Saturday, October 24, 2009

Natural Living: Cloth Diapering

I mentioned a few posts ago the fact that our family has been working on living a healthier more natural lifestyle not only in the foods we eat, but in the health care we receive and lifestyle we are living. I've also mentioned in the past that we chose to use cloth diapers with our second child, our daughter Alexa. In the last year, since we've begun making and implementing these decisions we have received several questions from family and friends about them. I've been meaning to post on this for a while, but somehow life just kept getting away from me. It's a lot of information to throw at you all at once, so I will try to be gentle, in fact, I will try to break it down into several posts on some of the specific areas that our family has chosen to focus on.

First of all, I do want to say that the changes that we have made have been implemented VERY slowly over a period of time that our family could handle and we are not fanatics about any of the "natural" ways. As you will see specifically with the cloth diapers in this post, this is not something we do exclusively, it's about what works for our family and (the biggie) when it works for our family.

Secondly, some of the information that I pass along to you may seem scary or overwhelming, but the thing to keep in mind regardless of what practices a family has chosen to do presently, in the past or even in the future does not undo or change what our God is capable of. Ultimately we know the HE is in control and is the redeemer and protector of all we have (including our children and health). That being said, I pray that the enemy will not allow any of the information that we learn to drive us into a place of fear. Our fear should be of God alone, all other fear is useless to us. Information is a great thing when we use it the right way. I am asking you now, if you have the type of personality that "freaks out" over information you receive (like yours truly has been known to do) you may just want to stop reading now until you've covered yourself in prayer - I am praying for you now.

Cloth Diapers
Our Cloth Diaper Experience
We started using cloth diapers on Lexie when she was 12 weeks old. I had looked into a while before this, but after she was born it took me a little while for me to actually "bite the bullet" and act on it. I was inspired the most when I saw a good friend of mine using cloth diapers on her son and I thought 'hmmm, that doesn't look to bad, she's normal and if she can do it, I can do it too!' (love you Cameron!)
Looking back I now remember that actually, our VERY first experience with cloth diapers was in the hospital with Treyton. The hospital that Treyton was born in, used cloth diapers and to be honest they worked just great (but we also didn't have to wash them)! However, the third day of Treyton's life was the last that his precious little bum ever felt the comfort of a cloth diaper :) Once we left the hospital and went home we used disposable diapers until he was potty trained at 2 years old. The diapers the hospital used were tri-folds with plastic covers and they weren't horribly bulky (obviously made for newborns).
With Lexie our first cloth diapering purchase were tri-folds as well, with plastic covers. To be completely honest I barely remember using them... has that much time really passed? They were bulkier to use, but were not difficult, but they did leak more than I preferred. The care of the diapers were pretty much what you would expect. I believe, we originally purchase 14 or so large diapers which I cut in half to make newborn size tri-folds (this was WAY more cost effective than buying the newborn size) and 5 or 6 plastic covers.
It didn't take us long to move from the tri-folds to the bumgenius 3.0 all-in-ones and we've NEVER looked back!! These diapers were GREAT and we continued to use them exclusively at home (but only occasionally when we were out and about) until Lexie was about 8 months old. When Lexie was 8 months old we moved and soon after Tim had his hand accident. At this time, with all that was going on, we took a break for about a month from the cloth diapering. At 9 months we picked up where we left off and were fairly exclusive for about a month and a half. After I got pregnant and began to experience morning sickness we took another little sabbatical (my stomach was much to light to mess with washing the diapers) Since then we have used the cloth diapers sporadically and lately using fairly exclusively disposables diapers.

Cloth Diapering Maintenance & Downfalls
To be completely honest I was AMAZED with how easy cloth diapering was, especially considering the benefits our family received. Obviously the hardest part is washing the diapers but, to me, it didn't feel any different than the number of onesies I rinsed out with both Lexie and Treyton in (a nice brand of) disposable diapers. Let's be honest diaper blowouts are a major part of parenting, but I can chalk one up for cloth diapering, off the top of my head I can not recall a single blow-out incedent while using a cloth diaper. That being said, there is obviously more laundry with cloth diapering and it does take some hands-on dirty work on the part of the parent.
As far as leakage goes, we did have to change the cloth diapers more often than we would a disposable and they can and do leak eventually, for our daughter who was/is a big drinker we need to change her every 2-3 hours with the bum genius diapers, if your child drinks less, leakage would obviously happen less often.

