By Sindy from My Life In Germany
When I was pregnant with my first kid, I liked hanging out with another woman at work, who was also pregnant at that time. One day, she told me that she had bought a lot of cloth diapers in preparation for her coming baby. She showed me pictures of the cloth diapers she bought and told me that she found these diapers really cute.
That was the first time I have ever heard about cloth diapers. I didn’t even know that they existed. To be honest, I was not so much into the idea of using cloth diapers. It sounded a bit disgusting to me. So, I didn’t ask her too much about it because I wanted to go with the disposable diapers, like all the other “normal people”.
It was only later when I read an article online about diapers. The article was talking about the benefits of using cloth diapers, including being cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and better for babies.
Introduction: I was surprised about the benefits of using cloth diapers
So, I decided to do some more research. The more I found out about cloth diapers, the more curious I was. I did a lot of research online and also talked with my colleague at work again. And I found out a lot more about how cloth diapers actually worked.
I presented my findings to my husband. As expected, he was not keen on choosing cloth diapers. But he would be open to it if I really wanted to try it out.
So, that was what happened. I decided to spend 300 Euros as the initial investment on the cloth diapers. And today, we cannot be happier about this decision we have made. I wish that more parents know about cloth diapers and the benefits of using them. I have been using cloth diapers on my kids for the last five years. And I can tell you that using cloth diapers is less complicated and not as disgusting as you might think.
Now, let’s look at some of the reasons why I chose to use cloth diapers.
9 Reasons why I chose to use cloth diapers
1. Disposable diapers produce a lot of waste
3.6 billion. This is how many disposable diapers end up in the trash in Germany every year. In Germany, about 700,000 babies are born every year. And 95% of them use disposable diapers. On average, each baby needs about 4,000 to 6,000 diapers. And it can take 500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose.
Do you know that you are supposed to flush down the fecal contents of the disposable diapers into the toilet before discarding the diapers? This allows the waste to go through sewage treatment as it should. To be honest, I have never seen anyone doing that.
Disposing of the fecal contents of these diapers in a landfill can contaminate the groundwater. Even when a child is healthy, there are still germs such as norovirus, listeria, salmonella, and listeria in the dirty diapers that cause illness.
Is it worth it to produce all these wastes for the sake of convenience?
2. Using cloth diapers is cheaper
I once told a colleague that I was using cloth diapers on my kids. He gave me a disgusted look and said that he would never do it. “A disposable diaper costs only like 0.2 Euro. For that little money, I don’t want to bother,” he said.
But is it really “that little money”? Let’s do the math.
The cost of a diaper ranges from 0.15 to 0.33 Euros. Each baby needs about 4,000 to 6,000 diapers. Let’s assume a kid uses 5,000 diapers that cost 0.24 each until he is potty trained. The total cost will be 1,200 Euros.
How about cloth diapers?
The initial investment
The price of cloth diapers varies a lot. You can find good brand diapers that cost 20 to 30 Euros each. But you can also go for cheap ones with no brand that costs less than 10 Euros each. For each diaper, you need to buy inserts as well. You can find cheap ones that cost around 1.5 to 2 Euros each. You may want to buy around 24 cloth diapers so that you don’t run out when you wash them.
Let’s assume you buy 24 clothes diapers that cost 20 Euros each and 24 inserts that cost 2 Euros each. This amounts to the total cost of 528 Euros.
The washing costs
Okay, we will also need to add in the energy costs because we will use the washing machine more often. Assume you wash the cloth diapers every 2 days. Each wash will cost you around 0.33 Euros (costs of water and energy). If you use cloth diapers for 3 years, your washing costs will be around 180 Euros.
So, if you add up 528 Euros and 180 Euros, the total costs amount to 708 Euros, which is way lower than the 1,200 Euros in the case of disposable diapers.
Your savings do not end here
In case you have further kids, you can continue to use cloth diapers without further investment. If you don’t have kids anymore, you can sell your cloth diapers. Yes, you can always sell them.
In my case, my initial investment in cloth diapers was about 300 Euros. I bought a mix of expensive fancy cloth diapers and also a bunch of cheap ones. They both worked well. For two kids, I would have paid 2,400 Euros if they used disposable diapers!
3. Cloth diapers are reusable
My second baby was born when my first one was already potty trained. So, I didn’t need to buy any extra diapers. My second baby could simply reuse all the cloth diapers that her elder sister used in the past. I have been using these diapers for 5 years in total now. And they are still working well.
When my second kid doesn’t need diapers anymore in the future, there will still be many possibilities for these cloth diapers. I can sell them or give them to other parents. Or I can also use them as cleaning cloth.
4. Less exposure to chemicals
The reason why a disposable diaper can absorb so well is that it is filled with chemicals. Common chemicals found in disposable diapers include perfumes, dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, etc. I always find that a used disposable diaper smells worse than a used cloth diaper. It is because when the urine is mixed with the chemicals in a disposable diaper, it results in a chemical reaction that creates a bad smell. Some diaper manufacturers even used chemicals that exceed safety levels. Using these diapers is potentially dangerous for human health.
Even though I think that the health risks of using disposable diapers are relatively low, I want to avoid my baby having contact with chemicals as much as I can. And using cloth diapers is definitely a better and healthier choice for me.
5. Cloth diapers cause less diaper rash
After I gave birth to my first baby, my friend came to visit me. She bought me a diaper rash cream. She told me that her child had diaper rashes very often in the first year. And she found this diaper rash cream the best to use.
