The average baby will use over 2,000 diapers in just the first year of their life. Over the course of their diapering years, you’re looking at more like 4,000-5,000 diapers. (Though I feel like mine uses at least 1,000 in a week!)
Either way, that’s a lot of diapers! And while there are more choices than ever when it comes to what type of diaper to use, many parents are choosing to go with cloth.
If you’re struggling with the decision of whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, hopefully this post will help you.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cloth diapering, shall we?
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Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapers
- Less expensive long-term
- Smaller environmental footprint
- You won’t run out of diapers
- They’re cute!
- Best option for sensitive skin
- Might help with potty training
- More comfortable than disposables
- You can sell them when you’re done
- More expensive up-front
- Requires a lot of additional laundry loads
- Not as absorbent as disposables
- You have to deal with a lot of poop
- Not compatible with all diaper rash creams
- Daycares may not accept cloth diapers
- You may buy more than you need
Now let’s dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of cloth diapers so you can (hopefully) decide what’s best for your family.
PROS of Cloth Diapering:
The higher upfront cost of cloth diapers can be off-putting for some parents. That’s because a good quality modern cloth diapering system will run you about $350-$700. And though that might seem like a lot, when you compare it to the cost of disposables over the course of two and a half years (the average length of time a baby is in diapers), you’re actually saving quite a bit of money by using cloth.
Taking the number estimates above, you’re looking at spending $1,300 on disposable diapers over the first two years of your baby’s life. That’s calculated at $0.30 per diaper (though this can definitely get more expensive, depending on the brand you choose).
So, while there is an initial investment required for cloth diapering, it will save you money in the long run, especially if you have multiple children.
Less Environmental Impact
Another big selling point for reusable diapers is that they have a much smaller environmental footprint than disposable diapers.
This, of course, is because you’re not producing as much waste that will end up in a landfill at the end of the week. When you use disposables, THOUSANDS of diapers just go straight to the trash. (And then sit in a landfill… forever.)
It’s worth it to note here that many people say the environmental impact isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be because you’re using a lot more water and electricity by washing your diapers every few days.
You have much greater control of your environmental footprint when you use cloth though. You can purchase a more efficient washing machine, use eco-friendly detergents, line dry your diapers, etc. There are definitely ways to cloth diaper in an eco-friendly way that will cut down on their environmental cost even further.
You Won’t Run Out Of Diapers
Unless you let your laundry pile up for a week (which, let’s be honest, we all do sometimes), you’re not going to run out of diapers.
That means you won’t have any last-minute late-night runs to Target because you’re down to one diaper. (Yes, I’ve done this before.)
Ideally, you’ll have about 30 cloth diapers, which will get you through an entire week, but you’ll be doing laundry regularly throughout the week, so you’ll always have some clean diapers to use when you need them.
This is admittedly a superficial reason, but cloth diapers are just plain cute.
There are so many different prints and colors to choose from these days, and you can even get custom-made diapers with your child’s name or initials on them.
In my opinion, cloth diapers are much cuter than printed disposables because the colors are so rich and vibrant.
They’re Great For Sensitive Skin
If your baby has sensitive skin, cloth diapers can actually be better for them than disposables.
Some babies do develop a rash from cloth diapers, but this is usually because of a reaction to laundry detergent or fabric softener. If you suspect your baby’s rash is caused by their diapers, you can try using a different laundry detergent or switching to unscented fabric softener (or not using fabric softener at all – we don’t!).
They Can Help Potty Train Early
This isn’t true for all children, but some parents find that potty training is easier when they use cloth diapers.
There are a few theories as to why this is the case, but one popular theory is that because cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposables, kids can feel when they’re wet… and they don’t like it.
So, they start to potty train earlier so they don’t have to feel that wetness anymore.
Of course, this is just a theory, and there’s no guarantee that your child will potty train early just because you use cloth diapers. But it’s definitely something to consider if you’re hoping to potty train sooner rather than later.
They’re More Comfortable
I’ve never worn a cloth diaper, so I don’t have first-hand experience, but most people agree that cloth diapers are much more comfortable for babies.
This is because they’re usually made of softer materials and they don’t have the harsh chemicals that can irritate your baby’s skin.
You Can Sell (Or Donate) Them When You’re Done
To add to the long-term cost savings, you can actually sell your cloth diapers when you’re done using them. Or, if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of selling them, you can always donate them to a family in need.
Either way, you’ll be able to get some of your money back (or at least help someone else out), which is definitely a plus.
CONS of Cloth Diapers:
Higher Up-Front Cost
The biggest con of cloth diapers is that they have a higher up-front cost than disposables.
A good quality cloth diaper system can cost anywhere from $300 to $500, whereas you can run to Target and get a few weeks’ supplies of disposable diapers for less than $50.
So, if you’re on a tight budget, it might be difficult to buy everything you need at once. In that case, I’d recommend putting them on your baby registry and marking them as “must-haves.” Anything you don’t get at your baby shower, you can purchase in smaller quantities. Maybe you can purchase 2-4 cloth diapers per month until your baby arrives. That will give you about 28 diapers if you start when you’re about 8 weeks pregnant.
