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Choosing Between Cloth or Disposable Diapers

By Edited Oct 7, 2015 0 1

As parents we want to do what is best for our children, but there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing the diaper type for you and your family. For some the choice is violently clear (one way or another). For the rest of us it helps to evaluate the pros and cons of disposable and cloth diapers. You can make the choice that is best for you and your family.

Advantages of Cloth Diapers.
In days gone by cloth diapers were the only choice. First they were all that was available and then they were what most families could afford. With cheaper and cheaper disposable diaper options many left cloth diapers in the dust in favor of disposable ones. Cloth diapers are coming back for a number of reasons and worth considering. They may or may not be for you and your family, but they do have some advantages to consider.

  • The green option- Cloth diapers are by far the "green" option. They are better for our environment. After all, they aren't being thrown out and taking their place in the land fill.
  • The cost- Depending on the brand of disposable diapers you buy and the type of cloth diapers that you choose, you can save a lot of money on cloth diapers. This can be a huge advantage, but has several aspects to consider.
  • Health benefits- Disposable diapers aren't healthy, they are full of chemicals in order to absorb the maximum amount of fluid. Cloth diapers are healthier and can even make a significant difference in babies who suffer from diaper rash.
  • Potty training- Whether it is a parent's desire not to work as hard as cloth diapers require them to work or cloth diapers really does make it easier for a child to recognize when he or she has to go (or has gone), studies show that potty training happens earlier and quicker in most cloth diapered babies.

Disadvantages of Cloth Diapers.
While all good things also have a down side, it is the down side to cloth diapers that has many parents choosing disposable options. However, the down sides often depend on you and your tastes and time.

  • Diaper changes- Many moms argue that diaper changes aren't harder with cloth diapers, however there is a matter of cleaning up bowl movements (and disposing of them) which can require additional time and energy then disposable diapers. Diaper liners can make it easier allowing you to easily remove waste and flush it away. Poopy diapers can be gross and messy.
  • Laundering- Cloth diapers aren't hard to launder. The best option is to put them in the washer with the appropriate cleansing agents and then to hang them in the sun to dry (the sun helps bleach them). It doesn't take a whole lot of time, but it is extra laundry. Laundering services are available, but often cost as much or more then disposable diapers.
  • Traveling and babysitters- It is often harder to travel or go visiting with cloth diapers. It requires extra plastic bags and a little extra time. It is also hard to ask others to change a cloth diaper since it isn't as easy as a disposable one. This is easily solved with a package of disposable diapers for going out and for others watching the baby.

Cloth Diaper Styles.
The style of cloth diapers often determines how much you will spend on cloth diapers, whether or not it is really cheaper, and also how easy it is to use. Some styles require a lot more work and others are almost as easy as cloth diapers.

  • Flat cloth diapers- These are by far the most economic and they make cloth diapers thousands of dollars cheaper then disposable. They are a square of cotton material that are then folded to fit around the baby and secured with diaper pins. You then cover them with a diaper cover of water proof material and away you go. They come in three styles including basic (simply a square of cotton), pre-folded (a square of cotton with extra layers in the "wet zone"), and contoured (which are like pre-folded, but more baby shaped for a better fit). They cost about $12-20 per dozen depending on company and material option. While most commonly available in cotton they are also available in organic cotton and even bamboo. Add a few dollars for diaper covers and you are all set. Also these diapers are one size fits all so you don't have to buy new ones as your child grows.
  • Fitted diapers- These diapers are much easier to use because they are baby shaped with elastic at the waist and in the legs. They also have closures either in the form of snaps or Velcro. They still need a diaper cover to prevent leaks. They are also much more expensive then flat cloth diapers at about $5-7 each. Because of their fitted nature they aren't a one size fits all and you will have to buy larger sizes as your baby grows.
  • All in one cloth diapers- For those who want as much convenience as you can get there are all in one cloth diapers. These have all the advantages of the fitted cloth diaper, but they also have a waterproof layer that makes it so you don't need a diaper cover. They also have the price of a fitted diaper or may be a little more then that.

Advantages of Disposable Diapers.
We know that disposable diapers aren't the greenest option that we have, but they do have a few advantages. This is where considering the type of diapering option you are going to use gets complicated.

  • Convenience- Disposable diapers are easier to use in most cases, make for faster diaper changes, and offer a lot of convenience. After all, you take it off and throw it away. You don't have to worry about anything beyond that.
  • The Cost- Depending on the cloth diapers you choose and the disposable diapers you choose you could spend a lot more money on cloth diapers then you will/would on disposable diapers. This is one reason to take cost into consideration if you are looking at saving money.
  • Health Benefits- While cloth diapers have a lot of health benefits, disposable ones lower the risk of infection. This is especially true in day cares!

Disadvantages of Disposable Diapers.
The disadvantages of disposable diapers is really the opposite of the advantages of cloth diapers. Disposable diapers are thrown away, can cost a lot of money, and are often the reason for many diaper rashes.

The Cost.
If you are choosing basic flat diapers then you are going to save a lot of money. Even taking into account the cost of washing them at home you will save a lot of money. However, if you are going to buy fitted cloth diapers then you may save money by going with disposables. While Pampers and Huggies are expensive brands, there are other options out there. In fact, Luvs diapers are much less then their high cost counterparts and they work just as well while fitting the baby well.

Choosing between cloth diapers and disposable diapers is often about what your family can afford, how much time you have, and who will be watching your child most. These things should all be weighed carefully before the choice is made. While many will say cloth diapers are best, I believe that it really depends on the persons who are taking care of the baby. It is about what is best for you, your baby, and the rest of your family and not about what is best for someone else.



Oct 7, 2009 1:13pm
Very good, thorough article on cloth vs. disposable. We've used both at different times depending on our situation and needs. Cloth is much more fun ... except for the stinky aspect and all the laundry!
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