Parenting For Dummies
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The freckle-faced kid at the checkout counter asks, "Paper or plastic?" You seem to lose with either choice: Do you want to use paper and kill a tree to take home your groceries, or do you want to use plastic and fill up landfills?

Another major life puzzle you'll face as a new parent is cloth versus disposable diapers. People can become fanatical about the subject, and boxes of literature have been produced arguing the pros and cons of both.

Solid advice: Use cloth or disposable and don't feel bad about your choice. It's a diaper. It collects poop and pee. Nothing more. The choice of what diaper to use seems to be a hot topic among parents. Some may look at this as wasted energy.

Disposable diapers

Good luck when you start hunting for disposable diapers. The shelves are plum full of different brands, sizes, shapes — even those intended for girls, those for boys. It's amazing. Here are some pros and cons for using disposable diapers:


  • Disposables are easy; you just throw them away.
  • Traveling is easier with disposables.
  • Disposables are great for kids who have diarrhea because these diapers don't leak.


  • Disposables don't disintegrate — so they fill up landfills more.
  • Disposables can be expensive.
  • Using disposables may increase the time it takes to potty train your child because the little one can't feel it when he's wet.

Cloth diapers

Most folks have heard somebody's "war stories" about how Aunt Tillie or Grandma Myra used to hang diapers out to dry when there was snow piled up to her knees. Can you imagine how cold those diapers were when she took them down? (And how did she warm them before wrapping them around the appropriate posterior?) Oh well, cloth diapers have some advantages as well as some disadvantages.


  • Cloth is more natural.
  • Cloth diapers now come with Velcro straps, so you don't have to worry about safety pins.
  • If you don't like washing diapers, you can use a diaper service that will pick up, wash, and deliver diapers to you on a weekly or biweekly basis (provided you don't live too far out in the hills).
  • Washing your own diapers is less expensive than using a service. Cloth diapers, regardless of whether you use a service or wash them yourself, are less expensive than disposables.
  • Cloth diapers make great burp rags (placed on your shoulder so the liquid burps don't get on you). When your kids grow out of them, they make great dusting rags.


  • Cloth diapers use water and electricity to wash.
  • Cloth diapers must be rinsed out in the toilet, and you have to deal with the mess and the smell.
  • Cloth diapers leak more than disposables (even with the plastic outer pants).
  • Cloth diapers are not good for travel because you have to carry the used diapers with you.

The problems with both disposable and cloth diapers are that both can cause diaper rash equally, and both smell really bad after they've been used.

The diaper solution

One possible solution to the diaper dilemma is using a combination of cloth and disposable. Yes, that's allowed! Use cloth diapers at home and then use disposable diapers for trips, outings to the store, when your child has diarrhea, and possibly even for nap and bedtime.

If you decide to go with the cloth diapers, use a diaper service for the first couple of months after you have your new baby. You're going to be too tired and busy with your newborn to take the time to wash out diapers. You'll be surprised by how much potty material a little newborn can produce.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Sandra Hardin Gookin serves as a parenting expert for Parents Magazine and Working Mother Magazine.

Dan Gookin wrote the international bestseller DOS For Dummies. They have four sons.

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