Potty Training Early with Cloth Diapers? Our Study is Conclusive.
Photo by @isabelplett
Whether cloth diapers or disposable diapers are more convenient in everyday life is a matter of discussion. However, there's one aspect where cloth diapers clearly have the edge, and that's the fact that children who are diapered with cloth diapers tend to achieve potty training earlier. There's even research supporting this.
We took a closer look at the studies (see below). We found the results so intriguing that we conducted our own survey with over 3,000 parents. The outcome is clear. Children diapered with Judes cloth diapers, on average, become potty trained significantly sooner than those in disposable diapers. This also means that the time investment for disposable diapers is significantly higher for many parents when considering the total diapering duration of the child.
The results in brief:
Children who were diapered with disposable diapers were diapered 8 months longer than children diapered with Judes cloth diapers. About 10% of the children diapered with disposable diapers were diapered for 4 years or longer, and every twelfth child even for 5 years or longer. In comparison: For children diapered with Judes cloth diapers, the average diapering time was only 2 years and 3 months.
We Surveyed Over 3,000 Parents
Summary of Results:
- Children who were diapered with disposable diapers had an average diapering period of 35 months (i.e., 2 years and 11 months).
- Children who were diapered with cloth diapers had an average diapering period of 26 months (i.e., 2 years and 2 months).
- 47% of parents who diapered exclusively with disposable diapers diapered for 3 years or longer.
- Only 15% of parents who diapered with cloth diapers 60% or more of the time diapered for 3 years or longer.
- 23% of children diapered with disposable diapers were diapered for 4 years or longer.
- 8% of children diapered with disposable diapers were diapered for 5 years or longer.
- NO children who were diapered with cloth diapers 60% or more of the time were diapered beyond 3.5 years.
It is evident that children who were diapered with Judes cloth diapers became potty trained approximately 8 months sooner. Another insight is that some children were diapered extremely long with disposable diapers. With cloth diapers, no child was diapered longer than 3.5 years. Interestingly, even children who were diapered partly (up to 40%) with disposable diapers achieved potty training at latest by 3.5 years.
According to these survey results, very late potty training can thus be prevented with cloth diapers. We consider this a very important outcome for two reasons:
1. Less Effort for Parents:
Half a year less of diapering means a significant saving of time and stress for parents. Parents using disposable diapers estimated their weekly effort for shopping and taking out the trash at 34 minutes. Over six months, this could save more than 36 hours of effort.
2. Lower Health Risk for Children:
Studies show that babies exposed to highly toxic diapers may face a severe threat of serious diseases later in life. Our survey shows that children diapered about half the time with disposable diapers became potty trained half a year earlier and will likely never be diapered longer than 3.5 years. Thus, combining with cloth diapers can significantly reduce contact with harmful disposable diapers.
What are the Details of Judes Family's Survey?
In our survey, we asked several thousand parents about diapering. Of the participants who stated that they had already gained diapering experience, the following number answered the question "Is at least one of your children already out of diapers?" with "Yes":
- Yes, with disposable diapers: 3173 persons
- Yes, with Judes cloth diapers: 734 persons
Next, we asked all those who used our cloth diapers what proportion they also diapered with disposable diapers. We asked: Did you diaper your child exclusively with cloth diapers or with disposable diapers?
The answer options were:
- 20% disposable diapers, 80% Judes cloth diapers
- 40% disposable diapers, 60% Judes cloth diapers
- 50% disposable diapers, 50% Judes cloth diapers
- 60% disposable diapers, 40% Judes cloth diapers
- 80% disposable diapers, 20% Judes cloth diapers
- 100% Judes cloth diapers
It turned out that those who diapered 100% with Judes cloth diapers had by far the shortest average diapering duration: 2.2 years.
Those who diapered 100% with disposable diapers had an average diapering duration of 2.9 years.
It also showed: The more a child was diapered with Judes cloth diapers, the earlier the child became potty trained.
Here is a graphical overview of the distribution:
In this distribution, it is clear to see that the longer diaper duration was correlated with the use of disposable diapers. This leads to the conclusion that Judes cloth diapers indeed significantly shorten the average diapering time.
What proportion of children diapered with disposable diapers needed to be diapered very long?
We wanted to know the likelihood that a child diapered with disposable diapers takes a relatively long time to become potty trained. It turned out:
- About 22% of the children who were diapered 100% with disposable diapers were diapered for 3.5 years or longer (nearly one in every four children).
- Approximately 10% of the children were diapered for 4 years or longer.
Why Do Children in Cloth Diapers Become Potty Trained Sooner?
The Theory on Why Cloth Diapers Lead to Earlier Potty Training
One explanation is that cloth diapers give a child a slight sensation of wetness. This allows your child to feel what happens when they wet the diaper, creating a connection between action and result—and so they can develop an (unconscious) understanding of it.
With disposable diapers, the opposite occurs: They simulate being dry all the time for the child. This could be why children today become potty trained much later than in the past. The super absorbents in disposable diapers have gotten progressively better over time. Ultimately, according to some studies, this could even have devastating health consequences.
By the way, we have yet to experience any intolerance to wetness. Urine actually contains urea, a compound that provides moisture and thus prevents the skin from drying out. That's why you don't need a moisturizing cream when using Judes cloth diapers.
In disposable diapers, however, the super absorbents can cause the skin to dry out. What many parents do not know: To counteract this, many disposable diapers already contain a type of cream (often panthenol) that replenishes the skin's lost moisture. However, your child's skin is actually very capable of self-regulating in a natural way.
It's therefore not surprising that studies show children who are diapered with cloth diapers become potty trained earlier than children who wear disposable diapers.
What the Research Says
Current Studies Confirm the Finding That Children in Cloth Diapers Become Potty Trained Sooner
For one, research shows that children become potty trained significantly later since the introduction of disposable diapers in our society. However, this observation was initially made without an explanatory approach.
A larger meta-analysis also concludes that children in disposable diapers become potty trained later. The eight studies show a link between disposable diapers and delayed continence in children.
Beth and Shefaa go a bit further in their study, finding that the convenience of disposable diapers and training pants likely leads some parents to postpone potty training.
The Interest of the Disposable Diaper Industry
Disposable Diaper Manufacturers Have an Interest in Your Child Wearing Diapers for a Long Time
Every industry, manufacturer, and brand has its own interests. And all are influenced by their interests, whether consciously or subconsciously.
The superabsorbents in diapers are now so "effective" that they feel almost perpetually dry. We believe this is one of the reasons children today take so long to become potty trained. Children don't feel when they wet their diapers.
Disposable diaper manufacturers benefit when your child takes longer to become potty trained. As such, more money can be made per child. Disposable diaper providers thus have an interest in their diapers constantly getting better and always feeling dry.
An example calculation:
The large sizes of diapers from well-known manufacturers cost about 40 cents each. These diaper sizes are required from 13kg or when your child is approximately one and a half to two years old.
Let's assume you've already been diapering your child with disposables for 2.5 years and they continue to need diapers. The chances are very high.
As a reminder: Our survey found that 47% of parents who used disposable diapers diapered for 3 years or longer. If we assume that your child needs 5 diapers each day, it costs 730€ per year (365 days x 5 diapers x 40 cents).
In addition, there are costs for disposable diaper accessories of about 182€ per year. From the disposable diaper providers' perspective, this equates to 912€ of additional revenue per diapering year.
For many parents, this represents a cost trap. This is often because children are already so accustomed to disposable diapers that they are unwilling to switch to cloth diapers.