Fill Diapers, Not Landfills

Written By: Rochelle Archibald

I’m a new mom. My son Linden is nine weeks old and he wears cloth diapers. Most people who know me knew I would go the cloth diaper route because I’m an environmental nut. But I did have a few people say “if it gets to be too much don’t feel bad about switching to disposables” or “cloth diapers are for pioneers, technology has given us the gift of disposable diapers” or even “yuck, that sounds messy!” I really don’t understand why there is such a stigma around cloth diapers. Disposable does not mean better. For me protecting the environment and my son’s future is a much better option and I’m not the only one who thinks so. "I now use cloth diapers on my youngest because of the environment. It takes around 500 YEARS for a disposable diaper to break down, that means every disposable diaper made is still sitting in a landfill.” Says Bryer Frederiksen, a cloth diaper user. Can you even imagine how many diapers that is? Aside from the environment there are many other benefits to cloth diapers, don’t get me wrong there are some challenges as well, but there are two sides to every story and I’m going to tell the cloth diaper story here:

So what is the biggest motivator for cloth diapering? Saving money! The average investment for cloth diapers is between $300-$1,000 depending on brands and the number of diapers you’d like to have on hand. The average cost of using disposable diapers is $2,500 per child from birth to potty training. If you have multiple kids the savings increase as the cloth diapers can be passed down. Aside from saving money there are several other factors that make cloth diapers a great option. The strength and construction of the fabric allows for a better fit which helps prevent leaks and blowouts (poop explosions). There are no chemicals to worry about which reduces the likelihood that your baby will get a rash. Many moms (and some dads) actually enjoy the washing routine and find diaper laundry relaxing…I am one of those moms. There’s nothing like taking something that’s absolutely filthy and making it look new again, and then stuffing them and put them in nice little stacks. It might sound crazy, but it’s one of the only tasks that actually gets completed now that I have a baby so it feels rewarding to get it done. Mom’s take pride in their diaper collections and the cloth diaper community certainly shows it. There are some amazing cloth diaper support groups online with thousands of members who share diaper advice along with parenting advice, stories, and give-a-ways. Some family’s diaper collections are in the hundreds!! I think my fiancé is already nervous that our house will eventually be stuffed to the ceiling with diapers and we’re only two months in. Plus, if they’re cared for correctly they have great resale value which makes them even more affordable in the long term and less scary for the parent who has a significant other with a diaper addiction. Now on to the environment. Do I even need to explain the environmental benefits? SO MUCH LESS GARBAGE IN THE LANDFILLS! There is also a reduction in the amount of wood, petroleum, chlorine and plastic used to make disposable diapers. And the transportation costs of shipping diapers from the manufacturer to the stores, home, and then to the landfill are also reduced. The amount of garbage at our house went from one bag a week with disposables to less than one bag a month with cloth. Plus, they come in a variety of colours and patterns to suit your little ones style or personality.

Now for the drawbacks of cloth diapers. There is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to finding the right fit for your baby, but putting a diaper on a baby for the first time isn’t an easy task whether it’s cloth or disposable. You might have to try a couple different brands, adjust the snaps or velcro, or reconfigure the stuffing materials, but eventually you will find the right combination that will hold in even the biggest explosion. The good news is that there are so many different brands and styles that there is a perfect fit for every baby bum out there. Next comes the wash routine. Yes, there is a bit more laundry to do but after you do it a few times you’ll have a streamlined routine that you’ll barely notice. Some worry about using a lot more water but with a high efficiency washing machine that isn’t really an issue. Approximately 34 litres of water are required to manufacture just one disposable diaper(1) and you’d use much less than that washing a whole load of cloth diapers. The worst part, and the part that comes to mind for most people when they think cloth diapers, is disposing of the goodies. When babies start eating solids their poop needs to be sprayed or scraped from the diaper into the toilet. But think of it this way, no matter what kind of diaper you use eventually you are going to get some caca on you. Could this be motivation for toilet training? Last but not least: carrying dirty diapers around. They do make small wet bags to put in your diaper bag for day trips and larger wet bags that could be used if you go on a longer trip but this doesn’t change the fact that you have to carry poop around. It’s been said that cloth diapered babies learn to use the potty earlier than those in disposable diapers, maybe this has something to do with it.

