The Debate: Cloth or Disposable

When new parents are trying to decide whether they want to use cloth or disposable diapers, it seems everyone has an opinion. Here's a look at how disposable and cloth diapers measure up against each other.

Pricing Wars
When comparing diapers on price, cloth diapers take the lead.

  • cloth: cloth diapers are considerably cheaper than disposable diapers, even when you factor in the cost of hydro (washing diapers), diaper service and electricity; they cost an average of $150 to $300, depending on type of cloth diaper and your geographical location. Cloth diapers can also be used on your subsequent children.
  • disposable: disposable diapers cost on average between $1000 and $2000; this of course depends on the brand you use

Keeping Your Baby's Skin in Mind
What type of diaper is best on your baby's skin? It's a toss up. Read on to decide for yourself.

  • cloth: with cloth diapers, parents can easily tell when their infant has soiled the diaper; this means the diaper will more likely be changed right after a soiling and that the child spends their time in clean diapers. The only time cloth diapers lead to diaper rash is when diaper changing is not done frequently enough and moisture builds up, causing friction and diaper rash.
  • disposable: because disposable diapers have absorbency, they whisk away moisture and keep your baby's skin dry and usually rash-free; some infants have reactions to the chemicals in disposable diapers and may develop skin rashes. Sodium polyacrylate is one of the chemicals used in the absorbency gels and can cause skin rashes and has been linked to toxic shock syndrome.

Environmental Concerns
A comprehensive look at the environmental impact of using ether cloth or disposable baby diapers is hard to ascertain; there are many variables and each study focuses on different points. However, there are some figures that help ecologically-aware parents make their decision.

  • cloth: because cloth diapers necessitate laundering, there is the question of whether hydro and electricity environmental impacts equal the waste of disposable diapers; once other aspects of producing disposable diapers are factored in, cloth wins the environmental debate by a reasonable margin.
  • disposable: the Australian Consumer's Association estimate that 3.5% of urban waste comes from disposable diapers. Also, garbage incineration produces a lot of toxic air emissions. Babies go through approximately 6,000 to 10,000 diapers before being potty trained, which amounts to 2 tons of diapers. Dioxin is used in the bleaching of disposable diapers and has been found to be one of the most toxic, cancer-linked chemicals.
Convenience can be really important when you're trying to juggle an already hectic life with the needs of an infant.
  • cloth: while comparing the more old-fashioned cloth diapers with disposable diapers on convenience is an easy win for disposables, there are new cloth diaper designs that save a mother invaluable time; look for Velcro cloth diapers with thin, disposable linings. Another benefit of using cloth is that you don't have to make trips to the grocery store to purchase diapers when the unexpected occurs; instead, you can launder your cloth diapers in the time it takes to feed your infant.
  • disposable: disposable diapers usually prove more convenient for many mothers

Making Your Decision
Choosing whether you want you to cloth or disposable diapers can be a hard decision. Each has its own advantages. If you have problems deciding which diaper is right for your family's needs, run a trial with a cloth and disposable diapering service. This should help you make your decision. It also carries the added benefit of convenient delivery during those first few weeks when parents need all the help they can get. Also, ask around. Listen to your friends' diaper stories, both good and bad, then try out the option that makes most sense to your lifestyle.

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