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The Great Cloth Diaper Debate

by Tiffany in Birth & Baby

The Great Cloth Diaper Debate

Which is better…disposable or cloth? The diaper wars have begun and you must choose sides….muhawww.

New parents are faced with many decisions, one of them choosing whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. There are advantages and disadvantages for each diaper type. This issue can be a hot one among parents, a part of parenting politics so to speak, and it seems that you must choose sides. What side of the fence will you choose to be on? Either you’re gonna be a tree hugging, diaper-washing hippie or a landfill-filling, Pamper camper. You’re a pawn in the diaper war…it’s your move.

But perhaps you have decided to compromise and use a combination of both and maybe even throw in a third diaper type for kicks…the more environmentally friendly disposable diaper or the flushable diaper.

Cloth diapers are better for the environment as they don’t end up choking landfills. Deposits can be shaken out into the toilet and processed properly instead of leaking into the ground. There are styles with Velcro fastening diaper covers or snaps meaning more comfort and fewer leaks. Some are “all in one” and resemble a disposable in ease of getting on and off baby.

But, you’ve got to wash them. When you’re out and about, you’ll have to carry the soiled diaper with you instead of pitching them in the closest trash can. The initial cost can be expensive, though you’ll save money in the long run. If you elect to use a diaper service, that will cost you  money but there’s an environmental cost to consider as well with the use of bleach and detergents on such a grand scale.

In addition to being used as burp cloths and washcloths, prefold cloth diapers can be used for other things such as dust cloths, hand & kitchen towels, to wash windows and cars, and to polish silver when your baby is done using them for diapers. Obviously, get rid of the worst looking ones. Considering dyeing some of the others for variety or to match your décor.

You can’t beat disposable diapers for convenience. Use it. Toss it. If you’re visiting a new location and run out of diapers at midnight, most corner stores and gas stations will have them for sale. Though there are more and more options for local cloth diapers too. I heard that infamous big box store has them.

Disposable diapers use up space in landfills adding plastic, chemicals, and sewage often wrapped in another plastic bag. They are also expensive and since they are often purchased at grocery stores, the cost is hidden in the grocery bill. Children wearing disposable diapers often potty train later, which increases the amount of diapers the child will wear through infancy.

There are pros and cons for both but in the long run cloth comes out ahead if you care about saving money, living with simplicity, and protecting resources and planet. If you don’t care about any of those things you may be reading the wrong blog. Just sayin. ;)

The Great Cloth Diaper Debate

  • NixieSeal

    I tried starting out with cloth diapers… But the ones I had were just too big for a newborn, so we used disposables for a while. Then when our kiddo was big enough for the cloth diapers, we found that no matter WHAT we did, he would get terrible diaper rashes within just an hour of donning a cloth diaper. We tried several types of diaper linings and covers, different kinds of powders and creams, but his rash was so bad that he was in extreme pain all the time and couldn’t sleep. We ended up permanently going back to disposables because his rashes were so severe… It ended up making our lives so much easier.

    • So sorry to hear that! I know for a spell my middle child had a bad diaper rash and we too used disposables while it cleared up. Thankfully though we only had an issue that one time.

      • NixieSeal

        Sadly, we went back and forth between cloth & disposable diapers repeatedly while trying to find cloth options that worked, but every single time we tried cloth, the rash came back as bad as ever. I’m going to try cloth diapers again with my next child, but if the same problem appears, I’ll probably give up sooner. Buying a bunch of cloth diapers that don’t get used is even harder on the wallet and the environment than just sticking with disposables, I think. We still have the liners for burp rags, but the covers are the expensive part.

    • Brooke

      Weird that you had that experience! I’m 28 years old (on the 12th!) and my mother used cloth diapers on me and my younger twin sisters because my older brother broke out in such a horrible rash from disposables. It was so bad she didn’t even try disposables with us, but she also had a service that would pick up her dirty cloth diapers, replace them with clean ones, and wash the dirty ones.

      Of course, every baby is different. I’m just so happy there are options and choices now from plastic disposables to biodegradable disposables to all kinds of cloth diapers to even elimination communication!

  • Angela S

    I used disposable diaper when my son was a baby, but if I were to do it all over again I would probably opt for cloth diapers. They have come along way since my son was a baby.

  • Debi@The Spring Mount 6 Pack

    I used disposable with my oldest ones and cloth with my youngest. I loved the cloth and wished we had used them with all of them.

  • Maria Sinclair

    I used disposables but can understand why they use cloths. If my kids were younger I would probably use cloth.

  • Mama to 5 Blessings

    Posts like this make me miss cloth diapering. After our summer travels I am going back to cloth diapering.

  • SippyCupMom

    When my girls were younger I did a mix of cloth and disposable. There are definitely pros and cons to both!

  • Vicky2

    You don’t need bleach for cloth diapers. If you are using organic unbleached prefolds, you definitely can avoid chemicals. I also have pocket diapers, but now on my third baby I am having to replace the elastics and honestly I find them more maintenance than they are worth. Good old fashioned prefolds are the best. The organic unbleached ones are super durable as the fiber has not been weakened with bleaches. You can beat them up with no problems. They are as strong now as they were when I first bought them. You also only use about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of detergent with cloth diapers, otherwise the detergent builds up and the diapers smell (if this becomes a problem you just wash on hot with no detergent and use some vinegar to strip the diapers). So you are not using much detergent. If you have an HE washer, you don’t use much water either. Not a big deal also to carry a soiled diaper in a wetbag. I do use some disposables at night but used all cloth for my first baby as he was allergic to all disposables and my second was very sensitive to them as well.

  • You are perpetuating zombie myths about cloth diapers. The maths absolutely stack up that reusables cost less money than disposables, but the rest isn’t baked up by evidence.

    As has been shown for more than a decade, reusables can either carry the same (majority of cases), less (very unlikely), or greater impact than disposables based on how you chose to wash/dry them. Yes there have been some washing machine technology improvements over the last 10 years, but they do not change the message and there have also been disposable nappy ones; it is perfectly possible to have a renewably sourced material in a disposable nappy that will either biodegrade completely, be recycled or be converted to energy.

    The statement that one doesn’t care about the planet simply because they use disposables is way over the mark given the evidence that is contrary to this. There are too many variables and the blanket statement for the average person is inaccurate to say the least.

    I’ve written something about this with linked evidence if you are interested in understanding the actual differences between the two and (more importantly) the insignificant impact either decision is compared to the rest of your lifestyle:

    • Tiffany

      So by this logic we could/should all be wearing disposable undies??? Wearing actual pants/clothing and washing them is always preferable to single use disposable.

  • Crafty Frugal Mom

    I use disposables personally, but I think the debate is honestly kind of silly. As stated in this post there are advantages and disadvantages to both and while the author advocates for cloth diapers, it is clear it is a matter of preference, situation, and a number of other factors. It is up to each individual mother and her own unique situation to determine which is the best fit. Personally I won’t say either is better because they both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s as silly as the Windows vs Mac or iPhone vs Android debates. Each has its merits and it depends on user preference and purpose.

  • Claire

    My son is big now, but i used cloth diapers when he was a baby… A friend of mine is now using environmentally friendly disposables and loving them – although i havent seen or tried them for myself! Please feel free to also check out my blog