"I just don't think I could do that."

I can't tell you the number of times I heard that from family, friends, coworkers and even strangers upon learning that I used cloth diapers when my girls were babies. These words were most often followed by something like, "I just couldn't handle touching the poop."

At that point in the conversation, I usually had two choices: return to my shopping/writing/walking, and let the conversation die, or actually ask the other person if there is a parent alive who has not had to touch poop at some point or another. Because honestly, I touched a lot of my kids' poop in my career as a mom, and it almost never had to do with changing their diaper.  

The yuck factor is a huge stumbling block for folks who consider using cloth diapers over disposables to diaper their babies. But tough economic times are forcing folks — especially new parents — to pinch pennies wherever they can. That's shedding new light on the decision to use cloth diapers.

There has been much debate over the years about cloth diapers and if they are actually better for the planet than disposables.  This debate was fueled by a flawed 2005 British study that found no difference between the eco-impact of cloth vs. disposable diapers. How do I know this study was flawed? Because I read it. And it didn't take long for me to see the holes.  

For starters, the study surveyed 2,183 parents; 2,000 of whom used disposable diapers, 183 of whom used cloth diapers. It doesn’t take a scientist to know that these numbers don’t add up. The study’s results are neither balanced nor conclusive. The study also did NOT take into account the measures that many cloth diapering parents take to minimize their use of both water and energy (such as using EnergyStar rated laundry machines, washing full loads, line drying, and washing in warm instead of hot water.) Nor did it look into just how often cloth diapers are passed on to subsequent children (either to siblings or to friends) thereby dramatically reducing their initial environmental impact. Also, the study only looked at one type of cloth diaper (a terry cloth diaper) that is traditionally more energy-intensive to dry than other types of cloth diapers.

But even if cloth diapers are better for the environment, that's not what's driving their recent surge in popularity. The main motivation these days is saving money, and there is no denying that cloth diapers win hands down over disposables when it comes to pinching pennies.

There are a number of cost calculators out there that look at the the cost differences between cloth and disposables, but one of the best I've seen is on the blog, Diaper Decisions. Susie Arevalo, the site's blogger, looks at lots of differents kinds of cloth diapers — from prefolds to all-in-ones — and confirms the money saved for choosing cloth.  

According to the site, the cost of disposable diapers (cheapest brand purchased from a discount store) is 36 cents per change compared to the most economic of cloth diapers which is 6 cents per change (the price includes washing.) Even fancier combo cloth diapers ring in at 22 cents per change which is still significantly cheaper than disposable, especially when you consider that babies go through anywhere from 10-20 diapers in a single day!

No matter which way you look at it, cloth diapers are less expensive than disposable, and in these tough times, that's enough of an incentive to force even the most ardently opposed to take a closer look.  In the end, it's a decision that's better for the planet — and the wallet. And there's nothing yucky about that.

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