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Disposables vs compostables vs cloth diapers: What’s the best diaper for doing elimination communication?

Disposables vs compostables vs cloth diapers What's the best diaper for elimination communication

Today we’re going to have a lively debate: what is the best diaper for elimination communication?

Are disposable diapers okay for elimination communication, or should they be avoided at all costs?

Do you have to commit to cloth diapers to make elimination communication successful? (OMG major overwhelm!)

Do compostable diapers even work? (Or do they fall apart right when the pee hits them?!)

I’m going to unveil the mystery of “which diaper to use for elimination communication” (or infant potty training) right now.

Keep in mind:

  • With elimination communication, diapers are used as a “back-up,” not a full-time toilet
  • We are only using diapers for 12-18 months with elimination communication, versus 3-4 years if you’re doing conventional toilet training.

With that in mind, let’s go through the pros and cons and, at the end of today’s show, I’ll make my recommendation!

Disposable Diapers for Elimination Communication

Many parents use disposable diapers because they are the most convenient option. They aren’t bulky, they hold in wetness and poop rather well, and they can be bought in bulk and thrown away...without a second thought!

But the negatives of using disposable diapers far outweigh the positives.

  • Disposable diapers are estimated to biodegrade in 450-500 years
  • No disposable diaper ever thrown away has biodegraded, to date
  • They are the 3rd largest part of the wastestream in the US and the only one that waste management experts can not figure out a way to mitigate, offset, or degrade
  • They cause diaper rash
  • They are being pushed onto parents for longer and longer use - up to 12 hours for the same diaper!
  • They are expensive, no matter what kind of deal you get (approx $3,000 per child for 3 years, each)
  • Disposable diapers are addictive - once you start, you then move into PullUps and become hooked on those as well.

Given this information, you might want to run away from disposables as fast as possible!

But before you go running, know that disposable diapers often encourage EC’d babies to signal BETTER and stay dry LONGER.

Yep, sometimes it just feels so gross for some babies to pee in disposables, that they are simply easier to do elimination communication with!

If you go with disposables, I highly recommend Seventh Generation for their EC-enhancing qualities - they feel wet when they’re wet, they are rather slim, and they hold in “misses” (what we like to call accidents in EC lingo). They are also free from harmful chemicals.

Next, let’s look at cloth diapers.

Cloth Diapers for Elimination Communication

Cloth diapers are what most parents use if they’re starting EC from birth.
They are less expensive (about $200 for a set of everything you need to do EC, compared to $3,000 for a baby’s supply of disposables thru age 3 years old).

They are adorable.

The production process uses fewer natural resources.

They “feel right” to people who want to raise their babies naturally.

You can re-use cloth diapers again and again, which is great for a family who wants to have a “small footprint” when it comes to their baby.

You are more likely to stop using diapers around the time your baby is walking (10-14 months old) if you use cloth diapers - because you have to wash them!

Given all these positives, you’d think cloth diapers are a no-brainer for elimination communication.

However, there are several cons to using cloth diapers that I’ll share now:

  • Laundering cloth diapers consumes a ton of natural resources, which sort of offsets the minimal nature of their production
  • Cleaning poop off cloth diapers is just plain blah
  • The bulk of the cloth diaper between the legs inhibits walking, crawling, and other motor activities (here’s a link to the study that shows when you remove any type of diaper, baby’s walking gate instantly improves)
  • Many babies will pee freely into a cloth diaper, not signal, and not really care that they’re wet because the cloth diaper is SO comfortable
  • Cloth diapers are often harder to remove for a quick pottytunity when doing elimination communication
  • Cloth diapers are a challenge to figure out for most new parents - what to buy, how to change them, how to launder them, what to do when there’s yeast, and what to do on outings and overnights.

Given this information, I might have you utterly confused at this point!

What should I use then, Andrea? These both seem to be poor options.

Don’t worry just yet.

Cloth diapers are GREAT for daytime use, and I’ve used them with many of my 5 babies. Many moms and dads use cloth with loads of success.

It just depends on the baby. Whether s/he signals well in them or not. Whether they’re wet all the time or baby is experiencing “cause and effect” and is learning from wearing them.

(Also, if you use The Quick EC Diaper Method as outlined in my book Go Diaper Free, it will be way easier to handle the “newness” of cloth diapers in your household!

