There is an endless debate between tree huggers and earth lovers and disposable nappy users and manufacturers on the benefits and otherwise of cloth nappies and disposables. Being a self proclaimed tree hugger I campaign for cloth nappies and shorts for kids any day. On a regular basis I use cloth, sometimes the nappy pad, but when I am going out, I swear by the disposables.
Since I use cotton shorts the entire day nowadays and used to use cloth nappies when they were younger, I had the practice of taking them to the washbasin or their potty chair and making them pee very often- as soon as they get up from sleep, before taking bath, before making them sleep, before putting a diaper, sometimes if they wake up in the middle of the night, every 45 minutes- 1 hour during the day, when they are playing. I feel it is comfortable for the baby also to pee comfortably rather than tied in a nappy. Also, after breakfast and after evening snacks I make them sit on the potty for the big job. According to me, when they pass it in their diaper/ nappy they do not do a thorough job.
At night I use the nappy pad so that the wetness does not spread to their clothes or the bed and they stay dry for some part of the night.
In this post, I offer my opinion on the good and the bad side of both kinds
Comfort-Cool cottons / terry cloth used for cloth nappies is good for the skin as long as the baby is not left in the wet nappy for a long time. The frequent changing and may be washing/ wet wiping at every nappy change helps in airing the skin too. A wet nappy is extremely uncomfortable for the baby and the wetness/ poop tends to leak out creating a messy and embarrassing situation. So what if they are babies? They do have their self respect. Since it is changed more often it may be less responsible for rashes or skin infection. Cotton shorts or a cloth diaper is much more comfortable any day.
Convenience- Extremely inconvenient when outside. May need to carry the soiled ones back home in a separate bag or anyway you might throw it away and that adds to the garbage. Cleaning them is a lot of hard work and time taking. And then one has to dry them and fold them back and keep them within easy reach for the day’s use.
Cost- Low or no cost. Many people use old duppattas, saris for making cloth nappies. Best of waste. They are recyclable and can be used atleast for 6 – 8 months. Some people also invest in the washable foam & plastic nappy wraps that holds the cloth nappy and does not allow the wetness to leak out. Some people iron nappies and therefore there is electricity cost added.
Environment- In terms of not creating landfills, this is a good one. But one does waste a lot of water in washing soiled nappies and pumps in a lot of detergents into the earth. Better to invest in energy saving washing machines which uses far lesser water than the standard ones. Eco friendly detergents could be another answer. And offcourse club the washing. Important to train the maid/ child care person in this. And since cloth diaper tends to leak, the bed gets wet and adds to the wash load.
Aesthetics- Low on the aesthetics score. Especially while going out, the look of the dress is spoiled by the cloth diaper. Take a lot of space in the cupboard. Soiled nappies in the bathroom are not a grand sight and neither a good one for the senses.
Comfort-The latest ones are getting baby skin friendly. There are diapers with wetness indicators to alert the parents too. The discomfort factor with the wetness in a diaper is less. But the problem comes when the diaper is left overnight or beyond 4-5 hours and one tends to become lax and does not frequently check the diaper for soiling. The baby may be left in the soiled / wet diaper for a long time causing rashes/ skin infection/ fungal infection. And my famous thought- may feel like wearing a sanitary napkin all while.
Convenience- Scores highest on convenience. Use and throw, no need to worry about washing, drying, ironing. Space saving. Tightly packed in the pack it comes in. Does not spoil the chair, does not wet/ spoil the bed. A blessing when you are outside. Easy to carry spares.
Cost- Expensive especially in India. Atleast Rs 10 per piece. Minimum 5 diapers daily if there is no poop done in a newly changed diaper is Rs 50 per day and therefore Rs 1500 per month. One needs to be prepared for the expense. Not affordable to someone below the consuming class/ middle class. The nappy pad costs Rs 5 per piece and tends to be more economical but cannot be conveniently used inside shorts. If one can get the diapers from abroad during their trips, it may cost as less as Rs 8/ I believe Naidu Hall has their own brand of diapers which is Rs 8-9 per piece and available in the T Nagar Branch. Some statistics-
- A baby will use around 5,000 nappies over their nappy-wearing life. That produces a mountain of waste equivalent to 130 black bin-bags full.
- Nearly 8 million nappies are thrown away every day in the UK; that's 3 billion a year.
- More disposable nappies are found in UK household waste than anything else. It is thought the plastics in disposable nappies could take hundreds of years to decompose.
Environment- Bad for the earth. The 8 million nappies that are thrown away each day, contribute to about 4% if the UK's total waste. We are running out of room in landfill sites and as the plastic used in disposable nappies may take up to 500 years to degrade, the impact this 'convenience' product has on the environment is questionable.
The long term impact of chemicals used in nappy production has not been studied.
- Disposable nappies contribute an average 2.4% of household waste which equates to around 0.1% of total landfilled waste. Paper and card contribute 17% to household waste and garden waste contributes a further 15%. Household waste is a fraction of all waste which is landfilled in the UK.
- Manufacturers have decreased the overall weight of disposable nappies by around 40%. Technology ensures the continued improvement of the overall environmental profile of disposable nappies.
-Disposable nappies are compatible with all prevalent forms of waste management.\
Biodegradable diapers may be the answer. And may make the tree huggers happy.
Aesthetics- High on aesthetics score. Does not spoil the look of a good attire.
Training- A baby may get used to passing urine only in the safety and comfort of a diaper. A friend mentioned that a child she knew used to poop only in his diaper and he refused to use the potty for a very long time. Trainer pants are extremely convenient for potty training and for older children when traveling and one does not have access to a clean bathroom- especially for girls.
As parents it is left to us to decide what we wish to use without feeling guilty either way as the impact of both on environment, wallet, convenience, comfort in total is more or less the same. Depends on what is the key to one as parents, is it comfort, convenience, cost, water or landfill.
To me the prime deciding factor is comfort for the baby. I rather leave them in shorts and let them run around comfortably than tie them in either diaper or cloth nappy which they try to remove nowadays. But at night, they may wet themselves or the bed and that is very annoying for them. Therefore I use a nappy pad on the cloth diaper or sometimes the diaper.