The decision to choose disposable diapers over cloth diapers can be a tough one as many people nowadays are budget-conscious and try to be environmentally responsible.
When you think about it, some of the biggest additions to our landfills are from the baby industry. Everything from diapers and wipes, to the discarded packaging from children’s gear and toys, to the plastic “crap” that used to be inside that packaging. Notice how all the beloved toys of our childhood are now made of plastic? Where does all that end up if not handed down to other children? You guessed it – the dump.
Being the semi-environmentalist that I am (carpool to work, cook at home, reuse, reduce and recycle), I am always looking for ways to avoid throwing things in the garbage when they could lead a purposeful life.
That’s why it may come as a surprise that we used disposable diapers on our three year old twins. Perhaps it’s not as much of a surprise when you read the word “twins” in the previous sentence.
Our decision to use “posies” was not an automatic one. Obviously, we (me) wanted to prevent a truckload of dirty diapers leave our house every week. And we (me) wanted to diaper the babies in natural, soft cotton which was good for baby skin. We (me) tried cloth diapers when the babies were newborn then quickly realized it was going to be very tough to stay on top of the laundry.
Mr. Mama, like most husbands, was not interested in handling cloth diapers and laundering them. That’s why they invented disposables, right? So parents wouldn’t have to dirty their hands. Yes, the convenience of disposable diapers is hard to beat. So is the guilt that ensues when our garbage bags are more full of diapers than our compost bin is full of biodegradable kitchen waste.
So here is an unbiased account of the benefits of cloth versus disposables from a mom who wanted to tried to use cloth but threw in the towel.
Our Cloth Diapering Days
Like mentioned above, cloth diapers are more natural for baby’s skin and can be a good return on investment over the long term. Especially if you have more than one child (not at the same time).
Before Mister and Missy were born, I was scouring websites for information on cloth diapers.
One thing I couldn’t decide on was the type of cloth diaper. The trick is trying a few different kinds before seeing what worked for you. I did not have the luxury of experimenting with Mister and Missy so I bought a few kinds and hoped one of them would work. Some were new, some used but in good condition. If you think that’s gross, than cloth diapers are not for you 🙂
I quickly found that diapering twins when they are newborns is not the best time. In the beginning, babies change diaper sizes quickly, need changing 8-12 times a days for each baby, the bowel movements are often very soft which makes it difficult to shake it off the diaper, and you are sleep deprived to begin with! It is more economical and easier to start cloth diapering when the baby is 6 months old.
By 6 months, diaper changes are roughly 5-7 times a day per baby, the diaper size stays consistent longer, and they are more regular/consistent in the timings. As an added bonus, this is the time you get return on investment because your child will likely potty train early since they will become more aware of being in a soiled diaper and will want to stay clean and dry.
I would do occasional cloth diapering when Mister and Missy were a few weeks old on the days when I was home and not expecting any guests. The diapers would leak almost every time they went, which meant entire outfit changes. Since Mister and Missy were born in the winter, that required changing two layers of clothes for each diaper change for each baby. I knew I was using the diapers wrong but did not have the time to figure out how to adjust them. I was using the Kushies newborn fleece diapers, sometimes with a Thirties waterproof cover. Through trial and error, I figured out that waterproof covers were a must for the style of diapering I was doing. I even tried putting extra liners inside the diaper to absorb more of the liquid but still ended up with leakage. The end result was two babies with big bulges on their bums thanks to the layering of cloth diapers and liners. This made it challenging to get their sleepers on right!
In hindsight, I would have hired a diaper service that comes directly to your house once a week and provides you all the instructions and proper materials so all you would need to do is store the dirty diapers in a bin (easy to do in winter, not so much in summer). Plus, they give discounts for twins. My friend N had encouraged me to sign up for a diaper service before the twins were born but at the time I was put off by the hefty upfront price tag and was confident I could pull it off on my own. Obviously I had no idea how much disposables would cost over the years.
There were a few useful products I found through our cloth diapering journey. One is a flushable, biodegradable diaper liner from Walmart that comes packaged like a toilet paper roll. It is good for shaking off solid waste into the toilet before washing the diaper. Another is a pair of diaper wetbags that are meant to store dirty diapers when you are out and about. They are thick, waterproof, smell-proof and come in pretty patterns which I got from the Extraordinary Baby Shoppe just east of Westboro.
Switchover to Disposables
When I realized that keeping our twins in cloth diapers twins was not in the books for us, I started looking into different brands of disposables. There are some key differences which we found between the different brands, just not necessarily what the advertisers tell us.
We found that:
– Pampers inexpensive and better for girls (not for heavy wetters like our boy)
– Huggies are good for daytime and daycare
– President’s Choice (PC) Green diapers are great for outings, longer periods up to 5 hours, heavy wetters, and naps
– Huggies Overnights are best for up to 14 hours overnight, even for heavy wetters
– other house brands like Teddy’s Choice are good for daycare
It’s useful to know the true cost of a disposable, which can range from $0.16 to $0.40 cents each.
If a box of 72 diapers is selling for $19.99, the cost per diaper is calculated as follows:
$19.99 = $0.28 each
The PC Green diapers, which I prefer, often go on sale for half price at Loblaws. You can score them for $7.99 for a box of between 42 to 56, depending on the size. That’s still between 13 to 19 cents each. Sometimes Costco has a good deal on Huggies for around 16 cents. Once you know your price range, those savings add up if you buy when they go on sale.
I had intended to revisit cloth diapering once they got older but, let’s face it, it was so much easier to buy disposables on sale. Especially once they started daycare, as most group daycare centers will not allow cloth diapers. It’s too much work for them.
The semi-environmentalist in me is satisfied with purchasing “green” diapers made from recycled materials. The PC Green diapers also ended up being the most absorbent and comfortable for both Mister and Missy.
Even if the diapers coming from our house ended up in the landfill, at least they led a purposeful second life before being dumped.
Mister and Missy’s are going through potty training now which means their diaper-wearing days are numbered!