Posts Tagged ‘cloth vs disposable diapers’

It is estimated that new dads and moms will change between 5,000 – 6,000 baby diapers during the first few years of their infant’s life.  Which brings us to the great parent debate between cloth versus disposable diapers.  The reusable cloth has come a long way, long way and now even have double or triple layers and a multiply, fiber-filled strip, making them more absorbent than older styles. Some styles of cloth diapers now come with Velcro strips, eliminating the need for those large archaic safety pins.

On the other hand, there are various types of disposable diapers, ranging from simple plastic covered paper diapers to the newest high-tech, cartoon covered, absorbent gel material filled, elastic legged disposables.  It almost seems like these days they are pretty comparable! Here are some facts:

Cost: The price of disposable diapers is easy to calculate. Any mid-range diaper at a big box retail store will costs 25 cents and 35 cents. Multiply that by 5,400 (the number of times you’ll change that diaper) comes to around $1300 to $1900 total cost for your diaper.  Calculating the cost of cloth diapers is a little bit trickier. You’ve got a start-up cost of between $300 and $500 for your initial 12 to 24 cloth diapers coming from a brand like FuzziBunz, or Rumparooz, or bumGenius, depending on the brand. Then you’ve got laundry. Let’s for sake of argument presume 10 diaper load washes per month for 3 years until the baby is potty trained. You’re looking at a total diapering cost of around $1,000. A diapering service will cost you about $75. 
End thought? Cloth and disposables are about the same price!

Comfort: Again, there isn’t that big of a difference as long as your change your child’s diaper when it is soiled. Cloth diaper advocates believe cloth diapers cause diaper rash less often because people tend to change them more often, but then it comes down to convenience. Who is going to do the laundry? Bottom-line, if you leave a soiled diaper on, your child can get a diaper rash (it’s also not that comfy!).  However, your baby might like the softer feel of cloth diapers. Disposable diapers are considered more breathable, but their moisturizing, absorbent chemicals can irritate some babies.

Environment: A lot of parents make the decision between cloth and disposable based on the impact to the environment. Over 2% of American landfills are disposable diapers, but 40% are biodegradable. Disposables also use resources like trees and plastics during manufacturing. But, when we’re talking about the environmental impact of cloth reusable diapers, you must consider water and energy. Manufacturing cloth diapers requires less energy and raw materials than disposable diapers, BUT moms and dads need to realize the process of washing cloth diapers uses tons of clean water and energy.  Final answer? This is hotly debated topic and there are plenty of variables.

Convenience: Cloth diapers now come with easy Velcro or snap closures, various shapes fitted to all types of babies, waterproof bands around the waist and legs, and removable linings, making the cloth change just as quick and easy as a disposable. Downside? Cloth diapers are not as absorbent and you have to change them pretty often.

Travel & Baby Daycare: Go for the disposable! It reduces the risk of infection in a group setting and many daycares do not allow cloth.  When traveling, disposables are simply more convenient and can be heavy in luggage (unless you have easy access to a washer). 

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ruffle_lgParents face many dilemmas – picking a preschool, piano or violin lessons, soccer or baseball…but parents today are faced early on with a difficult choice – cloth or disposable? I have friends that made the decision to use cloth, but I just jumped in and without much thought started with disposables. I thought it might be interesting to do some research and share the options.

First priority: Baby’s Health

  • One of the pluses of disposables is the ‘wicking’ properties that keep baby’s bottom drier and more comfortable – however any diaper you choose should be changed every 2-3 hours whether it seems wet or not since any wet diaper can cause diaper rash if left unattended.
  • The absorbent filler in many disposables has been linked to health problems in mice when exposed at high levels and some children may have an allergic reaction to the filler in disposables.


  • No doubt disposables are easy to use – one use and you throw them away. They also generally provide better leak protection. One negative to disposables – Some say it’s harder to potty train since the kids don’t feel the moisture.
  • There is an additional level of work with cloth diapers – they need to be washed and ‘handled.’  Some daycares and preschools do not allow the use of cloth diapers.


The Environment

  • Disposable diapers are bad for the environment; it is estimated that around 5 million tons of untreated waste is deposited into landfills via disposables every year. For slightly less impact, dump the “organic waste” in the toilet before you throw them in the trash.
  • Cloth diapers can lessen the impact on the environment – especially if you choose organic cotton (no chemical spraying.) Pre-rinse diapers, and then wash in warm, not hot water using non-toxic detergents.


  • Cloth diapers can save you about $700 per child over 2½ years. (I know I spend about $100 a month in disposable diapers.)

Newer Optionsgro-baby-open-non-annotated-250x250

  • There are now disposables that are non-toxic, containing no dyes or fragrance.
  • Some new disposables are corn-based, less harmful to the environment but not as effective for overnight (because they do biodegrade well) and some are made with wood-pulp and natural-blend cotton.
  • Various new ‘hybrids’ have cute form fitted covers with Velcro or snap closures with snap in liners that can be washed. Also you can use absorbent biodegradable inserts that can be flushed – the result is minimal laundry and less going to a landfill. (One caution: some waste disposal plants say they do not degrade well, so check with your local waste management district for more information.)

I did find an enormous amount of information about the cloth versus disposable dilemma. In the end everyone needs to weigh out what works best for their baby, the environment, the associated costs and their personal lifestyle. I hope this information helps with your decision! Happy Diapering!

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