The Reality of Cloth Diapers

I know this is a little off track for the Technical angle we usually take on this blog but it follows suit on my own post on the Inconvenience of Saving our Planet that I wrote about last week. A inside joke here at 2 Fat Dads.com is we’re doing it for the diapers, any ad revenue, donations or commission we can make off the Amazon Store all go towards keeping our little ones in clean diapers. So the whole diaper issue became an interesting conversation point here and I though it was about time to break the embargo and actually bring up a real Dad topic for once.

As I mentioned before, most if not all of our Fat Dad blogger have a baby under 2 years of age. My wife and I recently welcomed twin boys into our house and one of the points she insisted on was that we would use cloth diapers for two main reasons:

  • A) To save money
  • B) To be gentler on the environment

Cloth Diapers are too Expensive

This just isn’t true anymore. The two first starter kits will cost you about $450.00 and see you through until your baby is about 30 pounds. What you get is this: (Kits taken from Bummis boutique in Pointe-Claire)

    Kit 1

  • 24 small bio cloth diapers (7 à 15 lbs / 3 à 7 kg)
  • 1 New Born Super Chou Chou overs (7 à 10 lbs / 3 à 5 kg)
  • 2 Small Super Chou Chou overs (8 à 15 lbs / 4 à 7 kg)
  • 3 Super Brites small colored overs (8 à 16 lbs / 3.5 à 7 kg)
  • 1 roll of through away inner liners (100 feuillets)
  • 1 Miracle Inner liners (5)
  • 1 Large waterproof bag
  • 1 Déodisk
  • 1 Detergent à Lessive Claudia’s Choices (770g)
  • 1 pale
    Kit 2

  • 24 large bio cloth diapers (15 à 30 lbs / 7 à 14 kg)
  • 3 Super Chou Chou medium overs (15 à 30 lbs / 7 à 14 kg)
  • 3 Super Brite medium over liners (15 à 30 lbs / 7 à 14 kg)
  • 1 roll of through away inner liners (100 feuillets)
  • 1 Miracle Inner liners (5)
  • 1 Large waterproof bag
  • 1 Déodisk
  • 1 Detergent à Lessive Claudia’s Choices (770g)
  • 1 pale

Now that is a pretty good starter kit considering that we change our boys about 5 times a day, each. With a this starter kit we can last about 5 days before we need to wash the diapers. Of course you can get a few extra diapers to make the kits last a full seven days. And as the babies get older, there bladder control improves and you don’t need to change them as often as the newborns. When Les Boys were in the hospital we used the disposal diapers and one 5 day pack of 50 newborn diapers cost us $50.00 (preemie size are expensive). That is $10.00 a day for both boys until there first birthday and then about half that price until they are potty trained, both my daughters were trained, with occasional accidents of course, before they were 2 years old. Now if you get the diapers from Costco or Walmart, you’ll spend about $40 per pack of 100. If you sum all of this up you end up spending about $1500/year in diapers, not to mention wipes, Sudocrem (medicated zinc oxide) and swim diapers which you would still have to buy if you used cloth.

Cloth Diapers are Just Too Much Work

Now I’m pretty sure you’re either thinking about huge savings, $1000 is a lot of money in these days of hard economic times (you may drink). Or you’re thinking about the hassle factor of cleaning the diapers and your time spent doing it. Of course that is if you’ve decided against using a diaper cleaning service for added savings. We have a huge concrete sink in the basement, it has has a great high pressure tap and because we heat our water with natural gas it’s always warm is not hot. Yes there is some soaking involved but we haven’t had to scrub the diapers yet so it’s a pretty simple process. We wash the boys cloth fairly often as they do seem to puke and dribble like any other baby so doing a full load of laundry instead of half a load or three quarters of a load doesn’t actually cost us any more in our front loading washing machine. This basically factors out the extra cost of running the washing machines and detergent, and as we would have to wash all of our cloth anyway, the cost of our time is negligent too. There is one important point to factor in here, the twins make up half of out kids… so we are always doing laundry.

My Daycare/CPE only wants us to bring in disposables.

