Diapers are one of the true “knowns” of early parenting. While everything else may seem mysterious or constantly in flux - their sleep times, wake times, fuss times, feed times, needs - there’s one thing you can depend on: you’re going to go through a seemingly infinite number of diapers before s/he’s potty trained.
Not only that - the type of diapers your baby uses matters more than you think because the right type saves you in terms of increased absorbency, fewer changes and baby’s comfort (less rashes). That’s all underlying your conscience, since disposable diapers take their own toll on Mother Earth any way you cut it.
Want to really cut down on diapers? Check out Diaper-Free Parenting - successfully used by many to cut down on diapers or eliminate them altogether.
Diaper Brand Review & Considerations
Here are the most important factors to consider as you make your way through the *baby-poop-load* of diaper options available these days….
Reusable or disposable? OR compostable!
First and foremost, you’ll make choices between reusable or disposable. There are pros and cons to each, but I’ve found many of my clients who opt for re-usable or cloth-style diapers are actually double-dippers.
They prefer to use cloth diapers when at home, for routine errand running or when visiting family members with a laundry room. Then, they’ll sometimes use disposable diapers when out and about for longer stints, when babysitters or caregivers less familiar with cloth diapering practices are in charge, or when traveling or on vacation without access to washing machines.
Make room for compostable diaper options
I’m excited to tell you about the new wave of diapers that’s taking the newborn parenting world by storm - compostable diapers. Consciously made with an eye and heart attuned to our planet’s well-being, diaper companies such as Bay Area’s EarthBaby Compostable Diaper Service are making a name for themselves. (Full disclosure - I’m a huge fan of this eco-, mama- and baby-conscious local company, the quality of their products and their mission. You’ll see references to EarthBaby throughout this post. I’ve also included an interview with them to learn more about their products, services and interesting facts about the diaper world. Feel free to read it at the bottom of this post).
Here’s a useful chart you can use while reviewing eco-friendly diaper options:
Companies like EarthBaby have a simple mission - fabricate high-quality diapers with a minimal footprint, and keep them (and their associated wipes) out of landfills. Once you’ve decided whether you’re going to use reusable, compostable or disposable options (or a combination), it’s time to review other primary factors.
Cost is a primary factor for many families. According to Investopedia, the average baby goes through about 2700 diapers during their first year of life - so it’s worth figuring out a diaper budget ahead of time or you may find diapers require a notable chunk of the monthly household budget.
For that reason, cloth/reusable diapers are the affordability favorite. The initial investment required for cloth/reusable diapers and their accessories may seem steep at first - but they diminish rapidly over the lifetime of the diaper. Detergent and water/utility costs are minimal for the successive months and years.
Cloth diaper products/accessories vary widely - one persons custom diaper bin is another’s repurposed 5-gallon paint bucket. Check out this Cloth Diaper 101 post from Parents.com to learn more about your options. A good foundational number for cloth/reusable diapers for a year-ish (newborn, infant and baby sizes) is about $700 (thesimpledollar.com).
By far, disposable diapers are the most expensive option. According to Consumer Reports, you’ll spend about $2500 for quality diapers (as little as $1500 if you use cheaper brands) during the first year.
Compostable diapers are available by the pack or case online, in some supermarkets and via diaper services, like EarthBaby. Be aware that “biodegradable” and “compostable” are not the same thing. The former is better for the landfill than the latter, but the latter is composted safely and completely, returning back to the earth in the form of commercial landscaping material and the like.
Like everything that is organic or compostable - compostable diapers cost more. For example: Eco by Naty compostable diapers are $1.46 each on Amazon - but are available considerably cheaper ($7.99 for a 25-pack, making them only $0.31/each) from EarthBaby as part of their subscription delivery/pick-up service).
Comfort, allergies and rashes
Your baby’s comfort and wellbeing are key. Read your prospective diaper packages carefully and you’ll be amazed at how many chemicals are included by diaper manufacturers to make diapers look good (colorful dyes for imaging and graphics), smell good (fragrance galore) and to increase absorbency.
Alas, these chemicals can be disastrous against a sensitive baby’s skin - particularly when combined with the agitating moisture, uric acid and fecal matter. Do your baby a huge favor and only consider diapers and wipes formulated for sensitive skin, because don’t they all have sensitive skin?
How much that diaper holds is increasingly important as babies grow, and absorbance varies dramatically between diaper brands. Even your baby’s body shape, proportions and level of movement affect which diapers work best when it comes to keeping waste products in - and your wee one’s parts dry.
You may find yourself spending a good few months experimenting with different brands and types of diapers as you figure out which ones work best for your baby and your routine. Many moms find they use one type by day and one by night.
Two great resources regarding absorbency are:
Fluff Love University’s, Overnight Diapering (reusable) post. In the reusable or cloth diaper world, absorbent fibers, crafty folding and adequate layering are the key.
Here’s to finding the best diaper brand for your budget, needs and baby. In the meantime, I’d love to photograph those sweet cheeks (either set!), so you have magazine-worthy images to treasure for a lifetime. Contact me, Marcela Limon, at Lemonshoots (510) 747-9019, to schedule your newborn photo session.
And, don’t forget to Click Here if you’re interested in watching EarthBaby’s, video-based “Sustainable Diapering Class.
