Cloth vs. Disposable Diapering: An Honest Comparison

cloth-diapering-versus-disposable-diapering.JPG

I was so determined to cloth diaper my son. Just the thought of all those disposable diapers going into landfill made me cringe. So we used a cloth cloth diapering service after he was born but cancelled after 10 weeks. Why? Because the benefits of cloth diapering were over-promised and under-delivered. Spoiler alert — this post is in favour of disposable diapers. We experienced too many negative outcomes with cloth diapering so we switched to disposables. Since I’ve tried both methods of diapering, I wanted to share my experience and offer a comparison of the two.

ENVIRONMENTAL

One of the biggest deciding factors parents have for choosing to cloth diaper tends to be environmental. Cloth diaper services will share statistics about the number of disposable diapers going to landfill every year and how harmful their production is on the environment. But they conveniently fail to acknowledge their own carbon footprint with all the water and energy they use to clean the dirty diapers coming back to them. While I’m sure that disposable diapers are far more detrimental to the environment, it comes off as dishonest when cloth diaper companies throw shade at disposables to strengthen their argument for using their services, especially when they come off as having zero environmental waste themselves. So, while cloth diapers win points for being better for the environment, you’re not getting the full story, and for me, it wasn’t enough of a reason to continue with cloth, since all the other reasons to do so were not beneficial (as you’ll see below).

COST SAVINGS

Cost is another big factor when parents are choosing either cloth or disposables, and cloth diaper services claim to save you thousands of dollars. THIS IS COMPLETE B.S.! For us, disposal diapers have so far been so much cheaper. I researched and quoted the leading cloth diaper companies servicing Toronto and chose the least expensive option. With this company, it didn’t matter how many diapers from our weekly allotment we actually used and sent back for cleaning — they still charge the same amount per week. We weren’t using nearly as many diapers as they sent us. In comparison, we now buy a large box of Pampers in bulk from Amazon for $29 and that lasts us one month, whereas we were paying $73 a month (18.25/week) for the cloth diapers!!! Disposable diapers win this round.

BABY’S HEALTH

Our baby’s health was the primary reason we cancelled the cloth diaper service. These services claim that the chemicals used in disposable diapers lead to diaper rash, and that since their cloth diapers don’t contain any chemicals, then baby won’t get diaper rash (nor any future potential harmful effects from the compounds/substances used in the manufacture of disposable diapers). Here’s the thing: cloth diapers get wet and stay wet, so babies are sitting in a wet diaper more often than not. On the other hand, disposable diapers are made with the technology to absorb and wick away wetness from baby’s bottom, keeping them dry until they are changed. Don’t get me wrong, we were changing our son’s cloth diapers quite frequently, and yet he was still always wet when we changed him (they also leaked ALL THE DAMN TIME, that’s another issue we had, I’ll mention that in more detail below). And because he was almost always sitting in a wet diaper, he developed a really severe diaper rash that only kept getting worse. You’re not supposed to use diaper creams with cloth diapers but to hell with that, we needed to clear up our son’s rash, which was so bad, it took nearly three weeks of diapering with disposables to reduce the rash and finally disappear. It hasn’t returned since, nor have we needed to use any creams since. Obviously, disposable diapers won this round in our case.

POTTY TRAINING

Apparently, cloth diapering reduces a child’s time spent in diapers and sees them potty trained by age 2 (instead of age 3 as is typical with disposable-diapered children). The reason being that when wearing a cloth diaper, the child can feel the uncomfortable wetness and is more likely to use the potty to avoid being wet in future. We’re not at this stage yet so I can’t speak to its effectiveness, but I may consider giving cloth diapering another try when our son’s second birthday approaches. This early potty training theory makes sense to me, so I’ll give this round to cloth diapering.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

It isn’t enough to slap a piece of folded cloth on your baby’s bum and call it a day (or, in a baby’s case, call it an hour, lol). Cloth leaks, so you also need a diaper cover. But you know what? THOSE LEAK, TOO. I was constantly hand-washing diaper covers because they leaked and needed washing with every single diaper change. Diaper covers are another expense, and I only purchased four of them — not enough to wait until I did the next load of laundry, which I was already doing quite frequently. And the reason I was doing so much laundry is because the cloth diapers leaked all over my son’s clothing and he was soiling several outfits a day! Speaking of outfits, cloth diapers and diaper covers are far bulkier than disposable diapers so you may find that appropriately-sized clothing doesn’t fit with cloth. Another consideration is that not all daycares are accommodating of cloth diapering and they require disposables. I’m sure there are lots of daycares out there that are willing to accept cloth-diapered children, so I’m not making this point to discourage, but to offer a heads up so that you know the questions to ask and can do your research on daycares in your community in advance.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m willing to give a cloth diapering service another try down the road, but for now I’ve come to terms with the environmental impact of using disposable diapers. For anyone out there who is currently cloth diapering and loving it — I’m so happy it’s working out for you and I hope it continues to be a success! If you’re expecting and are thinking about cloth diapering, I do hope you’ll give it a fair try and don’t reject it based on my experience. I simply wanted to offer some insight and a reality check. At least you’ll have a heads up and know what to realistically expect.

Have you tried a cloth diapering service? Has anyone tried cloth diapering without using a service? Good on you for doing that! If you’ve tried both cloth and disposables, I’d love to hear about your experience and which type of diapering you prefer.