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There are lots of decisions to make when having a baby, from bigger choices like your birth plan down to the everyday essentials you will use to take care of your little one. The choice between cloth and disposable diapers is one such decision that may not seem major at first, but it will have an impact on your routine once the baby arrives.

The cloth diapers available today are so much more than they used to be. With several different styles, you can find options to suit your child as they grow that won’t lead to blowouts and headaches. You can find all-in-one options, or pocket-style cloth diapers that are shaped just like a disposable diaper with a waistband and either button or velcro enclosures. You can also opt for a prefold diaper that’s a flat piece of cloth you fold yourself and place inside a diaper cover. For extra protection against leaks, you can purchase waterproof diaper covers in fun colors and patterns.

Cost is an important pro when it comes to cloth diapering. The most basic difference between cloth and disposable diapers is they’re reusable, of course, which can make a huge impact on your finances. Buying disposable diapers can quickly add up, especially when your child is first born and being changed often. It’s estimated disposable diapers will cost a family between $1,000 and $3,000 from birth to potty training. Choosing to go with cloth diapers will mean spending more up front to stock up (typically between $300 and $500), but then seeing your expenses go down. Depending on how often you plan to wash the diapers, it’s recommended you keep a  dozen or so cloth diapers on hand at all times so you don’t run out. If you have another child, you can reuse the cloth diapers as well if they’re still in good shape, which saves even more money.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when many people think of cloth diapers is, “How do you clean them?” If you’re imagining lots of mess, don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. As your child uses up diapers, remove any solids right into the toilet and then keep the used diapers in a plastic pail or a garbage bin with a lid just like you would disposables. When it fills up, or if you have a set schedule for washing (i.e. every two days, three days, etc.), just put them right into your washing machine. Washing the diapers with a gentle detergent that is free of allergens and safe for babies (the more natural the better) will remove all residue and refresh the diapers. Some experts recommend washing them twice, which can help prevent stains with an extra deep clean. Just dry the diapers on high heat and you’re ready to go.

For parents who are also concerned with reducing their impact on the environment, cloth diapers are the way to go. Since they’re reusable, you won’t be producing as much trash as you would with disposables, which can take a long time to break down in landfills. You can also look for cloth diapers made with organic cotton and without bleach or other chemicals that could irritate your baby’s skin.

Cloth diapers can save you money over the years, but they do require some extra time being added to your child care routine. Evaluating all the pros and cons can help you and your partner decide which option is best for you as you start or expand your family. Cloth diapers have evolved and improved with the times, which means they could be just the solution you’re looking for.

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