Learn More About Diapers Via This EarthBaby Q & A
What should you look for when choosing a diaper brand?
This is definitely a big personal choice. For our company and our customers we break it down in a few ways:
Health and safety for your babe
For our company we have chosen diapers with no dyes or perfumes or toxins (such as polypropylene, chlorine, or dioxins). The more simple and natural the better.
After 6 years we have gotten our warehousing system down. We check all of the expiration dates on diapers and only order as many as we believe we will use in the upcoming month. If you order diapers or buy them in stores this is not always the reality, so you should check the expiry date.
Parents might see things advertised like “12-hours of dryness protection.” Whichever diapers you choose you should still change your baby every 2-3 hours.
Health and safety for the planet.
We have chosen diapers that are compostable so that we can ensure that our diapers can be composted to usable dirt. However, when people buy compostable or biodegradable diapers and do not have a compostable diaper service, their diapers still end up in the landfill which do not ensure that they reach a temperature or environment to be composted. So, without actually composting them in a facility, they still do contribute to the landfill.
Some people like to use cloth diapers for sustainability. There was a British study done that shows if you use hot water, do not hang-dry, and do not put diapers in with other loads, the energy waste is comparable to waste of disposable diapers. So this can be a good option if you are able to line-dry, etc.
Overall Diaper Costs
We currently use Naty (Nature Baby Care) which is about $.31 per diaper. This is a pretty average price for the market. Bamboo is about .53 per diaper and Kirkland is about .21 center per diaper.
We also understand that some families have a really hard time covering family expenses and this is the main consideration for them. There are also amazing diaper donation services like “Help A Mother Out.” We donate our warehouse for this organization to store their diaper donations and consider this to be a human rights cause.
How can you know if your baby likes or dislikes the brand you chose?
Diapers and clothes can often be a challenge for babes, especially during changes. So babies generally will not ‘love’ any diaper, but the signs to look for are primarily of discomfort. Are there diaper rashes or irritations around their legs or on their belly or back?
Sometimes diaper rash has to do with yeast, food allergies or food intolerances, how long the diaper has been on, or other factors. But to rule out diapers there are a few things to try:
Try a different size, or if they are a newborn you can try folding down the top of the diaper for a more secure fit and to ensure that the diaper is not rubbing against the belly button cord.
Try a different brand especially if the ones you are using have dyes, perfumes, or chemicals.
If you are using cloth diapers, make sure you wash them thoroughly and use dye and perfume-free detergent (and shift up the detergent because some cause skin allergies).
If you are able to, let the baby be diaper-free as much as possible and look into things like “Elimination Communication” which limits time in diapers.
How can you know if you are using the right size?
This all depends on the brand of diaper, but generally diapers have a pretty good measurement system of weight for finding a good diaper size. If you have a lot of leaks or if it feels too tight/if the waist or leg bands are irritating it may be time to try sizes.
How do you prevent a rash?
If you have ruled out chemical/dye irritation, yeast/fungal infection/overgrowth, and if you change the diaper regularly and your babe still gets a rash you can try washing your babies bum with warm water and pat/air dry before putting on another diaper.
You can use a barrier like a diaper cream (especially at night if your babe sleeps longer than 2-3 hours). Give your baby as much diaper-free time as possible. Use clothing that is not too tight/restraining. Try diapers that use natural and dye-free products.
How many diapers can you expect to use per month as your baby grows?
You can go through about 275 diapers during newborn stage. Once you get to size 2, you start to use fewer as diaper changes become more regular. Babes can go through 1800 - 2200 diapers per year!
This seems like a lot of diapers! What happens with all this garbage?
We estimate that in a child’s lifetime they could fill a large dump truck with their diapers. Multiple that times the number of children being born per year is why diapers are the third largest contributor to the landfill for single-use items. Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated about 18 billion diapers are thrown into landfills every year.
It is challenging, too, because companies that offer compostable and biodegradable diapers do not state clearly that these too end up in the landfill and must be put into a composting facility in order to achieve the right temperature to decompose and eradicate pathogens. So these diapers go into the landfill as well because city composting does not accept diapers, and you should not put diapers into personal ‘backyard’ compost because it is not as efficiently monitored to ensure that the final product is pathogen-free.
There are also other environmental justice considerations. The more garbage there is, the more landfills need to be created. Landfills often are placed in rural or lower-income regions. There are considerations such as smell-factors and water runoff challenges. This is not just a consideration for future generations but our current landscape of social justice concerns.
Disposable vs Compostable vs Cloth diapers. Which one is good for your baby? Why is Compostable the best choice for both your family and the environment?
Here is a link to a blogpost we wrote that breaks this down, because there are many factors!
How does EarthBaby work?
Here is a video that helps break it down: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v61ns3BMCU8
Basically, we deliver diapers (and other products such as diaper cream, wipes, etc.) and pick up the dirty diapers from your home every week. We take these diapers to a composting facility we contract with and in 14 weeks it is processed into usable soil for landscaping projects.
We charge $33.99 per month for the delivery, pickup, and composting fee plus whatever you would like delivered. You can start and cancel at anytime. Our customer service can easily pause for when you go away on vacation or if anything else comes up.