Today we have a guest post from the lovely team at Surf excel. One of their core values is to unleash human potential. They believe in encouraging parents to share experiences and exchange information on public platforms. Today they speak about a very relevant issue faced by mothers every where, the timeless battle between disposable and fabric diapers for kids.
‘Reusable diapers? What a horrible idea!’ Or at least that’s the line that’s being sold to us by companies like Huggies, Pampers, Dri Fit, Snuggy Dry, and the like. But do your research and you’ll find there’s more than meets the eye in the disposables vs. cloth debate. Weighing up the pros and cons is a complex matter for any busy mom, who will have lots of questions – will disposables make my baby sweat? Don’t cloth diapers leak? Are disposable or cloth diapers cheaper? Here we’ve taken some time to summarize the facts so you can make an informed decision.
How will they affect my baby’s skin?
In India, one of our main concerns when choosing the right diaper for our babies is the climate. We worry that our babies will sweat too much, will be in contact with irritants, and will end up with diaper rash. Since delicate skin should never be in prolonged contact with water (a strong argument for leaving our babies diaper-less), the choice of diaper will directly impact the frequency at which we must change our babies and the number of diapers we will need to have available – and therefore the cost.
Disposables are considerably better than they used to be in terms of breathability, and are often designed to draw large amounts of moisture away from a baby’s skin. They can, however, be full of chemicals as a result – ‘green’, chemical-free disposables are unfortunately harder to come by, and are less absorbent and more expensive.
In India, the cloth diapers that we’ve traditionally used (langots) have a dreadful reputation for low-absorbency. And for a long time, the newer, adaptable fabric diaper systems were either difficult to buy here or incredibly expensive. These days, there are a large number of affordable cloth options available in India that are designed to be absorbent – with or without inserts – and cater to even the most sensitive of skin. With fabric diapers, though, it’s also important to think about your choice of washing detergent in order to limit potential sources of irritation.
How convenient are cloth or disposable diapers?
Disposables are widely available, leaking is rarely an issue, and when one’s dirty, you just throw it away and grab another. When it comes to potty-training though, critics say disposables can actually prolong the process, as toddlers are so used to feeling dry they are less likely to be in tune with their body’s signs that they need to go to the toilet.
As for fabric diapers – well, potty training may well be easier to deal with, but when you’re out and about you’ll still have to find a way to discretely collect used diapers to take home later. You’ll also need to find space in your bathroom for soaking buckets, and a way to deal with the never-ending pile of washing. If you choose fabric diapers, you’ll definitely need to be organized.
How do I weigh up the monetary cost?
The average child has their diaper changed 6000 times until they are potty-trained. With disposables, you’ll purchase approximately this many individual diapers. The cost will be spread fairly consistently over the first two years of life (maybe longer) and will vary according to brand. In general, cheap disposable diapers tend to be less absorbent (so you use more), and ‘greener’ diapers are more expensive.
The cost of the initial purchase of fabric diapers (approx 15-20) depends on the system you choose, and whether you plan on using inserts. With langots the initial cost can be very low, but adding inserts to make them more absorbent will mean a weekly outlay too. More modern, efficient fabric diaper systems, like the BumGenius brand, have a higher initial cost that might not be attractive for lower income families, and inserts will take away from the weekly budget too. It’s also important not to forget the cost of washing in your calculations: increased water, electricity and detergent bills. And unless you are in a situation where you can outsource your washing or line-dry the diapers at home – even in monsoon weather – you’re going to need a buy a tumble dryer and soaking buckets at the very least. On the upside, diaper systems can be purchased second-hand, and used for multiple children too.
Which is better for the environment?
On the face of it, this should be an easy question, but there are a surprisingly large number of non-environmentally friendly factors on both sides. Disposable diapers are generally made from nonrenewable resources, represent an enormous amount of landfill waste globally – something like 27 million tons per year in the US, for example – and they can take hundreds of years to breakdown. But in a country like India, where water and energy is something we should be aiming to conserve, fabric diapers also come at a price. They are at their most environmentally friendly when these conditions are met: they are bought second-hand; washed in large loads in energy-efficient machines, with detergent that is gentle to the environment; line-dried; and used for more than one child.