And you know what? I ended up never opening this cream until it had expired. It was because my baby never had a diaper rash!
I didn’t even know what that was until I sent my kid to the nursery in the second year, where only disposable diapers were used.
Diaper rash happens when there is too much moisture on the skin. Parents tend to change their babies less often when disposable diapers are used. This is because disposable diapers are more absorbent and the kids do not feel the wetness so much. This results in a higher chance of diaper rash.
Besides, cloth diapers are more breathable and do not use those chemical components contained in the disposable diapers. This also means less chance of skin irritation for the kids.
6. Cloth diapers are more comfortable
Cloth diapers are breathable. They are soft and made of natural fibers. Besides, parents tend to change their kids with cloth diapers more often. It means that the kids spend less time sitting in dirty diapers. Even though my baby may not be able to tell me, I can imagine that wearing a cloth diaper is more comfortable than wearing a disposable diaper. I will also not feel very comfortable sitting in a full sanitary pad for a long time. Just an example.
7. Earlier potty training
Some parents say that using cloth diapers leads to earlier potty training. This is because, with cloth diapers, the kids can feel the wetness better compared to when they use disposables.
I also used cloth diapers when I was a baby. And my mom told me that I didn’t need diapers anymore after 1 year old.
My first daughter stopped using diapers during the day when she was 2 years or so. And she stopped also during the night when she turned 3. She stopped using diapers much earlier compared to other kids in our neighborhood. I would say that it was partly because of the cloth diapers, and partly because we were doing elimination communication.
After she turned 1, we put her in a nursery, where only disposable diapers were allowed. I think that was the reason it took her longer to quit using the diapers. She started using her potty at home when she was a few months old. But she didn’t start doing that at the nursery until she was 2.
I can only tell from my experience. So, yes, I think cloth diapers can result in earlier potty training. It would be even better to use cloth diapers together with elimination communication. But that is another topic.
The earlier the kid stops using diapers, the better it is for the environment. And the more comfortable it is for the kids and also for the parents.
8. Cloth diapers are cute
Cloth diapers can be very fashionable. Instead of plain white like disposable diapers, cloth diapers come in different colors, patterns, and designs. This doesn’t matter so much in the winter when my baby is walking fully clothed anyway. But in the summer, it is super cute to see my baby walking with this diaper on.
9. Making a positive impact
When I use cloth diapers on my kids, it also helps to spread the word. There are so many times that other people told me that the cloth diapers on my kids were really cute. They also asked me how it was to use them and how they worked.
Simply by using cloth diapers, I was able to promote awareness and started a conversation with other parents. Other parents are more likely to try cloth diapers as well when they see that someone else is using them and recommending them.
For example, my sister-in-law was interested in cloth diapers because she saw that our first kid was wearing them. She was pregnant at that time. It was Christmas and we were all staying at my parents-in-law’s house for a few days. So, she got to see exactly how cloth diapers worked. She saw us changing the diapers, and she saw our kid wearing them happily. So, she ended up also choosing cloth diapers for her kid later. We felt good about making a positive impact on other parents, other babies, and our planet.
4 Eco-friendly tips when using cloth diapers
1. You can use your old T-shirts
When you use cloth diapers, you may not necessarily need to buy inserts. If you have some old T-shirts at home, simply cut them in the right shape. Fold them and you can use them as inserts. This will save you even more money, and it is also more environmentally friendly. I used some of my husband’s old cotton shirts at that time.
2. Use second-hand cloth diapers
If you want to save even more money and be more green, buy second-hand cloth diapers instead. You can easily find second-hand cloth diapers online. They are cheaper than the new ones. So, they can be a good option for parents who do not want to spend a lot on the initial investment but still want to try cloth diapers out.
3. Reuse the diaper covers
Different cloth diapers use different systems. For example, prefolds, all-in-ones, pocket style, etc. What we do is that we use pocket-style cloth diapers, but we do not put the inserts inside the pockets. Instead, we simply place the insert on top of the diaper cover. This way, we don’t have to change the diaper cover every time we change our kid. If there is only urine on the insert, we would just dump the insert and put a new one on top of the existing diaper cover. We only change the diaper cover when there is poop in the diaper.
By doing this, we need a lot fewer diaper covers and can go on without washing diapers for more days, which in turn saves us money and it is better for the environment.
4. Line-dry the cloth diapers
You will save a lot of energy (and money) if you do not use a dryer. And I can tell you that it is possible to use cloth diapers without having a dryer at home. We didn’t have a dryer when my first kid was born. And we line-dried all the cloth diapers. In the summer, we simply hung them outside and they were dry very fast under the sun. In the winter, since our heating was anyway on, we put our drying rack close to the heater. And the cloth diapers were dried within hours.
In the beginning, I felt like going against the grain when using cloth diapers. When other people heard that we used cloth diapers, they either felt surprised, curious, or disgusted. But I love the feeling that I am doing something different to reduce my waste and better our world. When we take the first step to make a small difference, it will help more other parents to do the same.
I hope this article helps you to understand my choice of using cloth diapers. I understand that cloth diapers may not be for everyone. Only you can decide if cloth diapers can fit your lifestyle. You should do what works best for you and your family.
Bio: This article is written by Sindy from My Life In Germany – a blog that provides info to expats about studying, working, and living in Germany. Sindy is originally from Hong Kong and she now lives in Germany. Her vision is to provide useful info and advice through My Life in Germany to anyone following her footsteps on subjects like finding accommodation in Germany, adjusting to life, citizenship, finance, and more.