Cloth diapers a healthy, environmentally-friendly option

I gazed bleary-eyed at my husband and told him, with just a little edge in my voice, that we had to at least try cloth diapering. I was standing at the changing table after a sleepless night, holding my new daughter's feet. All of us were disturbed by what was going on: red, painful excoriation on her little bottom.

At first, the doctor called it a rash. Later, a "chemical burn," caused  by the diapers we used. She urged us to use cloth diapers. We reluctantly gulped and prepared.

I am used to gross stuff, but my husband had his reservations. Pins. Shower-cap panties. Cotton square origami on a squiggling baby. Laundry. He was not on board.

I research before I put anything on my babies' bodies, in their mouths or in their toy box. After checking out the cloth diaper scene, I bought twenty pocket diapers – they look like disposables but do not involve cotton squares, plastic panties or pins. Modern cloth diapers looked pretty easy. But I was alarmed at some of the things I found during my research, and I felt like a real chump for never having heard about this stuff before.

First of all, I am a baby nurse (RN) and a mom of three. I like to think I know a lot about taking care of babies. We use disposable diapers at hospitals and give each baby a new pack to take home. I had no reason to think they could be bad.

After my daughter's rash, I discovered that disposable diapers have 50 different toxins each. These chemicals are what make them absorbent, but also cause chemical burns, rashes, asthma and even infertility in boys. Disposable diapers are also full of carcinogens like dioxin and poisons like polyacrylic acid (the gel bubble stuff known to parents who have frequent diaper explosions – as little as five grams of it is lethal if ingested).

Diapers are the third biggest consumer contribution to our country's landfills. Each year they generate enough garbage to make a chain to and from the moon nine times, or to fill Yankee stadium 15 times. Each year. Caring for the environment is important to me, and it feels really bad to know that centuries from now, my baby’s poo and diapers will still be in intact in some landfill, continuing to contaminate groundwater and expanding her carbon footprint.

So we tried the cloth diapers. Within a few days, our daughter's skin problems were gone. We cloth diapered day and night, even on vacation. Then she potty trained when she was only a year old – naturally and easily – and this is common with cloth. Of course, my husband converted.

Once you become a parent, blood and body fluids become a part of your daily life, and you quickly discover there are grosser things than washing diapers. But if you just can't stomach it, diaper services are available. And they're amazing. You don't have to use disposable diapers.

Kristin Hoops

I am a RN, a mom of three and a business owner.

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Volume 5, Issue 6, Posted 10:33 AM, 03.19.2013