Environmental, health, cost all benefits
Beth Reckling was at her wit’s end.
Her baby had six months of continual diaper rash and she had tried everything. It wasn’t until the St. John’s, N.L, mother switched to using cloth diapers that the rash fully cleared up.
Megan Hiscott of Paradise, N.L. is a big supporter of cloth diapering. She’s convinced it’s the best option for families and she recommends it to anyone and everyone she knows.
“I think the biggest myth is it's a lot of work and people think they are somehow not as good. (The) truth is actually the opposite,” she says.
According to Jolyn Swain, a mom and owner of Nurtured in Halifax, N.S., a business that focuses on products for everything baby and kid-related, cloth diapering is a simple process.
“If you can do a load of laundry, you can cloth diaper,” she says. “It’s generally that easy to just dive in and start putting them into regular rotation.”
There have been waves rather than trends over the last decade in reusable diapering options, says Swain. Cloth diapering has proven it is here to stay.
There are a few common myths concerning cloth diapering. First, that cloth diapers stink and leak more than disposable.
Kate Lacey, however, says this isn’t true. The pail of dirty diapers is actually less stinky, says the Newfoundland mother, because the poop isn’t sitting in a trash can; it goes in the toilet.
St. John’s, NL mom Kathy Hogan agrees, explaining that the outer material keeps both the liquid and the smell contained.
“Cloth diapers also fit better and don't sag. They only leak when you don't have enough absorbency stuffed in them,” says Hogan.
Another myth is that cloth diapers take more work, but Hiscott disagrees. She says it’s just about creating a routine.
“When and if you're exclusively breastfeeding, just throw the dirty diapers in your wet bag (basically a bag to hold dirty diapers). When you have enough for a load you do a rinse cycle first, then a regular heavy cycle,” says Hiscott.
Then, depending on the type, diapers can go in the dryer or hang to dry, which Hiscott says takes no time at all.
Once the child starts solids, Hiscott says you just dump any #2 in the toilet and rinse by hand before putting them in the wet bag.
Some parents worry about having poop in their washing machines, but Hogan says her family uses a diaper sprayer. There were worse problems with poop, however, from toddler and preschooler underwear, she says.
How to get started
Many parents choose to use a combination of cloth and disposable diapers. Hogan, for example, uses disposable at night, while Reckling uses disposable as an alternative at daycare.
When getting started, Swain recommends having a full set of 24 diapers which you can invest in for as little as $400.
“We have a good portion of cloth diapers still circulating through second and third babies from our customers, so my customers tell me they are buying more supplementary items to renew or refresh a diaper stash: things like inserts for the absorbency of the diaper versus the entire diaper,” says Swain.
Cloth diapers do last a long time, and Swain says brands available at Nurtured are Canadian-made and come with warranties, the snaps alone are guaranteed for life.
“A high-quality diaper is going to have the best breathability yet waterproof and absorbent materials to be laundered far longer than one baby will demand,” says Swain.
Despite the high praise, Reckling hates using cloth diapers. She says she finds it incredibly time-consuming and is a job that never ends.
“Unlike most who cloth diaper, I refuse to spray the majority of the poop off of the diaper and leave the remnants to fester for a number of days (up to a week) in a wet pail,” says Reckling.
“My stomach can't handle leaving the poopy diapers, so I wash whatever was used that day each night and then hang all liners and diapers up to dry; that's only for the first wash cycle. At the end of each week, everything is given a second wash and drying.”
If not, Reckling says she can’t get rid of the ammonia smell.
What she finds frustrating is going on cloth diapering support Facebook groups and having the exact opposite advice offered on the same topic.
"Add vinegar to help with odour" vs. "don't ever add vinegar, it will ruin your diaper elastics." Recommendations vary on everything, she says.
Reckling says if she could just use disposables again, she could reclaim so many extra hours of her life, but the thought of all of the extra waste going to the landfill weighs heavily on her conscience.
That’s another reason so many people are choosing cloth diapering, says Swain – the environmental impact.
And disposable diapers do have a huge impact on our landfills, says Gerry Moore, chief executive officer for the Island Waste Management Corporation in PEI. According to Environment Canada, diapers account for approximately three per cent of landfill space nationally, he says.
On top of that, studies indicate that diapers in landfills take up to 500 years to degrade. The breakdown process creates methane and other toxic gases, explains Moore.
Households that use disposable diapers also tend to use more plastic bags to gather the waste material - additional plastic that can be eliminated with cloth diapers, he adds.
Based on Statistic Canada's data for babies born on PEI in the past two years, Moore says that approximately 23,000 diapers are disposed of every single day on P.E.I.
“Assuming a package of diapers contains 36 singles, this would equal about 638 packages a day (or 233,000 packages per year) to also be disposed off through residential collection,” says Moore.
Many worry that the extra use of the washing machine and dryer with cloth diapers is just as bad environmentally.
Moore says, one way to combat this is to ensuring washing machines are filled to capacity before running, using eco-friendly and mild detergents, and line drying instead of using a dryer.
Swain also suggests using wool dryer balls to shorten dryer times.
To get started, Swain says to talk to other cloth diapering parents, and read up on the differences between styles, or visit a store dedicated to baby needs to ask questions.
“If you’re frustrated with garbage, running out for diapers, unable to find a leak free fit or continually running in to diaper rash, cloth diapering is absolutely worth checking out,” says Swain.
- Cloth Diapering Support Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/nlclothdiaperingmamasandpapas
- Nurtured Baby Store in Halifax: https://www.nurtured.ca/