Cloth diapers are better for your baby, the land and your wallet!
Cloth diapers usually result in much less diaper rash due to the breathable natural fabric. Cotton or a paper-plastic bag of polymer gel – which would you rather wear?
Cloth diapers will save you money. For $350 you can diaper your child (or two or three…). Disposables will cost $2000 to $3000 or more. Including electricity, water and detergent and even use of appliances you can save at least $1000 and as much as $3000. If you have another child, they will be pretty much free to diaper! Why think ‘there goes another $0.50’ every time you change a disposable diaper?
Disposable diapers require 135 kg of wood, 23 kg of petroleum and 9 kg of chlorine for one child for one year. Disposable diapers are a large component of landfills. In northern landfills that aren’t ideally constructed and maintained and are almost always right beside the water, disposables can contribute to potentially hazardous leeching into the ocean.
The land and water matter to Nunavummiut, and cloth diapers are one way of helping maintain their quality.
Cloth diapers are easy to use, and they are now more effective, comfortable and fun than ever before. While there are many different brands and styles of cloth diapers making it complicated to learn about them and choose, that does not mean they are hard to use.
In addition to a set of diapers (from 18-30), you will need a sealable ‘wet bag’ to keep them in. That’s about it! Simply put the used diapers in the wet bag, and every few days you dump the whole bag in the washing machine. As laundry goes, diapers are actually easy: no pockets to check and no need to fold or iron them. The only other step is for soiled diapers – you can use paper liners that you dump into the toilet, or you can get diaper sprayers to spray the poop into the toilet.
Cloth diapers have come a long way, baby! Cloth diapers now have modern fabrics and styles that are not like the old days. While cloth diapers were popular with many of our parents and grandparents before the marketing of disposables made them popular, cloth diapers are making a comeback as people realize the many advantages and the improvements that have come with new fabric technology.
A full load of diapers will only use about 7.5% of an average water tank on wash day (every 2-4 days).
There are four main kinds of cloth diapers:
- All-in-one: These are most like disposable diapers – the waterproof outer cover has a built–in absorbent fabric (all-in-one piece). Some have snaps, some have “hook and loop” fasteners.
Advantages: quickest and easiest at diaper change time and not at all complicated.
Disadvantages: not the cheapest option, takes longer to dry, and while still durable and long lasting, not as long lasting as some other options because the covers are washed every time.
- Pocket diapers: A cover with a layer of fleecy material inside to go against the baby’s skin, with an opening (like a pocket) to stuff an absorbent insert in between.
Advantages: can be just as quick and easy at diaper change time as an all-in-one but you have to take a minute to stuff the liners in the pockets some time between laundry and using them. A relatively cost-effective option because the same diaper usually works from birth to toilet training, rather than needing two sizes.
Disadvantages: A diaper that fits a 2 year old is going to be bulky on a newborn, and some pocket diapers don’t have as much absorbency as some other options.
- Fitted diapers plus covers: This involves an absorbent diaper that goes on with hook and loops or snaps, then a separate cover that goes on with hook and loops or snaps.
Advantages: This offers the most absorbency and versatility as you can switch different absorbent layers inside your covers. Also, you can save money by buying about a quarter as many covers as absorbent diapers.
Disadvantages: It involves putting two items on the baby at each diaper change. While both steps are pretty quick, it has double the layers of an all-in-one or a pocket diaper. You also need to ensure the absorbent diaper doesn’t stick out of the cover.
- Flat diapers plus covers: This involves an absorbent layer that is a simple flat diaper with a separate cover. The flat absorbent layer either lays in the cover when you put the cover on, or is wrapped around the baby and fastened in the modern replacement for a safety pin (which is much faster and less dangerous than a safety pin).
Advantages: This is the least expensive diaper option. They are also indestructible and will last almost forever (no elastics, snaps or hook and loops to wear out). They also can be used to supplement other cloth diaper options giving a larger collection of diapers so you can go an extra day or two between laundry loads. They are great cloths around the house when you are done with diapers, too.
Disadvantages: They require a small amount of practice to learn how to use them. They take a little more time on a wiggly child (but by the time the child is wiggly you will be able to use them with your eyes closed).
- You should use a laundry detergent that is free of enzymes and other additives that can affect diaper absorbency with extended use and can be irritants on babies’ skin. Appropriate detergents are not hard to find. Tide Free has the most name recognition of the acceptable detergents, and it is available in Nunavut. Arctic Cotton has a selection of detergents (some also at southern prices!). These detergents are good for babies’ clothes (to avoid irritants) and for all laundry needs, so you don’t need multiple detergents.
- Some diaper rash creams can’t be used with cloth diapers. Some can – ask when you buy your cloth diapers.
Yes! If you use cloth diapers, we strongly suggest you use cloth wipes because they are so great! It is worth switching to cloth just for cloth wipes. Cloth wipes are softer, sturdier and more absorbent than disposables. They are also safer – there are recalls of disposable wipes from time to time due to concerns over bacterial contamination. Oh- and they will save you hundreds of dollars! Use them with spray-on mists you can buy, with soapy water or just with plain old water.
 Lehrburger, C., J. Mullen and C.V. Jones. 1991. Diapers: Environmental Impacts and Lifecycle Analysis. Philadelphia, PA: Report to The National Association of Diaper Services (NADS).