Today I'm airing my dirty laundry. Pun intended. I have been asked over and over and over again what kind of diapers I use. It's time to answer. This will be a two part response (or maybe more, who knows). I'm starting with disposable because drum roll please that's what I use.
Yup: I. Use. Disposable. Diapers.
Why? Well it's something I think about all of the time. The answer will probably be better explained in the cloth post. The short of it is that diaper delivery services use a tremendous amount of hot water, chlorine bleach, and (where I live) have to truck the things to and fro. All of these things have negative environmental impact. The chlorine stank so much on the diapers from the service I researched before my daughter was born that it sealed the deal for me. There was no way I was putting that much bleach residue next to her vulnerable itty bitty parts. I have friends who wash their delivery diapers two times before putting them on their son but this doesn't seem very energy-friendly. And as I don't have a washing machine in my apartment (ah, New York) it became pretty clear cloth isn't for me. That said, I am very envious of friends with home machines who are able to wash their own (organic) cotton pre-folds with good soap and vinegar. More on that next post, Cloth Diapers You Can Trust.
I've had plenty of people say harsh things to me about using disposables and expect to hear more when posting this. I welcome whatever anyone has to say about the following. I've done enough research to know there isn't one perfect answer when it comes to diapering. Every family has to make its own decision about which imperfect option works best for them.
First up, conventional disposable diapers. These (Huggies, Pampers etc.) haven't ever been an option for me.
A widely quoted study (that we mention in the book) published in the Archives of Environmental Health and conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999 found mice exposed to VOC chemicals emitted by conventional disposables had asthma-like reactions. Baby lungs aren't quite as small as mice lungs but this resonated loudly with me. Their manufacture involves chlorine.
And they all have chemical gel cores that activate to "lock-in" moisture when a baby pees. (This is what most diaper commercials boast about.) When I was first researching diapers a few years back (my daughter is now 2), I came across something on the Children's Health Environmental Coalition's site (they've since renamed and are HealthyChild.org) saying this absorbent chemical sodium polyacrylate (SAP) - could cause respiratory and skin irritations in occupational settings (i.e. much higher dose than with diaper use).
I couldn't help but wonder how safe that kind of chemical activity could possibly be in such close proximity to baby genitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No thank you!
The greener disposable choices (oxymoron alert!) are few and far between.
There's no such thing as a biodegradable diaper when it comes to landfills. There isn't enough air/water/light to make it happen. Both Seventh Generation and the flushable G Diapers contain absorbent gel so I crossed them off my list.
(I have used the 7th G ones on trips when I ran out of my brand-of-choice as they're pretty widely available and to be honest, they're awesome. They work very well and are quite flexible. I have interviewed various very honest people at 7th G over the years about other chemicals - mainly in cleaning products so do tend to trust them. On their site they call the SAP gel "chemically inert" and claim independent scientific research has shown it is "non-toxic, not carcinogenic, and non-irritating to the skin." Various other reports I've read claim SAP was taken out of tampons due to links to toxic shock syndrome, and still other studies claim SAP has nothing to do with TSS. Diapers, of course, are on the outside, not the inside, of bodies.)
As with most gray-area unnecessary chemicals, I prefer to avoid gel absorbent, which is found in Seventh Generation and Baby G brand diapers. So I wound up using and still use a brand called Tushies.
It's a cotton-blend diaper made with chlorine-free wood pulp that contains no extra chemicals or gels. Their site says they're "assembled in the U.S. with domestic materials and certified non-chlorine bleached wood pulp from Scandinavian, sustainable, renewable, family-owned forests."
You can find them in some health-food stores or they can be delivered to your door in bulk via UPS. They're more expensive than conventional disposables.
(I just went to their site and noticed two things I hadn't before that they now have a link up to our book and, at the bottom, it says Copyright 2008 The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. which means I guess they were purchased!)
Around the same time I found Tushies, I heard about Nature Babycare but had trouble locating the actual product to try. So I went with Tushies. I just went back to their site, too, and it looks like the product has changed since I was last on it. Natural Baby Care is now claiming to make:
"the first ECO-friendly high-performance diaper, based on new green technology, protected by a Swedish patent. It has an exclusive 100% chlorine-free absorbent material and the material against the baby's skin is based on corn instead of plastic, like traditional diapers. 100% compostable, breathable and extremely kind for the baby. The packaging is 100% compostable and based on corn."
This sounds very interesting, promising even. On their FAQ page that 100% claim drops down to about 60% unclear which it is. There they also explain that the absorbent pulp is cellulose contained in nature, the tree pulp is FSC certified, and the corn used isn't genetically modified. Worth looking into. Sweden's environmental standards are certainly leaps and bounds ahead of ours.
They have a link to Target.com on their site but I couldn't find them at Target. But they are available at NatureBoyandGirl.net and Drugstore.com. Check out the Drugstore.com reviews - one mom said they managed to compost them all. I don't have a compost pile (ah, New York again) but these sound like an option to try out for people who do.
FYI in a consumer diaper review at TheGreenGuide.com, some parents complain they're too "plastic-y" I guess they mean all of that corn material is slick.
Basically, unless you have the time and patience to help the child go diaperless from day one (get a copy of Ingrid Bauer's Diaper Free! The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene) there's no way not to think about the environmental and environmental health impact of each diaper you change.
I can't wait until my daughter is potty trained. We've been having her stuffed animals use her potty in front of her since she was about 1. She goes through phases of being interested in it and right now it's more than ever. With the warmer weather on the horizon (it's easier to train in less clothing) I think I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
I can't wait until I'm not tossing these things into the garbage. I do create less waste than some in other areas of our life, but this diaper thing makes me feel terrible and guilty daily.
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