A Case for Cloth Diapers

{the benefits of cloth diapering are numerous and the following is a guest post from my friend Kelly to help explain how numerous they really are.}

If you are currently expecting, or you are already a parent, you may have contemplated cloth diapers.

It is a wise choice to think about the diaper you will use for your little one, because they will sit in them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for an average of 3 years.

A wise choice to ponder because you will pay for every diaper you put on baby, and you will use an average of 7000 to 9000 from birth to potty!

There are so many reasons why parents choose to use cloth, and on the other end…so many reasons why they choose not to!

When researching cloth diapers as an option you will come across a wealth of information (and opinions) that can seem overwhelming. I know that when my husband and I sat down to look through the info on cloth diapering we were so bombarded that we thought of giving up on the idea all together. In fact, I found myself doubting that the statics I was reading were true because they seemed so astronomical to me.

I’ll draw for you a broad outline in the way of research and only point out facts I have personally checked – please when researching on your own, check the sources of the studies, a study is only as reliable as who is paying for it. For example, if you find a study leading you to believe that the environmental impact of reusable diapers is not more or is equal to the impact of disposables, and then you read that the study was conducted by, and paid for, by a large disposable diaper manufacturer then take that into account. Vice Versa with a cloth diaper company paying for a study – check your sources and be an educated consumer. My sources are located at the end of this article and have been checked against numerous others for merit.

Broadly spoken, there are three main benefits to cloth diapering; benefits to baby, benefit on the family budget, and finally the most obvious is the benefit environmentally.

Benefits to Baby

As I stated previously, baby will spend the vast majority of 3 years in a diaper. Our skin is like a screen door into our body, things go out and things go in. Moisturized, warm skin acts even more as a “loose” barrier. Disposable diapers contain chemicals as well called SAP (super absorbent polymers). Also amongst the chemicals in a disposable diaper are sodium polyacrylate (the chemical that was banned from tampons in the 1980’s due to its link to toxic shock syndrome) and dioxin (a carcinogen). Because there are harsh chemicals present with disposables they are sometimes not well tolerated by baby’s sensitive skin. There are other studies being conducted looking into the link between SAP and asthma-like symptoms.

Benefits on the Family Budget

There is no doubt that it is more convenient to use something and then throw it away rather than launder it to be used again. However, we as a family had to decide whether the convenience factor of disposables was worth the $2000 more we would end up paying for it, (not to mention the environmental impact it would have). My husband works in finance and money, and how we chose to spend it is of large importance to him. He sat down and worked out the following the image. cost analysis.jpgThis is a very liberal estimation of needs for a cloth diaperer. Cloth diapering can be done much less expensively than this, but to play it really cautious we went as pricey as possible so that the savings were achievable for all, no matter what system of diapering you pick. The savings alone spoke volumes to our family and really made a difference for us. Also, we considered that this is savings for one child… so obviously for subsequent children the savings doubles and triples and so on.

Benefits to the Environment

The home run came when we realized that the environmental benefits of cloth diapering were astronomical!

Research shows that it will take a disposable diaper from 200 to 500 years to decompose – this even includes the brands that are more “environmentally friendly”. This means that the first single-use diaper ever made and used is still sitting in a landfill somewhere just as “ripe” as the day it was changed. 2.7 billion disposables enter our landfills each year and it makes them the 3rd largest consumer product in landfills to date – and of the three they are the least likely to decompose.

I was recently at an Earth Day Awareness Event and was having a discussion with a man about cloth diapering. Something he said to me struck a chord; he said, “ so basically we (the majority of society that use disposables) are wrapping something that is very biodegradable (poop) in something that will never biodegrade (single-use diapers) and throwing it in a landfill.” Honestly, the idea had often crossed my mind as to how unsanitary it seemed to me that the majority of disposable diaper users (myself included up until recent years) took off a diaper full of poop and rolled it up into a little paper and plastic poop ball, put it in a diaper genie containing a loooooong plastic bag that sealed it and then took it to the curb for the trash every week. I think that if I had sat down and thought that through a bit, at the time it would have seemed appalling to me that I was doing it.

I liken it to smoking in the 1960’s, a ton of people did it, and no one really thought that it was bad for you…just didn’t really sit down and think about it. I often get asked about the environmental footprint created by laundering cloth diapers. There are many studies that have been done on this subject. My overall summary is this, when you launder at home, with an all-natural detergent the environmental impact is minute compared to the impact of the disposable diapering manufacturers. The average number of disposable diapers a child would wear from birth to potty would require 20 trees, 60 lbs of chlorine, 420 gallons of petroleum, and would generate 1 ton of solid trash that would enter a landfill.

