Monday, February 9, 2009

The Case for Cloth Diapers

For a while now I've been trying to figure out the issue with Justus and diapers. It seemed that when in cloth, he would wind up all red and irritated. It never looked like the diaper rashes my disposable-wearing babies had on occasion which took creams and several changes to heal. This is more just a red, irritated and sometimes even puffy reaction that would go away if left to air dry for a good amount of time. It was bothering me so much to see this happening to him and to know that it was uncomfortable for him so I put him in "Seventh Generation" disposable diapers for a little while until I could figure out the issue and try to resolve it.

When Justus was born, I decided to practice EC (elimination communication) with him. It was working out wonderfully for a while and then there began to be times when it felt inconvenient and overwhelming. I've never been one to leave my children in a pee or poo diaper, so it wasn't (and isn't) a huge deal to me to have a diapered baby. I got very lazy with it (the EC'ing) and let it go long enough that Justus started refusing the potty and still does. I honestly wish I would've been more diligent in providing him with "pottytunities" and continuing with EC full time. All lessons I will be taking with me on my journey with this little one. Anyway, I mention the EC'ing because obviously that was a period of time where diaper redness was a non-issue because even when I did have him in a cloth diaper I rarely had him in a cover. It's only since there is ALWAYS a cover on him that the redness thing has been an issue. I find it so much harder now that he is running around all over the house, upstairs and downstairs, to leave him without a cover. He's climbing all over everything (including everyone's beds) so I can't really leave him to be wet without me there to change him and I simply cannot be there every single moment. So I'm feeling a little torn and obviously I still have much to learn from seasoned ECer's.

Using the disposable diapers, even the non-bleached-supposedly-healthier ones was REALLY bugging me. There is NO indication on the packaging that there isn't plastic used in the diaper and it's obvious to me there is. It's also obvious to me that with their slim fitting shape they must contain some kind of chemical(s) for absorbancy. So if there are still chemicals against his skin (even though it's not as many as say... Pampers brand has) and it still has plastic so it'll be sitting in a landfill forever, then where is the huge benefit?! It's still expensive and wasteful.

Considering Justus's reluctance to using a toilet/potty and my determination to stay away from disposables and use cloth WITHOUT him getting irritated, I decided to give pocket diapers a try. Pocket diapers have a fleece inner layer that effectively wicks moisture away from baby's skin which keeps baby feeling drier. They are also pretty expensive and a full supply would probably cost about $600. Hard to justify that price when your child is already 20 months old and the desire is to get them OUT of diapers rather than invest in them staying in them! I bought 2 FuzzyBunz and used them at night time to see how well Justus's skin did in them. Sure enough, he felt dry and his skin had no signs of irritation. I was very pleased, but still needed a day time solution.

As luck would have it, I found a somewhat local mama selling off her entire pocket diaper stash (22 diapers!) for only half of what I would pay retail for them. Coincidence?! :-) We picked them up last week and it's been working out amazing since! I'm so happy :):):) Justus LOVES them because they are a variety of bright colors and I let him pick which he wants to wear next. So no more disposables (YEAH!) and all is well in my 'crunchy' world again :-)


Hidden Danger's of Disposable Diapers

The Environmental Issue

There are those who claim that disposable diapers are better for the environment because no water, energy or soap is wasted on washing or drying them as with cloth diapers. The question is: how did the disposables get manufactured in the first place? Certainly a fair amount of water and energy were needed to produce them, not to mention valuable raw materials like wood and oil. And who walks to the store to buy their disposable diapers? Certainly not people pressed for time, which is the main argument against cloth diapers -- that they take up too much time. And what about waste disposal costs? Also, did you know that in the U.S., it is illegal to put human fecal matter in residential garbage? Which person pressed for time shakes the poop out of his or her disposable diaper before disposing of it? Did you also know that experts speculate that a disposable diaper can take anywhere from 100-500 years to biodegrade in a landfill? This means that EVERY SINGLE disposable diaper ever used is still out there decomposing somewhere!

Even the argument that the soaps used in laundering cloth diapers are harmful and eventually end up in our ground water are exaggerated. Most people who choose cloth diapers also choose an environmentally friendly soap, and then the waste water from laundering a load of cloth diapers is benign. Take in comparison the impact of the waste water from the manufacture of disposable diapers which often contains dioxins, solvents, biocides and even heavy metals; and then a little environmentally friendly soap seems harmless.

What is better for your baby?

