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The Diaper Decision: Do-It-Yourself, Diaper Service or Disposable?

by the City of Toronto, Department of Public Health
Image: Cloth Diapers: A How-To Handbook on the Basics of Cloth Diapering, by Rachel Boreing (Author). Publisher: Rachel Boreing, Intentionally Simple; 1 edition (April 26, 2014)

Cloth Diapers: A How-To Handbook on the Basics of Cloth Diapering
Click for more info: US | CDN | UK

Parents today have the chance to choose diapers that are good for baby . . . and for the environment. Think of the five C's as you make your diaper choice: Conservation, Cleanliness, Convenience, Comfort and Cost.

This guide highlights the benefits and drawbacks to the different choices in diapers. But the bottom line is you want your baby to be as clean and comfortable as possible.


Do-It-Yourself Diapering - Cotton diapers are a renewable resource. When they have served their purpose they are great for washing your bicycle, stuffing cushions or using as household rags.

Diaper Service - When they wear out, the diaper services sell them for use as industrial rags. There is no extra load on landfill and the extra cost of laundering them is far less than the energy used in making disposable diapers.

Disposable Diapers - It's hard to think of anything that is more wasteful of our resources than disposable diapers. Every year, Toronto babies account for a million green garbage bags of soiled diapers, which cost $500,000 to pick up and take to landfill sites. It takes 30,000 trees and 450 tonnes of plastic each year to make disposable diapers for these Toronto babies.


Image: Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers, by Erin Odom (Author). Publication Date: March 25, 2013

Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert
Click for more info: US | CDN | UK

Do-It-Yourself Diapering - Home-washed diapers are perfectly clean and safe for your baby. Our laundry tips below will show you how.

Diaper Service - Cloth diapers are washed in accredited and inspected laundries.

Disposable Diapers - Every diaper is brand new, so cleanliness is assured. But you must shake soiled diapers into the toilet. Nobody wants soiled diapers in their garbage or landfill sites.


Do-It-Yourself Diapering - Cloth diapers are not what they used to be. Today there are many styles to choose from. Many are easy to use because they have Velcro® or tie strips instead of pins.

Diaper Service - Diaper services will call once or twice a week. All you have to do is shake stool into the toilet and store wet diapers in a disinfected container provided by the diaper service. Many take credit cards.

Disposable Diapers - You may never need to worry about clean laundry, but you DO have to buy and lug home heavy packages every week.


Do-It-Yourself Diapering - Babies are comfortable if they are changed when they need to be. Cotton is a soft natural material. Numerous studies have failed to show that diaper rash is any more common in healthy babies using cotton diapers. It appears that good hygiene is the best way to prevent diaper rash. If you use pins, keep them in a bar of soap (out of baby's reach) to make it easier to push the pins through the cloth. You might find it helpful to double-diaper at night to prevent leakage.

Image: Changing Diapers - The Hip Moms Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering, by Kelly Wels. Publisher: Green Team Enterprises; First edition (October 1, 2011)

Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom's Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering
Click for more info: US | CDN | UK

Diaper Service - See the section above on do-it-yourself diapering.

Disposable Diapers - There is no fear of sticking pins in baby. Babies do tend to wear disposable diapers for longer times between changes, perhaps because the new ones are extra-absorbent. Babies may get a rash from the perfumes in some diapers.


Do-It-Yourself Diapering - The cost of buying and laundering enough diapers during your baby's diaper days can range from $600 up, depending on the diaper design and whether you have your own washing machine, or need to use a laundry room or laundromat.

Diaper Service - An average of $1,600 over the 2 1/2 years a typical child is in diapers. This varies, depending on what diapers you choose and how often you change your baby.

Disposable Diapers - An average of $1,600 over 2 1/2 years a typical child is in diapers.

Avoiding Diaper Rash:

Check your baby often for wetness and change diapers whenever wet.

Wash a newborn baby's bottom with warm water at every diaper change. You can use the inside front of the diaper to wipe stool off baby's skin. Wipe girls from front to back to avoid infections. Use mild soap and rinse baby well. Older babies don't need such frequent washing.

Shake soiled diapers into the toilet.

Diaper Changes - The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide, by Theresa Rodriguez Farrisi. Publisher: M. Evans + Company; 3 edition (October 6, 2003)

Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide
Click for more info: US | CDN | UK

Pat baby's bottom dry, or allow to air-dry before diapering.

Do not use powder. Baby may inhale it. A cream is a good moisture barrier - - but don't share diaper cream or lotion among babies.

Nylon pants worn over cloth diapers will reduce leakage and allow baby's skin to breathe. Plastic pants don't let in air.

Wash your hands after every diaper change. Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers, washing your hands prevents the spread of infection.

Laundry Tips:

Fill diaper pail 3/4 full of water for soaking soiled diapers. Add 3/4 cup of white vinegar to deodorize the pail.

Wash no more than 24 diapers at a time, in the highest water level and hottest water. Use detergent, and an extra rinse cycle if your baby is prone to diaper rashes.

You don't need to bleach as long as you soak soiled diapers. Bleach cuts down the life of diapers. You could choose chlorine-free bleach or washing soda.

A 3/4 cup of white vinegar in the final rinse will help reduce diaper rash. Fabric softeners should not be necessary.

Making the Decision:

There is no doubt that using cloth diapers is the most environmentally-friendly diapering choice. Keep in mind that using a combination of cloth and disposable diapers is a step in the right direction.


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Call the Environmental Protection Office at (416)392-6788 or call your local health unit.


This article compliments of Born to Love.

Other articles that might be of interest:

• The High Cost of Convenience - The Risks of Disposable Diapers
• Chemicals in Diapers Cited as Possible Asthma Trigger
• Dangers of Disposables
• New Tests Confirm TBT Poison in Proctor & Gamble's Pampers®
• Your Choice Does Make a Difference!
• The Facts: Cloth Versus Disposable Diapers
• What's Wrong With 'Disposable' Single-Use Diapers?
• Proctor and Gamble's Toxic Tea
• The Truth (About Disposable Diapers)
• Environmental Concerns - What Do They Mean For You and Your Baby?
• Environmental Concerns II - Looking at Both Sides of the Issue


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Last updated - February 8, 2017