Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

(I apologize if this has been done already–I couldn’t find anything in search)

Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers–please discuss.

Cloth is better for your baby’s butt. It breathes, and there’s less possibility of rash.

Since you’re re-cycling, you’re not adding to landfill problems, throwing away dozens of poopy disposables every week.

On the downside, you’re doing a load of really icky wash every day, and you’ll have PLENTY of other things to keep you busy with a new baby in the house.

But, since you live in the 'burbs, you probably have a town diaper service, correct? Who will bring you fresh nappies two or three times a week and cart away the dirties? And who probably provide cloth diapers cheaper than even a price club will sell you a gross of Huggies? And you will enjoy a warm glow that comes only from being Environmentally Correct? And be able to turn up your nose at the trashy moms who use disposables throughout the toilet-untrained years, and whose infants are plagued by nasty inflammations?

I suggest using the diaper service when you’re at home, and keeping a box of disposables around for when you’re taking Junior out of the house for the day, or longer. They ARE convenient when you’re on the road.

Oh sure Ike, but to be totally environmentally correct you must visit the diaper service to make sure that they are not washing the diapers in pure benzene or some other substance toxic to rats specially bred to be sensitive to that sort of thing. Otherwise you might as well just chop down a couple of old-growth redwoods while you’re at it. :wink:

As far as breathability, that argument flies out the window if you encase the diaper in rubber pants and don’t change the tyke as often as you should because “they don’t feel wet”. Plus, who knows if junior’s keister is going to be sensitive to some of the detergents used to wash the nappies.

In terms of throw-aways, one of the more common arguments against them from the Mothering magazine crowd (have you read this Green Bean? If not, you really should. Apparently every thing you’re thinking of doing is totally wrong.) is that the absorbent gel in the disposables contains chemicals that can cause some nefarious health condition (asthma I want to say). But the scientific evidence on this is still in question.

By the way, make sure you have at least 20-30 cloth diapers around even if you do plan on using disposables. They are indispensible for burp cloths and head cusions to prop the baby’s head up in the car seat before they have adequate control.

We use cloth diapers, mostly because it was cheaper to use a diaper service than to pay for disposables. The environmental benefits are just a side perk. The baby hasn’t had any noticeable diaper rash, and as far as “not feeling wet”? Trust me, even with the diaper covers over the diaper, you will not have a problem noticing when the baby is wet. Really.

While we were in the hospital, they used disposables on him, and my god, are those things stinky. I mean the perfume or whatever the hell they use on them – good grief. You can smell one of those things coming a mile away. I don’t care what kind of detergent they’re using on the cloth diapers, it can’t be as powerful as the perfume in the disposables.

There are a lot of different disposables - the local coop sells “green” disposibles without all the chemicals or perfume.

Cloth diapers with a diaper service around here comes to slightly more expensive than a baby in (cheap) disposibles. Washing a home is cheapest - and probably best for the environment - you can control the type of detergent you use (although some argue hot water and detergent are a “wash” environmentally compared to green disposibles). Although there are some significant “start up costs” to cloth, particularly if you invest (and by most accounts you should) in those cool diaper covers with velcro.

Most daycare will want you to use disposibles - some home daycares or centers run by hippie moms will use cloth. If you have kids in daycare full time, most of your diaper usage will be at daycare - it makes a service very inefficient - although you can still wash at home (and work full time :stuck_out_tongue: )

Some babies seem sensitive to cloth - the “pulling” action of disposibles helps keep their butts happy - or the detergent used is irratating. Other babies react to the disposibles and do better with cloth. My son couldn’t wear Pampers, but was fine with any other brand we tried…and eventually grew out of his sensitivity to Pampers.

I’m using fitted cloth diapers with my daughter. I don’t find the extra laundry to be a big deal, but then again, I’ve only got one kid at the moment. One downside I have noticed is that her clothes tend to fit strangely, since cloth diapers give the kiddo a huge tush. I think most baby clothes are made with disposables in mind.

One huge upside is that the diapers I’ve bought for my daughter will hopefully see me through any subsequent children I might have, so the investment will go a long way.

I’ve heard that it’s easier to toilet train kids that were cloth diapered. Can anyone confirm/debunk that one?

Kids toilet train in their own sweet time regardless of if you are wearing cloth or disposables, the m&m method or the sticker method, threats or bribes.

Hearing the same rumor, I stuck my three year old in cloth training pants - didn’t work - he wasn’t ready yet. We tried pull ups - didn’t work, he wasn’t ready yet. M&Ms, bribes, asking nicely, frequent reminders, leaving him alone - no go. Two weeks ago - he started using the toilet all by himself and hasn’t had an accident since.

(He had been changing almost all his own diapers for about four months - as long as he was wearing pull ups. So, although I appreciate the smaller diaper bill (his sister is still wearing hers), the changing wasn’t such a big deal with him anymore anyway.)

Statisically, it may be that cloth diaper wearers train earlier - one thing I believe about my children is that they prove why statistics don’t hold for individuals.

