Diapering Guide

Cloth Diapers Vs. Disposable Diapers

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Most parents of newborns have similar shopping lists. Food (to keep them energized during long, sleepless nights), emergency pacifiers, wipes and many, many packs of disposable diapers are essential. When exhausted dads walk down the baby care aisle on autopilot at 3AM there’s no question that diapers are needed. However, most don’t consider there is an alternative…cloth! Gone are the days when cloth diapers were considered unhygienic, difficult to close and, of course, the only option. Many more mothers than you expect rely on cloth diapers today.

Baby care is a very personal decision and on the surface, cloth may seem outdated, complicated and just plain gross. However, there are always unseen benefits to every option. Let’s carefully weigh the pros and cons to help make the best decision for YOUR family!

1. COST

A family should expect to spend $3,000 per child on diapers. That is a HUGE financial burden…especially when you add in the cost of wipes as well. Have three children? That’s nearly $10,000 on DIAPERS. A baby’s diaper needs to be changed approximately every two hours…crushing his or her way through a $45 box of 200 diapers very quickly. Of course, buying cheaper, off brand diapers will lower the cost…but can it compare to the cost-effective cloth? Probably not…

Cloth diapers are much cheaper in the long run in comparison to disposable.

Cloth will cost you $300- $600 upfront, plus replacement inserts occasionally and the extra burden on your water bill from washing so frequently. The up front cost may seem daunting to some parents. It feels easier to part with $45 for a box of diapers at a time versus $600 at once for cloth diapers. Remember…cloth can also be saved for future children. You will only have to pay a hefty up-front cost once (excluding a few replacements if needed).

Who wins this round? Cloth!

2. Health

Most studies have found there is no difference between health benefits of cloth or disposable diapers. A soiled diaper is a soiled diaper and will increase the risk of rash regardless of the type of diaper. Disposable diapers are often lined with moisturizing chemicals (which can irritate some) whereas cloth may feel softer for them. Super health-conscious parents may opt to choose cloth simply because they know exactly what materials are in it. Many assume that cloth diapers are also less sanitary than disposable, but that’s not the case. Don’t picture an outdated piece of cloth being held together by two pins. Today, cloth diapers significantly resemble disposable diapers and have Velcro straps on the sides as WELL as tight fitting elastic material to go around a child’s thighs. Cloth diapers are just as sanitary as disposable diapers.

Who wins this round? It’s a tie!

3. Convenience

 Cloth and disposable diapers both are extremely simple to put on, but clean up varies.  Cloth diapers are not quite as absorbent as disposable and have to be changed more frequently than the typical twice-an-hour. If you are changing your child’s cloth diaper three times a day…that’s 36 dirty cloth diapers to be washed daily! Add that on top of other baby clothes, towels, your clothes, your other children’s clothes…you might as well never leave the washing room! Of course, you could send your laundry out to a service, but that cost adds up quickly. You will reach the $3,000 cost of disposable much sooner than you think if you frivolously spend on a washing service.

Disposable diapers also go right into the trash whereas cloth requires a trip to the washing machine. However, using disposable diapers also means you must invest in a high-quality diaper bin or deal with the, uh, stench. Most homes’ trash is collected twice a week. That’s a LOT of diapers to accumulate during that time. Cloth diapers will allow you to clean them at your own pace and when needed.

Who wins this round? Disposable!

 4. Environment

This is a tricky one! At first thought, disposable are tossed into the trash and collect in landfills. However, washing cloth diapers uses tons of water (creating dirty water) and energy. Washing dirty cloth diapers is not a typical load of laundry. First, you must use hot water to attack germs and really clean the cloth. You also must pre-rinse them at least once (so they aren’t washed in their own filth!). Washing a load of dirty cloth diapers takes around three times as much water as a typical load of laundry does.  Many disposable diapers also use biodegradable and recyclable materials.

Who wins this round? Neither! If only there was a magical 100% environmentally friendly option…

 5. Comfort

 Though a cloth diaper may feel a bit softer to your baby, both cloth and disposable diapers are cozy for your child (as long as used properly). The most important factor in using diapers is that they are put on securely and changed as frequently as necessary. A soiled diaper is a soiled diaper…regardless of the material used.

Who wins this final round? Both!

And now after weighing the pros and cons…it’s time to reveal the final winner! Drum roll please….

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 Who is the overall winner? Neither! And here’s why…

Regardless of the pros and cons, it’s important to choose a diaper that works best for you and your baby’s specific needs and priorities. What works well for your best friend, sister-in-law or neighbor may not work well for you.

For a first time mother or a first time cloth diaper user, using cloth may seem daunting, difficult and overwhelming. However, there internet is full of tips and tricks from cloth diaper pros. Check out this guide and this forum for tips from modern mommas!  And remember, you don’t have to stick with just one type! What works best for your first child may not work best for your next child two, three or four years down the line! Experiment and figure out what works best for YOUR family and what your priorities and specific needs are.

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