I recently wrote a persuassive paper for a friend and decided to post it here.
It is a natural response to want the best for our children. We see the ads of beatific babies in their name brand glory - smiling as they run around in their Huggies diapers, laughing when they’re washed in the Johnson’s no tears formula, drifting off into peaceful slumber while being fed Enfamil - and we assume this must be the height of health, the best start possible for our offspring. I know, because I was once one of those parents, convinced I was lending to a bright future for my child.
One of the most important tools and aspects of the first years is diapering. A walk down an aisle in your local superstore will prove this with a vast array of disposable diapers and wipes. Every box, resplendent with happy faces and chubby tots, touts claims of superiority, comfort, super absorbency, and non leaking resiliency. Common sense tells us we get what we pay for, so we willingly pay top of the line prices to ensure the best for our children.
My personal outlook changed when I stumbled one day, while browsing online parenting blogs, upon an article about cloth diapering. After checking to ensure I wasn’t on an outdated site, I perused further and found more websites all devoted to the same. Page after page of research flashed before me, until I could no longer deny what was in front of me. Medical findings, independent research – it all led to the same irrevocable conclusion. The diapers my children sat in twenty four hours a day were, in fact, small cesspools of hazardous materials. Materials known to be cancer causing, materials banned from use in other products for causing toxic shock syndrome.
The sad truth is that disposable diapers, worn by some ninety percent of America’s children between the ages of birth and three, contain carcinogens. Other products with similar materials, like cigarettes, are required by the federal government to issue warnings on their packaging of their hazardous nature. Why then, do these boxes of Huggies and Pampers sport nothing but smiling children and superficial claims? And if more parents were made aware of the potential health risks, would they still buy those boxes willingly?
So what is a reasonable alternative? If disposable diaper companies are content to manufacture an unhealthy option, where can parents turn for a healthier one? The smartest and healthiest decision for our children is cloth diapers. Unlike previous generations’ versions, cloth has undergone severe redesign in the last decade, the result an innocuous, modern solution to disposables.
Cloth diapers are easy to use. Most are all inclusive, meaning no more bulky pre-folds, rubber pants, or diaper pins like the diapers of yesteryear. Today’s versions have polyurethane outer linings and gussets to prevent leaks, sewn in padding for absorbency, and soft inner linings made of suede cloth to keep baby comfortable. They fasten with soft Velcro, and go on in exactly the same way as a disposable. Best of all, most are just as trim fitting as disposables, meaning they fit nicely under clothes.
Cloth is also an economical choice. In general, a box of approximately ninety diapers costs between thirteen and sixteen dollars; a box of about four hundred wipes will run around ten dollars. A one child household will annually spend almost one thousand dollars in diapering. The priciest cloth models cost about eighteen dollars per diaper, meaning that same household would spend about five hundred dollars to outfit in cloth. It doesn’t seem that great a difference based on one year, but consider that those same diapers can be used again the following year, and even the year after that. Consider further that those same diapers can be reused for any more children that may come along, and the cost difference is staggering. The general startup costs are fairly steep, but most websites that sell cloth offer layaway and payment plans, and you can always stock up slowly as money allows.
Although eye opening, these findings may not sway some parents who believe the extra money spent is worth the time they aren’t laundering cloth diapers, but even this aspect of diapering has improved. The new models don’t require soaking or scrubbing, and in truth, take little more time or effort than a regular load of laundry. Simply throw soiled diapers into a prewash, add wet diapers in a regular wash with an extra rinse, and dry in your dryer. To further conserve money, cloth diapers are best laundered in simple, natural products like baking soda and vinegar, and can be hung on a clothes line, lowering their already meager electricity consumption.
Finally, cloth diapers are an environmentally sound choice. Disposables, by definition, are a one use item, destined to end up in land fills across the country. Cloth diapers can be used repeatedly through multiple children, and when they are finally too old to use as diapers, can be converted to rags. When and if they finally end up in a landfill, their fibers break down easily into the earth. This is recycling at its greatest.
Cloth diapers are economical and earth friendly. Most of all, they are the healthiest and best option available for our children today. Although they do require more effort than a disposable, the work invested is returned with too great a profit to turn down – my children’s health and my own peace of mind. When others scoff at my decision or give me looks of incredulity, or when I feel like that extra load of laundry is just too much, I remind myself that I didn’t take the easy way out at my children’s expense, and for the first time, I really am giving my children the best start I can offer. And that makes it all worthwhile.