Let’s talk disposables. The biggest advantage is definitely convenience, especially when traveling and there are no laundry facilities available. They are also very compact, reducing the amount of baggage on outings (there’s no extra room when you’ve packed everything except the kitchen sink…and the sink would probably come in handy if only it would fit). The composition of disposables makes them very absorbent, which is great for long periods when a diaper change isn’t possible. And they're easier for babysitters or others who aren’t accustomed to cloth to change. They sound great right? For some reason us humans have associated the word “disposable” with the word “better” as if something that can be thrown away is better than quality. Here are the top reasons why I wouldn’t consider switching back to disposables:

  • The chemicals used in diapers can cause diaper rash or chemical burns on baby bums. They contain a chemical called dioxin which is a known carcinogen.
  • They STINK! A pile of disposables in the garbage can is one of the worst smells I’ve smelt. The diaper pail full of used cloth smells faintly of cheese or an old shoe, but it’s definitely tolerable and you don’t smell it unless you open the pail and take a good whiff.
  • The blowouts! We used disposables for the first couple weeks after birth and had several messes up poor Linden’s back.
  • Running out of diapers when it’s midnight or there’s a raging blizzard outside.
  • Taking out the garbage every day.
  • They’re expensive….remember $2,500 per kid. Enough for a family vacation!
  • They’re quite boring looking, feel cheap, and get all sad and saggy.
  • I hear dogs love eating diapers….well that can’t be good for them. True story: I once saw a bear eating a diaper at the dump. I don’t have a dog or a bear but I’m happy that I’m not contributing to their bad habits.
  • I saved the best for last! They’re terrible for the environment! In Canada 4,000,000 diapers are taken to landfills each day!(2) Laura Renaud, a Geotechnical Engineer who focuses on landfill development and also a cloth diaper user says, “Disposables are a large percentage of the waste that ends up in the landfill, and I like feeling like I'm doing my part, small as it may be, to cut down on the need for more landfill space.”

So there you have it, my cloth diaper story. While disposable diapers may be convenient there is a time and a place for their use. Can you imagine how much waste would be diverted from landfills if everyone used cloth and just the occasional disposable? So what do you think of cloth diapers now? If you’re having a baby or know someone that is maybe cloth can be considered. Cloth isn’t for pioneers; it’s for health conscious, environmentally minded, thrifty, families that aren’t afraid of a little poop.

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Comments: 49
  • #1

    Kari Vetter (Friday, 04 March 2016 08:51)

    Disposables definitely smell way worse! My LO wears 'sposies at night, and there's a single dirty disposable diaper in my trash can right now, but it's enough to make my whole living room smell terrible. My cloth only start to smell on wash day, because my pail is full, and even then it's nowhere near the disgusting odor of that one single paper diaper. And no blowouts is everything, too... LOL! Great blog post!

  • #2

    Sybil Waters (Friday, 04 March 2016 08:54)

    Thanks for reminding me of all the good things about cloth diapering! Currently at the hospital getting ready to bring our little one home for the first time!

  • #3

    Jenna Lamb Bennedum (Friday, 04 March 2016 08:55)

    I've used both and feel so much better about my decision to cloth diaper full time. And yes, it feels so rewarding pulling a sparkling clean diaper out of the wash when you know just how yucky it looked going in!

  • #4

    Jocelyn Kennedy (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:00)

    I'm so glad I made the switch I did jump on the cloth diaper bandwagon a little late with my son but I am planning on fully cloth diapering our baby on the way. Ever since switching to cloth my son hasn't had a diaper rash. Before using disposables we were battling rashes and yeast infections left and right! I'm so glad I made the switch!

