Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

Children / Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

There are debates raging in parent forums over which is the better option when it comes to diapers for one’s baby. There are two distinct camps when it comes to diapering a baby’s backside, and people either fall into the cloth diaper camp or the disposable diaper camp. Both kinds of diapers have both drawbacks and benefits and most people become very passionate about what they choose to use.  Considered one of the biggest decisions for a parent, it is important to get all the facts before picking one or the other.

Disposable Diapers 

Convenience: The most obvious reason why people pick disposable diapers is for the convenience factor. It is very easy to just throw the diaper away once finished with it. They are super easy to change.  Also, disposable diapers are the leading choice for families who travel a lot. You don’t have to pack around dirty diapers on your trip, unlike cloth diapers which would require either packing around dirty diapers or at least the ability to clean the diapers on vacation.

Effectiveness: Because most disposable diapers are super absorbent, one diaper lasts longer than a traditional cloth diaper. The inside of the diapers is comprised of three layers. There is the inner layer, and that is the layer that sits right up against the baby’s skin. The absorbent core is the middle part of the diaper that is made up of Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP), which is designed to distribute the fluid throughout the whole diaper to help prevent leaks. The third layer is the outer layer, and that layer is waterproof to additionally help with leaks. These three layers combined help to create a very effective diaper. Another factor to the effectiveness of the disposable diaper is that the material is so absorbent that extra moisture isn’t sitting on the baby’s skin hence helping to prevent diaper rash.

Price: Disposable diapers are very expensive. This is one of the major drawbacks to disposable diapers. An average pack of diapers consists of about 128 diapers that last about 25 days. The average cost of a box of 128 diapers is around $35 per box. Most children become potty trained by between the ages of 2 to 3, so that adds up to a lot of money over a 2 to 3 year period of time.

Safety: This currently is the most disputed argument over the use of disposable diapers is the use of chemicals in diapers. Now there is no evidence to suggest that the materials used in disposable diapers can be harmful, but some parents worry about non-organic materials sitting on their baby’s skin. There is some debate over whether there was sufficient testing done to prove that the SAP material in the diaper is safe. But there is no definitive proof that the materials used in the disposable diaper are toxic. However, sometimes babies can have an allergic reaction to the materials in the diaper but the only way to know that is to try the diapers out.

Environmental Impact: This is the biggest argument against the use of disposable diapers. The number of diapers that occupy the landfills is staggering. Disposables account for almost 3.4 million tons of landfill waste per year and disposable diapers degrade at a very, very slow rate.

Cloth Diapers

Convenience: This would be the major drawback to cloth diapers. They have to be washed very thoroughly before being used again. They can also be very messy. Some brands of cloth diapers have removable liners that can be taken out and washed individually but sometimes those are not even enough when there is a truly messy diaper. Typically someone using these cloth diapers must do at least 3-5 additional loads laundry per week. Also, if you are out with your baby and need to change a dirty diaper, you have to carry around the dirty diaper until you can get home. Because cloth diapers are not as absorbent, the use of cloth diapers has a tendency to lead to more diaper rash.

Effectiveness: As mentioned above, the cloth diapers are not as effective. The organic materials in the cloth diaper can only absorb so much liquid so babies have a tendency to go through cloth diapers at a faster rate. You also can’t use a majority of diaper creams with cloth diapers making them very ineffective when the child has a diaper rash.

Price: This is one of the biggest reasons why people use cloth diapers. Some of most expensive brands of cloth diapers will still be cheaper in the long run than disposable diapers. The most you will spend on cloth diapers is $300 during the 2 to 3 years that a child requires diapers. Because they are reusable, they cut the cost of diapering an infant by quite a bit.

Safety: Cloth diapers are made from organic materials. They are made from industrial cotton which may be bleached white or left the fiber’s natural color. Other natural fiber cloth materials can include wool, bamboo, and unbleached hemp. These organic materials are soft and gentle on the skin of the baby. They are the same materials that have been used for hundreds of years to diaper a baby.

Environmental Impact: This is another major reason why people use cloth diapers. Because they are reusable, the cut way down on the amount of garbage in a landfill. The environmental impact is far less with a cloth diaper. The process used to create the disposable diapers from start to finish has a huge impact. Most people using cloth diapers are very aware and concerned about their carbon footprint.


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