The "Right" Diaper: Cloth vs. Disposable

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What diaper is the right diaper for my family? I set out to solve this question and in the process of discovering the answer, I found a host of additional information that educated me on all sides of the cloth vs. disposable diaper debate. I thought I would share the information I found with other "mommies" out there who might want to know. (By the way, the answer to my diaper dilemma is at the end of this post.**)


The Rub:

With purse strings getting tighter during this economic crunch, I began looking for ways to cut-back on our spending, and with a huge chunk of my monthly grocery bill being eaten up by purchasing disposable diapers, there had to be a less expensive option. Was it time to go cloth? I needed to take a step back and evaluate my choices with the big picture in mind. What was the impact on my pocket book and the world going to be with my diaper decision over the span of time from birth to 30 months (or roughly until my child began potty-training)?

A skeptic:

I have several friends who use cloth diapers and love it, however I hesitated to invest in that diapering system because I didn’t know if I could handle the extra laundry (I get behind now with just a family of three) and I honestly just wasn’t buying the fact that you save money and really save the planet. I just kept hearing things from both sides, disposable vs. cloth, on environmental impact that led me to believe that it was a wash (the all to popular pun when describing this debate).

The Quest:

I knew about Bum Genius, several friends used them and I have heard great things about them, so they had to be one of the choices I would investigate. In the diaper aisle at the grocery store and at Babies R Us I began to look for alternatives. For price, I found Target’s store brand Up & Up, and for going green I found Nature Babycare. I went online and began my research, googling and visiting diaper reviews on blogs and message boards to find out what options were being talked about the most. From my findings I boiled down the options to come up with the following diapers to compare. I have obviously not exhausted the market, but I researched options that consistently hit top ranks, were familiar to me and were easily accessible. Through my research I discovered a slew of additional information that has helped me make an informed decision.

The contenders:

in the cloth category:

Bum Genius 3.0 One-Size

Bum Genius 3.0 Organic All-in-Ones

SmartiPants

in the hybrid category (cloth & disposable):

gDiapers


in the disposable category:

Up & Up, Target’s store brand

Nature Babycare

Pampers Swaddlers


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CONSIDERATIONS for choosing a diaper:


Environmental impact: If going green is important to you, you may want to look into how the diaper was made, what the diaper consists of and what you can do with the diaper after use. You may need to look past some of the manufacturer information, since sometimes you may be getting green-washed with marketing buzz words such as “eco-friendly” and “biodegradable.” Also something to consider with eco-friendly options is not only the environmental impact, but the impact on the health of your child. Most, if not all, disposable diapers include Sodium Polyacrylate or Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) which is the super absorbent gel that allows such a thin material to soak up the mess, and SAP has been linked to asthma and may lead to hormone problems (see wired.com article). With most biodegradable "earth-friendly" diapers the materials are not home compost-able, and most US cities are not equipped with a public composting center. Therefore the only real added bonus with these diapers being eco-friendly is the means by which they are made and that they contain earth-friendly materials, not their impact once used. Until measures are taken to make facilities available that are equipped to handle the treatment of “biodegradable” disposable diapers, like a compost treatment facility, the diaper will end up sitting in a landfill somewhere NOT properly biodegrading due to its environment. Plus, diapers in landfills can take over 500 years to decompose, watch video at gDiapers.

Closure style: Hook-and-loop fasteners (velcro) is easy to use, but can wear out over time and could cause snags if it comes in contact with another piece of clothing in the wash. Plus, in the constant state of discovery, some babies learn how to unfasten the tabs, allowing the diaper to come off -- a messy situation indeed. Snaps are durable and easy to fasten. However, snaps are not as adjustable as hook-and-loop and sometimes take more time to fasten.

Size: One-Size diapers are convertible with snaps to varying sizes from birth – toddler, so these diapers grow with your child. Sized diapers are sized based on a weight range. Duration your child is in a particular size, depends greatly on your child’s height and weight. So, you need to purchase different covers for the growth stages of your child.


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OVERVIEWS of the Contenders:


Bum Genius, Cloth Diapering Made Easy


The One-Size (grows with baby) 3.0 is a widely available award-winning pocket cloth diaper and is consistently ranked high among comparative cloth diapering lists. It has functionality very similar to disposable diapers, so switching from disposable to this style of cloth diaper is easy. It has high absorbency performance, with the option to customize absorbency by adding additional inserts into the pocket for heavy wetters or for overnight. Must stuff the liners into the pocket prior to use, and un-stuff the liners prior to wash. Inserts are included with each cover purchase. (Personal Note: I was able to borrow one of these from a friend, and both the fit and the performance were outstanding. A little bulky on my long and lean little girl, but the diaper did its job well.)


The Organic One-Size All-in-Ones (cover, liner and insert are all sewn together), are an easy one step system to go cloth. It seems that they decided to put all of their eggs in one basket on this diaper, an organic, one-size, all-in-one diaper with snap closures -- wow! So, all you do with these is put on baby, take off of baby, wash and reuse. No stuffing or un-stuffing the inserts, just a little more time drying these due to all of the layers.


Made in USA and Egypt.


Smartipants, The world’s smartest one size fits all diaper.