  • #5

    Angie ramon (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:04)

    Thank you for making me feel even better about my decision to cloth diaper... And yes I hey doing laundry but I love!! Doing my diaper laundry!!!!

  • #6

    Chantay (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:08)

    I use cloth now but didn't before when my oldest who's is now turning 2 next month, I never thought I would even start but here I am now cloth diapering 1 baby an toddler and couldn't ask for anything better and cheaper (well if your not buying all the new realeses) :)

  • #7

    Lisa Pellerin (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:08)

    great blog post. reminds me of all the great benefits and reasons I choose to cloth diaper. Thanks for the read.

  • #8

    Teri A Riester (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:18)

    Beautiful said!

  • #9

    Sarah Dail Christie (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:21)

    We love cloth diapers! And completely agree with what you say about disposables - especially that they stink!! Cloth all the way!

  • #10

    Morgan March (Friday, 04 March 2016)

    I did disposables for my oldest, but switched to cloth with my youngest at 9 months. We love it so much more. You don't keep them around (disposables really stink up a garbage bag), they're so much cuter, better for the environment & you never have to worry about running out. When we have fallen on hard times, it's nice to be able to cut out that expense worry. We love cloth!

  • #11

    Christina (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:24)

    I love cloth diapers. I love how eco friendly they are and that they save my children from exposure to all those harmful chemicals. Most people use disposables wrong anyways.

  • #12

    Megan Drane (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:26)

    I love that we choose cloth! I buy more than I need but know I will still save money in the end after going through at least 2 kids and selling them after I'm done with them!

  • #13

    Jill Houlihan (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:28)

    Same name on FB. I am entered in to hopefully win the Watt On Earth Sz 2 Diaper! Please, pick me, pick me!!! I started cloth diapering 3 years ago and new baby is almost 9 months old! We love cloth! No issues here. And correct sposies stink worse!

  • #14

    Rhiannon west (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:35)

    I love cloth is the best decision ive made. Ive probably spent more than i would have on disposables but i love all the cloth diapers and need them all. Lol ;) stuffing them is my best fri night activity. Thanks for your blog it's exactly why i cloth.

  • #15

    Melissa DeCroteau (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:39)

    I had to switch to cloth when my oldest was 6 months when we found out he was allergic to something in disposables! We have been using them every since (alst 3 years!) and I love it! It's honestly so much easier in my opinion. We use Applecheeks, Grovia and sloomb!

  • #16

    Khrissie Schultz (Friday, 04 March 2016 09:51)

    I could not agree with you more on all views! I just need to get a nightime routine down and I will fully be cloth diapering my babe:) its such an excitinf and rewarding experience!

  • #17

    Stefanie Michelle Nicholaa (Friday, 04 March 2016 10:09)

    What an awesome pos! I wouldn't consider myself an environmental nut even, but it seems crazy to me to fill landfills and waste so much money on sposies!

    I think resale value is a huge factor for me and why I'm only buying Applecheeks now going forward :)

  • #18

    Sara Cole (Friday, 04 March 2016 10:26)

    We are soon due with our first baby! And when I got pregnant it was a no brainer to us to both clothe diaper, and breast feed. Great for baby, and great for the environment (and our pocket books). However, I don't think I realized just how many different kinds of clothe diapers there were, and ways they work. I totally appreciate articles like this one because they give a clue-less first time Mama, a great insight into what I am getting into. I am SO excited for fluffy bottoms in our home. Thank-you!

  • #19

    Janelle Zimmerman (Friday, 04 March 2016 10:39)

    Exactly my point of view on the subject. Well said. I'll be sharing this with friends and family. Thank you :)

  • #20

    Kristen G-p (Friday, 04 March 2016 10:44)

    Great points you make. Many of the same reasons I went with cloth. :)

  • #21

    Mallorie Reid (Friday, 04 March 2016 11:04)

    The people who say cloth is gross are very close minded and don't realize that things evolve from the 1960s!
    I can't stand the smell of disposables and I enjoy doing cloth diaper laundry!

