Like many parts of the world, cloth diapers are gaining traction in Singapore too. There was a recent newspaper article which highlighted this trend.
There are two schools of thought which draw people towards cloth-diapering. The first would be the environmental degradation that disposable diapers cause. A child would use up to 5400 diapers in 3 years, which ends up in landfills or, in Singapore’s case, additional trash which needs to be incinerated. The other thought is the cost. A starter of cloth-diapers would cost about $400-$500, but disposable diapers would cost upwards of $2000 and more.
Yet, the take-up rate is slow. A parent even put her name on record that she prefers disposables, that is how mainstream disposable diaper usage is in Singapore. None of my relatives cloth-diaper their kids in the ‘modern cloth diaper’ sense, but they still do cloth diaper then with muslin cloth for the first year or so. The reasoning is that newborns go through several napkin changes a day, and their skins are delicate.
Furthermore, my grandma and aunt claim that baby poo isn’t really that bad smelling cos they don’t have the germs that adult ones have, hence its ‘easier to handle’. Plus, they use a sheet of Napkin Liner, essentially a tough tissue paper, that took most of the solid away for easy washing. This is something the article did not mention when they talked about Muslin cloth diapers.
But the rate of napkin usage has been dropping too. The advent of cloth-backed diapers, replacing plastic-backed ones in the process, ensures that skin-breathability has massively improved.
Which brings us back to why people still use disposables. The first reason is the convenience of wipe-and-throw, and the second is the perceived notion that disposable diapers will never leak. A third reason, as cited in the article, is that many daycare centres do not allow for cloth-backed diapers in their centers.
All three of these reasons have to do with the mindset of ease and convenience. “The environmentalist doesn’t have to deal with baby excretions,” my aunt declared as we debated, which kind of shut me up.