Safer Diaper Cheat sheet

By Kristie Turck •  Published 04/02/22 •  8 min read

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 12:05 am

Unless you’re one of those parents that have the guts to do elimination communication, you will need to invest in diapers for the first two to three years of your baby’s life.  If you’re going the disposable route, it doesn’t have to be all bad news.  We feel like we get enough of that, right?  But there is slightly bad news, as with anything else.

If you’re new here and have found this post because you want to make a change, or you’re about to have a baby and are looking to educate yourself, here is the bad news: Conventional diapers (Pampers, Huggies, Luvs, etc) contain many chemicals.   First of all, they’re chlorine bleached, leaving behind chemicals called Dioxins.  From Healthy Child, Healthy World:

Dioxins – Most diapers, whether or not disposable, are bleached white with chlorine. As a result, there have been claims that diapers may contain trace amounts of dioxin, a highly carcinogenic byproduct of chlorine bleaching. Since the diapers come into contact with the genitals, some parents worry about potential reproductive cancers. Currently, there is no evidence that this is the case. According to a study by the US EPA, “exposure to dioxins from the diet is more than 30,000-2,200,000 times the exposure through diapers.” So, diapers aren’t a main exposure route, but if they’re bleached, they are creating dioxin pollution – which ends up in food – which ends up in us.

It has also been shown in laboratory tests that mice exposed to the VOCs from disposable diapers develop asthma-like reactions. Alexandra Zissu wrote a great article for The Daily Green about diapers and brought up this point.  (She is one of my idols!)

Also, most diapers use a chemical absorbent called sodium polyacrylate (SAP), which is what makes it possible for your child to wear a diaper overnight, and not leak all over the place (most of the time).  It’s also the same stuff they use to make that instant snow stuff.  Which if you’ve ever touched it, it’s sticky and once you get it on your hands, it’s hard to get off.  It can cause irritation for some babies.  And if that stuff is sticking to your hands for five minutes, think of that stuff sitting next to your baby’s skin for a few hours (you may have even seen the clear crystal like substance on their skin from time to time).  Unfortunately, it’s in the majority of disposables diapers.

Among Dioxins and SAP, a lot of diapers are scented with synthetic fragrances which we know provide the endocrine disruption elements thanks to phthalates, which bind the fragrance.

That said, cloth diapering is not for everyone.  While the trend is coming back in fashion, most people choose disposables for ease of use, convenience (especially if your baby is in daycares that don’t cater to cloth diapers), or because cloth diapering seems really overwhelming.  But there are other disposable options out there, that while they still may not be 100% ideal, are much safer for the baby and the environment.  And anything to bring you a little peace of mind, right? So let’s get to the safer diaper round-up:

seventhgenerationSeventh Generation: One of the more popular and easier-to-find brand of greener diapers.   While these are greener diaper, don’t mistake these as being completely green.  They’re still disposable and not compostable.  So they will still sit in a landfill for the next 500 years.  Pros: They don’t use any fragrances, latex, petroleum-based lotions or chlorine processing.  Cons: Still a disposable, still uses SAP as the main absorbent element, and will still sit in a landfill until the end of time.

Components: chlorine-free wood pulp, SAP (sodium polyacrylate), polyolefin nonwoven fabric, adhesives, polyolefin film, synthetic rubber elastic strands.  The overnight diapers contain a few more ingredients:   Chlorine-free wood pulp, a mixture of plant-derived polysaccharide and sodium polyacrylate (absorbent pad), polylactide (a type of polyester used in their dryness layer), polypropylene and polyethylene (core wrap, liner layer, outer layer, cuff moisture barrier layer, fastening system), adhesives (seams and joints), polyisoprene elastomeric, polymer spandex and polyurethane (fastening system and leg/waist elastic), inks (designs). They’re not entirely clear on what type of adhesives they use.

