Why Cloth? It is a good question. I mean, we live in the age of convenience. Convenience stores supply all your last-minute needs (albeit for a pretty penny), convenience drive-thrus provide your photos, fast-food and prescriptions. Why give up the convenience of disposables for a (presumed) less convenient diaper system?
For me, money and the environment were primarily the two factors motivating our switch to cloth. However, there is a third very real aspect to also consider - the chemicals in a conventional disposable diaper.
Let's talk money. Various estimates put the cost of disposable diapers, for one child, somewhere between $1,500 and $2,500. (1 - 3) This number is staggering, but most people consider disposables to be just a part of having a baby, and budget accordingly. Now imagine if you could diaper your baby for less than a third of the cost of disposables. And then imagine you could reuse these diapers for your next child(ren). The cost savings is staggering.
I think where people get the most shell-shocked is the upfront cost of cloth diapering. Why invest $300-$600 into cloth diapers when you can buy a pack of disposables for under $20? Does this question ring true to you? (One note - notice my phrasing in the last sentence - 'invest.' Cloth diapers are just that, an investment, not only economically, but also in the health of both your child and the environment.)
If you have browsed through my shop I am sure you have noticed there are diapers covering all price ranges. If you choose to buy Flats or Prefolds you could diaper your child(ren) for as little as $200. If you chose to use diapers such as Pockets, All-In-Twos or All-In-Ones you will notice the cost of cloth diapering jumps (remember, we live in the age of convenience and even cloth diapering has not escaped its reaches - the price you pay is essentially indicative of the level of 'skill' required to use the diaper).
Here is another way to approach it: think of cloth diapering as buying a house. A two-bedroom, one bath will suit your family just fine. But sometimes it is nice to have that second bathroom, office space or additional square footage. Buy what suits both your family's needs and budget the best. And do not think you are locked in to a diaper once you have purchased it. Just like you can eventually build a shed or remodel that kitchen, you can modify your diapers to fit your needs. For, as I mentioned earlier, cloth diapering is an investment. There is a booming resale market for cloth diapers. Depending on wear and tear, I estimate most families can recoup anywhere from 25% to 70% of their upfront diapering costs. How many disposable users can say the same?
Lastly, here is a great cost calculator if you interested in comparing apples to apples while shopping for diapers.
In addition to the money you save with cloth, consider the landfill space you will save not contributing roughly 6,000 diapers (again, per child!) to these earthly time capsules. No one yet fully knows how long it takes a disposable diaper to compose, but the estimates range from 250 to 500 years. (4)
With the recent oil spill, consider this - 'Nearly 3.5 billion gallons of oil are used to produce the 18 billion throwaway diapers that Americans toss each year. To put that in perspective, that's more than the amount of crude we import annually from Kuwait.' If that number does not scare you - did you know that it takes at least 2/3 cup of oil to make just one disposable diaper? (5)
For a thorough discussion of the environmental aspect of disposable diapers, please click here (see heading 'Environment').
The Health of Baby
Finally, consider the contents of a typical disposable diaper - among other things - Dioxin (a carcinogenic chemical banned in most countries and listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer-causing chemicals) and Tributyl-tin (a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems). Finally, sitting in a plastic diaper has been known to raise the scrotal temperatures in boys and 'prolonged use of disposable diapers will blunt or completely abolish the physiological testicular cooling mechanism important for spermatogenesis' (similar to warnings against prolonged laptop computers on laps of young men or prolonged hot tub exposure). (6)
In addition to these three main factors, there are also other reasons to choose cloth - potty training is usually easier and happens sooner, cloth diapers are so darn cute and last but not least - no more late-night trips to buy diapers at the convenience store!
(1) http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php 'Cost'