Disposable diapers are perhaps one of the most time saving inventions for parents, allowing them the convenience and ease of use that cloth diapers cannot. While some parents still continue to use cloth and reusable diapers, many parents opt for disposable diapers for reasons of convenience, cost and cleanliness. Since they were first invented by a Swedish company in 1942, disposable diapers have become a mainstream choice for many parents, and are manufactured by many different companies.
Early diapers were made with layers of tissue, shower curtains, and cotton. Today, they are constructed with several layers of specialized materials, engineered to wick moisture away from babies’ skin. While not all diapers are created equally, most diapers on the market today do the basic job of keeping urine and feces from leaking out.
The basic disposable diaper has several layers. The outer is a waterproof layer of nonwoven material, such as a polyethylene film. Inside is a layer against the baby’s skin, which is designed to transfer the moisture to the inner core, and keep the baby’s skin dry. The core typically contains a cellulose pulp and/or absorbent materials such as sodium polyacrylate. While disposable diapers can and do leak, the amount of fluid that a diaper’s core can contain is quite impressive.
Disposable diapers are fastened using repositionable tape, or velcro closures that can be opened and closed to check the diaper when needed. Today’s diapers are much more fitted to the body, with elastic bands that hug the baby’s legs in order to keep moisture in. They are lightweight to avoid bulkiness, and its design is determined by the baby’s age and developmental stage.
Types of Disposable Diapers
Newborn diapers are designed for preemies and newborns, and some have cut outs under the belly button to protect sensitive umbilical cord stumps. As the baby ages, and begins rolling and crawling, some disposable diapers are designed to move with the baby and remain in place during play and sleep. Once a baby begins to walk, some forms of disposable diapers accommodate an upright position.
Since disposable diapers are worn for several hours during the night, there are some brands that produce overnight diapers and training diapers or pull-ups that are extra absorbent. For potty training toddlers, pull-ups are a type of disposable diaper that are thinner, and can be pulled up like underwear. They may also open and close like a traditional disposable diaper, with re-closable velcro or tape. For the pool, there are diapers like Huggies® Little Swimmers® that have special absorbent material that won’t get overfilled and burst in the water.
Depending on the brand, some diapers add extra features such as decorative artwork with well known cartoon characters, gender specific designs, and even wetness indicators. Price range varies widely depending on if you’re buying diapers in bulk, size, and brand — with generic often being the least expensive.
Disposable vs. Cloth
The choice between disposable and cloth diapers depends upon convenience and cost. While cloth diapers may seem a less expensive choice over time, the initial investment is high. Depending upon the type of cloth diaper you choose, enough diapers and plastic covers should be purchased to last between washings. Also, parents need to take into account the extra laundry, hot water and detergent that will be needed to properly launder the cloth diapers. Some parents who don't want to launder soiled cloth diapers themselves may opt to pay for a diaper service which picks up soiled diapers and drops off clean ones regularly. Price of these services depends on where you live, the type of diapers they provide and how often new diapers are delivered.
Disposable diapers are a more expensive choice in the long run if you launder your own cloth diapers, but a diaper service can easily cost more than disposables. Parents should consider the cost of each choice, and if they want to invest the time to regularly launder soiled diapers.
Some parents consider the environment the most important factor when choosing between the two. Although biodegradable and flushable diapers do exist, some parents find these cost prohibitive. Environmental experts say that it can take up to 500 years for a disposable diaper to degrade in a landfill, which makes cloth diapers seem like a smarter choice for the environment for some parents.
Additionally, some parents fear that the chemicals used in the manufacture of the disposable diapers may be harmful to their child's health, and choose cloth diapers instead. Others choose to use a combination of cloth and disposable diapers out of cost and convenience.
Written by O. Wallace
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