The Great Diaper Debate

Feature: The Great Diaper Debate

Trends in parenting, as with other aspects of our lives, are typically driven by the income-to-time ratio currently experienced by consumers. Twenty years ago, in the dot-com era, families had more disposable income and less time on their hands, leading them away from breastfeeding and cloth diapering.

In recent years, however, the tides have turned again and parents are, for various reasons, reverting back to those previously coveted methods of feeding and diapering their brood, with a few changes in the latter practice since your grandmother covered the bottoms of your parents.

For some, the thought of doing the dirty and hassle-filled business of cleaning and laundering diapers daily is too much to handle, but others say using chemical-laden disposables is far less appealing. Other consumer considerations are saving money and caring for the environment.

We have outlined some of the comparisons of cost, time, health and tolls to the environment on the right to help you determine what is best for your family.




You’re looking to change about 16 or more diapers per day during the first month alone, using around 1,500 total diapers during the first four months. Calculating an average of $0.32 per diaper, you could spend upwards of $480 or more in that time and a whopping $2,500 (or more!) before potty training is complete.

That doesn’t cover the diapers the little rugrat grows out of before the pack is finished. And if you have a diaper receptacle, you should also consider the price of it and the bags and/or inserts for it.


Check out the website, Diaper Decisions, for a credible cost comparison between many of the different type of cloth diapering systems and disposables.


How quick can you change a diaper and throw the used one in the receptacle?


While breathable, these diapers are typically treated with multiple chemicals, especially the super-absorbent ones, which have allegedly caused burns to some baby bums. The numbers are uncertain as major brands like Huggies and Pampers continue to settle those cases out of court.

As long as you change diapers frequently for either selection, your baby should see no difference in their health.


Used by approximately 95 percent of American parents, there is an estimated 18 billion disposable diapers thrown in U.S. landfills each year, each of which will take hundreds of years to break down. The damage and toll this choice is taking on the earth is certainly more evident and tangible.

Additionally, disposables come with their own fuel and air pollution with their delivery and distribution. They also use petroleum-based products, having its own effect on the environment.

For a more green option here, check out the (more expensive) biodegradable disposables.



Initially, cloth diapers carries a hefty investment to the tune of anywhere between $150 to $450, depending on the system you choose—of which there are many—and the quantity you start out with. Along with that, you should consider the additional costs of laundry detergent and water used in daily load (or two) of laundry per day—less if you go with certain types of pocket diapers. As the baby grows and you buy larger diapers to accommodate, you should expect to pay about $1,500 over the span of that child’s diapering years. Another perk is that you can use your stash for future children, as well, or sell them for a reasonable price online.

A popular option is to have a disposable, bio-degradable lining that can be used with some pocket diapers, which would have its own mounting expenditures associated with it. Also, the Diaper Genie equivalent in cloth diapering is the wet bag. Depending on how many you might need, this is another cost to your kit, albeit much less at around $10.

If you don’t have the time to launder your diapers or simply can’t take the mess, you can also opt for diaper laundry services, which will set you back a little more.


Clearly the more time-consuming option, cloth diapering takes almost daily dedication, or up to three days if you have enough diapers to last. Some diapers may also take up to two to five washes to completely clean.

The Real Diaper Industry Association has some cleaning tips on their site at


Especially for babies with allergies or sensitive skin, this option offers natural fibers that could reduce break-outs. However, if improperly washed and cared for, ammonia could begin to build up on the diapers causing chemical burns on the baby.


While these diapers are not filling landfills, the wastewater and energy associated with constant laundering—plus fuel and air pollution used by commercial diaper services—has some experts on the fence. The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to confirm this as the more environmentally friendly choice.

Another green option to consider is the biodegradable liners, with the urine-saturated ones fit for your compost pile.

Want more information on making the switch to cloth diapers? 

Check out our Momtrepreneur feature on the moms of Cover Your Bum Cloth Diaper Bank.


From Our Nest
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From Our Nest is an independent, mommy-owned-and-operated publication for families in the region. Published by two professionally accomplished and family-oriented mothers of the Ozarks, From Our Nest has reached great heights since its first publication in early 2013.

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