Diapering Your Baby’s Butt: What Choice Will You Make?green.308 | September 13, 2011
Are you trying to reduce expenses from the family budget? If your family includes young children in diapers, then brace yourself, because I’m going to bring up the “D” word. Parents with young children spend approximately $20-30 per week on disposable diapers. That’s a big chunk of money. To see exactly how big of a chunk it is, sit down with a calculator and figure out how much it will cost to diaper your child until he/she is potty-trained. You will want to cry when you realize how much of your hard-earned cash is going into the landfill. $2000+. Per child. Seriously.
The first disposable diaper was invented in the 1940’s, and was originally used only by the very wealthy. My kids are in their late 20′s, and they (and all of my friends’ children), were diapered in cloth diapers. So using disposables is a pretty recent cultural shift. Disposable diapers have become so commonplace that many young parents don’t realize they have another option. In reality, there is still a choice when it comes to diapering; you may want to consider cloth diapers for both economic and environmental reasons.
Disposable diapers not only cost parents a lot of money (a young child averages 5,000-8,000, depending on toilet training), they also cost the environment. Approximately 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used, and thrown away, in this country every year. Recent estimates place the composting time frame from 400-500 years as the amount of time it takes to break down a diaper in a landfill. And that’s not the only issue. It is against the law to throw solid waste (translation: poop) into the landfill. It is supposed to go through the sanitary sewer system. It states on the side of a box of disposable diapers that you are supposed to shake the “solid” waste into the toilet. How many parents do you know who do that? I would speculate not too many. Then human waste ends up buried where it contaminates the soil and groundwater. The EPA estimates that a significant portion of disposable diapers sitting in landfills contain human waste.
An option you might not have considered is using cloth diapers. Estimates for one child using cloth diapers, including initial purchase and laundry costs for 2-3 years, average about $300 per child. They can then be reused for just the cost of laundering with any successive children. Need more encouragement? The cloth diapers available now are as easy to use as disposables. They have snaps or velcro fastenings, and most have the waterproof liner attached. They have become very user-friendly. Cost of disposable diapers is approximately $2500 per child, and that figure is repeated for every successive child.
Disposable diapers may also be costing your child, health-wise. Some problems reported to the Consumer Protection Agency include chemical burns, reports of babies putting pieces of plastic into their noses and mouth, plastic tape that tears the skin, and an increased incidence of rashes. Studies show that diaper rash has increased from 7% (with cloth) to 61% (with paper). Reasons for rash include allergic reactions to the chemicals in the diaper, lack of air circulation, and to babies being changed less often because they feel dry even when they are wet. Another problem? Baby boys who wear disposables may run a higher scrotal temperature, which might potentially result in infertility problems as adults.
If you’ve never considered any product other than disposables, take a look at the new cloth diapers. You’ll be surprised at how much product choice is available. There are also neat gadgets that attach to the water intake valve behind your toilet that look like the sprayer attachment on your kitchen sink. You just pick them up and spray the solid waste into the toilet and flush. To quote Austin Powers, diapering has come a long way, baby!!
Family and Consumer Sciences Educator
Ohio State University Extension