Does cloth affect walking? Actually yes. But so do disposables.
I really didn’t think I this was the case until I stumbled across a research paper by New York University. The study concludes that the introduction of nappies (of any kind) creates an increased step width, a sign of walking immaturity. This increase is the equivalent of 7.5 weeks of walking experience for cloth nappies, or 4.7 weeks for disposables. Walking naked was the best option for all the babies in the study.
It was the introduction of bulk between the legs than affected gait maturity, although the research also adds that clothing (i.e. tight leggings) can also have a negative impact on movement. The cloth nappies used (whilst not explicitly named) were possibly not the slimmest options as it is mentioned that the cloth nappy was “thick” and “folded for nighttime use”, which I’m taking to mean terry nappies.
Note this isn’t the researchers choosing a bulkier cloth nappy in order to skew the results towards disposables, it was more to compare the ‘old fashioned’ nappies to the more ‘modern’ disposable. How a modern cloth nappy compares to a disposable is not known, but I think it is fair to assume that it would have some impact compared to walking naked.
The good news is that whilst the babies may have had an increased number of missteps and falls (in both types of nappies), the cloth nappy will have provided some cushioning. Babies can fall around 100 times a day when beginning to walk.
So there you go. I’m here to share information to help you decide the best option for your family, not to tell you cloth is the best way.