Cloth diapers are more work than disposables, and they’ll give you quite a few extra loads of laundry per week.
You have to wash them regularly, which means you have to have a good washing machine and dryer. And if you don’t have access to a washing machine and dryer, you’ll need to take them to a laundromat, which can be a pain.
You also have to use the right detergent and you have to make sure they’re rinsed well. If you don’t rinse them well enough, you could end up with a stinky diaper situation on your hands (literally).
So, if you’re not willing to do a little extra laundry, cloth diapers might not be for you.
That being said, there are diaper services available in some areas that will pick up, wash, and return your diapers each week. But using one of these services may negate the cost savings because they can charge upwards of $35 per week.
They’re Not as Absorbent
This one is definitely a con for cloth diapers.
They’re not as absorbent as disposables, which means you’ll probably have to change them more often. This can be a pain if you’re out and about and don’t have easy access to a changing station.
And, if your baby is a heavy wetter, you might find that you’re changing their diaper a lot in the middle of the night too.
To make things a little easier, some people choose to use eco-friendly disposable diapers at night and when they’re out and about. Then they only use cloth diapers when they’re at home during the daytime.
Let’s be real for a minute. Diapers (in general) are gross. I don’t think any parent finds out they’re going to have a baby and instantly thinks, “Yes! I can’t wait to change a bunch of stinky diapers!”
Yes, you have to deal with your baby’s poop when you use disposable diapers too. But it’s different.
When you use disposable diapers, you just wipe baby clean and toss out the diaper (but by the way, you shouldn’t ever burn disposable diapers!).
When you use cloth diapers, you wipe baby clean and then you have to dump the solid waste, rinse the diaper (some people use a diaper sprayer to make this easier), soak it if it’s a super dirty diaper, and then put the diaper in a bucket or bag until you’re ready to wash it. And then you have to deal with it again later when it’s time to do a load of laundry.
So, some people think they can’t deal with all the “mess.” If that sounds like you, then cloth diapers probably aren’t for you.
Diaper Rash Cream Is (Probably) Not A Good Idea
If your baby gets a rash, you might want to put some cream on it. But most diaper rash creams are not compatible with many modern cloth diapers.
The reason is that the cream can build up on the fabric and make the diapers less absorbent. Plus, it can be difficult to get the cream completely out of the fabric, which means you might end up with a yucky residue on your baby’s bottom.
So, if you plan to use cloth diapers, you might want to invest in a good quality rash cream that’s compatible with them.
Or you might want to stick with disposable diapers instead.
Some Daycares Won’t Cloth Diaper
If you plan to put your baby in daycare, you should know that some childcare facilities won’t use cloth diapers.
The reason is that they’re not as convenient as disposables. The staff has to deal with the extra laundry, and they might not have the time or the resources for it.
So, if you’re planning to use cloth diapers, you might want to find a home daycare or a nanny who is willing to use them. Or you might want to stick with disposables at daycare and only use cloth diapers at home instead.
You Might Want To Over-Buy
As mentioned in the “pros” section above, cloth diapers are super cute (in my opinion, at least), and you may find yourself becoming somewhat of an addict to them.
Many diaper brands come out with “limited edition” prints and colors that are only available for a short time. So, if you see something you like, you might get a little bit of FOMO and want to buy it before it’s gone.
So if you’re the kind of person who likes to have a lot of choices, or if you’re just really into cute baby things (like me), you might start to over-buy cloth diapers.
And then they may not be the cost savings you thought they’d be.
Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Diapers: Which One Is Right For You?
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to cloth diapers vs disposable diapers. It’s a personal decision that you’ll have to make based on your own circumstances. Here are a few comparisons to help you decide:
Disposable vs Cloth Diapers – Price
The initial investment for cloth diapers is higher than for disposable diapers. However, over time, cloth diapers will save you money since you can use them over and over again.
So if you’re looking to save a lot of money over the years (especially if you plan to have more than one child), then cloth diapers are probably the way to go.
CLOTH IS CHEAPER!
Disposable vs Cloth Diapers – Convenience & Usability
Disposable diapers are definitely more convenient than cloth diapers. There’s no extra laundry to deal with and you don’t have to worry about storing soiled diapers until you’re ready to wash them.
If you want something that’s easy to handle and you don’t mind spending a bit more money, then disposable diapers are probably the way to go.
DISPOSABLE IS EASIER!
Disposable vs Cloth Diapers – Environmental Impact
Cloth diapers are better for the environment than disposable diapers since they can be reused over and over again. Disposable diapers, on the other hand, will end up in a landfill where they’ll take hundreds of years to decompose.
So if you’re looking for an eco-friendly option, then cloth diapers are probably the way to go.
CLOTH IS BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!
Disposable vs Cloth Diapers – Health & Safety
There’s no definitive answer when it comes to health and safety. Some people believe that disposable diapers are more sanitary since you can simply throw them away after use. But there are typically fewer toxic chemicals in cloth diapers, so they’re a better option if you’re looking for a more natural product.
CLOTH IS MORE NON-TOXIC!
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and your family. There are pros and cons to both disposable and cloth diapers, so weigh them out and make the decision that’s right for you.