Cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers: Which kind should you use?

One of the first things to consider when preparing for a new baby is what kind of diapers you’ll use. There are two basic options: cloth diapers or disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are reusable diapers that you have to wash to use again. Disposable diapers are just that: disposable. You use them once, then throw them away. Depending on your outlook, it may be obvious which kind you’d prefer to use. But both kinds of diapers have their pros and cons. Let’s examine everything to consider when choosing cloth diapers or disposable diapers.

CLOTH DIAPERS PROS AND CONS

Are you concerned about the eco-friendliness and sustainability of your baby’s diapers? Then cloth diapers are the way to go. Their primary selling point is that they are less wasteful.

CLOTH DIAPER PROS

— Cloth diapers are re-usable, so they’re eco-friendly.
— They can save you money from not buying more diapers all the time.
— Cloth diapers don’t contain chemicals that could irritate your baby’s skin.
— Babies who wear cloth diapers tend to potty train faster than babies who wear disposable.

CLOTH DIAPER CONS

— Cloth diapers call for more labor to maintain than disposable diapers do. You will have to launder cloth diapers after every use.
— Let’s be frank: Diaper duty isn’t pleasant. And throwing soiled disposable diapers away cuts down on the ick factor. Cloth diapers need more handling because you have to keep them and wash them.
— Cloth diapers are not best for a newborn. That’s because a typical newborns goes through eight to 10 diapers a day.

DISPOSABLE DIAPERS PROS AND CONS

Disposable diapers are about convenience. Babies make a lot of messes. They’re not fun to clean up, and you want to do so with as much speed and efficiency as possible. Disposables allow you to do that.

DISPOSABLE DIAPER PROS

— Disposable diapers have a simple, all-in-one design.
— It’s quick and easy to throw away soiled disposable diapers.
— Brands now make disposable diapers that are more eco-friendly. They have more natural ingredients and fewer chemicals.

DISPOSABLE DIAPER CONS

— Disposable diapers create a lot of waste.
— They consist of approximately 70% wood and 30% from petroleum. So they waste trees and use a nonrenewable resource.
— Eco-friendly disposable diapers tend to be more expensive than regular disposable diapers.

COMMON TYPES OF REUSABLE DIAPERS

When it comes to cloth diapers, there are different styles with their own pros and cons.

PREFOLD DIAPERS

A simpler type of reusable diaper, prefold diapers tend to be the least expensive. Their design has more cloth in the middle, usually made of bamboo or hemp.  You’ll need to use a cloth diaper cover with these. The diaper cover keeps all the mess inside the diaper, sort of like a reverse raincoat.

HYBRID CLOTH DIAPERS

Hybrid cloth diapers aim to be eco-friendly like cloth diapers and easy to use like disposable diapers. They have a waterproof out layer and two layers inside. The first layer is a cloth insert usually made of hemp, cotton or microfiber. The second layer is single-use and disposable. Hybrid diapers are great for when you’re out. They offer something easy to dispose of on the go but are still less wasteful. Some are even biodegradable.

ALL-IN-ONE CLOTH DIAPERS

All-in-one cloth diapers have an outer layer and an inner absorbent layer in one piece. The simplicity of their design makes them easier to handle and wash. The downside is they do tend to run a bit more expensive. It’s up to you to decide if the convenience is worth the hit to your wallet.

POCKET DIAPERS

Pocket diapers are like all-in-one cloth diapers but feature a removable absorbent layer. You can change the absorbent level or even put in two layers. An added benefit is the pieces in the pocket diapers dry quicker.

ONE-SIZE DIAPERS

One-size diapers are reusable cloth diapers that grow with your baby. These diapers adjust in size using snaps and velcros. The means you can continue to reuse the same diapers over a longer period of time. You simply adjust them as your baby gets older (and bigger).

Reading about the different types of reusable cloth diapers might be overwhelming you. Seeing them in person can help you decide what kind of cloth diaper will be right for you and your baby. So it’s a good idea to go to a baby store and look at the different types of cloth diapers for yourself. You can see them yourself and get a sense of which ones you’ll be most comfortable using.

REUSABLE DIAPER BRANDS

These are our top recommendations for brands of cloth diapers.

BUM GENIUS

Several publications rate the all-in-one diaper by Bum Genius as the best cloth diaper. They’re adjustable as your baby grows and they’re affordable. What more could you want from a diaper? Here’s something: They come in a bunch of awesome solid color and pattern designs.

GOVIA

We recommend GoVia diapers for those who have heavy wetters. These diapers boast an array of absorbent liners to chose from. They’re also useful as overnight diapers because they can absorb so much.

GERBER

Gerber‘s basic white gauze diapers with pads are popular and affordable diapers. We like their clean and simple design. On the other hand, note that these cloth diapers need fastens and accessories to keep them in place.

BUT SERIOUSLY, HOW MUCH OF A HASSLE ARE CLOTH DIAPERS?

It’s true that cloth diapers take more work to deal with than disposable diapers do. The biggest pro for going disposable is that you can throw diapers away. You won’t deal with the messes more than you have to. And if reusing diapers is your preference, learning how to clean them is essential. The basic procedure goes like this:
— Dump solid waste into the toilet.
— Rinse the insert and cover in cold water before washing.
— Soak in a mild bleach-and-detergent solution.
— Launder diapers separately from your regular laundry.

WHAT ABOUT DIAPER SERVICES?

Does laundering cloth diapers all the time seem like too much of a hassle? One way to lighten the load is to consider using a diaper laundry service. Yes, that’s a thing. Find out if there’s a local diaper laundry service in your area. They’ll deal with your baby’s dirty reusable diapers for a fee. Typical diapers services cost between $18 and $24 per week. The service will deliver your diapers and a soil pail to use for temporary disposals. They’ll pick up once a week and deliver you new supplies then too. If that’s something that fits in your budget, it may be worth considering.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The choice between cloth diapers or disposable diapers is yours to make. Base your decision on  your lifestyle needs and what’s important to you. And remember that you don’t have to choose one or the other. There’s no law that says you can’t use cloth diapers sometimes and disposable diapers other times. Consider all the variables, decide what’s right for your family, and adjust as you go.

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