Cloth or disposable diapers: The debate today

Mothers still have to choose between cloth and disposable diapers.  And the decision that’s right for one mother isn’t necessarily right for another.
  •  Cloth diapers were the only choice, and the only decision was which cute little diaper pins to use.
  • That all changed with Marion Donovan’s invention of the disposable diaper in 1961, when the great debate between proponents of disposable and cloth diapers began.
  • Today’s cloth diaper is not the same cloth square folded into a neat little triangle and pinned at the hips. Modern cloth diapers are available with Velcro strips to replace the pins, and in new shapes. The cloth diapers found today are now little more than absorbent pads placed inside a leak-proof cover.
  • Today, cloth diapers are come in a wide range of styles and use Velcro closures on their colorful covers.
  • The pads are much more absorbent than traditional soft cotton diapers, using multi-layered fiber-filled strips, not unlike feminine hygiene pads.

For Cloth Diapers

  • The two main arguments that proponents of cloth diapers use are cost and environmental friendliness. While the initial layout for cloth diapers is high, since they are reusable, the cost evens out after time. While they make one-size adjustable cloth diapers, many parents prefer to purchase diapers sized for each stage of their growing baby.
  • There is also the added cost of cleaning, including of detergent and running the washer and dryer. Factoring the cost of using cloth diapers must include variables such as the size of a typical laundry load, the cost and type of detergent used, the number of steps gone through to clean and sanitize the diapers, and the efficiency of the washing machine and dryer.
  • There is also some variability in the cost of the diapers themselves based on quality. Higher quality diapers last longer and withstand a greater number of washes, but are more expensive initially. Cheaper diapers might be less absorbent and last for a shorter amount of time.
  • If planning on using cloth diapers for multiple children, higher quality diapers will last longer and may be more cost effective over time
  • Proponents also point to the reusability of cloth diapers as evidence that they are more environmentally friendly. There is less waste going into a landfill, and when their useful life is past, cloth diapers are biodegradable.


Against Cloth Diapers

  •  There are energy costs to washing and drying cloth diapers, and waste-water treatment also has an energy cost. On top of that is the environmental impact of pollutants, such as detergents, in the wastewater.
  • Disposable diapers are everywhere. However, in their attempts to make diapers leak proof, ultra-absorbent, sensitive-skin friendly, and economical, manufacturers have created a product that will preserve the memory of your child’s baby-hood by preserving their poop in landfills for centuries to come.
  • Disposable diaper companies have tried to satisfy consumer demands by making a diaper for almost every conceivable concern.
  •  They come in sizes from newborn through toddler.
  • From sensitive skin to superior leak protection, diapers for newborns, crawlers and walkers, swim diapers, disposable diapers with lines on the surface that change color when wet or that resemble big boy/girl underpants, there are disposable diapers for almost every conceivable need.
  • The most obvious benefit is their convenience and their availability.
  • Disposable diapers are just that: disposable. And so some manufacturers are attempting to address environmental concerns with biodegradable diapers.
  • Biodegradable diapers are designed to start breaking down once they enter a landfill. They are designed to address the environmental concerns associated with traditional disposable diapers while still providing the convenience that is the key reason people choose disposables. But one parent noted, “they start biodegrading on the baby!” That could be a problem if you wait too long to change a particularly wet diaper.
  • Biodegradable diapers do tend to be more expensive than their non-biodegradable counterparts. 


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