This post is part of the Real Diaper Facts carnival hosted by Real Diaper Events, the official blog of the Real Diaper Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to cloth diaper education. Participants were asked to write about diaper lies and real diaper facts. See the list at the bottom of this post to read the rest of the carnival entries.
It’s no secret that my family uses cloth diapers full-time and that I’m happy to utilize my blog and other social networking tools to act as a cloth diapering ambassador of sorts. I am not so much anti-disposables as I am pro-cloth diapers. I don’t view myself as superior for using cloth and I don’t see disposables as evil. My hope is to not so much convert everyone to cloth, as to share my experiences using them and to be a resource for those interested in trying cloth diapers. Would I like to see more families at least try cloth diapers? Yes. Do I believe they are an affordable, environmentally-friendly, realistic option? Absolutely. But I also recognize that they are just that: an option.
That being said, it irked me to see a link on twitter recently from Pampers sharing their version of myths and facts about cloth diapers. Real Diaper Events invited bloggers who write about cloth diapers to respond to their erroneous claims. As I considered this, I felt torn about drawing more attention to these myths and this company. I decided to ultimately participate, though, because cloth diapers are not represented by large corporations with enormous budgets and committed advertising dollars. Instead, cloth diapers are primarily represented by Work-at-home-Moms, small businesses, Etsy shops, and consumers such as myself. If we all join together and speak up about our real experiences with cloth diapers, perhaps our voices will make an impact.
If you are unfamiliar with some of the current claims about Pampers diapers and wondering why they might be on the defensive about their products, you can see some basic info here. I have not used these new diapers and can not speak directly to these claims. In fact, Pampers swaddlers were a preferred newborn diaper for me when I used disposables, but I switched to less expensive brands as my babies grew. What I do take issue with are Pamper’s claims that their product is superior to cloth diapers.
I am going to take Pamper’s claims and share some real facts, based on my experiences and research related to cloth diapers:
Pampers “Fact”: Disposable diapers like Pampers were developed to offer babies benefits that cloth diapers could not meet.
Real Fact: Today’s modern cloth diapers are convenient, comfortable, and, in my experience, perform better than any brand of disposable I’ve ever used. In my experience, leaks and diaper rash often come from user-error when using any type of diaper. We have generally experienced leaks from an ill-fitting diaper or prolonged exposure to wetness. I’ve found that cloth diapers fit my baby better than disposables, decreasing leaks and virtually eliminating blow-outs that I often experienced with disposables.
Contrary to popular belief, cloth diapers do not leave a baby soaking in their own urine the moment they become wet. In fact, I am often amazed at how dry the fabric up against my baby’s skin feels even when the inner fabric of the diaper is very wet. We do change our baby frequently, but no baby should sit in their own urine, even in a diaper that claims to wick away moisture or lock in wetness.
As for diaper rash, there is no significant difference between cloth and disposables when it comes to diaper rash, according to The Real Diaper Association. Just as with disposables, we experience diaper rash in cloth due to generally due to diarrhea or prolonged exposure to wetness.
Pamper’s “Fact”: Cloth diapers are not better for the environment than disposables. All of the component materials in Pampers diapers are gentle to consumers and safe for the environment.
Real Fact: What a Waste puts it best with their slogan ” If your diaper isn’t cloth, it’s garbage.” The truth is, cloth diapers use fewer resources in their manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal than disposables do.
I am no scientist and a like to put things to the lazy environmentalist test, but Pamper’s environmental claim astonishes me. I’ve been asked so many times about water consumption and energy usage when it comes to cloth vs disposables. I can tell you that I have not seen any significant increase in my water or electricity bill since I started cloth diapering 10 months ago. I also know that I started looking into cloth diapering after I visited a friend’s home who had her cloth diapers line drying in the sun. This made me take a long, hard look at all of the waste my family created with two children in diapers and I was disgusted. I used to joke that it felt like my family was filling up their own landfill with all of our stinky, disgusting disposable diapers.
I’ve heard people argue that cloth diapers eventually end up in the trash as well. But my family plans to have 2 more children. If we use the same cloth diapers for 3 children, then resell them or break them down to use as rags, we are definitely minimizing our impact on landfills. This is true to the mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle.
Other people argue that all of the detergent, bleach, and harsh chemicals used to wash cloth diapers harm the environment. Cloth diapers actually require a very minimal amount of detergent and we don’t use anything but gentle detergent on our diapers. This means using detergent, such as Rockin’ Green, that is safe for baby and the environment.
Plus, there are cloth diaper companies that are working to minimize their environmental impact through manufacturing and processing, such as Go Green Sustainable Industries, the makers of Lollidoo. The more we support companies such as this with our purchases, the more companies such as pampers will be pushed to do more than simply decrease the size of their diaper.
As I was learning more about cloth diapers, I visited numerous sites with terrific charts like this one detailing energy and water usage.
I also learned a great deal from these Environmental facts from The Real Diaper Association:
In 1988, over 18 billion diapers were sold and consumed in the United States that year. Based on our calculations (listed below under “Cost: National Costs”), we estimate that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S.
The instructions on a disposable diaper package advice that all fecal matter should be deposited in the toilet before discarding, yet less than one half of one percent of all waste from single-use diapers goes into the sewage system. (Author’s note: In case you are dubious about this claim, I just checked the side of an old disposables box and it is there.)
Over 92% of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.
In 1988, nearly $300 million dollars were spent annually just to discard disposable diapers, whereas cotton diapers are reused 50 to 200 times before being turned into rags.
No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be about 250-500 years, long after your children, grandchildren and great, great, great grandchildren will be gone.
Disposable diapers are2 the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4% of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50% of household waste.
Disposable diapers generate sixty times more solid waste and use twenty times more raw materials, like crude oil and wood pulp.
The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than cloth.
Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum feedstocks and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby EACH YEAR.
In 1991, an attempt towards recycling disposable diapers was made in the city of Seattle, involving 800 families, 30 day care centers, a hospital and a Seattle-based recycler for a period of one year. The conclusion made by Procter & Gamble was that recycling disposable diapers was not an economically feasible task on any scale.
For my next cloth-diapering related post, I plan to share my thoughts on what I would buy now – 10 months in – if I could start my cloth diapering stash over again. I hope you’ll join me!