Unfortunately, this one is mostly true. And this continues to be the only real issue I can see preventing more people for using cloth diapers again. If our boys went to day care, we would have to provide disposables for the daytime. It’s very very hard to find a daycare service that would respect our lifestyle choice of cloth diapers. Apart from all the green and economic issues, I think that the daycare issue is probably the biggest hindrance in most people’s choice. And then there is the thought of bringing home a bag of wet and sometimes smelly diapers every night that can be rather off putting for most. Now I remember a few camping trips where you had to pack out everything you brought in and that included your own doodies. Let me tell you that “Zero Impact” camping is a little hardcore even for me.

So what it all boils down to is that the economic impact of cloth diapers is definitely worth taking a look into if you have the good fortune of being home for the first few years of your child’s life.
As for the green impact of the using the old school cloth diapers, I can definitely attest that on the weekends where we use disposables, we throw out a full black Glad garbage bag of household refuse. Whereas we on the weekends we have a full compliment of cloths at hand, we throw out about 2 IGA white bags of trash. You might argue that this might also be do to the fact on those weekends we also have a take away and are too busy to cook and clean as we normally do.

I’d love to have straw poll in the comments about what kind of diapers you have used for your kids.

Read more on this:
Should My Baby Wear Huggies?
Disposable vs. Cloth – the Diaper Debate
Virtues of Cloth – Compare for Yourself
Less Stuff: The Zero Waste Challenge

4 comments

  1. There’s a few other elements you need to consider when comparing how ‘green’ cloth diapers really are. Namely sewage treatment. Don’t forget on the island of Montreal we a) regularly flush the system directly into the river because it’s poorly designed and gets overloaded; and b) when it does make it to the treatment plant all we do is let heavy particles settle (which we ship to a landfill) and then we flush it into the river!!!

    So all that pooh is contributing both to the coloform bacteria problem downstream cities are battling and to the landfill (and no the pooh will not degrade – nothing degrades in a landfill, there’s no oxygen, nada, zip, nilch, forget cryogenics just toss yourself in a landfill and you’ll still be around 100 years from now).

    Oh, and what were those things you listed in the kits: throw away inner liners!?

    So I may not win the David Suzuki award for it, but at least my kids bacteria infested poopy diapers are safely stored in the air tight, oxygen deprived security of a landfill where they won’t cause harm to anyone or anything!

    One year from now, Trois Rivieres is going to running protests with the slogan “Montreal nous evnoit chier!!!”

  2. Trois Rivieres and all the other downstream cities have always been chanting that, I believe that to this day Quebec Ville does it best. Don’t forget that while I am flushing itty bitty baby poo down the crappy sewage system, you are also chucking away the poo envelope of chemically treated paper and liquid absorbing crystals. Thus taking up a lot more room in the land fill and essentially filling it up even faster with gelled water and bacteria.

    So here is my question to you. If the sewage treatment is so bad and we should all use diapers, how come you are not using Depends for Men for yourself as well? Seriously though, there is nothing more natural than flushing the toilet. If our sewage infrastructure is that bad than we should be pressuring our local MNA to get it sorted out. If they can recycle pee in space, than we should be able to do the same on our little blue planet.

  3. Actually we need to make the difference between sewage water and gray water. Some communities get this right, and have sewage outin one pipe, and household water out another. In this case, washing the diapers in the sink is a negative impact, as sink water does not need tha same treatment as does toilet water (ask anyone with a septic tank).

    There have also been studies of the effect of a medium laundry load becoming a medium+/large laundry laod due to the extra volume needed by cloth diapers, the effects on the extra phosphates (there are still unelightened places that use these) have on our waterways.

    Food for thought. Not sure which way we should all rush towards.

  4. Who says I don’t use Depends?! Nothing like sitting in a pile of warm pooh to put a marketing presentation into perspective.

    And my pooh is a heavy particle so it always settles to the bottom and gets shoveled out to the landfill.

    MNA pooh on the other hand tends to get flung in every direction, be careful with it!!!

    Steve makes a good point. I know Pointe-Claire has separate rain water and sewage systems so the rainwater does into the river and the sewage goes to (but not necessarily all the way) the treatment plant.