Potty Training And The Great Diaper Debate

Parenting is a constant tug of war between what you plan to do and what you can do. Currently we are still struggling with potty training. We planned on having this sorted out by now, and thus having Piper in preschool already. Instead, it’s one step forward, two steps back. This is a drain on us more than me being stuck at home these days. It’s not cheap. Diapers are waging a terrible war on our pocketbook, and our position is untenable. Maybe it’s our own fault; we use disposable diapers. I don’t know how much the diapers cost, because at the store I just kind of throw my card at the cashier and look away. It’s hard to believe diapers cost 6 cents each at one time. Not anymore. No wonder there is a resurgence in the usage of cloth diapers. This newfound interest reignites the great diaper debate: should one go with cloth or disposable?

Perhaps the environmental issue is one of the biggest factors driving renewed interest in using cloth diapers. However, both sides of the debate cite enough scientific studies involving so many variables that the issue becomes a wash when it comes to “disposables in a landfill versus reusables in the laundry.” To quote the Dude from The Big Lebowski, “This is a very complicated case … a lot of ins, a lot of outs, what-have-yous.” Both sides have to contend with the cotton, pulp and industrial agricultural complexes. And the landfills are a subject that just won’t go away. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council weighed in on the subject:

“We don’t recommend one over another. A compelling argument for getting rid of disposable diapers absolutely does not exist. It’s a personal choice, but it really can’t be made on environmental grounds. There are costs both ways … there’s just no clear position to take. I wish it was that easy, but it’s not.”



Even though the moral and environmental issues of the debate are taken very seriously on both sides, there are logistical reasons why parents might choose one over the other. At this point, few daycare centers support the use of cloth diapers. Also, disposable diapers are better for traveling, and/or just being away with your kid all day. When you’re out, you can’t really pack up a poopy diaper to take home later. I guess you can, but I wouldn’t want to sit next to you on the L-train on the way home. On the flipside, resuables can save parents a lot of money, and would also save them from the monthly trek to the babystore for that giant box of “hand me your everything in your wallet.”

We gave it some thought, but went with disposable diapers without much consternation. I’m curious about those of you who might be using the clothies. What is your experience? Does it really save that much money, and does it outweigh the convenience of disposables?

Source: SFGate

21 thoughts on “Potty Training And The Great Diaper Debate

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  1. I used cloth with child #2 almost exclusively. I was lucky to have home childcare who was willing to use. I have no idea if we saved money. Sometimes it was more of a hassle. But most of the time not really. We got into a routine and “trained” all the folks who took care of him. We never ran out. No late night runs to the store etc. That was nice. We used every kind from your basic cloth diaper that was pinned to us as children to the fancy all-in-one’s that function exactly like disposables. I hate laundry put there was something very zen about folding and stacking diapers every few days. He was an early potty trained child. I would like to say because of the cloth diapers but I’ll never know. Worth the experience though for our family.


  2. We use cloth diapers almost exclusively. It really isn’t that much more of a hassle atleast for us anyway. It was purely financial reasons. We figure we would spend about $1200 every year on diapers compared to $400 once on diapers.


  3. The way I look at it, I have enough laundry to do without having to wash diapers. For the sake of time and sanity, it is worth the cost. Besides, there are a lot of really good off brand diapers out there and except at the infant stage, you don’t really go through them that quickly, so the thirty dollars a month I spend on diapers is worth the one less hassle to this busy mom’s life! 🙂


  4. I have two girls, one twelve and the other seventeen months. For the first one I used disposables because I didn’t know much about having a choice in the matter, she suffered from diaper rashes constantly even though I changed her as often as I noticed she was wet. We ran out a few times and had to do the midnight dash to the convenience store (horrible) and spent just as much money on diaper paraphernalia as diapers. I knew of a mom who used cloth at the time and I thought she was crazy! lol.

    For my second girl, I looked for another solution to diapers all together and found it. Look up Diaper Free Baby – she’s been using the potty since she was two weeks old and with that I use cloth diapers exclusively, She’s never worn a disposable. I spent an initial three hundred dollars on the diapers and have never bought another one since. Washing them requires a tiny bit of soap and vinegar – so not much cost there either. She’s never had a diaper rash not related to slight redness from teething. At seventeen months she spends most of her time at home in underwear and tells me when she has to go. I feel that she is healthier, happier and better at communicating with me because so much of going diaper free was about learning to communicate with your infant.

    The choice is personal but I feel strongly that cloth diapers are the way to go but diaper free is even better. Thanks for the thoughts and I’ll be following you from now on (am I the only one who stills finds that statement creepy, lol) naturalurbanmama sent me over!