Where to Buy:  Very easy to find at stores and online outlets like Amazon.com

 

 Earth’s Best: These are pretty similar in line with Seventh Generation.  They’re a slightly “greener” diaper than conventionals, but Earth’s Best is a bit more…greenwashing than others.  They tout they use “fewer petrochemicals” than conventional diapers.  They’re bleached without chlorine, dye-free (I’m not sure how they have colors on the band), latex-free, and “perfume” free.  They’re careful not to say phthalate-free, but my guess is that they are.
Components: chlorine-free wood pulp, SAP (sodium polyacrylate), polyolefin nonwoven fabric, adhesives, polyolefin film, synthetic rubber elastic strands.  The overnight diapers contain a few more ingredients:   Chlorine-free wood pulp, mixture of plant-derived polysaccharide and sodium polyacrylate (absorbent pad), polylactide (a type of polyester used in their dryness layer), polypropylene and polyethylene (core wrap, liner layer, outer layer, cuff moisture barrier layer, fastening system), adhesives (seams and joints), polyisoprene elastomeric, polymer spandex and polyurethane (fastening system and leg/waist elastic), inks (designs). They’re not entirely clear on what type of adhesives they use.
Also available  at Babies R Us, Whole Foods, limited grocery stores, Amazon, Diapers.com
Nature’s Babycare: Nature’s Babycare was newer on the market when my son was a toddler.  I even reviewed it.  Granted, this review was in 2008, so times have changed, and because Nature’s Babycare is readily available in Babies R Us, the diapers have probably changed too.  For one, it’s not listed as compostable, rather, “based on biodegradable materials”.  However, the diaper is chlorine-free, fragrance-free and GMO-free (free of genetically modified ingredients).  Still a better choice and easier to find. Babies R Us carries them.  And they’re available online too.
Honest Diapers:  Honest Diapers are the one of the newer disposables on the market.  Founded by Jessica Alba and our Healthy Child, Healthy World friend, Christopher Gavigan, they set out to bring a diaper to the market that was better for your baby. And when they talk the talk, they walk the walk.  They’re free of all the chemicals like, petrochemicals, chlorine, perfume, phthalates, lotions, optical brighteners, PVC, heavy metals, and organotins.  The only drawback to this diaper is that it’s not available in stores, rather through mail order service.  I haven’t tried the diaper, so I have no idea how it works (god willing, I think both of my kids are finally out of diapers), but I know that you don’t want to pay a premium for diapers, and sometimes, you just want to run to the store to pick up a package, before committing to one brand.  But overall, I think they’re worth a shot.
Huggies Naturals: Huggies tagline on these diapers is “a gentle touch of nature.” And that’s pretty much where it stands. Huggies naturals is more on the greenwashing side, but they do list what makes their diapers natural:
  • Organic cotton outside, cushiony soft quilting and a flexible pad inside
  • Hypoallergenic, with a touch of Aloe and Vitamin E
  • Liner includes renewable materials
  • Adorable graphics with fewer inks* (that’s fewer than their conventional diapers)
And that about sums it up for the greener aspect of it.  They’re still bleached, meaning they still contain dioxins.  I don’t really see these as being green at all.
Bambo Naturals:  Bambo is a disposable diaper imported from Denmark.  And they really strive to make a disposable diaper with a lighter eco-footprint than conventional brands.  All diapers are bleached without chlorine, are free of heavy metals, phthalates, no harsh chemicals, or anything else that we wouldn’t use on ourselves let alone our baby.  They use less SAP, combined with a wheat starch absorber.  They also have full disclosure on their ingredients list as well.  I love that.  The diaper is easily able to be broken down, so that parts of it can be composted.  Not 100% compostable, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.  I’ve heard great reviews about these diapers, and I’m happy when a company has our health and the environment in mind when creating a diaper.  They can be ordered online at bambo-nature.com. This can be a slight inconvenience if you’re having to remember to order diapers, however, amazon has them with subscribe and save, and let me tell you, this was a big lifesaver for us when we were in the diaper years.  There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re out of diapers.  Ugh.
Tender Care: Tender Care was one of the earlier greener diapers that I saw in the stores when my son was in diapers.  They’re now owned by Hain Celestial (same as Earth’s Best), and is free of the standards.  They’re available in some stores, but are available online, and they offer a discount club membership as well.  They seem like a good diaper, overal, but are less available then others.

 

 

 

 

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