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The Evolution of Cloth Diapers - Are They Right for Your Baby?

Moms want the very best for their bundles of joy, and in today’s modern world the environmental impact of some accepted baby methods, such as disposable diapers, simply can’t be ignored. So what does today’s modern mom do to satisfy her environmental responsibilities without dealing with the traditional downfalls of old-school cloth diapers? Well, there are a variety of companies who have come up with alternatives and solutions to age-old problems.

Companies such as Apple Cheeks, Bambino BUMS, g-diapers, The Honest Company and various others, have taken a modern twist on the sustainable diaper option by addressing common problems with the original design.

Cloth diapers have been transformed from a simple cloth pinned to your baby’s behind, to having a system in place so the mess itself doesn’t ever touch your hands. Some companies such as g-diapers have even come up with a hybrid diaper that incorporates the concept of a cloth diaper with the luxury of flushing a biodegradable material down your own toilet. An option that is both environmentally friendly and clean.

“If I knew about these it might’ve been something I would’ve considered,” said first time new Mom, Janine Babey. Janine and her husband TJ use disposable diapers on their newborn daughter, Hanna and admit to not knowing the stats on the environmental impact disposable diapers have.

“I honestly don’t know what the impact is on the environment, I know they go to the landfill...I don’t want to know unless I decide to switch either, I’d feel too guilty,” Janine said with a laugh.

According to Environment Canada nearly four million disposable diapers are discarded each day in Canada alone. It takes approximately five million years for one diaper to decompose, imagine the effects that has on our environment. In the US an estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are disposed of a year, according to Yikes. 

In addition to the harsh environmental impact of traditional disposable diapers, there have been some parents coming forward experiencing concern around extreme diaper rash from a product called “Dry Max Technology” that is commonly used in popular brands. Though there hasn’t been concrete evidence that this is the case, there is still some red flags raised for many, especially on such sensitive skin.

Having said all of that, disposable diapers have been used for decades and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s a stable industry and there are definite advantages to using disposable diapers; most of which are associated with upfront costs, personal time and effort and of course, the obvious “less mess” aspect. 

As we learn more about the hardships of our planet, many people are moving towards greener lifestyles and making conscious efforts to lessen their carbon footprint. Having a baby does create a lot of added waste to a household, so it seems the trend to minimalize that is a growing one. Naturally, one of the biggest sources of waste is diapers, so it makes sense that it is one of the first things to be addressed.

So what does the new cloth diaper entail and how has it evolved from old versions? 

All cloth systems vary in one way or another, so finding the right one for your baby may take some research. Every family and every baby have different needs and different priorities when it comes to changing bums, so there is no perfect answer. Here is the system that is generally used in a modern cloth diaper.

Most brands have a two-tear piece system that includes an insert that is easily removed from the outer layer upon use. The outer layers are incredibly cute and come in many different sizes, styles and materials (including swim-friendly sets). The idea is that the insert can easily be removed, cleaned and washed while the outer stays clean and is easily re-used with a fresh insert. This tends to work for most messes, but of course there are some situations where the entire thing would need to be washed. 

Some people are intimidated by the idea of having to touch the mess and dispose of it in a normal sewage system, the truth is, if you read the package of your current disposable diapers, that is recommended for big messes in them as well. So, really, there isn’t a huge change there if you are abiding by the recommendations you’ve already been given. 

Once the mess is put into the toilet, the insert is then put into the wash and easily replaced with a fresh piece in most cases. Some systems actually have biodegradable inserts and include a different disposal method. The idea is that the insert itself is put into the toilet, and with a wand provided you are to swish the insert in the toilet until it breaks down and can be flushed - therefore not causing any unwanted plumbing issues. 

For some, this is great. It eliminates a big factor of most cloth systems out there - all the extra washing. Of course the outer piece does need to be washed periodically, but it’s not the amount of added laundry as alternative brands. 

The outer layer in most brands is thoroughly designed to keep things dry and trapped from leakage and the materials used is very soft on babies skin. There are generally multiple sets of snaps built into the bottoms so that when baby grows you can adjust the size and keep using them. This does eliminate a lot of buying new product and as long as they have stayed in good shape, the bottoms can be used on your next baby as well. This does make things easy.

Price point is something that can be hard to stomach for most people. Yes, there is going to be a large up-front cost to switching over to cloth diapers. These prices do vary depending on the brand you opt for, but generally speaking you will pay a few hundred dollars for a starter kit. 

Though this can be daunting, especially when factoring in all the other costs associated with new babies, you need to figure out your long-term savings. There is no question that over the course of your baby’s time in diapers, there is a savings when using cloth, especially if you are able to use the cloth diaper systems again for your second baby. Like any product, you can get different variations of cloth diapers, however, so be sure that you are focusing on function as your top priority, or you could end up spending about the same as your disposables in the long run.

Laundry is another thing to keep in mind. You will of course be doing more loads of laundry then you normally would be, as the absorbency on cloth diapers isn’t quite as good as disposables. That means more changes and certainly more loads of laundry. Make sure you have a good washing machine and use gentle / baby-safe soap to avoid soap irritation on your little one. 

There really are an overwhelming number of revolutionized cloth diaper systems on the market now. Trying to find the best system can be overwhelming and time consuming. The best bet is to look at online reviews and go to a distributor where you can see the different brands in person. That way you can feel the fabrics used, look at the quality of the design and assess the price-point versus the diaper. There’s not really one good answer as to which system is best, because every baby and every parent is different. All the time and effort of research will be worth it, as this is a long-term investment for your child and in many cases, children.

At the end of the day whether you choose to stay with traditional disposable diapers or decide to make the switch to cloth it is good to know there are busy minds looking to fix concerns around traditional cloth diaper systems. Your baby is the most important one to keep in mind and if you decide to make the switch to cloth, there are some great options that keep the safety of your baby and the well being of our environment in mind. 

Here are some local places to find brands that might work for you:

Calgary Cloth Diaper Depot
Babes In Arms


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