When it comes to diapers there are essentially two choices: cloth or disposable. While there are only two choices, each choice offers a variety of brands, styles and benefits. The decision on which type of diaper to use is not an easy one to make. One factor to consider is the pros and cons of each type of diaper.
Cloth diapers became common in the 1800’s, in which a square fabric cloth was folded around a child and pinned in place. This style of cloth diaper is still in use today, known in the cloth diaper community as a flat. Cloth diapers have come a long way since the 1800’s. There are now many different styles, each with its own unique properties. While there are different styles, cloth diapers remain pretty much the same. An absorbent fabric is wrapped around a child and a waterproof cover is placed on top to prevent leaks. There are numerous pros to cloth diapering and quite a few cons as well.
- Cloth diapers are available using many different materials – cotton, wool, bamboo, fleece, flannel, hemp, terry cloth, polyurethane laminate (PUL), polyester…..the possibilities are endless.
- Cloth diapers cost less overall than disposables – I will get into cost breakdown in a future post. Depending on the type of cloth diapering system or brand of disposables you choose and the size of your stash, you can save anywhere from $300-$2000 over a two and a half year period. You can use the same diapers on subsequent children which will reduce the overall cost even more.
- Cloth diapers are eco-friendly – cloth diapers leave less of a carbon footprint because you wash and reuse the same diapers over and over rather than throwing them away after one use.
- Cloth diapers lead to fewer diaper rashes – because cloth diapers do not have the chemicals in them that disposables do, they need to be changed more frequently. The more frequent diaper changes leads to less time a child is in a soiled diaper and the less likely they are for ammonia to build up on their skin.
- Cloth diapers lead to an easier time potty training – because cloth diapers feel more like regular underwear than a diaper, children have a less difficult time transitioning from a diaper to underwear. The theory is that in a cloth diaper, the child can feel when they are wet and are uncomfortable and are more likely to want to use the toilet instead of going to the bathroom in their pants.
- Cloth diapers have many purposes – cloth diapers can be used for many, many things. You can use them as burp cloths, dust rags, sensory blanket, mattress topper, kitchen towels, draft stoppers, rags to wash cars, pillow saver, doll blanket…….
- Cloth diapers need to be changed more often – because they do not contain highly absorbent chemicals, cloth diapers need to be changed more frequently than their disposable counterparts.
- Cloth diapers are more difficult to change – most cloth diaper styles require some sort of “stuffing” in order to be absorbent. It takes a bit more time to stuff a diaper and then put it on a child than it does to pull a diaper out of the package and put it on. Additionally many styles of cloth diaper use snaps rather than Velcro to close. Wiggly babies are more difficult to snap the diaper on than to just attach the tabs.
- Cloth diapers create more laundry – unless you choose a diaper service (which actually costs more than using disposables) you will have to wash and dry cloth diapers. This leads to an extra 2-3 loads of laundry a week if you wash them every other day.
- Cloth diapers leak more than disposables – if you do not change a cloth diaper quick enough, bathroom matter could potentially leak out of the back or legs. Additionally if you do not attach the diaper properly it could also leak.
- Cloth diapers are not convenient for travel – in the event that baby soils a diaper while you are running errands or out and about, you have to hold onto the diaper until you get home rather than toss it in the trash and put a clean one on.
- Cloth diapers are not a hit at day care centers – I don’t know why this is the case but many centers refuse to use cloth diapers.
Johnson and Johnson released the first disposable diapers into the U.S. in 1948. Disposable diapers are all very similar in shape and materials, although there are brands out their that claim to be more eco-friendly and contain no harsh ingredients. Disposable diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer of polyethylene, a middle layer of super absorbent polymers that hold moisture, and a thin inner layer that wicks liquids away from the skin and into the middle layer.
- Disposable diapers are convenient – disposables are done after one. You put the diaper on and when it gets dirty you take it off and throw it away. You do not have to rinse it off, store it and run it through the laundry.
- Disposable diapers are easier to change – all of the materials are in one convenient pack so you don’t have to waste time stuffing the diapers. They also have tabs that are easily adjustable and double elastic around legs and the back for a more secure fit.
- Disposable diapers need to be changed less – because of the absorbent polymers in the middle of the diaper, moisture is wicked away from the skin and allows the child to remain dry for a longer period of time
- Disposable diapers leak less – because of the double elastic around the legs and back, accidents are less likely to happen.
- Disposable diapers contain chemicals – some parents worry about the effects coming into contact with chemicals has on their children. Disposable diapers are made up of mostly man made materials, the effects of which are still unknown.
- Disposable diapers can rip – if you are not gentle with the tabs on the diaper, they can rip off. The leg barriers can also rip when stretching the diaper to fit around the child’s bottom.
- Disposable diapers are not eco-friendly – while there are brands that claim to have biodegradable diapers, 3.4 million tons of disposables end up in the land fill each year. The time it takes to decompose is still unknown for many different brands.
- Disposable diapers make potty training more difficult – when potty training, moisture is wicked away from the skin and children are not aware that they are wet and/or are not uncomfortable because the moisture is pulled away.
- Disposable diapers lead to more diaper rashes – while disposables have a wicking layer, not all of the moisture is pulled away from the skin. Since disposables are more absorbent and need to be changed less, ammonia can sit on the child’s skin for longer amounts of time, causing a diaper rash to occur.
- Disposable diapers are costly – you pay for convenience with disposable diapers. Depending on the brand and number of diaper changes, disposables can cost between $1700 and $2500 for two and a half years of diapering per child.
Do you have any other pros or cons to add? After seeing the pros and cons for both cloth and disposable diapers, which would you choose? Let me know in the comments below.
Next week: What Do You Need To Cloth Diaper?