Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers

In CategoryCloth Diapers, Cloth vs. Disposable, Green Living

Cloth vs. Disposable by: Lisa M. Carey

Many women don’t consider using cloth diapers unless their child has a reaction to a disposable diaper. However, there is a growing trend for many parents, and even celebrities in using stylish cloth diapers on their babies.  You will want the best for you baby, including the best diapering option out there!  Every parent chooses cloth diapers for their own personal reasons; however, the facts within this article are sure to have you consider using cloth diapers on your next baby.   We want parents to make informed decisions, so use the information within this article to help guide you in making your final decision.

One child will require between 5000-7000 diaper changes in the first two years of life. This means a family can spend upward of $2,600.00 in diapers by the time that child is potty trained.  This does not include the additional costs associated with using disposable diapers such as, creams, wipes, diaper genies or other plastic bags, and swimming or training diapers. With the wide selection of modern cloth diapers from single or dual system diapers, a family that chooses to use cloth diapers can save anywhere from  $1,600.00 per child over the child’s diapering life. This is a huge savings and families save even more when there is more than one child in diapers.

Parents often are not told of the health risks associated with using many baby products, including the potential hazards in a disposable diaper. Often they turn to cloth diapers as a resolution to their child’s skin problems or even asthma after they have tried everything else.  In a 1999 study, it was discovered that lab mice exposed to the chemicals released by 3 different types of disposable diapers experienced eye, nose and throat irritation and bronchoconstriction- a reaction similar to an asthma attack 1. Cloth diapers did not produce any of the same reactions. It is not common for parents to know that the dioxins in a disposable diaper are a highly carcinogenic by product of the paper bleaching process. It is banned in many countries, but not the US 2.  It is also imperative that parents remember that these ‘off-gasses’ are present in many baby products including crib mattresses and mattress covers.  It is always better to be proactive and preventative when it comes to our children’s health and safety, and it is a reminder to parents to not always accept messages given by manufacturers.

Have you ever stopped to think where the dirty diaper goes after you throw it in the garbage? It is estimated that 92% of disposable diapers make it to the landfill 3. Once there, the fecal matter left in a diaper contaminates soil and water, affecting the water quality and wildlife. Although fecal matter should be deposited into the toilet, whether you use cloth diapers or disposable diapers, most parents don’t bother depositing it into the toilet when they are just throwing out a diaper. However, when using cloth diapers it is recommended you dispose of fecal matter into the toilet where it belongs, prior to washing the diaper.  Therefore, the fecal matter is disposed of in a more sanitary way so it can be treated properly in a sewage plant once flushed down the toilet.  In addition, disposable diapers not only affect water quality when disposed into a landfill, but can take up to 500 years to decompose.  When you factor in 5000 diaper changes for one child,  that is a lot of diapers hanging around a landfill for the lifetime of that child and longer!

The next time you are shopping for that package of diapers, stop and think for a moment of the facts within this article. As an alternative shop at your local cloth diapering store or natural parenting boutique to ensure you are doing your best to care for your baby and the Earth.

1. “Disposable diapers linked to asthma”. Mothering Magazine. January/February 2000, Issue 98. Retrieved. from:

2 Allsopp, Michelle.  Achieving Zero Dioxin: An emergency strategy for dioxin elimination.  September 1994.  Greenpeace.