  • #22

    Brittanie McNeil(Sues) (Friday, 04 March 2016 11:38)

    I'm so pleased we switched to cloth. Even with my husband and refusing to help with it I don't mind doing diaper changes if I'm helping the environment. Plus they are way cuter

  • #23

    Amanda joosten (Friday, 04 March 2016 11:54)

    Once you go cloth u never go back!! Love my fluff butt in some fluff rather than nasty sposies

  • #24

    Lynn G. (Friday, 04 March 2016)

    Holy Moly!!! 4 million diapers go into Canadian landfills every DAY.... I also hadn't thought about the scary reality that EVERY disposable diaper EVER MADE is still sitting in landfills. Great sunnary article to send along to expectant momma friends who might be "cloth curious".

  • #25

    Heather Skittles Groat (Friday, 04 March 2016 12:04)

    I love cloth! I wish I would have stuck to my guns and done cloth from the beginning like I wanted to!! I just didn't know there was such a cloth diaper community out there already!!

  • #26

    Caitlynn Chisholm (Friday, 04 March 2016 12:30)

    I love that we started using cloth diapers for my daughter (baby #3) and now will do the fourth and I'm so excited! Wish I would've started way earlier! I absolutely love not stressing about going to the store cause there's only 1 diaper left or buying a new pack/box every week! So much more convenient

  • #27

    Sonya Orozco (Friday, 04 March 2016 12:37)

    Applecheeks are my absolute favorite!!

  • #28

    Angel Groves (Friday, 04 March 2016 12:46)

    I am really looking forward to using cloth diapers on my son Colton when he is born in June! I already have a stash started of over 30 prints because they are so cute!! I can't resist buying more :)

  • #29

    CCL (Friday, 04 March 2016 13:36)

    Great article! I only wish I could help my friends and family see it this way, too!

  • #30

    Tannis W (Friday, 04 March 2016 14:32)

    Great informative post. We cloth diaper and I love that it makes less waste for the landfills.

  • #31

    Tara Seiler Kerfoot (Friday, 04 March 2016 14:51)

    We love our cloth diapers with my grand son. They are much nicer than what I used with my boys. We cloth diaper mainly because it's better for the child. The benefits to the environment is just a plus.

  • #32

    Amanda love (Friday, 04 March 2016 15:01)

    I want more kids now that I've found cloth

  • #33

    Kristina Marie Nino (Friday, 04 March 2016 17:07)

    Awsome blog. We use cloth. I have saved a lot in just using cloth for less than a year. I will definitely use til potty trained. :)

  • #34

    Krissie McCoy (Friday, 04 March 2016 19:10)

    We chose cloth to save money and for environmental reasons. :)

  • #35

    chelsea marie kolstee (Friday, 04 March 2016 20:29)

    I love this. Wish my family got it. Haha. Pipe dreams.

  • #36

    Nicole Diane Cramer (Friday, 04 March 2016 21:41)

    I have used cloth diapers with my last 3/6 children. While I have a fairly large stash, it has sort of grown over the years I still have saved money. The enviornmental factor alone is fanominal! I can't resist my AppleCheeks. They function like a DREAM. If you haven't tried AppleCheeks you should!

  • #37

    Heather D'Antonio Walborn (Saturday, 05 March 2016 17:15)

    We had to use disposables this past week because our youngest was on antibiotics - and I completely agree! A garbage can full of those stinks way more than a pail full of cloth diapers! It was convenient to use them but I was so excited to go back to my cloth :)

  • #38

    Sarah Sobocinski (Saturday, 05 March 2016 17:19)

    Wow. 500 years for a disposable to break down. I'm so glad I started cloth diapering with my third.

  • #39

    Nicole Stanfill Floyd (Saturday, 05 March 2016 21:00)

    We love cloth diapering! Saves so much money & is much more environmentally friendly. Recently we have switched to 100% cloth & cloth wipes (we were using disposables at night) and it'd awesome!

