Cloth or disposable nappies?
The question of whether cloth or disposable nappies are better for babies has been a longstanding debate among parents. Some favour the convenience and better hygiene of a single-use product. Others are against disposable nappies because they’re generally considered to be bad for the environment.
Cloth nappies have come a long way from terry towelling squares, but they’re still time intensive, needing frequent washing and drying.
And disposables are changing, with new eco-friendly nappies becoming more popular.
But which one should you choose and why?
Let’s start by looking at the numbers.
How many nappies will your baby need in a day?
A newborn baby will need around eight to 12 nappy changes every day. That’s a whole lotta nappy changing going on!
In the first month, new parents can expect to get through around 320 nappies. This number should come down after the first month, but will still be around the 240 mark.
Most children are in some form of nappy for the first 24 to 30 months — until they’re fully potty trained.
Want to know which kind of nappy is best for you and your baby?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each kind.
How much do nappies cost?
A jumbo pack of Pampers contains 100 disposable nappies and has a registered retail price of £14.00. The nappies can be used straight from the pack and there are no additional costs to consider.
Kit & Kin eco-friendly nappies are more expensive. But these contain fewer chemicals and are fully biodegradable.
If you’re opting for washable cloth nappies, the recommendation is to start with a set of 20-25 nappies, depending on how often you plan to wash and dry them. With cloth nappies, there’s also the option to use washable or flushable nappy liners, which could extend the use of the cloth outer.
There are added costs with these nappies as they’ll need to be washed and dried frequently.
The upfront cost of buying disposable nappies is less than buying cloth. However, cloth nappies will outlast disposables many times over, so there is a saving to be made... eventually.
How long does a nappy last?
In the case of disposable nappies, that’s an easy one to answer. Until they need changing — then you clean them out and bin them.
Most cloth nappies, however, are fully adjustable and designed to expand as your baby grows, so they could last for as long as you need them.
Which nappies are best for convenience?
Disposable nappies are more convenient than cloth. There, we said it, don’t hate us.
They’re good to go, straight from the pack. When you’re done with them, you throw them away. And if you happen to run out, they’re readily available in supermarkets and convenience shops.
Cloth nappies require more of your time and energy to keep them washed and ready for use. They can also be difficult to manage if you’re going on holiday, or if you don’t have ready access to a washer dryer.
Which nappies are best for the environment?
The downside of that convenience is the environmental impact of single-use nappies. By the time they’re potty trained, one baby can get through 4,000 to 6,000 of them. Some of these will be burnt, but many will end up in landfills, where some can take up to 500 years to decompose.
Cloth makes more eco-friendly nappies, but they’re not entirely innocent either.
Manufacturers recommend washing them at 60ºC to keep them sanitary. This is a much higher temperature than the 30ºC you’d use for a normal eco wash and creates more carbon emissions. It also means that the nappies have to be washed separately from your other laundry.
As a compromise, you could go for an eco-friendly nappy. These nappies are disposable but can be fully biodegradable. Like Kit & Kin nappies, which also contain fewer chemicals, so they’re kinder to your baby’s skin.
How effective are cloth vs disposable nappies?
Disposable nappies come in a range of brands and sizes. Getting the right size for your baby means the nappy will fit better. It will be more comfortable to wear and less likely to leak.
These nappies are generally more absorbent than cloth, which is a plus. But because it doesn’t feel wet, it’s thought this could make potty training more difficult.
Cloth nappies are adjustable, so they last longer. But a one-size-fits-all nappy might not fit so well at certain developmental stages and it could be more prone to leaking.
On a younger smaller baby, cloth nappies have a lot of excess fabric. This creates a thick padding around your baby’s bottom, which makes it harder to find clothes that fit.
To wrap up...
Cloth and disposable nappies both have their pros and cons.
It’s for you to decide which pros are most important to you and which cons you’re prepared to overlook.
The best thing to do is find an option that’s right for you and your baby. It could be cloth, disposable — or a combination of the two.