My complaint is that the disposables are made too well. The kids don’t care if they go in the diaper because they don’t feel uncomforable when they wet. The cloth diapered kids might toilet train earlier because of this.

There is a similar debate in the news group…

When my kids were little, I decided to use cloth diapers. It lasted about three days. I decided I didn’t really care if they sat in a landfill for the next ten thousand years as long as I didn’t have to clean anymore poopies off of them, but they were great as dribble rags.

You can wind up spending MORE on cloth if you go for the snazzy all-in-one’s (diaper & cover together) or some of the expensive handmade ones. Yes, there are people who will spend upwards of $30 on something for Junior to s**t in.

I used cloth for a year on my son, and eighteen months on my daughter. Travelling, we used disposables. I did eventually switch both to disposables as they ate more solids and the poos got worse. No big deal - whatever works.

One of my girlfriends:

The first child was breastfed until three. Not only were ONLY cloth diapers used - in and outside the house, but disposible wipes were never used.

The second child - breastfed for nearly a full year, but supplemented with formula a little during the last months. Cloth diapers, disposibles for traveling. And wipes - who would have thought they were such wonderful things!

The third child is now 5 months - I think she will stick to cloth diapers and I know he is still being breastfed (and I think he will be for a year).

On the other hand, she wanted natural childbirth for all three, wimped out on one and two and finally did it with three!

Moderator’s Note: This seems more a matter of people offering up their opinions than a full-fledged debate, so I’ll move it over to IMHO.

I rarely use disposable wipes. I just keep a bunch of washcloths handy at home, they do the trick. My daughter’s pediatrician advised against using disposable wipes, the rational being that something that was wet all the time might have something nasty growing on it. True or not, if you are already using and washing cloth diapers, reuseable wipes are no big deal.

When Consumer Reports did a piece on this some years back, the conclusion they came to was that, environmentally speaking, each choice had an equally large impact. Disposables, obviously, take up landfill space. Washing your own uses water, and (in many cases) adds bleach to the waste water. Using a service requires less water, but adds air pollution from the trucks used to pick up and deliver the diapers.

Their recommendation was to look at how your choice would impact your particular area. For instance, people in densely populated areas with less landfill space, but sufficient water supplies might best choose cloth. People with plenty of landfills but plagued with water shortages would do better with disposable.

When my first was born (almost 13 years ago) I had a diaper service. It worked very well for us. When we moved to a more rural area with no service, I tried washing my own. For some reason (water wasn’t hot enough, detergent residues remained even after a second rinse?) she had constant diaper rashes until I switched to disposable.

With my third, I used the diaper service for 18 months, at which point they went out of business. I would probably have switched anyway, as she had already figured out how to undo her diaper pins (velcro was long abandoned) and I was worried about her sticking herself.

Hey, I wasn’t done yet!

(I swear, I just hit return to make a new paragraph, and the darned thing posted all by itself!)

Anyway, I wanted to add that the diaper covers available these days are wonderful. They are much better than the plastic/rubber pants our mothers used over cloth. You can find them with velcro or snaps, in cotton or wool, in all sorts of cute colors. The all-in-ones are quite expensive, though.

I started off using cloth diapers. After the first week I switched to disposable simply because it was easier and less messy. A diaper service was not an option as I’m from a rural area that doesn’t offer it. I used the cloth diapers for burp cloths.

When my wife and I had our first child, we lived in Cincinnati. Our church group made money by volunteering at a local marketing/research company that did work for P&G. One day my wife and a couple other pregnant women reported and were given “disposable diapers”. We thought that was a funny concept, but since we were going to visit my folks (300 miles away), we gave it a try. They were horrible, since you had to rip a plastic liner off before flushing and they were not fitted at all. Despite the bad report my wife gave, along with the others, P&G kept at it, until they succeeded.

I’m going with disposables. Airman and I and Aaron will likely be living in rather small quarters, and I can handle disposables with a Diaper Genie a lot better than I can handle an open diaper pail and either laundry or a service. Besides, I won’t have to worry about detergents and whether cloth diapers are clean enough.

I think at this point, it’s a personal choice.


I know there are environmentally-friendly disposables now, but not so long ago I read a horrifying thing: every disposable nappy/diaper ever used by any child anywhere ever is sitting somewhere in a landfill right now.

Of course that won’t be true of the new “green” ones, but think of the millions (tens of millions?) that are still out there, unbiodegradable, un-recyclable - just fouling up the environment. Sobering thought.

I don’t have kids, but from talking to Asian colleagues here who do, it seems that “western” kids get toilet-trained much later than eastern ones. For example, their ten-month old girl is already being put on the potty, and their three-year-old is fully trained and independent about going to the bathroom, and has been for a long time.

I do not know what is the average/“normal” time for children to toilet train. But I can imagine is it not in the nappy/diaper companies’ interests to have them train too early. The longer they take, the more products sold.