Beyond a shadow of a doubt cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposable ones.
I don’t need to write that article because this should be an understood truth by now. (If you still want facts and figures look here.) It’s great that more and more families are opting for the eco-friendly cloth, but disposable diapers are still accounting for around 4% of all waste generated by Americans.
With how eco-friendly and affordable cloth diapers are, why wouldn’t you use them? I know that sounds judgey, but I really want to know! In asking that question to friends and family my eyes were opened to some of the realities about using cloth diapers that need addressing.
These testimonials offer up the straight poop:
Mia from Louisville, KY wrote:
“My wee one is still too little for his cloth diapers, but they are ready for use when he is!”
Takeaway: We need teenier and tinier cloth diapers available. There is an extra need for cloth diapers made for preemies that develop “preemie potbelly” and have different waist to leg proportions than babies born full-term.
Erin in McMinnville, OR wrote:
“Cloth was excellent when he was so little when he went through a lot of diapers with almost nothing in them. I think around 9 months to a year cloth wasn’t keeping up and we were getting leaks…. but for a solid 8 months it was a great system.”
Amy in Portland, OR wrote:
“(Using cloth diapers) turned out to be easy for us and something we felt good about. We ended up using disposables for bedtime with our male child because they pee soak their front side and it is really hard to keep them and the bed dry at night.”
Takeaway: Leaks / pee-soaking are issues. Although in general I’m not a fan of gendering products, maybe some crafty moms and dads out there can play around with the design of cloth diapers for boys? If disposable diapers really do better suit a particular need, this means that cloth diapers can continue to be improved.
Molly in Cleveland, OH wrote:
“Without the diaper service I don’t think we could keep up on the laundry with two working parents. Fortunately the diaper service cost about the same as buying disposables so that wasn’t an issue.”
Rebecca in Austin, TX wrote:
“I hate laundry. I’ll wear the same jeans for 2 weeks before washing them. ???? There was no way I was adding tons more poo laundry.”
Laurel in Detroit, MI wrote:
“We live out in the boonies and there wasn’t any real easy way at that time to do diaper service. I can barely wash the laundry I have and adding any more seemed overwhelming. And it wasn’t something anyone I knew had done.”
Sam in Portland, OR wrote:
“(We used) Cloth at home because having a diaper service to take care of it all was great. Disposables for travel and/or when we ran out of cloth.”
Takeaway: Diaper services are awesome for families that don’t want extra laundry, but unfortunately not everyone has access to diaper services. Right now it seems the theoretical demand for diaper services exceeds the practical supply of them, especially outside of major urban areas.
The Diaper Dilemma
The vast majority of the responses I got from parents who used disposable diapers exclusively stated that the idea of cloth diapers seemed weird, overwhelming or too time-consuming because they didn’t know anyone who had successfully used cloth diapers before.
Many parents who didn’t use cloth diapers at all with their first child started with their second, because in meeting more parents and learning about success stories it didn’t seem as scary. This is all anecdotal evidence, sure, but it is encouraging that with more exposure the cloth diaper movement continues to grow.
Although opting for cloth is the better choice for the environment, ultimately families have to choose what is best for them. Often, parents use a mix of both cloth and disposables, which is definitely better than not using cloth at all. Any use of cloth diapers will reduce waste. Period.
Not everyone has the same resources available to them, be it money, time, or support, and it simply is just harder for some families to make cloth diapers work. As the movement to go green continues to gain steam, hopefully living sustainably will become easier for everyone. In the meantime, I’ll work on my judginess.
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