As you anticipate a new baby, you’ll have many decisions to make. One important decision is how you plan to diaper your infant. There are benefits and detriments to using cloth diapers, so the choice involves weighing your options and going with the method that best fits your lifestyle, budget and conscience.
Although the process of diapering a baby with cloth or disposable diapers is largely the same, the difference between the two methods occurs at the washing stage. With a disposable diaper, you simply remove it from your baby, wrap it up and throw it away. With a cloth diaper, you must first shake off any excess waste into the toilet and then place the diaper into a diaper pail to await laundering. Washing cloth diapers involves a prewash cycle, a hot-wash cycle and often an additional rinse cycle to ensure that you remove all bacteria and detergent residue from the diapers. This process can be time-consuming, which may be a negative factor for some families.
The environmental benefits of cloth diapers vary, depending on your perspective. Using cloth diapers ensures that your family does not contribute disposable diapers to landfills; more than 92 percent of disposable diapers accumulate in landfills, says the Real Diaper Association. Using cloth diapers does have an environmental impact, however, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Washing cloth diapers requires water and energy, which can contribute to both air and water pollution.
Overall, cloth diapers cost less than disposal diapers because you reuse the diapers instead of throwing them away after one use. Some cloth diapers are more expensive than others, depending on whether you purchase standard white prefolds or cute all-in-one styles in charming prints and designs. Using cloth diapers enables you to reuse each diaper about 75 times before a diaper wears out and loses its absorbency, states KidsHealth.org. The average cost to diaper a child from birth to potty training in disposables ranges from $1,500 to $2,000, according to ConsumerReports.org. Cloth diapering costs range significantly, depending on the diapers and covers you use. The cost to set up basic cloth diapering with all the supplies and equipment can be as low as $300, according to the Real Diaper Association.
A child’s skin often reacts more positively to the natural fibers of cloth diapers in contrast to disposable diapers. Cloth diapers allow air circulation, which can reduce diaper rash and help it to heal faster if it does occur, advises the University of Rochester Medical Center. Some babies have sensitivities to the chemicals in disposable diapers. It is possible that a cloth-diapered baby could have a sensitivity to chemicals present in laundry detergents as well. If this occurs, you may need to experiment with different laundry detergents to find one that your baby tolerates.