I realize that nine weeks of hands on experience doesn’t make me an expert, but here’s a straight-from-the-trenches (or should I say stenches) crash course in the various diapering options available to today's green mama.
Photograph by Shannon Gallagher
This past weekend I suggested to Coraline’s daddy that we go on a hike. Now, when I said “hike,” I was thinking a nice little stroll through the woods. That’s not quite what he was thinking. Four hours, six-plus miles, and two painful blisters later I came walking out of the woods near Saugerties’ Platt Cove, in my socks, nursing my half-asleep adventure baby. It was quite the moment. As we passed people on their way up I cringed a bit, knowing how I must look: just another “crunchy mama” communing with nature — little did they know, my daughter was wearing a disposable diaper!
This is a hot topic in mommy-world, one that inspires a surprising amount of judgment and therefore also camaraderie. “To each her own” most certainly holds true — at least for me — however because there is a quantifiable environmental impact made by your diapering choice, people tend to be very defensive regardless of which side of the fence they’re on. As I mentioned in a previous post, my initial plans for cloth diapering were waylaid by anxiety and sleep deprivation once I got my squirmy little girl home, sending my brother off to fetch some chlorine-free diapers and wipes. At the local health food store a package of 40 of these little numbers runs about $17 (come to find out, Toys ‘R Us sells the same package for $12). You figure a new baby is getting changed at least 10-12 times a day: I’m not good at math, but that is a lot of money on poop-catchers that are destined to spend eternity rotting in a landfill. Every full pail inspired waves of guilt. But as Coraline grew, and I got my legs under me, we phased the cloth back in with great success, using disposables only at night (to avoid leaking) and on field trips. Now that she’s over two months old (and almost five pounds heavier), she’s outgrown her first round of covers. But instead of buying more, I decided (on recommendation) to first give gDiapers a try, and so far, I’m in love.
I realize that nine weeks of hands on experience doesn’t make me an expert, but here’s a straight-from-the-trenches (or should I say stenches) crash course in the various diapering options available to today's green mama:
Type: Eco-diapers What they are: A chlorine, fragrance, gel, and dye-free disposable diaper alternative. Who makes them: Seventh Generation, Earth’s Best, Tushie’s Cost: $12-$18 per package (usually 40-44 diapers) Pros: No muss, no fuss (okay, maybe a little muss)— soiled diapers go in the garbage and your work is done. And unlike regular disposables, the absence of harsh chemicals means a gentler product on baby’s sensitive skin. Cons: These are more expensive than other disposables. Also, because they lack the polymer gel that makes mainstream brands so absorbent they leave some babies a leaky mess overnight. Green Factor: While these are a much more eco-friendly choice than say Huggies or Pampers, their manufacture takes it’s toll and they’re still going to end up in a landfill. Bottom line: Easy on you, still not so much on Mother Nature.
Type: Cloth diapers (Pre-folds) What they are: Multi-ply cloth rectangles (available bleached or unbleached) worn inside absorbent wool or waterproofed polyester covers (with snap or Velcro closures) Who makes them: Thirstie’s, Bummis, bumGenius, Lovey Bums, Imse Vimse, Proraps, and many more. Cost: $1.25 per pre-fold and $9-$40 per cover (to start you usually need about 24 pre-folds and 3-5 covers per size, although there are one-size covers available) Pros: Your expenses are limited to purchasing covers only as your baby grows, so while it’s a bigger expense upfront it pays over time — it’s been estimated that a baby can be cloth diapered from birth to potty training for a few hundred dollars, while disposables for the same amount of time can cost as much as $2000. Also, since your baby will feel wet, they’ll potty train earlier. Babies are also less likely to get diaper rashes in cloth because it’s breathable and they’re changed more frequently. Cons: It’s more work for mom if you wash at home (especially with wool), or just a little more expensive if you use a service (which will pick up your soiled pre-folds and drop off clean ones). And it’s messy, especially in the beginning when baby is pooping a lot (and it’s all liquid). Also, that adorable signature cloth diapered fluffy bottom requires slightly bigger digs (or some serious stretching). Green Factor: The reduce and reuse aspect of cloth makes it a super-green option, but it does require notable water and electricity to launder (more so on a commercial level). And if, like me, you pay for water every month, that extra five or six loads of laundry a week makes a difference in your usage. Bottom line: Easier on the wallet, baby’s bottom, and the environment: The way to go, though perhaps not for those who don’t like to get their hands dirty.
Type: All-in-One Cloth Diapers What they are: A cloth diaper that requires no pre-fold. Who makes them: Thirstie’s, Bummis, bumGenius, and many more. Cost: $5-$20 per diaper Pros: It’s the simplicity of a on/off disposable with the environmental and comfort benefits of cloth. Cons: You’ll need to buy a lot more of these to get you through a day, or at least through a load of laundry, so it could be more expensive than using pre-folds. And there’s no diaper service available so you’ll have to wash them yourself. Green Factor: Same as pre-folds, although you may find yourself doing even more laundry (ie. using more water) if you’ve stocked only the bare minimum you need. Bottom line: A nice thing to have in your repertoire, but perhaps not suited for diaper drawer domination.
Type: Hybrids What they are: A cloth outside with snap-in waterproof liner and flushable absorbent cotton inserts. Who makes them: gDiapers Cost: $30 for a starter pack (2 covers, 4 liners, 10 inserts) and $15 per pack of 40 inserts Pros: It’s the best of both worlds. The flushable (or compostable) inserts mean no pre-folds to wash, and the liners mean that the covers stay clean for longer. Plus, you can still use a pre-fold, meaning you can supplement the cost of the flushable inserts. Cons: It’s not quite as simple as 1-2-3 flush; the liner has to be ripped open so that the cotton filling can be broken up before it goes down the drain (they provide a plastic “swish stick” for this purpose). While it’s certainly easier than rinsing and washing poopy pre-folds, it’s enough of an extra step to make some people grossed out. Also, you do have to buy inserts as often as you would disposable diapers, so it’s not any easier on the wallet. Green Factor: These are arguably the greenest option. There is no extra water or electricity usage associated, and since the insert can be flushed or composted, there’s no garbage waste either (though you could just toss the insert, too — since it’s plastic-free it takes only 50-150 days to biodegrade). Bottom line: G is for genius?