Is there a Definitive Answer to the Great Diaper Debate?

Photography:Alexa Doula Photography

By Danielle Vick

Young parents are forced to make a million and one decisions about how to take care of a newborn, often even before the baby arrives. Somehow, we have to know what kind of parent we’re going to be before we’re even parents.

Among the pregnant set, the Great Diaper Debate is often fiercely opinionated. Cloth, disposable, and even the diaperless baby all offer positives and negatives for your wallet, your child and the environment.

Since there are countless ways to be a great parent, let’s look at the environmental answer to the Great Diaper Debate and see if cloth or disposable comes out on top.

Cloth Diapers 

Cloth diapers seem to be the greenest solution, and their supporters do a really good job of making the rest of us feel like lazy, selfish, short-sighted parents.

On the plus side, in the course of diapering one kiddo, you’ll need only 24-36 cloth diapers, whereas you’ll go through 4,000 – 7,300 disposables. Factor in a 2nd or 3rd baby, and cloth is looking even better.

That’s a lot of poop we could potentially keep out of the landfill, where disposable diapers will fester for up to 500 years. Cloth diapers can be repurposed as rags, or donated to a cloth diaper bank

So, cloth wins out in the end-of-life story. But what about the rest of it?

Although cloth and disposable are almost equal in their carbon footprint, that’s not the case with water use. Thirty cloth diapers use almost nine times more water (and are likely made from regular old cotton, which is not a green crop) than 4,000 disposable diapers. 

Disposable Diapers 

They’re easy, convenient, and the blessing of working parents. But in the waste department, disposable diapers lose out big time.

Globally, about 20 billion diapers are thrown away every year.  

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