Okay, so, now that you kind of know where we're coming from let's talk about why we chose to use cloth diapers.

The Reasons
The fact of the matter is, regardless of which diapers we use most children will spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of the first 2 - 2 1/2 years of their life in a diaper (of some sort). That means that their most private parts will be in almost constant contact with something. The question is, what is that something made of?

There were two specific ingredients (though there are more) found in or on disposable diapers that made us particularly uncomfortable:
1. Sodium Polyarcylate: this is actually what makes the diapers so absorbent - this originally powdery substance can actually absorb up to 100 times it's weight, in it's fully "absorbent" state, you can actually see them, they are the little gel balls that you sometimes find in your child's diaper (or even on his/her skin) when the diaper is really wet. This chemical was banned from being used in tampons in 1985 for it's link to causing toxic shock syndrome, has killed children after ingesting as little as 5 grams of it, causes female organ problems, slows healing wounds, fatigue and weight loss to the employees in factories that manufacture it and has also hemorrhaging , cardiovascular failure and death when injected into rats.

2. Dioxin: this is a by-product of the bleaching process used by paper mills, this chemical is a carcinogenic (a cancer-causing chemical) and is KNOWN to cause liver disease and suppressed immune function. The EPA lists it as the MOST TOXIC of cancer causing chemicals and in 1996 they stated that there is NO safe exposure level of dioxin. Dioxin has been banned in most countries, but not in the US. Now, this is not something I am sure about, but from what I have read there have been trace amounts found in/on disposable diapers, I have not read anywhere that this is a chemical used to make cloth diapers (like the Sodium Poly)
~ A great blog article I found on these very chemicals can be found here

~ As far as other health risks with disposable diapers one article I found said this about the affect disposable diapers has specifically on boy babies "In May 2000, the Archives of Disease in Childhood published research showing that scrotal temperature is increased in boys wearing disposable diapers, and that prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for normal spermatogenesis." (long story short - this can decrease or even eliminate fertility in a male child). I have also read several sources that say asthma and allergies can result from disposable diaper use (though I have not researched this at all).

Another reason to use cloth diapers (though I'll be honest, this was a minor one to us compared to the chemical and health benefits) is the affect it has on the enviroment/earth. A disposable diaper takes over 500 years to decompose in a landfill. This also in consideration with the fact that the amount of waste (human feces and urine) that is being disposed of in our public landfills is disturbing, and I think it's safe to say, unsanitary.

Though there are several other reasons I could list, I'll list only one more and that is the cost factor of cloth diapering. The cost advantages of cloth diapering are proven, I am not going to break down the cost for you all hear but if this is an area of interest to you a simple google search will get you the numbers you are looking for.

To be completely honest with you, this is not an area that I am an expert in by any means, I have done no actual research besides reading and searching the internet to learn about the risks associated with disposable diapers and the the benefits of cloth so I am only as good as the resources that I have found and I have no actual proof of their accuracy - however, the articles and sites out there that repeat the information I have shared with you here are great, and people much smarter than I agree with the studies that have reported these findings. I cannot and will not try to prove anything to you, but I would encourage you, if you don't believe me and what I found, do the research for yourself. If you are interested in a few of the resources I found (and used) they are below if you want to read more information these are certainly good places to start:
All About Cloth Diapering Specifically Why?
Real Diaper Association this site has great resources for their article if you are interested
Geocities - New to Cloth Diapering
Diaper Safari - Why Cloth Diaper
Diaper Hyena
National Association of Diaper Services
Cloth Diaper Blog


cameron said...

I love you too Amber. Wow! I am inspired by you ALL THE TIME! We're are now using a mix of bum genius and another diaper- which I think I LOVE even more than the Bum Genius...its Tiny Tush. They are SUPER soft and have NO velcro. The velcro has sometimes scratched Harry and it gets all stuck together in the washer. The Tiny Tush have snaps and are also a pocket diaper and fit from newborn to potty training. They are available at the MOM and POP shop in Neenah. We got ours there when we were in for ou visit. If you're looking to expand your base of cloth diapers with the new baby coming, give these a try and see what you think.

Amber said...

Actually, yeah, we will be doing cloth diapers with the next baby, too. It was through researching for the next baby that I got inspired to write this blog!
I haven't seen or heard of the tiny tush but I will definitely check them out - we were planning on using the bum genius again but I've still been doing some research on other diapers. I was actually looking into getting the bum genius organic ones and they have snaps on them (so that's a plus).