Home / Kid's Health / The great diaper debate: Cloth or disposable?

The great diaper debate: Cloth or disposable?

Photo of mom and baby wearing cloth diapersThat most basic of all young children’s clothing – the diaper – is gaining prominence as new options and features abound.

Looking for convenience? Disposables are the way to go.

Want to save money? Cloth is the clear winner, costing about half as much as disposables. With snaps and Velcro closures attaching the diaper to a diaper cover, you need not fear safety pins anymore. And if you have another child, you can re-use them and save even more.

Concerned about the environment? Biodegradable diapers, which will easily break down in a landfill, might be hard to find in area stores right now but are available on the Web.

What’s best for you and your baby?

It’s a personal decision, said Gini Woolworth, a Marshfield Clinic pediatric nurse practitioner. Over the 30 years she’s consulted with new parents, she’s seen swings from cloth when she started, to disposables and recently back to cloth and biodegradables.

“For busy parents who don’t want the extra work of cloth, disposables and biodegradables work,” she said. “If you have the time and energy, cloth diapers are fine.”

She recommends washing and rinsing diapers twice to rid the smell of ammonia from urine and hanging them outdoors to dry when possible. Ammonia can cause a rash if not washed out thoroughly.

Care My Way® gives quick treatment for common conditions like diaper rash. Download the app to get started.

Jennifer Trader used disposables for her first child, Delia, 6, but is using cloth on her 21-month-old, Kate. Like many other parents, she uses disposables for Kate when they’re traveling.

“With Delia, it was more a matter of convenience and we really hadn’t heard much about cloth,” said Trader, who lives in the Pittsville area. “But the whole time I knew disposables were not good for the environment.”

Her sister convinced her to try the newer type of cloth diapers, which snap into place with the diaper cover. She also employs a little trick, placing a piece of fleece in the diaper where the poop collects. She simply sweeps it off the fleece and into the toilet. She’s also noticed a side benefit to cloth diapers.

“We’ve been toilet training since she was 17 months and I think it’s easier with cloth diapers,” she said. “The baby can tell the diaper is wet, is becoming more aware of that feeling and doesn’t want to feel it. With disposable diapers they can’t tell if they’re wet because the wetness is pulled away. At 21 months, she’s about 90 percent toilet trained.”

Bottom line?

Choose the diaper that best works for your baby and your lifestyle since all options work well.

2 responses to “The great diaper debate: Cloth or disposable?”

  1. Mary Ann Van Leur

    It would be so wonderful if a branch of Marshfield Clinic could venture down to the Appleton-Fox Cities area. Is there a problem with friendly competition? Please let me know. I am not "connected" with any medical concern.

    1. Jake Miller

      Hi, Mary,

      Thanks for the kind note. We're always looking for the best way to provide patients access to our care, and assessing which communities we are able to serve.

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