Rising prices, environmental concern revive age-old diaper debate

Thousands of families are slamming the lid on disposable diapers, and cloth is reclaiming the spotli
Rachelle Jenkins of California Babe Stuff holds up a doll with a cloth diaper during a demonstration at Haute Mama Maternity in Saratoga Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Rachelle Jenkins of California Babe Stuff holds up a doll with a cloth diaper during a demonstration at Haute Mama Maternity in Saratoga Springs.

When Andrew Nethercutt learned that his wife, Alyssa, was pregnant with their first child three years ago, he began obsessing about the thought of “reeky” diaper changes.

“I pictured myself passing out by the changing table and the baby rolling off and getting hurt, or I envisioned getting a whiff of things and throwing up. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it,” said the Albany dad.

By the time baby Gabrielle was born, however, Andrew quickly overcame his fear of diaper duty. But a feeling of trepidation soon returned when the fledgling father learned the couple were about to trade in their stash of convenient disposable diapers for a stack of the cloth variety.

The Nethercutts, like thousands of other families, are slamming the lid on disposable diapers, and cloth is reclaiming the spotlight as the diaper of choice, fueled largely by Internet-savvy “momtrepreneurs” who have launched Web boutiques selling brands with irresistible names like Fuzzi Bunz and Baby BeeHinds.

These are a far cry from the cloth diapers you might have worn as a baby, and they’re most definitely not the diapers your parents wore.

Today’s cloth diapers are made of hemp, microfiber, flannel and other materials. They also contain waterproof outer layers that keep moisture out but still help baby’s skin breathe. They usually close with snaps, Velcro or hook-and-loop fasteners, and some diapers even contain absorbent, removable inserts.

In the Capital Region, many mothers are making the switch.

Sarah Otto did so when she gave birth to her daughter, Emma, four years ago, and she has no regrets. Otto, who owns Haute Mama Maternity in Saratoga Springs, said the environment was a big factor in her decision as well.

According to The Environmental Protection Agency, disposable diapers are the third most common consumer product filling the nation’s landfills, with at least 3.6 million tons of diapers thrown away every year, taking as many as 500 years to decompose.

The argument has been made that washing cloth diapers at home wastes excess water, but the reality said an EPA spokesman, is that between 50 and 70 gallons of water are used every three days — about the same as a toilet-trained child or adult flushing the toilet five to six times a day. Basically, it’s a wash, he said.

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