Energy Diet

Baby with Cloth Diapers

When I was pregnant I had a great plan for my (eco)parenting: reusable nappies. The pure idea of ​contributing to fill the dumpsters with thousands of plastic diapers over the next two years and a half, at least, terrified me. So, in my last pregnancy month I purchased a nice pack of more than enough reusable nappies to go through winter.
This was not an easy process though. For hygienic reasons, Tiago was not convinced this was the most convenient solution (I guess you can all figure out what worried him…).

Therefore I had one month to talk him into using reusable cloth diapers. I did some research and handed him a case study recently published by the Portuguese environmental organization Quercus along with an Excel spreadsheet where I compared the different types of diapers, brands and prices. It did the trick and we ordered a bunch of diapers (at that time I did not know of any store where I could purchase such item, now there are at least 3 in Lisbon…).

But then something went incredibly wrong. I do not know if it was due to the brand of diapers, if it was me who did not use them correctly or if the baby was yet too small to use them, but my plan fell apart just in the first couple of weeks. Although they are supposedly designed for babies over 3 kilos (6,60 pounds), the diapers did not fit well and were not leak proof. They soaked through her clothing, so I had to change her two, sometimes three times a day. Soaked clothes had to be washed and, in the end, along with my new-mother anxiety, it was not so ecologic and relaxing.

So, disappointed, I changed to disposables, but did not put away the possibility of using the cloth ones again. Maybe when the baby grows and gets fatter, the diapers will fit, I used to tell myself. Well, eventually they did. When this challenge began, five months later, I decided to give them a second, actually third, chance and I was positively surprised: they did not leak anymore! Now my baby uses them anytime, indoors and outdoors, to go for a stroll, during naptime, even at night, and they haven’t leaked a single time!

Now, I cannot explain what happened back there. Maybe some enlightened mothers can tell me why they had been leaking for the first four months??

I am sure most of you frown when you hear about cloth diapers. But apart from the convenience offered by disposable diapers, they are not the best choice for your baby. Take a look at the facts and then tell me if it´s not worth a try:

– Disposable diapers contain traces of toxic by-products used for paper bleaching and other pollutants which are nasty for your baby.

– Diaper rash is linked with the massive use of plastic pants in the 1940s.

– Plastic diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills and make up 50% of household waste in a house with a baby (they sure do!)

– Their decomposition time is estimated to be about 250-500 years, which is a long time…

– A baby will use 7800 disposables during its first two and a half years of life. If you buy an economic pack, each disposable will cost you 0,11 Euro (0,15 USD, based on the Portuguese market, depending on the brand). At the end of the first year, you will have spent 585 Euros (830 USD) just for nappies. On the other hand, if you buy 20 cloth diapers at 17 Euros (24 USD) each, on average, you will spend 340 Euros (483 USD) not in the first year, but for the whole two years and a half. Do the maths and see for yourself how much you can save! You can surely give me the arguments that the water and electricity used to wash them do not compensate the waste reduction. But if you only run your washing machine when it’s full to the brim and use environment-friendly washing products, you will only be doing good to the environment.

Next step: convince my baby’s daycare staff to use the cloth diapers…


  1. Christina Nunez
    June 27, 2011, 10:30 am

    Love this post! And the diapers in the pictures look much cuter and sturdier than I would have imagined.

  2. Chad Lipton
    June 27, 2011, 11:49 am

    You’ve got me convinced.

  3. Monia
    June 28, 2011, 6:47 am


  4. Cecilia
    Jozi, RSA
    June 28, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Hi Monia. I am also sitting on a stack of diapers (as well as a half-written blog post on these). Same problems as you have mentioned. I also thought that maybe my baby is too small (although the brand is supposed to be from birth to at least three years…) I am glad it is working for you now. Would like to know the brand you are using as well as how many you use daily. I’ve tried it on and off, and for the most part it’s off now. How much did your daughter weigh when you started again and it worked? Hannah is 5 months next month, but weighing 5.2Kgs at the moment. Maybe it IS a size thing? I even added nappy liners (even though the manufacturer said its not needed) and it still leaked. Oy.
    Thanks for the other research on it as well. Strengthened my resolve. 🙂

  5. Monia
    June 28, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Hi Cecilia,
    I sometimes use biodegradable flushable liners (for the solids), but I don´t think that’s what you mean. You mean absorbent pads, right? It’s cover + liner, if you’re using a pocket nappy.
    My favorites are from Charlie Banana, but most of them I bought online on Amazon from the seller Baba+Boo. I also bought one Fuzzi Bunz, it´s also very good.
    Ines was almost 7 kg when they finally fitted, so you might need to wait a few more weeks…
    It´s hard to tell you how many I use per day, because during the week she spends 6 to 7 hours daily in daycare and there they like to use the disposable ones. But I would say I’d need 8 to 10 nappies.
    Yesterday we had the first leak in weeks: at 3 a.m. New sheets, new pajama… Reason: new brand, supposedly conceived to endure 10 hours during the night. Oh well, nothing’s perfect 😉
    Good luck with that. It is a challenge, indeed!