The Diaper Debate: Cloth Versus Disposable Baby Diapers
Cloth or disposable diapers? Does the decision make you want to throw in the changing pad? Like almost all parenting choices, the right one is what feels best for you and your child.
You can stick to whichever one of the two types of diapers that work with your lifestyle or you can alternate — a cloth diaper say, when you’re home and disposable diapers when you’re out and about. For the pros and cons of cloth and disposable diapers, read on:
Pros: Available in cotton, terry cloth, or flannel, a cloth baby diaper can come either as pre-folded pieces of cloth liners or as an all-in-one (a diaper and cover that looks similar to a disposable diaper). While cloth diapers come with a greater initial investment, they’re way cheaper over the long haul than disposables. (And heads up: It will definitely be a long haul before your tot is out of diapers.) And if you’re worried about the dyes and gels used in disposables, then using a cloth diaper is a more natural way of diapering. Plus, the fact that these kinds are less absorbent than disposables means more diaper changes (a con), but it may mean fewer diaper rashes in the long run (a pro!).
Another plus: It may be easier to start potty training because kids will notice they’re wet sooner, which can be an incentive to get into underpants.
Cons: Cloth diapers can be messy — although some come with disposable liners that make them easier to clean — and they’re more cumbersome to change, unless you use the all-in-ones (which are more expensive). You’ll be doing more laundry, too — probably two to three extra loads per week — and that means higher water and electricity bills. And unless you’re using disposables when you’re out, you’ll probably have to carry a few poopy (and smelly!) diapers back home with you. Plus, for some babies they can actually lead to more diaper rash (or more severe cases) because they don't absorb moisture the way disposables do. And you can't use most diaper rash creams and ointments with cloth diapers, either.
Pros: They’re convenient and a cinch to change, thanks to the strips attached to the back panel that fasten in front. Pick a size based on your baby’s weight and age for best fit. Traveling is easier, too, because you can just toss dirty diapers without having to cart them back home. What’s more, you’ll be changing fewer diapers a day since disposable baby diapers are ultra-absorbent, have an inner liner that keeps wetness away from the skin, and don’t tend to leak. They also may lead to fewer diaper rashes because they're so good at absorbing moisture, one of the triggers.Cons: Although there have been no studies that show that the chemicals (like dioxin), dyes and gels used in disposables cause harm, some parents might be leery of all that stuff next to their baby’s bottom — and some babies can have an allergic reaction to these types of diapers, which may mean more diaper rash. Another con: If you pull too hard, the tabs on some disposables can easily rip (and inevitably it’ll happen when you’re on the run and have only one diaper left!). Also, disposable baby diapers aren’t the greenest way to manage your baby’s poop — disposables account for 3.4 million tons of landfill waste per year and don’t decompose (since very little breaks down in a landfill, biodegradable or not). If you're up to flushing some of the contents down the toilet first (especially when your baby starts solids and the bowel movements are more formed), you can significantly reduce that waste. The ultra-absorbency in disposables can also make potty training harder: Because toddlers are less likely to feel wet and uncomfortable, they don’t have much desire (or interest) to say bye-bye to diapers.