cloth vs disposable diaper

The Diaper Debate – Cloth Vs Disposable?

Basically there are two types of diaper, fabric and disposable.

cloth vs disposable diaper

Fabric diapers

  • Muslin squares are soft and less bulky and therefore very good for tiny babies, but they are not very absorbent. They can also be used as diaper liners inside a cloth diaper.
  • Cloth diapers are made from thick, soft, absorbent cotton towelling. The more expensive they are, the better the quality. They are usually 60 cm (24 in.) square, but shaped cloth diapers are available, which are finer towelling with a double thickness down the centre panel. They are neater, less bulky and easier to put on, but are more expensive.

Disposable Diapers

  • All-in-one disposables consist of a disposable pad with a one-way lining and a plastic outer cover. Self-adhesive tabs are used to secure them. They may have shaped elasticated legs, and come in five sizes. They are the most expensive of the disposable type.
  • Two-piece disposables consist of a disposable pad that fits into special plastic pants, which may be tie-on or popper pants. The absorbent pads come in different thicknesses and sizes, and may be bought as separate pads or on a roll to cut off the length needed. These are cheaper than the all-inone disposables.

Both types have points for and against them, and the parents have to choose which will suit their life style.

Advantages of cloth diapers

  • They are thick, soft and absorbent.
  • If thick, good quality ones are bought and they are carefully washed, they should last through one and possibly two children.
  • Used with good plastic pants, they do not leak as easily as disposables.
  • They do not need changing quite as often as disposables.
  • They can be used for other purposes, as a small towel, for example, or as a bib.
  • They are possibly more comfortable than some disposables.

Disadvantages of cloth diapers

  • They cost a lot of money for the initial outlay of two dozen diapers.
  • They have to be washed and sterilised after every use. This is an unpleasant and time-consuming job.
  • There must always be a bucket of cleansing solution to soak them in.
  • Unless carefully washed they become hard and stained.
  • They are bulky, especially for a tiny baby.
  • They are difficult for families where the laundry and drying facilities are poor.
  • They must be used with waterproof pants.
  • The baby can become allergic to the soap powder or fabric softener used.

Advantages of disposable Diapers

  • They are thrown away after use so no washing is involved.
  • The cost of buying is spread out; if bought in bulk they may be cheaper.
  • They are very useful if the person caring for the baby is ill, has inadequate washing facilities, is away on holiday or goes out to work, or is travelling with the baby.
  • They are much easier to put on and need no diaper pins.
  • They are less bulky and are shaped for comfort.
  • They are available in different sizes.

Disadvantages of disposable Diapers

  • They can be expensive.
  • They are not as absorbent as cloth diapers and tend to leak round the edges.
  • They need changing frequently or they go into wet lumps.
  • They can block the toilet if not flushed away properly.
  • They are bulky to store and to carry home from the shop.

Some manufacturers have a delivery service for disposable diapers, and in some areas there is a diaper washing service for fabric diapers. Many mothers use a combination of both types. They have a good supply of fabric diapers for normal use, and buy disposables for the special occasions described above.

Other necessities are:

Diaper liners. These go inside the diaper and help to prevent the diaper staining, make it easier to get rid of the diaper contents, and help to protect the baby’s skin. Ever-dri or one-way liners are thin, washable liners made from a special material that allows the urine to pass through the liner and be absorbed by the cloth diaper. The baby’s skin remains dry and there is less risk of diaper rash. Disposable liners, made from fine fabric or paper, are designed to be thrown away when dirty. They are sold in packs of 200, and are quite cheap. diaper pins. These should have a safety catch, to prevent them springing open while in use. waterproof pants. Made from nylon, plastic or PVC, these are used to cover the diaper to protect the baby’s clothing. They may be elasticated, or fastened with poppers or side-tie fastenings. Some have frilly nylon covering to make them look prettier. They should be soft and washable and the elastic should not be too tight. Cheap ones go hard and crack after a few washes.

Putting on a diaper

This will depend upon the size and age of the child and the type of diaper. The usual folds are the triangular and the oblong, which are quick and easy, but tend to be bulky and do not have extra thickness where it is needed. Special foldings of diapers take longer to do, but give less bulk round the legs and extra absorbency where it is needed.

Care of fabric diapers

All fabric diapers must be sterilised and washed after use. Diapers that are not correctly laundered will cause the baby to develop diaper rash. They can be sterilised by using a special sterilising powder or by being boiled.

Nappy care routine:

  • Have two buckets with diaper sanitising solution in them. (Make up the solution exactly as stated in the instructions.) The diapers should be rinsed before being put to soak; then wet diapers can go into one bucket, and soiled diapers into the other. The buckets will need to have lids.
  • The diapers should be left for several hours (as instructed on the packet) to clean and sterilise.
  • They should then be rinsed several times and dried. They are then ready for use.

The diapers will also need a frequent hot, soapy wash, especially if they become stained. Good quality soap flakes or powder should be used, not a detergent. They can be washed in a washing machine or by hand. Thorough rinsing to remove all the soap is essential, and fabric softener can be added occasionally although some babies may be allergic to it. The diapers should be dried outdoors whenever possible.