Baby Nappies

Nappies - Disposables or Reusable?

There has never been more choice where nappies are concerned. There are a wide array of disposable and reusable products, meaning that you should be able to find a nappy system to suit your (or should I say your baby’s needs).  But this can be confusing for a nappy novice. So here’s a guide to the nappy products available.

Disposable nappies

These are as the name suggests nappies that you use once and then throw away. There are many different ones to choose from and they are constantly being updated; to create a better fit, more absorbency and superior comfort for your baby.  They contain crystals that turn to a gel when your baby wees, holding the urine away from the skin.

There are also nappies for new babies that deal better with runny poo, pull ups for toddlers that are used to encourage potty training and night time nappies that are more absorbent. There are even environmentally friendly disposables, where a percentage of the nappy is biodegradable. There are also nappies to suit most budgets, with the supermarkets and chemists producing their own brand nappies at cheaper prices. Although you do tend to get what you pay for with disposables, but there are exceptions.

So, it’s usually a case of trial and error, but the major nappy companies do make sure you get nappy samples during pregnancy, so you can try their product on your new baby. It pays to ask other mum’s what they recommend too.

Advantages of Disposables:

  • Quick and easy to use.
  • You do not need to change your baby as frequently as with cloth nappies.
  • They lock the wee into the nappy away from baby’s skin.
  • Whilst they are expensive, there is no large initial outlay of cash required.
  • They create a less bulky bottom, meaning clothes fit better.

Disadvantages of Disposables:

  • These nappies contain chemicals, which are then in contact with your baby’s skin.
  • They are damaging to the environment and can take centuries to decompose.
  • Now that most councils are only collecting household waste once a fortnight, they take up a lot of space in the bins. In the summer they make the bins smell too.
  • They work out more expensive than reusable nappies.

Reusable Nappies

There are lots of different types of cloth nappies. The main types are:

  • All-in-one nappies, which are the most simple to use but the most expensive.
  • Shaped nappies or pre-folds. These are shaped or folded nappies which are fastened in place with either Velcro or “Nappy Nippas”, then covered with waterproof pants. They are mid price range.
  • Terry nappies; towelling squares that a folded into the desired shape and then held together with a pin or “Nappy Nippas”. Then waterproof pants protect baby’s clothes. The cheapest option but a little more tricky to master (when you’ve got the hang of them they’re simple).

Advantages of Cloth Nappies:

  • They cause less damage to the environment.
  • They are a lot cheaper than disposables. Prices vary depending on which system you use. But you can set yourself up with Terry nappies for around £60.
  • Your local council may refund some of the cost of reusable nappies and related products (such as nappy buckets, liners, nappy soak, etc). Keep all your receipts. My local council offers half your money back up to the value of £25, or a trial use of a nappy washing service. See www.directgov.uk for your local council‘s website, which you can get more info from and you can also get a claims form sent to you.
  • Babies in cloth nappies can be toilet trained easier as they are aware of the sensation of being wet.
  • They come in many designs; ranging from plain white to bright, funky patterns.
  • You don’t have to wash them yourself, Use a nappy washing service instead. These collect your dirty nappies and deliver clean ones to your door!
  • They contain no chemicals.
  • Babies in cloth nappies usually have less nappy rash.

Disadvantages of Cloth Nappies:

  • It can be time consuming, with extra washing and drying. Although you could use a nappy washing service.
  • If you use a tumble drier and don’t put other items into wash with your nappies, then it can add to your costs and have an impact on the environment.
  • They can be tricky to change at first.
  • A larger initial cash outlay than with disposables.
  • You have to carry used nappies with you when out and about.

Using Reusables

It’s hard to believe that a few short months ago I was a cloth nappy virgin. With my eldest two children I was firmly a disposable user! Any suggestion of cloth nappies would have been met with a response of, “I’m not using them”. But after spending my 20’s destroying the planet with gallons of hairspray, bleach, car fumes and lots of nappies, I thought maybe I should do my bit trying to save it. So after talking my husband into the idea (or rather telling him how much money we’d save), I went out and bought all the essentials before I could chicken out.

During the first 10 days of Livvy’s life I used the environmentally friendly disposables (70% biodegradable). This was for convenience whilst I was in hospital and when I was recovering from the birth. I must admit dreading getting to the last disposable in the packet, what was I letting myself in for? But to be perfectly honest I had cloth nappies mastered within a couple of days and I haven’t looked back. I can say that I will never go back to disposables.

Reusable Nappies - Conerns you may have

That they would leak, well they leak no more than disposables. We’ve had the odd accident but we all know that even the most absorbent nappy can’t cope with the worst case “explosion in the curry factory” baby poo.

They will be hard to change. Not at all. Now obviously there are the different types of nappy systems and some of the more expensive ones are like changing a disposable.  Even the basic Terry nappies with the dreaded nappy pin are simple when you’ve got the hang of them – I use them and I think they’re great :)

Top tip from my mother-in-law: if the nappy pin is hard to get through the nappy, then wipe it through your hair first (the nappy pin, not the nappy). And not forgetting the wonderful Nappy Nippa, which grips the nappy and holds it together, meaning no need for pins. Imagine the sight of a heavily pregnant woman practising nappy folding on her eldest daughter’s Baby Born doll (well I thought it helped).

Cloth nappies take much more time and are no kinder to the environment. It takes minimal time, about an extra 5 minutes (big deal). I wash all my wet nappies at 40 and use white vinegar instead of fabric softener; no it doesn’t make you smell like a chippy but it does help prevent nappy rash (another fab tip passed on).  Soiled nappies are kept in a nappy bucket and then soaked in cold water and either nappy soak, white vinegar (sterilizing and odour neutralizing) or tea tree oil. I then use a 60 degree fast wash; any stubborn stains can be treated with white soap. I always dry them on the line or a clothes maid.

The nappy bucket will smell. Actually it doesn’t really – even when emptying it. It’s even stood the “hung-over mummy test”. Obviously it’s not going to rival Chanel or Dior in the perfume stakes, but the bucket (with lid) sits discreetly at the side of my sofa and nobody knows its there.  

Pooed nappies will be disgusting. Well no more than disposables, as the poo is collected in a biodegradable, flushable liner and is disposed of down the toilet (check that the liner is flushable).  I didn’t use liners for newborn runny poo as I found them more of a hindrance but with solid poo they’re invaluable.

What about when I’m out and about? Used nappies are kept in biodegradable nappy bags until you get home. No smell or mess.

Extra washing detergent will harm the environment. You don’t really use much more washing powder but if you’re concerned then try an environmentally friendly brand such as Ecover (available from all supermarkets) or Eco-Balls which are detergent free balls that are added to your washing to provide natural, yet effective, cleaning.

What you will need to get started:

  • 24 nappies
  • 3 nappy wraps
  • nappy liners
  • a soaking agent such as nappy soak, white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda or tea tree oil
  • nappy bucket with lid
  • you may want to have an extra bucket for storing nappies that are just wet not soiled
  • nappy sacks (biodegradable)
  • wipes
  • nappy pins or Nappy Nippas if required

Environmentally Friendly Nappy Products

  • Eco Balls – used instead of washing powder
  • Bio-D washing powder
  • Ecover washing liquid and fabric softener (available from supermarkets)
  • Nature Babycare nappy sacks, nappies and wipes (available from Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).
  • Reusable nappy bags from Snazzy pants

A range of products are available from: