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Diapers: Disposable or Cloth?

Since disposable diapers were introduced about forty years ago, these modern diapers are meeting the needs and expectations of most parents; however, diaper choice is a decision that every new parent faces. Ideally, you should make the choice between cloth and disposable diapers before the baby arrives, so you can stock up or make delivery arrangements ahead of time. In order to plan ahead, you should know that most newborns go through about ten diapers a day.

Disposable Diapers

Most disposable diapers today consist of an inner liner next to the baby to help keep wetness away from the skin, an absorbent core made of purified wood pulp and superabsorbent polymers, and an outer waterproof covering. Over the years, disposable diapers have become thinner and lighter, while continuing to meet the needs for containment, comfort, ease of use, and skin care. When changing a soiled diaper, dump loose stool into a toilet. Do not flush the diaper, because it can block your plumbing. Wrap the diaper in its outer cover, and discard in a waste receptacle.

Cloth Diapers

Like disposable diapers, reusable cloth diapers have improved in recent years, and are available in a variety of absorbencies and textures. If you want to use a diaper service, shop around; ideally, a diaper service should pick up dirty diapers and drop off clean ones twice a week. If you choose to wash diapers yourself, keep them separate from other clothes. After you dump stool into the toilet, rinse the diapers in cold water, then soak them in a mild detergent solution with bleach. Wring them out, then wash in hot water with a mild detergent.

Diaper Choice

Diaper choice has been complicated in recent years by the debate on the environmental effects of diapers, mostly centered on the effects of disposable diapers on landfill space. Actually, a number of scientific studies have found that both cloth and disposable diapers have environmental effects, including raw material and energy usage, air and water pollution, and waste disposal. Disposable diapers add 1 to 2 percent to municipal solid waste, while cloth diapers use more energy and water in laundering and contribute to air and water pollution. In the end, it is up to individuals to make their own decisions about diaper type based on their own concerns and needs.

There are some health aspects to consider as well. Excessively wet skin and contact with urine and stool can cause diaper rash. Because cloth diapers can’t keep wetness away from your baby’s skin as effectively as disposables, it’s especially important to change cloth diapers quickly after they become wet or soiled.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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