    1. I don’t know if it’s creepy, but I’ll take the follow. 🙂 Thanks to naturalurbanmama, who is super cool. Diaper Free? I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ll have to research that. Good to know. Thanks, Heidi!


    2. Our child is due in May and we are planning on using elimination communication from birth and cloth diapers. I am heartened by reading about your success! We spent nearly $300 on pocket style cloth diapers that are adjustable to accomodate from 7-40 lbs. I hope not to still need diapers when our child is 40lbs, but it is nice to know that we won’t have to pay for diapers over and aver again. I also didn’t like the idea of soiled disposables hanging around in the bins outside all week until rubbish pick up.


  5. The more important question is “how will I survive watching this potty training video again?” This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands…. I still have nightmares about that crazy clown in the It’s Potty Time video. Good luck.


  6. I debated cloth-versus-diaper for months before my son was born. Ba.D. and I finally agreed on cloth diapers, only to discover ourselves with a one-year-old still using disposable diapers. As you point out, each has its environmental costs, so that takes away some of my guilt, but I’d definitely like to try cloth when #2 comes along. Actually try them, rather than simply determining I shall . . . and then never getting around to it! The cost alone is attractive, for $0.25 a pop adds up fast at the rate these little guys generate waste!


  7. I’ve never been totally sold on cloth diapers. I’ve flirted with them, with my first child who had many many bad diaper rashes that only cloth diapers could keep at bay, but once those ended, we were back to ‘sposies. I just haven’t seen them to be so much cheaper, or more environmentally responsible, and so I’ve stuck with my favorite, disposables. I really dislike the idea of cleaning poop. I’d rather toss it.
    And I can totally relate, I have an almost 3 year old who is potty trained one day and requesting diapers the next! With a new infant in the house, I’m anxious to see her pottying!


  8. My husband’s grad school is fortunate enough to have it’s own co-op. Even more fortunate is the fact that that co-op usually has diapers! I didn’t even buy diapers until my son was at least a few months old (between the baby shower and the co-op finds). It was the 1st package of self-bought dipes that shocked me. after 2 hrs-bam-the trash!
    I think it can be as expensive or and cheap as you want- making ur own dipes, buying the 30.00 (or more) a pop ones….. laundry service to hang drying. I also think it helps to invest in the cloth diapers early so you can use them with several kids- and I personally like the OS (one size) because then you don’t have top buy a whole stock in every size. That said, I only CD if I am not getting disposables from the beloved co-op.


  9. I started my parenting with twins, and when we weighed up the amount of time it takes, laundry powder, electricity etc etc, not to mention horrendus nappy rashes it would take using cloth nappies, we decided to go with disposables.
    12mths later I had our next child. 3 bums in nappies. Still stayed with disposables. 18mths after that we had our 4th child and the twins were still in night nappies. 4 bums in nappies. We now have 5 kids we’ve had to buy nappies for.
    Now can you imagine the time etc it would have taken me to wash, dry, fold & put away that many nappies? Whilst juggling the 4 little ones… NO CHANCE! Especially as we were in a serious drought and water was so scarce nobody dared to waste it.
    Now we are down to one in nappies all the time and one in a night nappy.
    I can’t begin to imagine how much money we have spent in the last 7 years on nappies, or the landfill we have created, but it’s what worked for us.
    Our kids have all worn disposables and have all toilet trained differently. In the end it’s not going to matter what the child has had on their bottom, they will train when they are ready.
    In the mean time, soldier on, one messy puddle at a time… 🙂
    Jac @ Common Chaos Chronicle


  10. We use cloth most of the time. When we moved across the country and when we travel now we use disposables, but for the most part it’s cloth. I HATE going to buy disposables for a trip. The amount I spend on one package of diapers could be spent on a cloth diaper that I could use over and over and over (and with multiple kids). Disposables also have a smell to them that most people don’t notice until they don’t use them. The laundry doesn’t bother me too much, but there are days it would be easier to not do laundry all the time.


  11. Jeff,
    Thanks for reading my blog! I really like yours. It’s both funny and heartfelt – a difficult combination! And nice use of the Dude 🙂
    –we’ve been using seventh generation. Call it a Madison-hippie-environmental thing. They’re awesome and super cheap on amazon subscription (sorry for the plug, but it’s true!)


  12. I have used disposables for all 4. I have found that (at least locally) Target brand diapers are the best for the price.

    More laundry? I can’t even keep up with what I’ve got!


  13. With twins (now out of diapers, thankfully), I have contributed to half a landfill. I had enough trouble getting out of the house with disposables and both kids.

    Yes, it’s this attitude that leads people to drive Hummers and drive their kids to the bus stop up the street.


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