Anyone born before 1948 has no idea what a disposable plastic diaper feels like on their bottom. Although they might be wearing adult diapers by now so maybe they do!
Johnson & Johnson created the first mass-marketed disposable diaper in the U.S. in 1948 and with that creation changed motherhood forever. Up until that time mothers used large safety pins and cotton material. Mothers had the choice of a diaper service or buying diapers and just washing them, themselves.
But with progress come trade-offs. So now young mothers have a serious question to resolve: Do I use cloth or disposable diapers? We rounded up some salient statistics to help you decide.
Time and money
Cloth diapers will cost about $300 a year — versus the $2,000 you’d spend on disposable baby diapers for the same amount of time. If you do the laundry yourself you will add about three extra loads a week, so factor in electricity and laundry soap. Still a good savings unless you get a diaper service.
As its name implies, a diaper service rents out cloth diapers, washes them, and delivers clean ones to your door for about $3,500 a year. Yes the costs are adding up and we haven't even started preschool yet!
Convenience is everything with a baby. Having cloth diapers means you don't have to run out in the middle of the night when you run out of diapers. No lugging industrial size boxes of diapers from Costco. Beware though -- lugging cloth diapers means lugging dirty diapers as well so it could mean you might not smell so great all of the time. The plus side is people might let you get ahead of them in line.
Obviously with disposable diapers you use them and then dispose of them, which is pretty convenient No lugging them along for the car ride. They hold more liquid as well so not as many changes. Disposables are full of chemical gels and if you are concerned about what's next to your baby's bottom then that might be a concern.
If what your baby is wearing doesn't concern you but the environment does then don't let this info go to waste -- 20 billion diapers are thrown away every year in the United States. The production, distribution, and disposal of these diapers leaves a staggering footprint on our planet. The average disposable diaper can take 500 years to decompose and contains petroleum, plastics, perfumes, wood pulp, and dioxins. As of 1990, disposable diapers made up 1.6% of municipal waste.
About 7 in 10 Americans say they would support banning disposables.
But there's another side to it. Disposable diapers may fill up the landfill, but cloth diapers require a lot of electricity and water usage to keep them clean -- and if you use a diaper service, that's that truck -- probably diesel -- driving back and forth from your house to the diaper depot.
There have been numerous studies to compare the environmental impacts of the dueling diaper protocols, but none has been completely clear.
Its a decision that can wipe you out thinking about it.