The Choice Between Cloth and Disposable Diapers

BlogHer Original Post

When my son was born eight years ago, I thought I would use cloth diapers.  Really, I did.  I planned to be a green, crunchy granola mother, using breastfeeding, attachment parenting and cloth diapers.  This was all before it was super hip to be green.  When I was pregnant, I spoke another mom and she said I was crazy to try cloth diapers.  Breastfeeding was good, because the "plumbing" was all there, but cloth diapers was another story.  My mother had saved all my cloth diapers from when I was a baby and had given me a stack of around 40 diapers with pins.  Now, 33-year-old cloth diapers may not appeal to some, but they were super soft cotton in large rectangles. The new cloth diapers I received as gifts were not as soft as these. I looked up how to fold cloth diapers on the internet and I purchased some vinyl pants to go with them.  I also learned that you could buy paper inserts which you could use to capture the solids and flush them down the toilet, reducing the amount of cleaning.  When I was at work, I would practice folding napkins into the shape of diapers.  Really, I was committed to use them!  But as my due date approached, I started getting free samples of disposable diapers.  OK, I thought, I would just use them when I was outside of the home for convenience.  For that matter, I bought one package of disposable diapers "just in case".

When my son was born, he was immediately placed in newborn disposable diapers.  The first time I changed his diaper in the hospital (I was eager to practice and didn't pawn off this work to the nurses), I was shocked that meconium was like black sticky tar.  Gross!  No way would I want to have to clean that off cloth diapers.  When we brought our baby home, he was still transitioning from meconium to the mustard poop of breastfed babies, so we kept him in disposables.  After the first week, there was no turning back.  I didn't realize that newborns pooped every two hours (or at least mine did) and that nothing could contain blowouts.  For the uninitiated, a blowout is where poop comes out of the back of the diaper and up the baby's back.  Because breastfed baby poop is essentially liquid, it can go through several layers of clothing in a matter of seconds.  If that's the case, it would go right through cloth diapers as well.  Inserts would not make a difference.  I just didn't want to find out. 

In the early days of being a new mother, anything that made things easier was better in my book.  Breastfeeding was easier than having to prepare and clean bottles.  Disposable diapers were easier than cloth diapers.  That was probably my main reason for not ever trying cloth diapers.  We did make good use of the hand-me-down cloth diapers.  Both my kids used them as security blankets and my daughter, who is nearly five, still needs one when she is upset or when she goes to sleep.  They have been loved to tatters and only a few handful remain.  We did pay the price for using disposable diapers in cost, guilt for filling landfills, and prolonged potty training periods because they are too absorbent for kids to understand what is going on down there.

If you look around nowadays, cloth diapers have come a long way, even from eight years ago.  If I were a new mother today, and I didn't have the pressure of using old-fashioned cloth diapers that were handed down, I might just try the new cloth diapers systems.  According to Consumer Reports, major brands of cloth diapers, all-in-ones, and cloth diapering systems are Bum Genius, Bumkins, Fuzzi Bunz, Gerber, Kushies, and Swaddlebees.  Many systems are are convenient at disposable diapers, with velcro tabs, cool colors and designs.  Look at these cute options:

Prints from Swaddlebees.

Dr. Seuss from Bumkins.

The biggest obstacle to tackling cloth diapers is the cleaning.  According to iVillage, there are new materials that allow you to use a dry pail method without the soaking. An alternative to both cloth and disposable diapers are flushable diapers.  gDiapers offers a diaper where you can remove a biodegradable insert and flush it, compost it or toss it.  How cool is that?  For the latest blogging news about cloth diapers check out  All About Cloth Diapers, Cloth Diaper Mamas and The Cloth Diaper Whisperer.

The most important thing about choosing between cloth and disposable diapers is you.  Do what you are most comfortable with.  If you're overwhelmed being a new parent and choose disposable diapers, don't let the guilt add to your stress.  If you have a support network and are comfortable tackling cloth diapers, go for it!  The environmental impact of both methods have been hotly debated.  Either way, all babies need diapers and all babies need parents that are happy with their diaper choice.

Contributing Editor Angela (aka moonfever0) tries to steer clear of poop talk at mommy bytes.

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