Nappy Time

What Nappies Should I Use?

Disposable Nappies

Disposable nappies are convenient, quick and easy to use, very absorbent, and are great at preventing leakages. They come at the cost to the environment however, which is why many parents are switching to reusable nappies. In the UK we use 3 million nappies every single day! 90% of these nappies end up in landfills, and it is estimated that a single nappy will take two hundred years to decompose, although the actual number of years could end up being much higher. The average child uses 6000 nappies, if they are fully potty trained by two and a half to three years. The manufacturing process of creating disposable nappies also has an impact on the environment, as they are made from nonrenewable sources.

Reusable Nappies

Reusable nappies are also known as cloth nappies, real nappies and washable nappies. The environment agency found that reusable nappies can be 40% better for the environment than disposables. With reusable nappies, there is still a cost to the environment in terms of water and electricity used to wash the nappies, as well as detergent run-off, and electricity used if they are tumble dried. There are ways you can minimise the environmental impact however, which is by passing cloth nappies onto another child after you have finished with them, air drying nappies rather than tumble drying them, washing in full loads so your washing machine is using its maximum capacity, and by not washing them over 60 degrees celcius.

Although better for the environment, reusable nappies aren't as convenient as disposable nappies, which are just thrown away when dirty. Reusable nappies have to be stored in a nappy bin (which let's be honest, isn't going to make your house smell fresh as a daisy) and then laundered. You can either do this yourself by washing them in the machine, or use the services of nappy companies which collect the dirty nappies from your house and return them to you washed, dried and folded. These services usually cost around £10-15 per week. If you wash them yourself, you should wash them at a temperature of at least 60 degrees to kill the bacteria. Wet, rather than soiled nappies can be washed at a lower temperature.

Reusable nappies can be fiddly to put on, if you use safety pins and nappy grips, while other types require liners and waterproof covers. They are also more time consuming, as you have to launder them.

Cloth nappies come in various different fabrics, shapes and colours. The cheapest option is nappies made from terry towelling fabric. These are fastened using either safety pins or plastic nappy grips. Another option is cloth nappies which are pre-shaped for your baby's bottom and are fastened with poppers or velcro. Some brands are pull on nappies. You need to put a waterproof cover over the top of these. Another, more expensive type is a cloth nappy which fits around your baby and fastens with poppers, but has the waterproof cover attached to the nappy. These take longer to dry than nappies without the waterproof cover attached.

Which is Most Effective?

Cloth nappies are generally less absorbent than disposable ones. You should change your baby's nappy more often if you use reusable ones. Some parents find that their baby gets more nappy rashes when using cloth nappies due to the lower absorbency, while others find that the synthetic material of disposable nappies irritates their baby's skin. Although less absorbent, some argue that as you can tell when your baby is wet more easily when they are wearing a cloth nappy, parents are more likely to change nappies more frequently, rather than having babies sitting in a wet or soiled disposable nappy. Whichever type of nappy you use, if your baby keeps getting nappy rash, try changing their nappy more frequently, and try switching to either disposable or reusable to see if it makes a difference.

Reusable nappies are more absorbent because they contain sodium polyacrylate crystals. These crystals turn to gel when they get wet, which holds in water and prevents it leaking. Many parents don't like to use disposable as they argue that the effects on this substance against a baby's skin over a length of time isn't known.

Which Type of Nappy is More Economical?

Disposable nappies are more expensive over a number of years than reusable nappies. It is estimated that you can save £500 per child using reusables compared to using the market-leading brand. Disposables also cost the taxpayer, as the cost of disposing of each nappy is 10% the cost of the nappy itself. Reusable are cheaper over a number of years, although you will have the cost of buying the nappies to begin with, which is a considerable outlay, of between £50-250, depending on the type of nappy you buy. You will have the cost of washing them in terms of water and electricity, or paying a nappy company to launder them. However, if you reuse the cloth nappies for another child, your savings compared to using disposable nappies will be even higher.

Eco-Disposable Nappies

There are also eco-disposable nappies on the market. These are made from renewable materials and are biodegradable, (although it still takes 50 years to biodegrade). There is an argument that because biodegradable nappies produce methane as they are composing, they are actually worse than disposable nappies. However, the manufacturing cost to the environment of eco-disposable nappies is far lower as they use renewable materials. Eco-disposables are often less absorbent, so try out a few different brands to find one you're happy with. Moltex are the only brand approved by Friends of the Earth, and parents report they are very effective at absorbing liquid.

When trying to decide whether to use disposable or reusable nappies, talk to other parents about what they use. Some parents use a combination of both, using disposables at night for their higher absorbency qualities and when they are out and about. See which type of nappy works best for your baby, especially if your baby has sensitive skin. Many laundry services offer free trials if you want to try out using reusables, and some councils offer cash back incentives for using 'real' nappies.

Site Links

This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.