All new and expecting parents will be faced with many baby care decisions. Not the least of which is whether to choose cloth or disposable diapers for their baby. There are many pros and cons of each, so let’s break down the facts and you can decide for yourself.
Health & Comfort
The health and comfort of your baby is, of course, the number one factor in this decision. Disposable diapers do contain a number of chemicals in them, mostly to help with absorbency and fragrance. Some of these chemicals are classified as carcinogens. Cloth diapers typically contain no chemicals. If minimizing your child’s exposure to chemicals is a top priority, then cloth diapers might be the better choice.
Concerning your baby’s health, diaper rash is a big concern. While there have been studies that showed the use of disposable diapers results in less diaper rash than when using cloth diapers, it must be noted that these were studies funded or done by diaper manufacturing companies or their parent companies. A study done in 1990 by the Toronto Board of Health actually found that the fragrance contained in disposables might actually cause rashes.
When it comes to convenience, disposables come out on top. They are quicker and easier to take off and put on. In addition, they are generally more convenient to transport. Though, cloth diapers have certainly made strides in recent years with regards to convenience. Nowadays, you can buy covers for cloth diapers that use Velcro. You can also choose to use a diaper service, which will come to your door and pick up soiled cloth diapers and renew your supply of clean ones.
Disposable diapers lose when it comes to cost. Using cloth diapers, with their re-usability and the convenience of washing them at home yourself or even using a diaper service comes out to be less than buying disposables overall.
Disposable diapers can absorb almost 7 pounds of fluid, which is a lot more than a cloth diaper can absorb. However, this is a double edged sword, as you might be more likely to leave your child in a soiled diaper for a longer period of time, which can lead to bacterial infections and rashes.
Besides health, this is one of the biggest reasons that people choose cloth diapers over disposables. Reports vary on the amount of waste that disposables contribute to landfills. Some estimates go as high as 15%. In addition, a lot of material goes into the manufacturing of diapers, including 500-800 pounds of fluff pulp and up to 280 pounds of plastic to make 1 year’s supply of disposable diapers for 1 baby. This is not a small amount. As far as the energy it takes to manufacture a disposable, that’s a whole other thing. A paper called Environmental Impacts and Lifecycle Analysis from 1991 estimated that disposables use up to 70% more energy than cloth diapers. Disposables are also not recyclable, whereas, cloth diapers, by nature, are recyclable.