For starters, cloth diapers are nothing like the triangular cloth nappies most of us grew up in. They function just like disposable diapers but are reusable, with just as much absorbency and ease of use as disposable diapers. And they come in oh so cute prints while doing all that.
Following are the major reasons why cloth diapers are a viable diapering option:
Let’s get to the cost savings and other benefits of cloth diapers first before we decode their different kinds.
Cost saving with cloth diapers
Unlike disposable, which you can start with a packet and then keep replenishing, you need some upfront investment involved in starting with cloth diapers. One would need 7-8 diapers, to begin with. Cloth diapers could cost a few hundred to several thousand in price, depending on the choice of type and quality of the diaper. Then, one preferably needs a wet bag to collect soiled diapers in for washing (that’s because nobody washes a diaper every time it comes off the bum).
- Phenomenal cost savings during a 2-3 year usage (additional saving via resale)
- Environmental friendly as they generate significantly lesser biodegradable waste
- Skin friendly as they contain no chemicals owing to use of natural/man-made fabric
- Suitable for all climatic conditions especially hot/humid Indian weather
Are Cloth diapers environment-friendly
There is a huge debate about the environmental damage of disposable diapers vs cloth diapers. The discussion encompasses various factors like:
- Carbon foot-print: Energy & water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions etc
- Biodegradability or compostability
- Correct disposal of poop from diapers
With a cloth diaper, the poop goes into the toilet (where it should go). With a disposable diaper, most parents dispose of the diapers without spraying off the poop. When these go into landfill, the poop can be a bio-hazard and end up polluting groundwater.
Some research shows that the carbon footprint of both disposable diapers and cloth diapers is comparable. However, one can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of cloth diapers by line drying instead of machine drying and especially by reusing cloth diapers for another child/sibling.
A disposable diaper can take anywhere between 100-300 years or more to decompose. And on average, a child needs around 4000 diapers in two years. So millions of diapers around the globe go into landfill every year and no decomposition in sight for at least 100 years!!! Even the cloth diapers are not necessarily fully biodegradable. If it uses a man-made fabric, its mostly made from petrochemicals (which contains plastic). However, a fully cloth diapered child needs just 20-30 diapers. Hence there is a massive reduction in the waste generated. Plus using diapers made from natural fiber further reduces the waste generated.
Cloth diapers work well in Indian weather
Many parents complain of a nasty rash with a disposable diaper at least once during diapering time. This is especially prevalent in hot Indian summers. Many doctors, in fact, ask parents to reduce disposable diaper usage during summers or for humid climates. Cloth diapers on the other hand (though wrongly assumed as less breathable) are better suited for hot climatic conditions. They rarely cause a rash, and even if there is one, they are more gentle on the skin when a baby has a rash.
Cloth diapers are friendly on baby’s skin
Cloth diapers are made from natural fabrics, and in some cases from man-made fabrics. Hence they do not contain chemicals (for absorbency) and are 100 percent skin friendly.
Disposable diapers use chemicals to increase absorbency. These chemicals can be harsh on baby’s sensitive skin and often require the use of a thick layer of diaper cream to prevent rashes.