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Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers

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Before your baby is born, you should take time to make the great diaper decision: cloth or disposable? Both types have pluses and minuses, and neither option is clearly superior. Most parents today opt for disposable diapers, but some parents continue to swear by old-fashioned cloth. You may even go for a combination: cloth diapers at home and disposable when you go out. If you haven't already made up your mind, here are some factors to consider:

  • Cost. Disposable diapers typically cost as little as 20 cents each, and deluxe brands can cost as much as 50 cents or more. The average baby goes through about 7,000 diapers before toilet training, so that adds up to real money. In contrast, it only costs about 3 cents in water, power, and detergent to wash a cloth diaper. (If you use a diaper service, it pretty much eliminates the cost savings, though.) Over the long haul, you can save over $1,200 per child by using cloth diapers.
  • Convenience. Disposable diapers are the clear winner when it comes to convenience. However, there are other considerations, such as sustainability.
  • Environmental impact. If you don't like the thought of throwing 7,000 diapers in a landfill, you might want to choose cloth diapers instead. A single cloth diaper can be reused up to 75 times, making it an attractive choice for people who want to cut down on trash. It takes about 50 gallons of water and a fair amount of energy to wash a load of cloth diapers, but waster is a renewable resource. Plastic, on the other hand, is polluting the oceans and has even appeared in human bodies in the form of microplastics and plastic nanoparticles. Consider that human beings got by without disposable diapers for many thousands of years; we should be able to, too.
  • Comfort. Disposable diapers are generally more absorbent than cloth diapers, so they can keep your baby's skin dry. On the downside, it can be harder to tell when a disposable diaper needs to be changed. Some parents get complacent and go for hours between changes, potentially setting their baby up for a diaper rash.

If you decide to use cloth diapers, choose a kind that has several layers of different types of fabric. These will absorb moisture better than a diaper with just a single layer of fabric. No matter what type of diaper you use, check them often and change them when they're wet or messy.

If you still can't decide, don't worry: you'll have 7,000 chances to find a diaper that's right for you and your baby.

References

University of Minnesota. Diaper choices. http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/housinga...

Plastic Pollution and Facts. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution

Nemours Foundation. Baby Basics: Diapering Your Baby. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn...

Real Diaper Association. Real Diaper Facts. http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php

Union of Concerned Scientists. About UCS. http://www.ucsusa.org/ucs/about/

American Academy of Family Physicians. Diaper Rash: Tips on preventing and treating diaper rash. http://familydoctor.org/051.xml

Penn State University. Toilet learning. http://betterkidcare.psu.edu/AngelUnits/OneHour/To...

Contemporary Pediatrics. Toilet Training: Getting it right the first time. http://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/contpeds/art...

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