  • #40

    Penny grant (Sunday, 06 March 2016 18:37)

    We are using cloth diapers for our first grandson due in May. Excited to get started, and hopefully we are successful at it. Cloth diapers have come a long way in the last 20 years :)

  • #41

    Amy Lynn (Sunday, 06 March 2016 18:43)

    Wow!!! 4 million diapers A DAY. That's sickening to think of. What a giant waste. I didn't know about dioxin either. I hate having my babies in disposables. I think it's time to teach the grandparents to put them in cloth when visiting as well.

  • #42

    Peggy Williams (Monday, 07 March 2016 04:04)

    you know its kind of funny i have heard a lot of what you heard about cloth.. since i switched with my 4th baby (no one had told me how amazing cloth was or anything like that) i have hard a lot about it would be so much easier for us to do disposables and such.. ive had some family ask me about cloth and try it only to give up and then tell me "oh it was to hard, its to gross, oh i cant do it i dont know how you do it" and i get a chuckle out of them and im like its simple... its easy. not only is it cute as heck on my baby bc lets face it cloth prints are so freaking adorable, but its good for the environment too.. we arent having to throw our diapers in landfils or try to burn them.. and the ones who said it was to hard was bc they had to dump hard waste or rinse them off.. it was "to much work" .. it saddened me that they were that willing to give up on our planet for a few seconds to a few minutes of their life.. me on the other hand i wish i had had someone tell me about the benefits of cloth way back when i was 18 and had my first, or even with my second and third.. now that ive clothed id never go back.. and we have even switched to cloth mama cloth.. my daughter just started her monthly last year and she already uses cloth, she wont use anything else.. im so proud that i was able to turn her onto cloth in the begining so now i know my grand babies will be able to enjoy cloth as well.

  • #43

    jen kristine (Thursday, 10 March 2016 09:19)

    as a new mom you are never told about all of the garbage that comes along with a kid weather being diapers or Packaging or whatever. It would be great if we could get the idea of cloth out to New Moms and have it available to them as much as disposables are available. I think people need to be educated that cloth diapers are not done the same way that their parents did it. It is so much easier now period 4

  • #44

    Cassandra Clarke (Thursday, 10 March 2016 09:24)

    We have the same drying rack! I wish I used cloth diapers on our first two boys! Started when our third was just over 1 and loving it! Our baby girl is due in May and a dispoable will never touch her :)

  • #45

    Katie Bettis- Robinson (Thursday, 10 March 2016 11:20)

    I did not cloth with my first but have exclusively cloth diapered my second! The amount we saved is awesome. The smell of sposies is terrible. They get that saggy butt look quick. They go to more waste in a land fill. I am so glad we started cloth diapering!

  • #46

    Holly Terry Boland (Thursday, 10 March 2016 13:15)

    I love cloth diapers. I don't have a huge stash but it works fine since I prefer to launder them daily. I wish I had known more about them when I had my first two kids but better late than never. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  • #47

    Rachel Garner (Thursday, 10 March 2016 18:30)

    The environmental reasons really get me! Saving money is really awesome, too, though!

  • #48

    Kari Barone (Thursday, 10 March 2016 21:29)

    I cloth diapered my first only at home and used disposables while out and about. I despise disposables and their chemical smell. My second is highly sensitive. I cloth diapered him 100% with no regrets.The savings is phenomenal, the cuteness adorable, and no toxins is incredible. I love cloth diapering and found that I had far less laundry due to no blowouts or leaks.

  • #49

    Sarah Cleveland (Friday, 11 March 2016 09:07)

    I wish everyone with young children would read this. So many people get discouraged by people who haven't cloth diapered in years or have never done it. Most families I know that use cloth love it! It can be intimidating getting started and every time something new pops up (eg. Starting solids) but once you catch on it is so much better than disposables :)