Diaper Basics 101 - Cloth or Disposable?

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You will change thousands of diapers in baby's first year alone.
Credit: Sellers Patton, Flickr

As you begin your journey into parenthood and the inevitable duties that come with it, just know that thousands of diaper changes are in your future. Now is the time to consider the eternal question: cloth or disposable?

When deciding which type of diaper to use, you'll find there are pros and cons to each method. From financial and environmental standpoints, cloth diapers are decidedly cheaper and better for the environment. Around $400 is a conservative estimate of the initial cost for purchasing cloth diapers and coverings, and once you've paid for them, you just need to wash and dry them for the next use and next child.

Cloth diapering has become infinitely more easy to use over the years -- bulky baby pins are a thing of the past. Instead, coverings now wrap snugly around the white cloth diapers using Velcro.

But to many parents, disposable diapers are more convenient than cloth. Simply buy them, use them and throw them away. However, when you might be changing more than 3,000 diapers in your baby's first year, the cost -- 16 to 30 cents per diaper -- can add up quickly.

And parents who want to go green do have options with disposable styles: In recent years, a wider selection of environmentally friendly diapers have appeared on the market.

Your diaper selection will also depend on the size of your child. To prevent accidental leaks, a diaper is sold by its size and, as your child grows more active, by its shape and fitting. When potty training becomes an option, for instance, disposable manufacturers have devised diapers and training pants that make access easier for parents and babies.

No matter which diapering method you use, you will probably run into a case (or two) of diaper rash. For the most part, diaper rash is nothing to worry about. The red rash indicates that the skin is irritated by the diaper, making it particularly sensitive. Generally caused by the irritation of the skin due to dampness or urine. If a rash has moved beyond the diaper region or persists for longer than 24 to 48 hours after treatment, check with your physician.

To rid your baby of diaper rash, there are a number of over-the-counter ointments available. Many provide a protective layer between the baby's skin and the diaper. Do not rub the ointment into the skin -- pat gently. Some recommended products include Burt's Bees Diaper Ointment, Boudreaux's Butt Paste or zinc oxide. Although some parents encourage the use of talcum powder to keep a baby's bottom dry, be aware that the powder could be harmful to a young child's lungs.

Don't worry -- after you changing your first 100 or so diapers, you'll be a pro.

Related: Homemade Diapering Products

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.