Baby Gear

Cloth diapers VS Disposable...the neverending debate

8:00 AM

When I attended the prenatal classes, the lady bluntly said "Don't use disposable, they are bad for Indian babies in this climate"
And I couldn't help but thinking "There is goes, the debate remains open"

First of all for my non-indian reader, the cloth diapers here aren't the new generation of cute leak proof washable things you find in the west, nope, it is a cotton square cloth in which you insert a disposable pad. They leak, and sag if baby moves too much or isn't tightened properly.
There is only one store that sells the new hi-tech cloth diapers as we know it abroad, it's mothercare and you need to buy new sizes every 3 months, and they are costly, basically if you choose to go this route, you need to spend at least 4 months worth of disposable diaper for the first 3 months, and that is before you spent the fortune on electricity and water and detergent to get these cleaned up, so they are so so so not worth it, I'll leave these out of the debate.

The fun thing of this whole disposable vs washable debate is that if you want to be fair you would apply it to ladies pads as well, but it seems that the only evil is the disposable baby diaper, Kotex, Whisper, and Stay free while containing more plastic than Ishita's pampers are still accepted widely and I keep wondering why, after all a lady's private parts are as sensitive if not more than a baby's butt, and yet trapping it 7 days a month in plasticky pads is accepted and not at all stigmatized.

The other funny fact about why people seem to push the cloth diaper agenda around here isn't even the environmental factor, nope it's the diaper rash one. Disposables are apparently evil because they cause rashes. Sorry to say, but no they don't cause more rashes than any other diapers, you just need to change it every in time and clean and dry baby's skin in between just as you would do with a cloth diaper. Beside while the first generations of disposable had a lot of plastic in them preventing the skin from breathing right, the new generation has a cloth feel, absorb fluids better and keep them away from the skin (pretty much like you Kotex pad).
On the other hand cloth diapers also have a disposable pad in them here, so I wonder why there is such a fuss made about the diaper to begin with, the disadvantage of the cloth diaper is that it leaks, and leaks bad, at each change you can change the clothes as well, and the bed sheet while we are at it, if not your own clothes if the leak occurred on your lap, to prevent the leak, you can find "Diapers cover" in most baby shops, they are made of PVC totally plasticky and unbreathable, so if you put one of these on, you end up with a result worse than the good old Disposable diapers from the 80's, where is the advantage I ask you?

On the environment thing, well, the debate is open, I would say that in a country that has no issue with water it would be sound to wash, instead of throwing. But South India see water scarcity every dry season. A cloth diaper that doesn't leak would still be ok, but with the one we have around here, you need to change it 8-9 times a day if not more, and change the bed sheet, clothes, that go with it, that means a lot more of laundry and a lot more of water used. Not to mention the amount of detergent you need to get them clean, detergent that will go back to nature. And unless you are washing your diapers by hand (which as a new mom you won't have time to do yourself) you need a washing machine, it uses electricity, in a country that still has a lot of thermal plant, that isn't very environment friendly. So in this respect I think both cloth and disposable are equal, and it is probably why people aren't using this point to sell you the idea of cloth diapering.

The only point that in my opinion makes cloth more popular around here, is the cost factor, your cotton squares won't cost you much, the disposable pads are slightly less costly than a diaper (and only the people who can afford it buy the pads). But then unless you are living in a joint family, where there is someone willing to wash the soiled diaper by hand while you are busy breastfeeding, and taking care of baby, the financial gain stops here, if you need a full time maid to wash your diapers promptly after the change to avoid germs and bad smell, that will cost you, so will the electricity and water, if you go the washing machine route. And if you don't want the maid you end up loosing precious time you could use to play with baby or take a little deserved rest taking care of your cloth diapers.

When you take everything into consideration the disposable diaper sounds suddenly less evil trust me.
Before giving birth my idea was to use disposable the first 6 weeks, then see how many of the costly mothercare diapers I would need, but in between I faced reality, baby demands time, and there is no real environmental advantage in cloth diapers around here, so I chose the "evil" pampers and had zero problem with them yet, no rash, no leaks, no fussy baby nothing.

In the end it is all a matter of choice, but I would not stigmatise Pampers and Huggies so fast and certainly not say something such "Not suitable for Indian babies"...something as "Not the ideal choice for everybody" sounds more sensible.


  1. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Hi Cyn
    I was researching to cloth diaper my baby who is due in June when i came across your post.
    People are giving me only a couple of days before i shift to disposables but i really want them to work for me & ofcourse the baby.
    I would love to tell everyone that the reason i want to do 24x7 cloth diapering is environment... but i am sure there will be a talk behind my back as if i commited a sin by saying environment is my priority and not the baby.
    Hope you will have a good time here.

  2. Good luck with it, the traditionnal cloth diapers available in India do leak a lot so take into account the fact that it will be about more than washing these.
    If you can afford the type of cloth diapers used in the west nowaday you'll save yourself a lot of time an laundry batches, but they are pricey around here and no easily available

  3. Deepa1:41 PM

    Hi Cyn,
    I went through the same dilemma for my 5 month old and after several brands & types of disposable diapers, nappy pads and cloth nappies , I've finally figured out what works best for my LO. During the nights (& for outings) I pretty much rely on diapers - either Huggies Dry comport or Mamy poko pants. For the day I use only cloth nappies. There is this brand called "Tinycare" which has cloth nappies that have soft terry on the inside and thin, soft plastic on the outside. These are perfect for the day, because when the nappy gets wet, the cloth/bedsheet underneath stays dry because of the plastic layer. They are avlb in a shop called "Ramdev's Toys n Toys" on BEML road near Indira Nagar. There are atleast 10 varieties of practical, useable cloth diapers here. Tinycare is my favorite though. Tinycare also has cotton-only nappies (no plastic) and they dont leak either. You would have to soak them in water for an hour and dry them out before the first time use so that the cotton becomes soft(er) and absorbs water better. These are perfect for summer. I hate how disposable diapers make my baby sweat. The shop might be worth checking out for you. I can give you the phone num if you like, I must have it somewhere.

    [Verandah, if you are reading, hope this helps you too.]

    Btw, Cyn, I used to read your blog regularly last year and comment. (see your post what-having-baby-does-to-you). Came back here today for the first time after my boy was born. Hope you, hubby and Ishita are doing great. How is Ishita coping in this HOTTTTT weather? :-(

    Take care!

  4. Deepa of course I remember you :-)
    Ishita is doing great in this hot weather, she is an active baby, and since we have the luck to live on the top floor we have a big terrasse, so we purchased a big kiddie pool on ebay so we can all cool off in the afternoon :-)

  5. stevemartine6:27 PM

    Are you worried and don't know which
    which diaper is bets for diapering your newborn baby? Don't worry
    just buy pampers and get rid off all those tensions because it
    provide complete protection, free from risk of rashes, easily cover
    whole night and keep your baby dry up to next morning. For more
    information, please visit :

  6. Great post! I sort of love having a big variety of diapers - I have some AIOs, some prefolds, some pockets, and I like each for different reasons. I took the approach of trying a few of each and find out what I love only to learn that I really love them all.


Blog Archive