To cloth diaper, or not to cloth diaper? This is likely one of the hardest decisions to make for parents interested in practising sustainability. On average, a newborn goes through 10-12 diapers per day. As they grow, this number decreases. Within their first year, however, you're still going to go through 2000-3000 diaper changes. And it will be anywhere from another 6 to 24 months before your baby is ready to be potty-trained.
With this many disposables going into the landfill, parents hoping to be eco-friendly often find themselves wanting to consider alternatives. Enter cloth diapers.
What's the big deal about cloth diapers?
Modern disposable diapers were not invented until after the Second World War. If you're a newborn parent now, your grandparents, possibly even your parents, were raised with cloth diapers. Once disposable diapers entered the market however, unsurprisingly, they very quickly took off. No longer did mothers have to spend extra time and effort washing soiled cloth in addition to all the other baby duties. So why are cloth diapers making a comeback?
Unfortunately, disposable diapers do not decompose well. Since they were introduced, they have begun to contribute more and more to quickly growing landfills. Where waste disposal is not carried out properly, these non-biodegradable diapers end up going into rivers and oceans.
As sustainability education becomes more widespread, parents are starting to consider switching back to cloth diapers. Of course, the cloth diapers of today aren't the same as those from our (grand)parents' generation. To meet new demands, companies have reinvented the cloth diaper—from waterproof outer layers with cloth (and disposable) inserts to all-in-ones.
So what about you? Should you cloth diaper your baby? At Bambino, we want to encourage you to make informed decisions. So we're making a list of pros and cons for you to consider!
Cloth diapers reduce waste.
This one is pretty evident. Cloth diapers are made to be reused multiple times and will not generate the sheer waste that disposable diapers do. Even hybrid diapers that make use of a reusable shell coupled with disposable inserts use less non-biodegradable material than a full disposable diaper.
If you're interested in the zero waste movement, or are trying to reduce your use of disposables, this may be a big factor for you.
Cloth diapers are better for sensitive skin.
Some of the chemicals and materials used in making disposable diapers so absorbent may cause irritation to your baby's skin. Additionally, some diapers contain fragrances and dyes, which your baby may be sensitive to.
If you notice that your baby's skin isn't reacting well to disposable diapers, cloth diapers can prove to be a useful alternative.
Cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run.
While the upfront cost of building a cloth diaper stash is higher, with each diaper costing anywhere from $20-$40 SGD depending on style, you save money in the long run. To reduce upfront cost, you can also choose to purchase them secondhand from Carousell or other parents selling their diapers on cloth diapering support groups.
Since cloth diapers are designed to be reused, you won't have to get a new set if you have a second child. In fact, if they remain in good condition after you've used them with your children, you may choose to sell them secondhand as well.
Cloth diapers are less convenient.
Nothing can beat the convenience of using and never having to think about that dirty diaper again. Many parents swear that cloths diapers aren't that difficult to launder, especially when your baby starts on solid food. The fact is, however, you will be spending extra time and effort dealing with the soiled diaper.
This is likely the disadvantage of cloth diapers that make it the most difficult for parents to give disposables up.
Cloth diapers are less absorbent.
The same material in disposable diapers that may irritate your child's skin is also the one that makes disposables so absorbent. This means you may have to change diapers or inserts more frequently than if you were using disposables. For this same reason, parents who have chosen cloth diapers sometimes opt for disposable inserts before bedtime. This allows them (and their children) to sleep without worrying about leaks.
Cloth diapers mean greater water and electricity use.
Laundering cloth diapers takes extra water and electricity. You'll need to wash off poop, then prewash soiled cloth diapers in their own laundry cycle before putting them in the wash a second time with the rest of your laundry.
Does this mean that the harm done to the environment with the increased water and electricity use is equivalent to that of using disposable diapers? According to this article in the Stanford alumni magazine, yes and no. On average, both come pretty close in terms of environmental impact. However, you can make changes to your cloth diaper washing routine, such as by choosing environmentally friendly laundry soap, that reduce its environmental impact.
So... should I cloth diaper my baby?
In the end, it really is up to you. We've presented the most important pros and cons of cloth diapering, but how each of these factors are weighted depends on your circumstances and what you value.
If you've gotten up until this point, it's safe to say you probably have some interest in cloth diapering your little one. If that's the case, why not give it a shot? It's the only surefire way of knowing how you and your munchkin like it. Get a few pairs of cloth diapers and see if it works out! If not, you can always sell them secondhand and use disposables instead.
If you're interested in trying cloth diapers in Singapore, we think this article does a good summary of all that you need to know and how you can begin!
At Bambino, we are committed to helping parents with their sustainable practices. Sign up for a baby clothing subscription box today to help reduce textile waste in our environment!