Diaper Dilemma: The Lowdown On The Best Non Toxic Diaper Options For Your Baby
This information in this blog was updated by Bree Flory on June 1, 2017
When I was pregnant I was absolutely, 100% certain I would cloth diaper. Cloth diapering is baby friendly and earth friendly; it seemed like the obvious choice. Then, Maya was born. And, well, ideals tend to change, and cloth diapers weren’t exactly mommy friendly (at least not for this newbie). Plus, in all fairness, I was just so incredibly overwhelmed by having to locate donor breast milk for her that I couldn’t really focus on much else. However, now that my little bee is 11 months old (!!!) and I’ve switched her to drinking goat milk full time, which is way more accessible, my time has freed up a bit.
So, I’ve moved back to focusing some of my attention on the diapering dilemma. Since the bee was born I have been using “natural” disposables. I think these are just about the best option in terms of convenience and no extra learning required. But what is the best brand of natural disposable? Which are the least toxic diapers? What is the most economical diapering choice? I decided to dig deep on this one and find the best diapers for my precious bee’s little bum.
Here’s the list of options I came up with:
Conventional, Disposable Diapers: These are the mainstream diapers that are easy to find and cost the least. These are brands like Pampers and Huggies. I have never considered these diapers as an option because of the potential of scary chemicals they can contain. By law, diaper manufacturers are not required to disclose the component parts of diapers and very little research exists on the chemicals in diapers. Concerns of chemicals in conventional, disposable diapers include: volatile organic compounds or VOCs (including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and dipentene), sodium polyacrylate or SAP, dioxins, polyurethane, adhesives, lotions, inks, fragrances, and pesticide residue. Plus the petrochemical load used in manufacturing. Chemicals like these can have toxic health effects and may irritate little babes’ skin, eyes, and lungs.
“Natural” Disposables: These disposables are a step up from the conventional brands in terms of eco-friendliness and toxic chemicals. These are typically made with less yucky chemicals (such as chlorine, which cuts exposure to the toxic dioxin), are slightly more biodegradable than conventional brands, are typically free of fragrance and lotions, and often boast reduced emissions. From the list of brands below I’ve tried Seventh Gen, Earth’s Best, Nurtured by Nature, Nature Babycare, and Honest. For the most part, I am somewhat indifferent to the slight idiosyncrasies between the brands. The reasons I have switched brands include cost savings (deals on websites, etc.), convenience (“We need diapers NOW. Louis, please pick some up on your way home from work.”), and my attempts to get the overall best product for my baby bee’s bum.
Since there is a large variety in this category, here’s a quick breakdown on natural disposables that are currently on the market. Mama Nature did an absorbency test that involved many of these diapers, which you can watch here.
1. Seventh Generation ($0.28 - $0.50/diaper), Earth’s Best ($0.24 – $0.48/diaper), Nurtured by Nature ($0.27-$0.55/diaper), and 365 (only available at Whole Foods stores): These are made primarily with natural ingredients (as opposed to synthetic), use minimal processing, and are free of chlorine, latex, fragrance, dyes, and lotions.
2. Naty: Made from natural materials, free of chlorine, latex, fragrance, dyes, and lotions. They use absorbent pulp from sustainably harvested forests and GMO-free corn; no plastic. The manufacturer also states that these are made with biodegradable materials, although I’m not sure at what percentage. Cost is between $0.24 – $0.52/diaper.
3. Attitude: Chlorine free, fragrance free, made from vegetable based materials, biodegradable inner shell and padding, and CO2 neutral. Cost is between $0.38 - 0.63/diaper.
4. Honest Company: These are free of chlorine, latex, lotions, fragrances phthalates, optical brighteners, PVC, heavy metals, organotins (MBT, DBT, TBT), and harsh petrochemical additives. The chlorine-free pulp is sustainably harvested and the plant-based inner and outer layers reduce added petrochemicals. The inner core is made from BIO-based wheat/corn, with reduced SAP. These are by far the cutest disposables on the market (they come in a variety of adorable patterns) but they can only be purchased online. They also have a bundle service that includes wipes. The cost is approximately $0.32/diaper.
5. Bambo Nature: These are certified free of “all” dangerous chemicals, including chlorine, phthalates, organotins, heavy metals, formaldehyde, colophonium, AZO-pigments, and PVC. Bambo Nature diapers are also free of all known allergens and substances classified as skin irritants, sensitizing, carcinogenic, or mutagenic. To boot these diapers are 75% biodegradable and 99% compostable, and all wood pulp is derived from sustainable tree farms. Plus, they provide a complete list of ingredients on their packaging! Cost is between $0.44 - $0.59/diaper.
Hybrid Diapers: Hybrid diapers offer a flexible, more eco-friendly and nontoxic alternative to conventional disposable diapers. Hybrids include brands like gDiapers, GroVia, and Flip. These offer the option of an outer shell that can be worn multiple times before washing with either a biodegradable disposable insert or a washable cloth insert. Hybrids combine the convenience of disposables coupled with reusable (and super cute) cloth diapers covers. I have not tried these but they seem like a good transitional diaper before committing to all cloth.
There are lots and lots of different kinds of cloth diapers. When I first started looking into them it made my head spin (well, it still does in all honesty). I am not even going to try to breakdown the pros and cons of all the options, but what I will say is there seems to be something for everyone available in the cloth diaper market including flats, prefolds, contours, fitted, pockets, and all-in-ones. These come in many variations of materials including cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, and hemp. And, I have to mention that they are also super cute. Check out The Real Diaper Association for more thorough information.
After doing all of this research on diapers I can see why I have lagged in digging deeper into this diaper doo-doo: there are a lot of options out there and not one of them screams “perfect solution” to me. Apart from conventional diapers, I could argue pros and cons for all of these diapering options (and I didn’t even look into Elimination Communication). Disposables are just so darn convenient and there is no hassle with learning how to care for and wash them. There is also no upfront investment to find the perfect type and fit. But, that said, I still stand with my original belief that cloth are likely the most nontoxic and most eco-friendly choice. Perhaps it’s time to make the switch.
Bree is a vegan, coffee and beer loving, intersectional feminist who is particularly invested in health. She has a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from CSULB, where she spent her time turning her passions into academic activism. When she’s not busy spreading awareness on living a non toxic lifestyle, she is most likely taking a long bath, cooking extravagant vegan food, or crying about dogs.