baby in a pink cloth diaper on white blanket
Parenthood Pros and Cons Diapers

What’s Great (and Not so Great) About Cloth Diapering

By Rhiannon Giles

I do not, for the life of me, understand why the cloth diapering vs disposable diapering battle became a “thing.” Somehow it is one of those topics where people will defend their choices as though it really fricking matters. You could make an argument on the environmental front, I suppose, but as long as your baby’s butt is covered (unless you’re doing elimination communication), it is in no way a reflection of your ability to parent your child.

If guilt is playing into your choice, step back and take a few deep breaths before you continue. Which do you want to do? Cloth is adorable. Disposables (AKA sposies) are easy. Here are a few other pieces of the diapering puzzle to take into consideration.

Disposable vs. Cloth Diapering


This is a spot where people tend towards confirmation bias. If you want to cloth diaper, you can come up with evidence that it is better for the environment – less waste, less water used in production, and fewer chemicals. If you love sposies, you can point out that cloth has to be washed, sometimes twice, which uses both water and electricity. I lean towards cloth on this as long as it is not at the sake of your sanity.
Winner: Cloth


Like I said, disposables are easy. I’m sure even the most die-hard cloth diaper fan would agree. Cloth does not have to be as difficult as some people think but it will never beat Amazon Subscribe and Save on the barely-have-to-get-off-my-butt front.

You can knock the difficulty of cloth way back by using a diaper service, but that has its own set of drawbacks, such as increased cost and being limited to certain types of diapers.

For me, this is where I tend to get stuck. I can get cloth diaper laundry done, no problem, but then I can’t seem to manage to get any other laundry done. So we have clean diapers but the rest of us are wearing jeans of questionable integrity.
Winner: Disposables, by a landslide (landfill?)


The biggest difference in cost is whether you prefer to potentially pay less but pay it now, or if you would rather possibly pay more but spread it out over the years of diapering your kid.

The cost also varies widely by type/brand. Generic disposables or crunchy, chemical-free, sustainable diapers with a layer of unicorn tears? Cheap prefolds with a cover or all-in-one diapers with the latest adorable prints?

You can also buy used cloth diapers, or better yet, score some free hand-me-downs from a friend. They can be used for future children or resold.
Winner: Tie

Diaper rash

Many parents say their babies get far fewer rashes with cloth diapers. The chemicals in sposies can definitely irritate some babies’ skin. If you don’t get your cloth diapers clean it be irritating but can generally be solved by a change in routine.

If the little tush does get a rash while using cloth, you have to be careful which type of cream you use, so it doesn’t ruin your diapers. I love coconut oil because sometimes I’m an annoying hippie.
Winner: Cloth


Many daycare centers will allow you to use cloth diapers (almost all will if there is a medical reason, such as chronic diaper rash). You will likely need to have a zippered bag for the dirties and you will be responsible for taking them home each night. Most centers prefer or require all-in-one or pocket-style diapers. You can also cloth diaper part time – use cloth at home and sposies at daycare or on vacation.
Winner: Disposables


No matter what type of cloth diaper you use there are adorable choices. Do you love cute woodland creatures? Skulls? Bright patterns? Cloth has you (and your baby’s butt) covered. I have definitely seen people get addicted to it. They go all Gollum about wool covers or limited edition prints.
Winner: Cloth

Ick factor

I’ve found this is the first thing people go to when they are trying to decide. “Just how gross is this going to be?” It’s poop. It won’t be glamorous but it may not be as bad as you fear.

For breastfed newborns, I honestly don’t find it to be an issue. Their poop is not particularly gross and since it isn’t solid you don’t have to do anything with it. You can just wash diapers with the other million loads of baby laundry.

Once you get to toddler years, it can definitely get messier. At some point, a lot of kids start pooping once a day, so it is not as horrible as it may seem. If you are lucky enough to have a morning pooper, you can just use a disposable for the first diaper.
Winner: Disposables


There are so many choices with cloth! Alternatively, there are so. many. choices. with cloth. It can be so much fun but also way overwhelming. Prefolds. All-in-ones. All-in-twos. Fitteds. Flats. Velcro or snaps. Hemp or cotton.  It is intimidating at first.

Find a friend who uses cloth who can show you the basics in person. There are companies that will let you try out several different types for a few weeks, which can relieve some of that indecision.
Winner: Cloth

Potty training

Cloth diapers can be great for potty training because kids can feel when they are wet. You can also buy cloth pull-ups.
Winner: Cloth

Overall winner of Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

In this comparison, cloth comes out ahead but do whatever you want to do. Or some of both. Or do elimination communication and let your kid poop in your sink. As long as you don’t change their diaper on a restaurant table, it does not matter.

There is no one-size-fits-all right answer. I’ve done many different combinations of cloth and disposables, depending on what worked for my family at the time. My kid shit in all of them.

Despite what many of the Facebook groups say, there is no wrong or right way to diaper a kid so have some fun with it, and best of luck with the up-the-back poosplosions!

What did you go with? Cloth, disposable, or a combo of the two?

Let us know in the comments below!

Our next reco: Diaper Rash Guide – causes, treatments and remedies

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