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Cloth Diapers vs Disposable, What Is The Best Choice For My Family?

Cloth diapers vs disposable is a big decision for new parents who want to raise their baby in an earth friendly, frugal way. There are pros and cons to each method of diapering. Cloth diapers have come a long way, but so have organic disposable diapers.

Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

I would like to begin this discussion by telling my own story of deciding between cloth diapers vs disposable. As a child, growing up, my mother used cloth diapers on us kids, and I was old enough to help out with diaper duty when my sister was born.

It was my job to dunk the dirty diapers in the toilet, and for some strange reason, I did not mind this job. Fast forward ten years. I babysat regularly for the coolest earth mama ever. She used cloth diapers (and this was WAY before all of the cool new eco friendly diapers had hit the market, this mama was still using regular flat birdseye diapers, pins, and rubber pants).

Because I thought this lady was cool personified, I decided then and there that when I had babies, they would be in cloth. A few years later, I became pregnant with my first baby and went online to check out what kind of eco friendly cloth diapers I could find.

Imagine my surprise when I realized there were tons of diapers to choose from. I initially ordered two dozen cloth diapers that were made to transition from birth through potty training, and one wool cover.

Unfortunately, my research stopped there. I did not bother to research how to prepare these new earth friendly cloth diapers or the wool cover. I didn’t even take them out of the package. Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, they leaked terribly and I was completely overwhelmed and frustrated.

I ended up sending back the rest of the unopened cloth diapers for a refund (I think I sent back 20 of them!). And my husband and I decided it would be best to just use disposable diapers.

Fast forward about 6 months and I ran across cloth diapering mothers in an online forum I was a member of. I started researching and figuring out what I had done wrong 6 months prior.

I realized that the cloth diapers and wool cover had not been properly prepared. The diapers are supposed to be washed and dried at least three times prior to using, and the wool cover needed to be lanolized to become water-proof.

I pulled out the four remaining diapers that I still had and my cover and properly prepared them. I then started using these eco friendly diapers and washing them every day. This slowly started saving us some money (I still had to use 1 or 2 disposables a day). I set the saved diaper money aside until I could place an order for a dozen prefolds (one of the simplest and cheapest earth friendly cloth diapers available), a Snappi (in place of diaper pins) and a few Prorap covers.

cloth diapers vs disposables

Once I had my prefolds and covers I was in business and was instantly hooked on cloth diapering. Although in those early years we were unable to afford the really awesome fancy diapers that are available today we were saving some MAJOR money each month. It’s a good thing too, baby number 2 was on the way, and we were saving all extra money to pay for our first homebirth!

So, that’s my story, let’s discuss why you came here. Cloth diapers vs Disposable What’s the big deal, and what’s the difference?!?


Cloth Diapers vs Disposable

So, when you are trying to decide how to diaper, cloth or disposable, the first thing that comes to a lot of people’s minds when they think of cloth is toilet dunking! Yuck! Trust me, I’m right there with you!

The thing that a lot of people do not know is that if you are breastfeeding your baby, and not giving any solids yet, you do not have to dunk soiled diapers. Breast milk poop comes right out in the washing machine with no problems whatsoever.

So, if you wait to begin solids until your baby is 6-9 months old, you don’t even have to worry about toilet dunking for a while.

Now, what do you do once your baby is eating solids? You have a lot of options, and thankfully, most of them do not involve dunking.

Some smart moms keep a box of plastic knives near the toilet. They will use the knife to scrape the contents of the diaper right into the toilet. Throw the knife away and get on with life. Now, this may not be the most earth friendly method. You can always wipe your knife off with toilet paper, spray it with Tea Tree Oil, and re-use it.

Another great option is to purchase a diaper sprayer. The sprayer hooks right up to the toilet’s water supply and you can aim it right at the diaper and spray it off. These diaper sprayers will run you about $40 and you can purchase them in most  shops.

So, now we have removed the ick factor of toilet dunking. Cloth diapers vs disposable has become a bit more level playing field. I’m going to list of a few pros that come to mind first for cloth diapering, then disposable diapers.


Cloth Diapers vs Disposables, Cost Effectiveness

You can get set up with a cloth diapering system for as little as $200. Now granted, this will be with prefolds, a Snappi, and a more inexpensive cover, but this will get you started easily. Contrast a one time $200 charge with between $1500 and $3000 to put a child in disposable diapers for 2-3 years.

Remember too, you can use your cloth diapers on multiple children. I have used one set of prefolds for three children in a row now. I do have to buy new covers, but that is a minimal charge as you will only need 3-6 covers.


Cloth vs Disposable Diapers, Earth Friendly

Another aspect that comes into the decision of Cloth diapers vs disposable is the earth friendly choice. If you are using an organic disposable diaper you are making a good choice for both your baby and the environment.

An eco friendly cloth diaper will however, be better for both your child and the environment. A lot of people wonder if the cloth diaper does come out on top because of the extra laundry you will be doing. The answer to that question is yes, it will.

There are also ways to minimize the environmental impact that running extra loads of laundry will cause. One of those ways is to line dry your diapers. Not only will line drying save electricity, it will also help in keeping stains at bay.


Cloth Diapers vs Disposable, Diaper Rashes

A major consideration in the cloth diapers vs disposable is baby rashes and skin health. A disposable diaper, even organic disposable diapers will tend to cause more diaper rashes than a breathable natural fiber earth friendly cloth diaper. If your baby has unusually sensitive skin you have an even greater choice of fabrics to use for your baby’s diapers and covers if you are using cloth.

Bamboo and hemp are two fabrics that are naturally anti-microbial and make ideal cloth diapers. A cover made from wool will also allow your baby’s skin to breathe as opposed to being trapped in plastic.

There are also raw silk liners that may be put next to the baby’s skin to instantly wick moisture away and provide a soothing barrier.

Only about 5% of babies who are cloth diapered suffer from diaper rash, as opposed to 20% of disposable diaper babies.


Cloth Diapers vs Disposable, Convenience

If your main concern is convenience, disposable diapers will win every single time in the debate. Even when you are using an “all-in-one” cloth diaper, meaning the diaper and the cover are one piece and it either snaps or velcros like a disposable diaper, you will still have to wash the diaper, so it is not as convenient as a disposable.

Most cloth diapering moms will actually choose to use disposable diapers while traveling. I always took the convenience one step further and would use disposable diapers whenever I left the house at all. Cloth diapering is not all or nothing. Feel free to tailor it to your own unique needs.

If you are still in need of more concrete numbers to help you decide on your diapers, cloth or disposable, I would recommend using the calculator available at the Diaper Pin. You can get actual numbers on how much it would cost you to set up a cloth diapering system in your own home. Cloth diapers vs Disposable calculator


For more info on cloth baby diapers, click here!

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