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Cloth vs. Not: The Diaper Debate
Lifestyle

Cloth vs. Not: The Diaper Debate

Diaper Debate Title

I was a cloth diaper baby!

My mother believed in cloth diapers; in fact, she thought they were more environmentally friendly before we even talked about it. Although it cost more initially, cloth diapering for my siblings and me saved my parents money in the long run.

My mother believed that it was her responsibility to reduce the family’s carbon footprint by living consciously.

Back THEN, there was a constant debate and conflicting information about using cloth diapers.

NOW, with another recent spike in popularity, parents are once more debating about which is better: cloth or disposable.

Photo: Julie Seguss; Charlie Banana diapers
Photo: Julie Seguss; Charlie Banana diapers

There’s lots of information about cloth vs. disposable diapers, and you’ll find many articles to support either position.

Although cloth diapers are a more economical choice in the long run, parents still debate about which route to go. In order to clear the air, I’ve compared the Pros and Cons of cloth diapers for you.

The Diaper Debate

PROS:

  • Cost: Cloth diapers are an investment that you can reuse over and over again. However, if you’re using disposables, you’ll spend between $1,500 and $2,000 until your child is potty trained.
  • Eco-Value: Since cloth diapers are constantly being reused, they aren’t being added to landfills with the 18 billion disposable diapers. Even ‘retired’ diapers can be reused for purposes like a cleaning rag.
  • Convenience: With cloth diapers you buy in bulk, so it’s unlikely that you will run out. If you find yourself in a pinch, you can do a quick laundry load or wash a few by hand.
  • Health: Select brands of disposable diapers contain dangerous toxins such as dioxin, VOCs, and carcinogens. Cloth diapers ditch the toxic chemicals and reduce chafing.
  • Potty Training: Cloth-preferred parents claim they could train their babies to use the toilet earlier because the baby could feel the wetness in a cloth diaper, while disposable diapers have been made to hide the wetness.

CONS:

  • Cost: Using a diaper service to clean your cloth diapers adds up quickly. Parents who clean diapers report a spike in their water and electricity bill from their washing machine use.
  • Eco-Value: While disposable diapers fill landfills, cloth diapers need a lot of water and electricity. It’s always important to be conscious of your diaper’s eco-factor.
  • Convenience: Cloths diapers can be messy and cumbersome to change. If you’re out when your baby needs to be changed, you’ll have to haul the dirty diaper home with you. Another ‘gross’ factor: Even if you’re not cleaning diapers yourself, you’ll still need to clear away any waste into a toilet before handing it over to a service.
  • Health: Some cloth parents report that their babies develop more rashes because cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable diapers.
  • Potty Training: Some children don’t care if they use cloth or disposable diapers because they would be content to stay in diapers forever!
Photo: Sherry Henderson; BumGenius diapers
Photo: Sherry Henderson; BumGenius diapers

Still Curious?

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 12.15.36 PMAs we previously featured for you, East Passyunk’s Cloth diaper store specializes in both in-store and online orders. The store also offers a variety of classes about holistic childbirth, breastfeeding, preschool options, and cloth diaper workshops. This week, Cloth is featuring a Cloth Diapering class to learn about different types of cloth diaper systems, the benefits, the costs and how to wash them.

 

Readers, what are your thoughts on cloth diapers? Did we miss any important pros or cons? Let us know in the comments!

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Originally from Rochester, New York, Grace studies Communications at Saint Joseph’s University. Green from birth, she grew up wearing reusable cloth diapers and eating co-op vegetables. She's always been conscious of humanity’s impact on the environment. She hopes to eventually form a career as a way to advocate her ethical & sustainability principles. View all posts by Grace Rieck

2 thoughts on “Cloth vs. Not: The Diaper Debate

  1. Hi Grace,
    Like most people, I thought there were only two diapering options, but there is a THIRD and WAY better choice over disposables – COMPOSTABLE diapers. I’m not talking about biodegradable diapers that people feel good about buying, but then end up chucking into the trash. I mean biodegradable diapers that are collected by a weekly diaper service and then properly composted in a commercial composting facility. Some cloth diapering services offer this compostable option.

    Compostable diapers are equally as effective as disposables, they are NOT plastic based (no rashes!) and if properly composted, only a minute fraction (the straps) ends up as non-biodegradable waste. The rest will eventually become soil amendment, giving back to the earth and not to the local landfill.

    The disposable diaper nation in which we live is egregious (referring to your horrifying statistic above) and while I applaud cloth advocates, COMPOSTABLE diapers need to take the lead in the ‘option’ list. I wrote an extensive post about this very topic on We Hate To Waste: http://www.wehatetowaste.com/compostable-diapers/.

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