A popular topic of conversation amongst many mums is whether disposable or cloth diapers are better. The average child needs between 6000 to 7000 diaper changes before they transition to underwear. This means a lot of diaper changing, so it is important evaluate what is best for you and your baby. Keep in mind that works best for someone else may not work best for you, so it is important to do a bit of research and maybe try a bit of both! In this blog we highlight important factors to consider such as: cost, time, convenience, performance and environmental impact to analyse both options. These factors may vary for each individual but we’re here to provide food for thought!
Types of reusable cloth diapers:
Reusable diapers – pros and cons
There are pros and cons to using re-usable diapers dependant on who you are and what your lifestyle is like. Re-usable diapers require a routine which involves a lot more changing, washing and drying which ultimately means you must have one thing that people struggle with managing alongside a baby – time!
The initial purchase of cloth diapers is what is most daunting to new parents. The most popular re-usable diapers are the modern cloth which are usually around $30 per diaper, and babies need approximately 12 per day. Dependant on how frequently you do your washing will depend on how many diapers you need to buy if you wish to use cloth. If you don’t do your washing daily, you may need around 30 re-usable diapers to begin with which can be a large up-front cost to parents amongst all other baby necessities. However, if you plan to have more than one child, re-usable diapers can be passed down to your next child making it a more cost-effective option if your budget and time allows for it. If you wish to use other re-usable diapers such as terry towelling, they are cost-effective but difficult to perfect and take a lot of getting used to. However, they are good for newborns as they are durable, easy to wash and quick to dry.
Environmental impacts of re-usable diapers can be higher or lower dependant on how often they are washed and how they are dried. Re-usable diapers aren’t as absorbent as disposables so require more frequent changing which results in more washing and drying. Re-usable diapers may not be suitable for you if you struggle with draughts in and around your area due to the volume of washing they require. However, if you are purely concerned about water usage, front-load washing machines use less water than top load ones. The really valuable thing about reusable diapers is that if you wash them in a full load of washing, hang them out to dry (instead of putting them in the dryer) and pass them down to your next child, you will reduce your carbon footprint by 40%. To do that, it does take a lot of additional time and effort as there are a few steps you have to follow to contribute to reducing your carbon footprint. Firstly, it is important to only wash your diapers in a full load of washing to avoid wasting water. For hygiene reasons, it’s a good idea to wash your diapers all together, therefore, a full load is considered eight to ten diapers. Secondly, diapers should be hung out to dry instead of placed in the dryer, drawing out the cleaning process. If they are washed in half loads and then tumble dried, you actually end up defeating the sole purpose of trying to be more environmentally conscious. As the most popular re-usable diapers are the modern cotton cloth, they take longer to dry. This can either limit your supply if not washed frequently enough or could cost you more upfront when considering how many to purchase based on how often you launder.
Disposable diapers are definitely a more convenient option being a single use-throw away item. They obviously don’t require as much time to prepare as they don’t get washed or dried. Parents also quite like the fact that they can budget their diapers each week for their child. There isn’t that initial daunting upfront cost that re-usable diapers have and you never have to stress about doing the washing to have enough supply. Although the diapers can be budgeted into weekly costs, in the long run disposable diapers can be more expensive than reusables. It depends if you value the convenience factor of disposables enough to not worry about saving those extra few hundred dollars in the end. Disposables are also easier for when you take your baby out and they need changing, you can have a few spares in your bag and don’t have to take the dirty ones home. Now, although disposable diapers are more time friendly, they don’t have the same positive environmental impact that reusables have if they are washed and dried for correctly. In saying this, Happy Little Camper diapers contain up to 34% biodegradable materials and come in recyclable packaging to be as environmentally conscious as possible.
What is better?
Many people believe that re-useable cloth diapers are better for your baby’s skin compared to disposables, but that is not necessarily the case. It solely depends on what disposable diapers you are comparing it with. Many commercial diapers contain harsh chemicals that are bad for your baby’s skin and can cause allergic reactions and nappy rash. Diapers such as Happy Little Camper, are natural, contain no harsh chemicals and are hypoallergenic to be safe for your baby’s skin. In comparison to re-usable cloth diapers, both options are good, but neither one is beneficial if you don’t change it frequently enough. There are pros and cons to each so let your choice be a reflection of you and your baby’s needs and lifestyle.
Momigliano, A. (2019). What I wish they’d told me before I started using cloth diapers.
Raising Children.net.au. (2020). Nappies: Cloth nappies and disposable nappies.https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/health-daily-care/poos-wees-nappies/nappies
Stewart, E. (2020). Cloth nappies or disposables? We crunched the numbers so you don't have to.