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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Cloth Versus Disposable Diapers: The Bottom Line on Eco-Friendly Baby Care


Taking care of newborn babies in an eco-friendly way can have a significant impact on both our environment and the little ones’ health. TreeHugger reports that disposable diapers, made from a blend of plastic and wood pulp and often encased in additional plastic, remain for an estimated 200 to 500 years. A baby uses between 5,000 and 8,000 diapers before being potty-trained, generating 18 billion diapers annually in the U.S. alone.

Further, a recent study by the French agency in charge of food, environmental and occupational health and safety says disposable diapers have been linked to allergic skin reactions and difficulties with potty-training because kids can’t detect as easily when they’re wet.

It’s also cheaper to go cloth instead of the disposable route. Consumer Reports estimates parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 for disposable diapers before their child no longer needs them. Green Baby Guide attests that the most affordable cloth option—prefolds plus covers—can cost as little as $243 over 2.5 years, which includes washing and drying expenses.

Tips for washing cloth diapers from All About Cloth Diapers include using a prerinse/wash that “agitates, spins and drains” (and to do a longer wash cycle if they aren’t getting clean), using the longest available hot wash cycle and an appropriate amount of water for the load size because “too much water, they are just ‘going for a swim’; too little water and they won’t be able to move, and therefore won’t get clean.”

The Beginner’s Guide section of Cloth Diaper Tales provides advice on choosing from different types of new cloth diapers and covers, which are better for overnight use, what to do about leaks and how many diapers new parents might need to get started. It includes a chart comparing the pros and cons, average cost and some of the most popular, current brands, covering pre-fold, fitted cloth, snap-in/all-in-two/pop-in, pocket and all-in-one cloth diapers.

The nonprofit Real Diapers Association organizes local advocates and activists for cloth diapers via a member-supported resource center that plans campaigns, trains organizers, distributes educational information and supports local groups. Local Real Diaper Circles involve users with knowledge and tips to make cloth diapering more accessible and acceptable to parents.
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