take garbage out to the transfer station (stinking all the way).
We have tried many different washing methods and combinations of soaps. What currently works for us is to keep two pails. One dry with a reusable dry bag and on wet. All wet diapers go straight into the dry pail. All poopy diapers get the poop sprayed off into the toilet then put into a pail of cold water and either Bi-O-Kleen Bac-Out or borax. This pail is kept right in the bathroom, in the cabinet under the sink. Then, every other day all dirty diapers go into the washer. I rinse them with old water. Then wash with hot water, adding soapnuts and oxygen bleach. One warm rinse it usually enough, but sometimes an additional cold or warm rinse is necessary. Then, I sniff test the diapers, they should smell fresh and clean and kind of spicy. Then they get dried. My preference is to dry on the line, in the sun. But, since the sun is hard to come but in the winter in New England, the dryer is sufficing.
That’s it. We had trouble finding the right soap to work with our hard water. We used everything from Charlie’s Soap (which we loved before moving to this house and well) to Sun and Earth to Arm and Hammer Essentials. The step to soapnuts has been a great move, so far. With the other soaps, I was having to boil the diapers on a regular basis to remove soap build up and the post-pee stinkiness that is causes. For our water conidtions it is best for us to not use white vinegar or baking soda, although they work great for many people. If some disinfection is required, we use grapefruit seed extract.
The babe has that classic baby look about him, with a sweet, padded, white bottom. He loves to help fold his diapers and wipes. He climbs in and out of the laundry basket, “helping”.
There are many more expensive (really cute and tempting) cloth diapering options (All-In-Ones, fitteds, minkies, etc…) but, like so many things, I find the simpler I keep it, the better. So, it remains all cotton diaper service quality prefolds, fastened with a snappi and a cover. We are not buying any more PUL covers, we are going all wool. But that is a subject for another post!