A trendsetter among the group, Smartipants employs the inventor of the first one-size fits all pocket diaper, Wonderoos which hit the market back in 2003. She joined the Smartipants team and designed another smart option for the Cloth Pocket diaper market. Smartipants are made in the USA, Eco-friendly because they are reusable, and are the lowest priced One-Size pocket cloth diaper currently on the market. A patented smart sleeve pocket means that you don’t have to remove the insert prior to the wash, it is designed to agitate out in the machine. Which means, less mess to deal with after a dirty diaper. One insert is included with each cover purchase. Made in the USA.


gDiapers, Happy baby. Happy Planet.


The industry’s only hybrid diaper, offering both disposable and cloth insert options. Their claim, “the best of cloth and disposable in one earth-friendly diaper.” This diaper has three components: 1) the cloth cover, little gPant, 2) the snap in liner 3) the inserts (disposable option or reuseable option). The snap-in plastic liners can be interchanged for a clean one without having to change the cover, resulting in a smaller number of covers needed. On the one hand you can invest slowly, a lower upfront cost, in these diapers because the covers are sized, on the other hand you will spend a little more in the long run because the inserts are sold separately. People have used this diaper system with their own cloth inserts for some time now with much success, but recently gDiapers introduced their own custom designed cloth inserts, gCloth inserts, for the little gPant (gDiaper cover). gDiapers have been rated the most economical diaper with the option to flush, home compost, or toss the disposable inserts, and now with the gCloth inserts you can add wash and reuse to that list. gDiapers are the only diaper to receive a Cradle to Cradle Certification with the highest rating of gold. Made in the USA and China.

Up & Up, Target store brand


This is a fairly inexpensive disposable diaper option ($6.34 for a 48-count, Size 2). Only available at Target, in-store and online. The design is pretty cute with blue and green dots and the fit is okay. These are a stiffer disposable diaper option, and therefore are not as soft on baby’s skin. The absorbency is average. (On a personal note, I didn’t like how these diapers performed. Too many dirty diaper blow-outs made these diapers, not worth the price. Plus, the material didn’t breathe well and turned my daughters skin pink after just one wet diaper). Click on the link below for further reviews of Up & Up diapers. babycheapskate or practicingthrift

Nature Babycare, Go green without giving up performance


Award winning eco-friendly diaper, founded in Sweden by a mom, Marlene Sandberg, of 2 boys searching for a better eco-friendly disposable diaper. These diapers are 100% Totally Chlorine Free, and based on natural materials. The diapers come in a “100% Natural & Biodegradable” packaging. The print on the outside of these diapers is nice, cute little green leaves against white, no cartoon characters. The diapers are designed to be breathable and absorbent without being bulky. (Personal note: I liked these diapers performance, but was disappointed when this “Eco-Friendly” diaper still impacts the environment the same way as the average “non-green” disposable diaper. There is no way to compost, or biodegrade any or all parts of this diaper at home (see FAQ on Nature Babycare website), and with most US cities not equipped with a public composting center, your diaper ends up in the landfill with all the other diapers).


Pampers Swaddlers, Because your baby changes, so does Pampers


Pampers Swaddlers, part of the Pampers stages diaper line are uniquely designed to fit, or swaddle, new babies (Swaddler style is in the New Baby stage only, up to Size 2-3). They even offer a sensitive option within the line that includes an exterior color change bar to let you know when to change baby’s diaper. (Personal Note: Of all of the disposable diapers I’ve tried from Luvs, Huggies, & Pampers Baby Dry, Pampers Swaddlers has the best fit and performance. These are a very thin, can hold a big mess and they even have a great baby fresh smell. However they aren't earth-friendly and contain materials that could be harmful to baby, and they do end up costing a lot of money in the long-run.)




AND THE WINNERS ARE ...


Best Performance [overall winner: gDiapers]

(fit, absorbency, & ease of care)


Cost [overall winner: Smartipants]

(taking into account the life span of the diaper)


Eco-friendly [overall winner: gDiapers]

(must have some of the following attributes: reuseable, biodegradable, and/or made with earth-friendly materials (example: pulp from sustainable forests)


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Further backing to my research was found. After choosing my diaper contenders for this head-to-head comparison, I found that three of the diapers were the same top three winners of a Cookie Magazine independent poll.


**SO, MY ANSWER ... try gDiapers! I plan on posting my review of their performance after I have used them with the new gCloth inserts. Stay tuned.


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RESOURCES:


Best comprehensive "eco-friendly disposable" reviews

Diaper Review: Seventh Generation, WF 365, gDiapers

Green Diapers: SAP, biodegradability, chlorine, woodpulp


Disposable diapers = 3.5 million tons of landfill waste, see article at sustainableindustries.com.


Read more on environmental problems with disposable diapers in article on euphoriababy.com.


Estimated cloth diapering washing costs & comparative diaper chart at babyboms.com


Figure out your own washing costs using washing calculator on energystar.gov


Great info on Cloth Diapering 101, at austinbabyonline.com


Helpful Blog, theclothdiaperwhisperer.com

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1 Response to The "Right" Diaper: Cloth vs. Disposable

November 8, 2009 at 6:46 PM

Hi there, loved the article. Was wondering if you've had a chance to actually try the G's with their new gcloth inserts? Would love to see how they performed for you. Thanks! -Mary Ann