The job of a parent is the hardest one out there, and there are many reasons why cloth diapering is not for everyone – I am the first to understand that. However, if cloth diapering can work for you it is worth giving it a shot, even on a here and there basis, to cut down on your baby’s carbon footprint.

Happy Diapering!

What about you? Have you thought about using cloth diapers?

If you do, what was your main reason?


“The Poop on Eco-Friendly diapers” (http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,63182,00.html)

“Chemicals in Diapers Cited as Possible Asthma Trigger” (http://www.intelihealth.com/pcn/general/00245145.html) http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1510/is_n60/ai_6642692

“Country in „true‟ energy crises ups prices” http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2008-05-28- 1430029404_x.htm

“First Steps, The Diaper Debate” (http://healthychild.org/blog/comments/first_steps_the_diaper_deb ate/) Pamela Lundquist.

All images and content are protected under US copyright laws, please do not copy and paste.

Links in the post above may be affiliate or referral links - meaning that through a sale I may be given monetary benefit. I blog with integrity and only endorse companies and products I love.

This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. My son is 8 and daughter is 6; we cloth diapered but it was before there was such an overwhelming amount of info – if there were mommy blogs 8 years ago I definitely didn’t know about them 🙂 Our reasons were financial and environmental, but it was hard to know what the best diapers were without trying them so I ordered several different types on eBay and once I found the ones that worked, we bought a bunch. Back then it was Kushies AIO, but there have been so many improvements!
    I just couldn’t handle the idea that there would be a huge pile of diapers from my baby in a dump that didn’t break down for 50 years. I didn’t know about the whole toxic chemical thing until I was on my second child.
    We did use disposables when we were traveling or occasionally during a few overwhelming “I have two kids under two years old” days, but not very often.
    It was a fantastic experience, AND… I sold the majority of the diapers (some of them were pretty beat up) after both kids were potty trained and got some of my money back!!

  2. I love using cloth diapers! I wrote an entire post on the reasons why I chose to use them. I would say that the main reason is that they are a healthier choice for my baby.

  3. We’ve always used cloth diapers… main reason was probably beacause we were broke new parents and my mom made all of our cloth diapers as a gift to us, so they were practically free ;-).
    On the other hand, I was also very aware of the environmental impact dirty diapers have, so I wanted to give cloth diapering a shot regardless.

  4. My reasons were mostly economical – our income was essentially cut in half when I had my first child, so we intentionally cut our budget as close as we could in every area. We literally could not have afforded to pay every week for a package of disposable diapers! We invested in BG3.0s while I was still working, and continue to use them for Baby #2 (although I have also upgraded with some additional diapers in the Flip system). Thanks for sharing the environmental info, though. After reading that, I am so glad we CD almost exclusively.

  5. I LOVE MY CLOTH!!!! And I feel like cloth is like breastfeeding… the more women see others do it, the more they may consider it…

  6. We’re on baby #2 (12 months old) and child #1 (age 3) is still in diapers…We’ve cloth diapered since child #1 was about 4 months old…except for at night and when we’re out and about; we still use disposables for those times. I was all set to use cloth at night for baby #2 when he was born but couldn’t keep him dry!!! Even with extra soakers and such — and all that made for a very BIG diaper on a little baby. I prefer pocket diapers but also have some Best Bottom diapers which work well. I need some more so I plan to sew some up…just doing some research on fabrics and the best places to buy. Can’t wait to try them! Then I hope to be down to disposables for only night and traveling!

  7. We do cloth as well, though often do disposable overnight. When your baby finally starts sleeping through the night it is a huge disappointment to wake up at 4 am.. to find a wet crib and unhappy baby.
    I just wanted to comment about the budgeting. You also have to take into account the added cost of water and soap for the washing. I know this isn’t a huge amount compared to disposable diapers, but it should still be taken into consideration.

  8. I went to sposies overnight when my daughter turned about 18mo to 2 – we had the same issue! It was either get good sleep or wake up to change her AND the bedding.

    And you’re right, the soap and water can add up. I bought one box of Allen’s Naturally and it lasted me over two years though. And we’re lucky in the aspect that we have well water, so we pay extra for drying and running the machines, but luckily not for water. Though well water seems to cause some buildup issues……..