Written by Rathnavalli Pradeep
Every decision a parent makes is one that is deliberated for months; Breastfeeding or formula? Traditional feeding or baby-led weaning? Solids at 6 months or 1 year? Similarly, cloth diapers or disposables are another such deliberated decision and usually a major point of contention.
Most Indian parents are pro DIY’ers and diaper their babies with home fashioned langotas from old cloth found at home – sarees, toweling fabrics, cotton sheets etc. But for those parents who are trying to make the decision between store-bought baby cloth diapers or disposable diapers, here are a few points you might want to read up about.
In This Article
Modern cloth diapers were invented to make eco-friendly & chemical-free traditional langota(लंगोट) style diapering easier. Earlier, parents used to find a ubiquitous piece of fabric and repurpose it by folding it into a triangle and holding it in place with a safety pin; the ultimate example of sustainable living. But, as parents became busier and more mobile, there was a need for a ‘new and improved’ model that saved time and brought about convenience and efficacy while still preserving the essence of langotas, it being: zero chemicals, eco-friendly & soft as cotton.
A Modern Cloth diaper is Made of the Following
Most cloth diapers found in the market today have these two parts in different material combinations. The best inserts usually have a natural fabric core such as bamboo, hemp or cotton to allow for extra high absorbency & liquid retention. Some of these inserts also come with toppers made from materials like polyester fleece or suede to allow for quick absorption and dryness. And of course, since these diapers are made from cloth and are resizable (fit perfectly on a 3 month or a 3-year-old baby) – they can be washed, used & repeated many many times! Newborn cloth diapers are also often used for smaller babies from birth to around 4-5 months.
Disposable diapers were invented not more than a century ago, to bring in convenience and ease of use for new parents in the bustle of the industrial revolution. The majority of the disposable diapers are made from a plastic waterproof outer and an adsorbent core filled with chemical crystals known as Super Absorbent Polymers (SAPs). These polymers are known for their high absorbency and water retention, while the waterproof plastic outer prevents leaks. Since they can be put on the baby once and thrown after use, they save caregivers a lot of time and effort!
As with any parenting decision, this is not a straightforward answer as both options have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important to remember that what may work well for one baby may not always work the same way for another. Here are some of the pros and cons of both to help you decide what works best for your family’s lifestyle!
Babies have sensitive, soft and poorly developed outer skin and harsh chemicals can lead to discomfort, rashes and other long-term effects. Disposables are known to contain SAPs, and while these are considered to be non-toxic and non-irritating when contained within the diaper, they can sometimes be released. In such cases of tears, excessive movement and a full diaper, these crystals can come in contact with the baby’s skin and cause skin irritation, rashes, and urinary tract infections.
Baby cloth diapers are 100% chemical-free and can be made from a variety of natural fabrics such as cotton, bamboo, hemp etc or manmade materials such as polyester, velvet, microfiber etc. While natural fabrics are preferred by parents, both of these fabric types are extremely safe against a baby’s sensitive skin. To avoid rashes with cloth diapers, you simply have to change your baby’s diaper often.
[Read : How To Hand-wash Cloth Diapers?]
Disposable diapers can absorb liquids quicker and in larger quantities than cloth diapers, due to the superabsorbent polymers present in them. These diapers also keep the baby’s bottom dry at all times even after leaving them on for long hours!
While modern cloth diapers have come a long way from folded makeshift langotas in terms of leaks and absorbency, they can still take slightly longer to dry after the baby pees. They are however made from super soft natural fabrics and tend to be very comfortable for the baby who can move freely in them!
On an average, a single baby using disposable diapers ends up wearing over 5000 diapers during their first 3 years, creating a ton of waste that ends up in landfills and remains there for the next 400-500 years. On the other hand, cloth diapers are made from biodegradable materials that degrade quickly. The absorbent inserts and ultra-dry topper layers take between 1 and 3 years to decompose while the waterproof outer may take 5 to 10 years!
The reason why cloth diapers are significantly better for the environment is primarily reliant on the fact that they are reusable 300+ times. They can be washed and used again and again – so a caregiver would need to purchase only around 15 diapers for their baby during their entire diapering years. However, baby cloth diapers require a consistent wash routine, which means one needs sufficient water and detergent to clean them well regularly. In the end, considering the number of resources that contribute towards manufacturing disposables and how long they take to degrade, cloth diapers come out on top despite the amount of water needed for laundry.
[Read : Washing Cloth Diapers In The Machine]
A typical baby is diapered until the age of 2.5 to 3 years until they’re completely potty trained. Switching to modern cloth diapers will not only help save the environment by reducing waste but parents also end up saving a lot of money as the diapers are reusable 300+ times! The cost per use for modern cloth diapers is 1/5th that of regular disposable diapers.
Disposables range between Rs.10 and Rs.16 a piece. Considering a minimum of 6 changes a day for 2.5 years, parents end up spending between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 100,000! In contrast, although the cloth diaper price, including the cost of inserts, is around Rs. 850, a parent will only need around 15 diapers in total for a period of 3 years as they can be washed and used over 300+ times bringing their spending to around Rs. 13,000.
Majority of parents prefer disposable diapers solely for the reason of convenience! Not having to wash them after every use saves parents a ton of time and planning! Parents who swear by cloth diapers are mentally prepared for the extra bit of work – they establish a regular wash routine, and prep their diapers in advance. Some disposables also come with tabs that change colour when the diaper is full, indicating to the caregiver that it’s time for a change!
Now that you’re equipped with all this information about cloth and disposable diapers, you can make a decision based on what suits your family best! Another important point that we’d like to leave you with is that you can always PICK BOTH! Choosing cloth diapers doesn’t mean that you have to use them 100% of the time. A lot of parents prefer to use modern cloth diapers at home, use disposables when stepping out of the house and leave the baby in diaper-free time as often as possible! Any decision you make is the best decision as it suits the needs of your family and your baby best. If you decide to try out cloth diapers, check out this Indian brand below!
Bum Print Baby cloth diapers are perfect for parents who like all things natural for their baby! These diapers are washable, reusable & durable so you don’t need to dispose of the diaper every time. You can keep resizing them to fit your baby from birth to 3 years (5 – 17kgs). The soft, breathable and ultra-absorbent inserts are made from bamboo cotton that lasts all night (12+ hrs) and will always keep your baby’s bottom dry and comfy!
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