When baby is poop trained, you can use Tiny Trainers instead of cloth diapers and get the same effect, less bulk, more fun!)

Last, let’s look at compostable diapers.

Compostable Diapers for Elimination Communication

We’ve finally gotten to a rather new development, one that blends the convenience of a disposable diaper with the environmentally-friendly aspects of a cloth diaper: compostable diapers.

But, be warned: all compostable diapers are not equal. They aren’t made the same.

For the purposes of today’s show, I’ll share with you about my fave compostables: Dyper.

These are so soft (my mom wouldn’t let me hear the end of that - WOW!!! every single day LOL), they biodegrade in as little as 75 days (under the right conditions - which btw who cares? They CAN biodegrade!!!?!!! I’ll take it.), they have a yellow line that turns blue when baby’s wet, they come as a subscription so you go to the store much, much less, and they are fairly compact and form-fitting.

Bonus points: Dyper compostable diapers do not leak, per my own experience.
And, for elimination communication, these compostable diapers are great for still feeling wet, keeping baby’s awareness up instead of wicking ALL the moisture away (which teaches nothing).

The cons of Dyper compostables:

  • They cost more than disposable diapers
  • If you run out of your regular subscription quantity, you can tap “SOS” on the app for more but you have to wait approx 2 days
  • You have to compost them without any poop in them for it to “work” (did you know that you’re also supposed to dump regular disposable diapers before you throw THEM away?! Yep. nobody does that.)

So let’s now talk about which is the best diaper for elimination communication: disposable diapers, cloth diapers, or compostable diapers.

The Best Diaper for Elimination Communication (AKA infant potty training)

Compostables by Dyper are, by far, the best diaper for newborns and mobile babies who are using the potty with elimination communication.

They are great for nighttime, they help baby retain a sense of connection with being wet (so they don’t like it, signal better in them, and are easier to take out of diapers in the long run), are super-comfortable, and they biodegrade. Period. Disposables don’t. Period.

Second runner up has to be cloth diapers - great for daytime. Perhaps you can use cloth in the day and compostables at night.

The Best Way to Decide on a Diaper Back-up for EC

All in all, though, use what works for you!

Always use the back-up that works for YOUR baby and increases signals, decreases misses (wet diapers or pants), and creates the least stress for YOU.

Now I wanna hear from you:

What diaper back-up do you use for elimination communication?


Please comment below!

xx Andrea

PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)

Andrea Olson

About Andrea Olson

I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my husband and 5 children (newborn to 8 years old) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)

19 Comments

  1. Avatar Manali Shah on August 3, 2021 at 8:36 am

    We use both dyper and cloth. Cloth for daytime and dyper for all sleeps. This system works for us. Dyper does NOT require poop to be dumped before sending them back to be composted. Dyper diapers are more expensive but so are most things that are “green”. Since I started EC, I’ve only had poop in disposables/compostables. It is challenging to take off cover and cloth in the beginning with EC but I got used to it and have a system setup. I also am 90% responsive to my baby’s needs so I get more dry cloth vs wet cloth. Also I used pampers pure from birth Bc of baby’s jaundice and difficulty getting the cloth to fit well on my baby’s delicate belly. They definitely are not good for EC, as I think they keep baby super dry (which is the point of their diaper).

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:10 pm

      I love how you used diapers as a tool. That is what they are there for. I agree pampers really pulls away the moisture. Way to be on top of all those catches!

  2. Avatar Baylee Martin on August 3, 2021 at 10:43 am

    We use cloth! We were using them before I even heard about E.C.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Awesome! Look at you go!!

  3. Avatar AK on August 3, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    We did a mix of both cloth and disposable and now at 2 years old we use disposable for night and training pants for day (since 13 months). And like you said, cloth diapers were so comfortable that my daughter didnt mind being wet and it’s still smth we struggle with now.

    • Avatar LAURA on August 3, 2021 at 11:14 pm

      We started EC around 4 months old and have used Cloth diapers. We have used disposable diapers when we travel away from home and laundry is just not a possible. I can’t imagine doing cloth diapers without doing EC. That would be a lot of laundry!

      • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:44 pm

        Yes, without EC, there is either more laundry or more diapers. I also think catching poop from any diaper, but especially cloth is a huge win!

