What I don’t know about disposable diapers

If there is one thing that starting this blog has shown me it is that I know nothing.  And since that is the second time I’ve written such a sentiment (and I’m only on my 4th blog entry) I am starting to feel a bit like Jon Snow.

So, I know nothing.  I’m fine with that because I enjoy doing research.

This week I want to talk about my number one reason for cloth diapering: to avoid the toxic chemicals that are in most disposables.  I went back and forth, started (and deleted) this entry about 5 times.  The thing is, I know this is a hot topic; the whole cloth vs. disposable debate.  But does it really need to be a debate?  I know, I know, what parenting topic isn’t a debate?

But I just want to be able to present the facts.

The problem is that there is so little information about it.  I can certainly tell you what is in most disposable diapers (Dioxins, Sodium Polyacrylate, and VOCs to name a few) and I can tell you what those chemicals are known to do (but I won’t because it’s disturbing, that’s why there are links!)  What I can’t tell you is that I’ve found scientific proof that diapering your child in a disposable diaper will cause your child to get cancer, asthma,  reproductive problems, or even severe diaper rash, because there isn’t any “proof.”  Is that because they don’t?  I DON’T KNOW!  But I should!  And so should you! 

As consumers we should have a right to know what is in the products that we are purchasing that will touch our baby’s delicate skin.  Why should a diaper be any different than shampoo?  Shampoo has to list the ingredients so that you are aware that you are dousing your head (or not) in petrochemicals known to cause cancer.

In my home if a chemical is shown to cause cancer (or any of the other major health risks), then I don’t want that chemical in my home, let alone touching my baby’s bum.  That’s it.  No, I don’t know for sure that putting my child in roughly 6,000 disposable diapers during their first 2-3 years of life will have a long term effect on their health.  But I am also unwilling to take that chance.  I’d like to think that there are regulations in place to keep us safe.  But time and again I think we’ve found that this isn’t the case (lead, BPA, Fire Retardant chemicals, and Parabens to name a few).   

So yes, I take care to avoid as many toxic chemicals as I can for the health of my children.  Is it easy?  Absolutely not.  I can’t afford to be buying $800 nontoxic cribs made with untreated wood and built by the Amish.  I can’t even afford to buy the $400 organic nontoxic mattress to go in a crib (although I will buy the non-organic, but at least non-toxic, version at a whopping $150 and feel that I did what I could to keep him from breathing in chemicals while he sleeps).   

But there is something that I can do that is easy.  I can use cloth diapers instead of disposables, because I can’t find anything that says “Yes, these toxins cause these health problems, and they are in almost all disposable diapers, but your baby is 100% guaranteed to be fine as a result of using disposables.”  And the fact that cloth diapers cost so much less than using disposables just makes for an added bonus!      

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Save your clothes (and diapers), line dry!

When my first son was no more than 2 months old we gathered everything we owned, moved out of the condo we were renting, and headed back to Greece.  In one of my many suitcases was a set of organic cotton prefold diapers and 6 one sized covers.  I had made the decision to cloth diaper when I had watched a friend of mine changing her sons diaper there the summer before.  I already knew that diapers were more expensive there than in the States, but watching her I realized that the price tag was pretty deceptive.  She went through not 1, not 2, but 3 disposable diapers before one finally stuck.  Every time she pulled out the tab it ripped off, rendering the diaper useless.  She was pretty frustrated by the time a diaper finally took, and I just though that there had to be a better way.

What I learned by cloth diapering in Greece was that I LOVE using a clothes line.  Living in a place where the cost of every is high, but wind and sun is abundant and free, it is pretty much a no-brainer.  Of course, we had been living there on and off for several years, line drying was something I’d become accustomed to out of necessity, but that first time I hung those diapers out to dry I was amazed.  Pulling my diapers one by one from the washer I was dismayed to see that they were stained.  Badly.  Of course I knew that this happened…I mean, really, this is a diaper we’re talking about.  It serves 1 purpose, and that purpose and stains go hand in hand.  So I hung them up and went about my day.  When I checked on them an hour later there was not a stain to be seen!  And it wasn’t just the diapers.  Stains that had set in from earlier explosions were gone too (we had used-gasp!-disposables the first 2 months of his life, which leaked like crazy and stained his clothes).  I had never noticed before what amazing stain fighting power the sun had before!  Of course, before it was only my husband and I…we really didn’t get many stains on our own clothes pre-baby.

If you have diapers with PUL or TPU covers, line drying will help them to last much longer, and that is something that pretty much every mama who cloth diapers realizes.  But what about your clothing?  The clothes line is not just good for your diapers.  Ever think about where all that lint comes from?  Your clothes.  Dryers slowly break down your clothes while they tumble around in there being blasted with heat.  That lint is proof that your favorite shirt is slowly breaking down, and will likely not be your favorite for long.  Zippers and hooks are also a dryer danger, snagging softer fabrics, causing small holes to appear.  If you want to extend the life of your clothing, invest in a clothesline!  You really can’t go wrong when it naturally sanitizes, lifts stains, extends the life of your clothing, AND keeps you from running that energy hog of a dryer…which saves you  money!  Just be sure to hang your colors inside out to prevent fading.  And if you baby wear, strap your little one on while you hang the clothes out to dry…you’ll find it’s a LOT of fun for them as well (just be prepared to go hunting for those clothes pins later).

M&clothesline