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Solving Your Diaper Dilemma

Cloth vs. disposable: It's the great diaper debate, but is one type of diaper really better for baby and the environment? Experts weigh in.

Do Chemicals in Disposable Diapers Pose Any Health Risks?

It's important to pay attention to research that points out potential harm, Jana says. But she reassures parents that she has not seen long-term health problems related to disposable diapers. And pediatricians do not caution parents against their use. "It just doesn't hit the radar screen," Jana tells WebMD.


Which Type of Diaper Best Keeps Diaper Rash at Bay?

Diaper rash can stem from several causes: friction, moisture, urine, and feces. Sometimes, the culprit is infection from yeast, such as Candida albicans.

Again, there's no consensus on whether disposable or cloth diapers are best for reducing risk of diaper rash. But according to Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, FAAP, "Most pediatricians do feel that disposable diapers prevent irritation diaper rashes. That's because they keep the baby's bottom drier." Altmann, a California pediatrician, is editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics book, The Wonder Years, and a clinical instructor at the Mattel Children's Hospital, UCLA.

Altmann tells WebMD that parents who use cloth diapers can also cut risk by minimizing the amount of time that babies are in contact with urine and feces. "If you're good about changing your baby's diaper very frequently, as we recommend that parents do, you can prevent diaper rash with both types of diapers."

A 2005 study published in Pediatrics found that some babies can develop rash as an allergic reaction to dyes in colorful diapers. Parents can switch to dye-free diapers to remedy the problem.

What Type of Diaper Should I Use if My Child Attends Day Care?

For convenience and health reasons, many day care centers require disposables and will not accommodate cloth diapers. So parents may not have much choice.

"You're really talking about hygiene and minimizing potential for spread of infection, for example with diarrhea," Jana says.

Reviewed on July 08, 2013