Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Diaper Quagmire

Something that a non-mother would never think about - diapers.  In fact, most non-mothers specifically avoid diaper interactions.  Diarrhea and warm urine aren't typically handled by choice.  But when your next stop is having a baby, it's time to suck it up and get down to (dirty) diapers because there are options.  You didn't realize there were diaper options?  There are.


First up are the modern, plastic, throw out diapers.  These are the diapers you see in television commercials (i.e. Huggies, Pampers).  There are a couple unique pros:

  • Easy and Convenient.  Fans of reusable and hybrid diapers will argue that they're just as easy.  As an outsider to reusable diaper changing (and diaper changing in general), I'm gonna disagree.  To me, a disposable diaper is easier because when it's dirty you chuck it in the diaper pail and don't look back.
  • Bells and whistles.  Some disposable diapers have "wetness indicators" and sweet fragrances to mask the not so sweet fragrances.
Huggies disposable diapers


Next are the old-school and coming back in a big way reusable diapers.  They are what they sound like - diapers that are reused after each use.  There are couple unique pros:

  • Cost.  In a diaper to diaper comparison, disposables are much cheaper than reusable/hybrids.  But, in the long term a baby will need more and more and MORE disposables where as reusable diapers can be reused, thus they're a one-time expense.  And reusable diapers can be passed along to additional siblings.
  • Natural material.  Reusable diapers are made of natural materials, cotton or wool, which is a huge bonus for babies with especially sensitive skin.
Charlie Banana reusable diapers

Before I discuss the 3rd type of diapers, it's important to address the environmental impact disposable and reusable diapers because it's a bit of a quagmire (side note: quagmire is one of my favorite words and it's the name of a character in Family Guy).  I'm guessing you're confused.  You thought that the key difference between reusable and disposable diapers are that the former is less harsh on the environment and the latter is more harsh on the environment.  Well, it turns out that it's not quite that cut and dry.  

The major issue with disposable diapers is that they don't decompose.  They sit in landfills far beyond the lifetime of the baby and when a single baby is using a couple thousand disposable diapers from birth to potty training...that's a lot of diapers.  Supposedly there are some new disposable diapers that decompose in 10-15 years, which is an interesting solution.  But I feel compelled to use the word "supposedly" because there haven't been 10-15 year long studies to prove this claim.  Meanwhile, reusable diapers don't hang out in landfills because they're busy being reused.  And when a reusable diaper finally meets its maker, it will eventually decompose because it's made of natural fibers.  That's the good news.  But, reusable diapers do impact the environment with the water and energy consumption that it takes to clean them.  For those using a laundry service there is the additional impact of the vehicle (gas, emissions, etc.) that picks up and drops off the diapers.


Finally, the third option.  Hybrid diapers are part reusable and part disposable.  The diaper itself can be washed and reused, but there is a disposable insert.  With some brands the disposable inserts are thrown away and with some brands the disposable inserts can be flushed down the toilet.  Could these be the answer to the disposable/reusable quagmire?  I'm not sure.  These are a relatively new option, so I couldn't find comparison studies regarding the environmental impact.

Diaper buyers and changers - what option did you choose and why?  Would you make the same choice all over again after your experience?  Any other pros that I missed?


Chrissy said...

The hybrid systems sound confusing! I think it might just be easier to do reusable or disposable.

I get that you use more water with reusable, but water is recycled and reused? It's not really the same as just wasting the water.

We don't use a laundry service, but do you think those vehicle emissions are comparable to those of the delivery trucks for disposable diapers? So, I'm not sure you can add that to reusable diapers and not add it to the disposable side as well.

I really used to toe the line on this one myself, but after 7 months of using reusable diapers, I'm fairly confident our impact on the environment is less than those using reusable. HOWEVER, I read an article once that said as far as the earth is concerned, having the baby was the important choice. I agree. The impact of what type of diaper you use, if you can afford any diapers at all, probably matters less than what diaper companies want us to think.

But we've saved tons of money using cloth!! Disposable are $$$, but easier.

Anonymous said...

Elimination Communication. Skip the diapers and go straight to the potty. Haven't tried it but a very interesting option and where money is concerned, very tempting.

superfizz said...

Hi Leah, I'm Michelle and I work with your mom at the library! :-) We use nature babycare diapers and they are awesome, chlorine free, made from GMO-free corn based film. I've used them with both my girls and have never had a problem. I order them through amazon.com using amazon prime, so I get a great discount. Cheers!

LOL elo boosting said...

By pass the actual diapers as well as proceed right to the actual toilet. Have not attempted this however an extremely fascinating choice as well as exactly where cash can be involved, really attractive.

LOL Boost

Cheap FUT 14 Coins