Even though disposable diaper manufacturers spend millions of dollars every year on advertizing that their diapers feel "drier", no scientific evidence indicates that diaper rash occurs more often with cloth diapers than with disposables. In fact, because disposables feel drier, many parents postpone diaper changes too long and the bacteria from the urine remains in longer contact with the baby's skin causing redness and irritation. In addition, because the plastic in disposable diapers prevents the proper circulation of air, ammonia from the bacterial-breakdown of urine is unable to escape causing further irritation; whereas cloth diapers with a wool or micro-fiber cover allow the baby's skin to breathe, thereby eliminating this source of irritation. The best way to prevent diaper rash, however, is frequent diaper changes, regardless of which kind of diaper one uses.

What is most frightening about disposable diapers is the unknown or passively ignored presence of toxic chemicals. One such chemical is dioxin, a highly toxic by-product of the bleaching process. Secondly, sodium polyacrylate, the clear gel-like substance you often find on your baby's genitals after a diaper change, gives disposable diapers their super absorbant characteristic. Its use in tampons was banned in 1985 because of its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome. And most recently, TBT or Tributylin was found in disposable diapers in Europe. TBT is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most toxic substances in use in consumer products in the world today. It is a biocide and is used in killing or preventing the growth of bacteria. And although the WHO has also revealed that the amount of TBT found in disposable diapers poses no threat to the health of a baby, the question still arises: Why is such a toxic substance needed in a diaper? And furthermore, even though the TBT in diapers does not adversely effect those wearing the diapers, what about the safety of ground water from decomposing diapers in landfills?

What's more, new scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their harsh perfumes and toxic substances to the increase of asthma in today's society. Laboratory rats exposed to disposable diapers straight out of the package have suffered increased eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as bronchioconstriction similar to that of an asthma attack (according to Rosalind C. Anderson, lead author of the report "Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions", Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999).

The Convenience Issue

Admittedly, disposable diapers do have the appearance of being more convenient. Those who claim that disposables are more convenient and time-saving, however, seem to forget that someone has to go out to the store to buy them, carry them home, and take out the trash can when they are used up. And although you do have to wash cloth diapers, the few minutes it takes to start up a load of laundry (which you have to do more often with small children in the house anyway) is much less than the effort it takes to acquire and dispose of disposable diapers.

What's The Hype?

You ask yourself. My child wears disposable diapers and does not have asthma, nor do I notice any harmful side-effects from all the toxic substances. That may very well be true, but you should also ask yourself if the alleged "convenience" of disposable diapers is worth the cost to the environment and to the health of your child. Each purchase of disposable diapers is an economic incentive for disposable diaper companies to continue producing products found to be extremely harmful not only to our children, but also to our environment.

Environmentally Friendly Disposables

Such a creature does exist: Moltex Öko Disposable Diapers. They are rated by the German Öko-Test (Heft 28/99) Consumer Product Testing publication as "Empfehlenswert" or Recommendable. In America, look for the brand Tushies: they have been bleached via a non-toxic method and contain no polyacrylate granules. They are a good compromise when traveling. Who wants to lug around a suitcase full of moist, stinking cloth diapers?

Cloth Diapering -- Getting Started

Cloth diapers are not what they used to be! No one has to use pins or spend hours folding square pieces of cotton into complex origami-type contraptions anymore. The cloth diapers my family uses (from Mother-ease) are pre-formed, completely adjustable to fit babies from 3-18 kilograms, and are fastened via snaps and/or velcro tabs. A micro-fiber cover goes over the top to keep the moisture in, but at the same time, allows the baby's skin to breathe. In addition to a cloth inlay for extra absorbancy, there is a paper inlay, which is then flushed down the toilet and with it, most of the fecal matter. Soiled diapers are rinsed out and stored in a diaper pail. Every other day, the diapers are washed with the rest of the baby laundry and voilá!

We use non-bleached, organic cotton diapers and inlays (that way we support sustainable cotton agriculture and are assured that no harmful pesticides or dioxins are present in our diapers). The paper inlays are also from organic raw materials and are bleached via non-toxic methods. We use a phosphate-free detergent, specially designed for washing at a lower temperature (Vollwaschmittel from the store, Spinnrad); and we hang our diapers out to dry. What's more, we have the peace of mind, knowing that we are offering our babies the best possible diaper care, as well as doing our part in protecting our environment.


1 comment:

the_witty_knitter said...

I am so glad that you found something that worked for his little hiney! Yay!