Cloth Diapering vs Disposable Diapering

Cloth diapers or disposable diapers? It’s not your first big decision about your baby, but it’s a question you’ll have to grapple with.

Here are some of the factors to consider.

What is the environmental impact?

The Union of Concerned Scientists says this isn’t a big issue — the environmental impact is about the same. Disposable diapers require more materials to produce and they end up in landfills. Cloth diapers require lots of water and energy to clean over the months and years they’re part of your life. Research shows that neither option is clearly better for the environment.

If this is an important question for you, consider no-chlorine disposables or All in One cloth diapers.

Chlorine is one of the most toxic chemicals around. All in One diapers use a liner and no rubber pants or soakers, so laundry is minimized.

What is the cost difference?

Cloth diapers can range from one dollar to ten dollars each. Disposables run 20 to 50 cents each.

These traditional flat diapers are very economical.

Modern diaper systems are priced like clothing. What does it cost to dress your baby? It all depends. A diaper fashionista may choose to spend hundreds of dollars, while a frugalista might keep the total cost under $25.00.

Disposables run about a quarter apiece, but fancy designs and organic materials can make them twice as expensive.

But the most important point when it comes to price is that cloth diapers can be reused. Even the most lavish cloth diaper systems are a one-time purchase. You can use them with future babies, too. The flat ones can be your cleaning cloths for years after your baby is potty trained.

Disposables are an ongoing expense. At 50 diaper changes a week, you can expect to pay $650 a year for inexpensive disposables, and your total could be twice as much. You might need extra garbage bags.

Cloth diapers mean extra laundry. We’ve seen wildly different estimates for the cost of doing laundry, but the average runs about $1.50 per load for water, electricity, and laundry soap. If that’s your cost and you do three loads of diapers a week, you’ll spend about $156 extra on laundry.

Cloth diapers are clearly cheaper.

What are the pros and cons for parents?

The big advantage of disposables is that you spend less time hands-on with baby poo. You don’t have to deal with urine smells. Change the baby, toss the diaper, and you’re through.Travel is easier, too, since you don’t need to carry wet or soiled diapers around with you after a change.

The big advantage of cloth diapers is the savings. It used to be that cloth diapers also meant diaper pins and rubber pants and so forth, but modern diaper systems have done away with the inconvenience.

What are the pros and cons for babies?

It used to be that cloth diapers were more comfortable. We’re not convinced that this is true any more. Both disposable and reusable diapers have evolved significantly over the decades.

The bottom line

80 to 90 percent of parents choose disposables. We’re guessing that this means that the average parent is willing to pay a premium to avoid having to handle messy diapers. This may be the way you decide, too. But mixing it up can work well, too. Use disposable for travel and childcare and let baby luxuriate in cute and comfy cotton at home.

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