Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Best Time to Try Cloth Diapers

My 5-day-old baby in a fitted cloth diaper.

Eco-novice urges you to consider cloth.

Even if you use disposables for the remainder of your child's diapering months, I would encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in cloth diapering to consider using cloth for the first six months of your baby's life.

Here's why:

1. If you are a bit concerned about all the toxic chemicals in your child's world, then both the known ingredients and the undisclosed ingredients (such as the components of the fragrance) of disposable diapers will give you pause. If you are going to pay attention to the ingredients in any product, it might as well be the product that comes in contact with your baby's private parts all day long. During this newborn period, your baby is extremely vulnerable to endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals. In addition to being more sensitive, newborn skin is also more permeable than the skin of older children and adults. Chemicals in diaper wipes, disposable diapers, and personal products can easily pass through your infant's skin into her body, so this is the time to be super-conscientious about ingredients.

2. Cloth wipes are better at getting off that yellow runny poop than disposable wipes. Also, the ingredients in disposable wipes are weird.

3. Cloth diapers prevent pooplosions! And, as many parents know, newborns are prone to poopy explosions because of their runny poops. I am now cloth diapering my third child and I have never had cloth diaper leak poop.

4. You don't have to do a darn thing about the poop. Dealing with poop is one of the big reasons that folks steer clear of cloth diapers. But if you breastfeed, newborn poop is completely water soluble and washes right out in the wash. You toss the poopy diaper in the wash and you're done. The diapers will stain, but personally I don't care about that (line drying helps with that, if you do care).

5. Young babies stay put. There is a small learning curve to using cloth diapers, especially if you are accustomed to using disposables, and it's easier to become a whiz at using cloth diapers with a newborn than with a squirmy 9-month old or toddler.

6. Newborn babies go through a lot of diapers. I change my 2-month-old baby about 8 times during the day, I'd say. If you change your baby's disposable diaper in the middle of the night, you may go through even more diapers. Let's assume 6 diapers per day for the first six months (I'm trying to estimate conservatively here -- feel free to argue with my calculations in the comments). That's almost 200 diapers per month! Let's estimate that you spend $40 a month on diapers, night time diapers, and wipes. (If you choose to buy "greener" brands of disposables, you will spend significantly more.) As long as you spend less than $240 on cloth diapers for the 0-to-6-months period (and you can spend far less than that if you choose a less expensive system, buy used, or make your own) you will come out ahead financially. Plus you've kept hundreds of diapers out of the landfill.

I'm not going to argue about the environmental impact of cloth versus disposable diapers here, but there is no doubt that cloth diapering exposes your child to fewer potentially toxic chemicals during a very susceptible period. Add to that the fact that the first six months are in many ways the easiest and most economical time to cloth diaper, and I think we have a pretty good argument for cloth diapering your newborn.

How much do you spend on diapering supplies each month?
Have you considered using cloth diapers?

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Laura said...

I cannot tell you how much I adore my babies sweet little cloth diapered heinies! I waited about 2 weeks before using them on Liam because I just followed what my cousin had told me she did, but with Sylvia, she was a mere hours old before she was wearing a teeny little fitted diaper.

And yes, cloth diapers are about as low maintenance as you can get! Even if one of sneaky dogs swipes one from the laundry basket, they don't shred up all over the house like a disposable one does... which in those early days of newborn sleep deprivation, it's so nice to not have to worry about little things like that! :)

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Wow, a dog chewing up a disposable -- that's an image I maybe didn't want in my mind. You won't find any of those weird SAP gel beads on your baby's bottom with cloth either.

panamamama said...

I used cloth with mine for at least 6 months. With my last one I used the g diapers which I liked just because I had three kids at that point and washing regular diapers wasn't as simple. No rashes with cloth and potty training is faster too!

Emma T said...

I've used cloth since my babe was 6 weeks until toilet trained (at just over 2) - highly recommended. However meconium (that tarry poo that they do in the first day or two) is a bit of a nightmare to get off cloth nappies - I'd recommend disposables for the first couple of days or using liners until that clears.

robbie @ going green mama said...

I didn't think I could do cloth diapering as a working mom, but tried it with my second child at about a year in age. Even just focusing on the weekends, it worked! We were saving money in just a few months. (Not to mention it's better on the landfills!)

We graduated to cloth pull ups for nighttime use. That was worth the investment as well!

Cloth Nappies said...

I am a pro cloth diapers. Good for the baby and the environment!

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

All the disposable potty products for older kids are so expensive! If you have a child that is taking a while to be potty-trained at night, I would really recommend looking into reusable cloth alternatives -- esp. since you won't have to deal with the poop at all.

I've heard mixed things about merconium and cloth -- since I'm not that on top of my life, I've never remembered to take my cloth diapers to the hospital with me anyway, so the merconium has happened in disposables.

I think potty training comes faster in cloth too.

As far as rashes, I hear mixed things on that front from folks, so I didn't include it. But if your baby has nasty rashes in disposables, it's certainly worth giving cloth a try to see if the problem is the chemicals in the disposables. My kids' rashes always seemed to just come from contact with poop -- so I didn't see a big difference with one or the other.

SharleneT said...

Disposable diapers came out between my first-born and second-born. I used them for about three months, then, decided the cloth were far better. Nice and soft for baby, easy to clean (Good God, it's only baby poop -- not like they've been eating steaks and drinking martinis!), and, when baby grows out of them, they are the world's greatest cleaning do-anything cloths. Disposable diapers is just pure money down the drain. Before everyone hates me, I know there are some daycares that refuse to let you use cloth diapers. But, when anywhere else, I'd go with cloth.

Heather said...

I'm all for cloth. Even if someone offered to buy disposables for me, I'd still go the cloth route. It's been really interesting to compare the whole diapering experience between my first (disposable diapers) and my second (cloth). No rashes this time around, no pooplosions, and I LOOOVE not having diapers on my shopping list!

One great reason to start cloth diapering early: you get into the habit of using cloth when the diapers aren't gross (newborn poo doesn't really stink, IMO). My sister-in-law just started using cloth on her 1 year old and it's definitely been more of a transition for her (and especially for her not-so-thrilled-about-cloth-diapering husband).

Blackash said...

I had both of my babies in nappies for the very start.

Quote "Emma T said...

However meconium (that tarry poo that they do in the first day or two) is a bit of a nightmare to get off cloth nappies"

I've some advice given to me by the older ladies in our area when we had our babies to share about baby poo staining. Don't try and scrub the cloth nappies clean. The sun will remove the poo stain.

First use a piece of fine cloth to line the nappy. This catches the thick stuff. One old lady stated she used to use old bed sheets, Lucky you can now buy cheap nappy liners.

Then when changing the nappy remove the liner and throw. Next Yep the good old soaker bucket. I had two actually.

Then once a day I'll wash about 15-20 cloth nappies for each newborn. That yellow color stain from the new babies poo disappears in the sunshine. No scrubbing needed!

It doesn't matter what colour cloth nappies where either. I had white, blue and purple. After hanging in the sun no more poo colour it's great!

As a side note my daughter had very sensitive skin and would rash with terry cloth nappies. I used flannel nappies instead of the terry cloth ones, work like a charm.


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