When you have a baby there’s no getting around the simple fact that you need to cover their bums with something. Many people are very passionate about diapers (along with anything else that goes along with babies) but there are some fairly strong arguments for both sides of cloth diapers versus disposable.
There really hasn’t been any consensus on whether one option is more environmentally friendly than the other.
When one study compared the huge landfill implications along with their tree-killing, petroleum by-products contents of disposable, to the pesticide-covered cotton that needs to be washed in hot water with bunny-killing-detergent of cloth, they came out around the same. So basically they compared the worst of both sides.
Now, there are eco-friendly disposable and organic cotton cloth washed in eco-friendly detergents, so I’m just going to call that one a draw and leave it up to you about how eco-conscious you want to get with diapers.
As for the rest of the benefits, here’s what I found:
Disposable Diaper Benefits:
Convenient: You can’t beat being able to just toss away the horror and not having to deal with it anymore.
Leak less: The disposable diapers I used could have soaked up a small lake. This is a nice benefit when you are blessed with a baby that is sleeping through the night (knock on wood) and you don’t want to get up to the cries of someone who may be cold and wet. I should stress that many cloth diaper supporters would argue this point but this seemed to come up enough that I’ve included it.
Less gross: Yes, yes, there are blogs that go on and on about how it really isn’t that bad and technically we should be disposing of solid poo in the toilet even with disposable diapers* but the fact of the matter is, poo is ew. Now this would be less of an issue for me because baby/kid poo doesn’t really gross me out (this only applies to my own children) but I know there are some people that just can’t handle it – literally and figuratively – and if you are one of those people, then this may be a deal breaker for cloth.
* I had no idea about this and never did it. I doubt very much that I would have done it even if I had known about it. I mean what the hell is the point then?
Very little upfront cost: Even though disposable is more expensive in the long run, the start-up costs are minimal and you spread out the cost of diapering, which is around $2,500, over the course of a few years.
Easy for everyone: Some daycares and caregivers are not keen on cloth diapers (makes sense) so that is also something to consider if your child will be in someone else’s care for any length of time.
Cloth Diaper Benefits:
Cheaper: I read all sorts of stats, but it looks like it costs about $800 to diaper a kid in cloth diapers and around $2,500 to diaper them in disposable. Of course, there are many factors like how long your child will need diapers and how often are you going to change them – you know, factor in the neglect and all ; )
Less diaper rash: Cloth diapers just seem to be a lot easier on the bum. It’s surprising on one hand because disposable diapers are typically much better at wicking away moisture but cloth diapers are softer and aren’t full of chemicals so I guess that negates any absorbency benefits.
More than one kid can use them: So if cloth diapers are cheaper based on one kid, you can imagine how much cheaper they are when you factor in two or three kids. That 800 bucks you laid down the first time around can save you some big dough down the road.
They’ve improved a lot: There are no more pins and they come with all sorts of things like flushable liners and velcro closures. Not to mention, you can decide on what the covers look like instead of paying for some Sesame Street character that nobody is really keen on. Some of these diapers really are beautiful.
Finally, there is always the option of going with a diaper service if that is available in your area. This is when a company supplies you with the cloth diapers, you use them, they pick up the dirty disasters then leave you with a fresh, new set. It costs about the same as disposable diapers but if you want to skip the chemicals and opt for softer diapers, then this may be an option as well.
To sum up Cloth vs Disposable
I for one think I would have loved cloth diapering and I’m not really sure why I didn’t even really investigate it – I suppose none of my friends did it so it didn’t really occur to me.
The idea of all the prep and options just makes me giddy, although, that’s easy for me to say because I didn’t have to deal with explosive, carrot poo in something I was planning to keep.
Many families seem to do a hybrid of both by going with cloth at home but using disposable when they leave the house. Another tip I found interesting was not to buy newborn cloth diapers because they are out of that size so quickly.
I would love to know what you are planning to do or have done. C’mon, give me the poop!
Our next reco: What’s Great (and Not so Great) About Cloth Diapering