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:13 pm

      Right, some kids just aren’t bothered by the wetness. Way to go with your two year old!!

  4. Avatar Gulie on August 3, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    I was so ready to use cloth, got it all washed to max absorbancy etc while pregnant and then after a month while using up all the free nappies people passed to me, i tried and was shocked how much he hated them. I tried for a while but he was just so unhappy in them, maybe because of the bulk?…not gna lie, i was quite sad all that effort was wasted but i hadvto put his comfort first and i ended up selling them all on.
    Cant really afford a huge amount on nappies at the moment, I’m wondering, is there a way to put something extra in to disposables that would help them still feel a bit wet? Has anyone successfully done this? My son is 9months now and hasnt really been a tangible signaler, its always been that weird inexplicable intuitive thing between us till very recently (it all changed with the heatwave we had and since he had a cold and hasnt gone back) and Im starting to feel like he needs to start feeling that wetness for misses.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:17 pm

      Some parents have cut up a baby blanket and laid a thin layer of that down so they feel the wetness. Others have put there little ones in Tiny Undies and then a diaper over.

      I would do a little observation time. You never know when your little one will start signaling or when things will change. They grow and evolve so fast, even a day can mean big changes.

  5. Avatar D on August 3, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    I use cloth diapers for my three week old newborn. I used the diapers provided by the hospital while we were staying there but switched to cloth when she was six days old which is when we also started EC. I prefer the fitted style cloth diaper with a cover or an all in one cloth diaper rather than prefolds since they’re easier to put on and take off. For a few days the only the preemie size prefolds fit her and EC was still doable.. My baby definitely signals more.in cloth than when we used pampers pure for a few days while I waited to recieve the preemie size cloth prefolds in the mail. I like the YouTube channel EC peesy which covers doing EC plus using cloth, very informative and helpful.

    • Avatar Kari Matadobra on August 6, 2021 at 12:21 am

      Loved natural cloth, happy to not spend money on disposables. However, so many Moms feel alone and have severe post-partum depression and anxiety and are generally terrified of cloth (like surprisingly), so if your mental health is not safe, please just do whatever you can. Feeding babe human milk is far more important if mentally and physically supported and able. I’d rather landfills be overflowing and babies all get human milk. That being said, love EC, had my own ppd 3 years ago, but felt cloth diapers and EC made me feel empowered for the environment and good about myself! I wish I had started sooner as we started at 9 months, and poopy cloth diapers are not ideal…but babe caught on to always poop in potty after about 1.5 months. Peed way less at night too, which made cloth easier.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:38 pm

      So great you use cloth and found ones that fit your little one! I agree, Heidi is very passionate about EC and has a ton of valuable information.

  6. Avatar Staci on August 3, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    We’re using a mix of disposables and cloth. We use disposables for naps/bedtime and my older two (2yo and 3yo) don’t really care to wait to get to the potty when they first wake up and I’m usually stuck nursing the baby (7months) at that moment.
    How do you keep beds dry but eliminate the idea of disposables as a toilet all together? I have no idea if they wake up dry but wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Still working on getting hubby on board/to remember…

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:42 pm

      To keep the bed dry you can use a mattress cover or a reusable chug pad (go for the extra large). Keep a tiny potty right next to their bed so that when they wake up, they can take themselves right away.

  7. Avatar Christina K on August 5, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    We have been using Dypers for evenings and road trips, but hybrids (cloth diaper with disposable compostable liner Biosoakers by Grovia) and LOVE it. Our daughter gets the cute benefit from cloth diapers and the convenience of disposables. She rarely poops in her diapers, but less and less pees as time goes on. Dypers hold up well to multiple day uses when they stay dry.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:45 pm

      That’s awesome! Sounds like you have a great system set up, and EC is working out great for you and your little one. Score!!

  8. Avatar Tabi on August 5, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Gdiapers are amazing! They are Velcro and have a micro fleece and cotton/hemp insert. Really easy to get on and off. Unfortunately the company stopped manufacturing due to Covid-19 and you can only buy them second hand.

    • Andrea Olson Andrea Olson on August 9, 2021 at 1:47 pm

      Didn’t know that. Bummer they are not making G Diapers any more because of COVID. Seems like COVID could have helped with sales, since more people were at home. 🤷‍♀️

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