With no doubt this is one of the great decisions we are going to face as first, second, third and so on moms. Of course there are several facts into consideration: time, economy, baby's skin issues, and accessibility. However, let's discuss main issue here: the impact on your baby's health.
The impact usually comes down to what diaper (or nappies) are made of, and how they can affect your baby. A disposable diaper consist of a waterproof, plastic based, out layer, a manmade inner layer that helps to keep the moisture away from baby's skin, and an absorbent core made from a mix of cellulose made from wood fibers and an artificial compound that hold moisture -polyethylene and poly-propylene. They might also have fragrances and dyes added to make them look and smell more appealing.
Between the Dioxins (a side effect of the chlorine bleaching of the cellulose pulp), the Sodium Polyacrylate (crystals that can hold up 30 times their own weight in water, and absorb so much urine that irritates skin easily), and artificial fragrances (that contain many chemicals such as petrochemical based compounds) the use of disposable diapers becomes a constant concern among parents.
On the other hand we have the cloth diaper: basically made from cotton or bamboo fiber with an inner layer (the absorbent layer) made up of several layers of soft fabric. These are then covered by an outer layer, which can be attached or separate. Because there is no extra absorbent gel or anything in them, they tend to be a bit bulkier -which gives a lovely bottomed appearance-, and need to changing more often.
If you decide to go with the disposable diaper there are several eco options. An eco-disposable diaper is made from unbleached pulp and cotton, and using corn starch as an inner and outer coating. They are also biodegradable, breaking down in a matter of weeks or moths, rather than years. (Eco by Naty is one of the most common stockists out there).
When opting for reusables handling and washing is the key here. Unless you're able to wash the dirty diapers straight away, you may need to keep them in a bucket (with a tight fitting lid). The best suggestion is to flush any solid waste down the toilet, rinse the cloth under tap water before placing it into the bucket with few drops of tea-tree oil added to the water to help combat any smells. Once you're ready to wash them in the machine detergent plays an important role. Always look for the ones that are hypoallergenic and fragrance free such as Eco Nuts or Cocoboo, both 100% organic. You can also look for DIY recipes for making your own natural laundry powder... will share some recipes later so please stay tune!
Pilar Bueno/Lucy Bond, "Ecologiza tu Vida", VIDDA Publishing. March 28, 2018.