Before we talk about the benefits of cloth diapers, you need to consider if it is practical for you. Mainly, are you planning to send your kid(s) to daycare? If so, most daycares will not use cloth diapers. There are some that will, but it’s just something that you would want to look into prior to spending money on cloth diapers. This is true for glass bottles too, just fyi.
HEALTH: Disposable diapers contain traces of dioxin, which is a toxic product of paper bleaching process. It is carcinogenic and listed by the EPA as most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals (so if you do go with disposable then look for diapers that are 100% chlorine-free). Disposable diapers also contain tributyl-tin, a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems. Finally, they contain sodium polyacrylate, which is a type of super absorbant polymer (SAP), that causes toxic shock syndrome, banned in tampons in 1985. Now, there is a difference as diapers are not entering the body like tampons, but still that doesn’t make me feel good about it.
ENVIRONMENT: 27.4 billion diapers are consumed each year in the US alone. It costs $300 million a year to discard disposable diapers. And it is estimated to take 250-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose (another reason to look for more eco-friendly options if you do choose to use disposables).
COST: Disposable diapers on average will cost $1600+ per child – cloth diapers have an initial investment of $500+ (depends on type you get, it can be cheaper but assuming you want the new modern type then it will probably cost this). You will have to add the cost of a diaper cleaning service if you plan to use one…personally, I wash them myself and it’s not hard, especially because washing machines are more powerful these days. For one child the cost difference between disposable and cloth is good, BUT if you plan to have more kids then the cloth diapers can be re-used, meaning a significant cost savings in long run – we are currently using the same diapers on baby #3 as we used for baby #1!!!