Friday, August 6, 2010

FAQ: Are Cloth Diapers Hotter Than Disposables?

Q: I'd like to try cloth diapers, but I'm worried that they will be too hot in the summer. Do babies sweat a lot in cloth diapers?
A: This is a common concern of many parents. Since they are naturally bulkier than disposables, cloth diapers just seem hotter. Add to the mix fabrics like wool and fleece, and it seems that cloth diapering should be a winter-only endeavor.
I have never measured the temperature of my daughters' bottoms in cloth or disposables. I can say that we have used cloth in all seasons, with temperatures ranging from below zero to over 100, with no adverse effects. I absolutely understand why it seems like cloth is hotter, but I don't think it really is. Here's a rundown of my thoughts. Keep in mind they are not supported by any actual temperature data or hard scientific facts/data gathering on my part.
-Cloth diapers seem hotter because the baby's skin may not be dry. If you're using natural fabrics, there's nothing to wick away moisture. Since the skin is damp, it may seem like your baby is sweating.
-Stay-dry fabrics like microfleece do a good job of wicking away moisture. While it's bulkier (depending on the diaper used), the fabrics of a cloth diaper are probably more breathable than a disposable. Remember, disposables are made primarily of plastic, absorbent gel and wood pulp. That doesn't seem especially breathable to me. Since the gel in disposables are incredibly efficient at absorbing, the skin is very dry. That doesn't mean your baby isn't sweating. It could just be that the sweat is immediately pulled away into the gel.
-Fabrics like wool are good at trapping heat when it's cold and releasing heat when it's not. Many people successfully use wool during the summer with no problem. I have joked that sheep wear wool all year round and they are usually fine :)
Anytime it's incredibly hot and humid, go with what makes sense. Dress your child comfortably and in as few layers as possible. One definite benefit of cloth diapers is that they are cute enough to wear alone. You don't need to hide them under pants. Pair with a cute top and go!



Ashley said...

DS would get a rash from the sposies during the summer because the plastic and his sweat.

With CD he doesnt get a rash at all. He may get a littl red around the thighs from the PUL so thats when he is dressed in fleece sinces its more breathable.

dannyscotland said...

What a great post and question to answer. My two cents/opinion is that plastic disposables would be hotter. Remember back in the day when people would wear those plastic outfits and try to sweat off the pounds? That's what disposables make me think of in the summer. Cloth may seem hotter because it's thicker, but natural fabrics breathe more so than plastic or synthetic materials. Think of your own clothes. What would you prefer to wear in summer, a cotton shirt or a plastic bag? :-)

Tent Revival said...

I don't have the exact link, but I found a blog post one time where, for a homeschool project, a family played outside in the backyard all day trying all different combinations and the disposables had higher temperatures inside by far. The best combo was a coverless fitted followed by a fitted under wool. These were both very close to normal body temperature even with baby running around outside. Even PUL was better than disposables though.