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Cloth vs disposable nappies?

Cloth vs disposable nappies?

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The big nappy debate is a bit more complicated than you think…

The big nappy debate is a bit more complicated than you think…

Cloth vs disposable nappies?
My son is now just over three years old and I have to confess that he has been in disposables from day one. Now, before you judge my choice of bum covers for my tiny human, let me just say it wasn’t from lack of awareness or research on my side.  

Things have come a very long way from the old-school white cloth nappies, and the large Milton buckets you wash them in, that I grew up with. Disposables were introduced roughly 70 years ago and these too have seen massive changes in how effective, gentle and affordable they are. So which are better you ask? Well, that’s a complicated answer. Let me explain.

There are four main criteria that you need to consider when it comes to choosing the best nappy for your baby:

• How it fits your baby

• Its absorbency power

• Level of comfort

• Ease of movement

Then you also have to considering what best suits you, your lifestyle and budget. For most new moms it comes down to the choices between cost, environmental impact and convenience, and it admittedly can be very hard to get past just how easy using disposable nappies can be (and I’m speaking from experience).

And although you would think that cloth nappies are always the better option from a sustainability perspective, they do come with a considerable upfront cost and have their own environmental costs to consider.

Cloth nappies

There are some very hardcore moms out there that are still opting for the old-school terry towelling, fold-it-yourself method (props to you), but most modern reusable cloth nappies are cut to fit. They can involve lots of different layers, absorbent inserts, inners and boosters made from all kinds of different materials with leak-proof covers that you wash and dry.

The pros:

They are eco-friendly because you reuse them over and over and for more than one child if needed.

They save you money. It’s believed they save you as much as half of the cost of disposables.

They are made from natural materials (like cotton or even bamboo) that some people prefer.

The cons:

They require washing… lots and lots of washing. If you’ve ever had a newborn you’ll know they can go through up to 12 nappies a day… and even toddlers need around six to eight nappies a day.

They can be inconvenient. If you go out or travel a lot you need to pack and prep your nappies. You need to pack spares and you’ll need to remember a leak-proof, waterproof bag to keep dirty nappies in until you get home.

They require large upfront capital as the initial investment for cloth nappies is much more than disposables. Eventually your costs will even out because you reuse them, but it is expensive to get started and to get together everything you need.

They have some hidden costs that goes beyond the nappy itself. You’ll need to consider washing (very hot water is required to kill bacteria) and drying costs that includes electricity, washing power and water. You also need to budget for how many cloth nappies you’ll actually need when you consider washing and drying times. And don’t forget the bucket for soaking and disinfecting.

Disposable nappies

No one can deny the ease and the convenience but the growing awareness regarding cost and the environmental impact is something that some just can’t ignore.

The pros:

They come in a wide variety and you have endless amounts of choice when it comes to size, type or need, so you don’t need to worry about making the wrong choice for your baby and wasting money.

They are more absorbable and you don’t need to change as regularly for ease of wear.

The cons:

They have a massive environmental impact with some brands taking up to a staggering 500 years to break down.

They are a major contributor to greenhouse gases because very few people get rid of the  poo in the toilet before throwing them away, and they end up decomposing on the landfills and releasing methane in the process.

They contain materials that some argue can contribute to sensitivity and irritation to baby’s sensitive skin.

The in-betweeners

For those looking for an alternative to easy-to-use disposable nappies and time-consuming cloth nappies there are a few eco-friendly alternatives out there.

Eco-friendly disposable nappies like these ones from Mama Bamboo which are made from 100 per cent biodegradable bamboo fibre layers and 100 per cent biodegradable chemical free FSC approved pulp or these ones from Kat & Kin which use fewer chemicals than standard brands and the core is made from chlorine-free fluff pulp, harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Reusable cloth nappies. The cloth nappies from Bum Genius are made from organic natural fabrics, Bambino Mio's cloth nappies are chemical-free, and The Nappy Lady offers a range of absorbent and environmentally friendly washable cloth nappies as well as covers, liners, disposable nappies and swimming nappies.

If I could go back, I would be less nervous of cloth nappies and the “messiness” that comes with them. I would try a combination of cloth and more eco-friendly and biodegradable disposable nappies which are now more readily available than they were three years ago. In the end, you need to make the choice that best works for you, your baby and your budget.

My son is now just over three years old and I have to confess that he has been in disposables from day one. Now, before you judge my choice of bum covers for my tiny human, let me just say it wasn’t from lack of awareness or research on my side.  

Things have come a very long way from the old-school white cloth nappies, and the large Milton buckets you wash them in, that I grew up with. Disposables were introduced roughly 70 years ago and these too have seen massive changes in how effective, gentle and affordable they are. So which are better you ask? Well, that’s a complicated answer. Let me explain.

There are four main criteria that you need to consider when it comes to choosing the best nappy for your baby:

• How it fits your baby

• Its absorbency power

• Level of comfort

• Ease of movement

Then you also have to considering what best suits you, your lifestyle and budget. For most new moms it comes down to the choices between cost, environmental impact and convenience, and it admittedly can be very hard to get past just how easy using disposable nappies can be (and I’m speaking from experience).

And although you would think that cloth nappies are always the better option from a sustainability perspective, they do come with a considerable upfront cost and have their own environmental costs to consider.

Cloth nappies

There are some very hardcore moms out there that are still opting for the old-school terry towelling, fold-it-yourself method (props to you), but most modern reusable cloth nappies are cut to fit. They can involve lots of different layers, absorbent inserts, inners and boosters made from all kinds of different materials with leak-proof covers that you wash and dry.

The pros:

They are eco-friendly because you reuse them over and over and for more than one child if needed.

They save you money. It’s believed they save you as much as half of the cost of disposables.

They are made from natural materials (like cotton or even bamboo) that some people prefer.

The cons:

They require washing… lots and lots of washing. If you’ve ever had a newborn you’ll know they can go through up to 12 nappies a day… and even toddlers need around six to eight nappies a day.

They can be inconvenient. If you go out or travel a lot you need to pack and prep your nappies. You need to pack spares and you’ll need to remember a leak-proof, waterproof bag to keep dirty nappies in until you get home.

They require large upfront capital as the initial investment for cloth nappies is much more than disposables. Eventually your costs will even out because you reuse them, but it is expensive to get started and to get together everything you need.

They have some hidden costs that goes beyond the nappy itself. You’ll need to consider washing (very hot water is required to kill bacteria) and drying costs that includes electricity, washing power and water. You also need to budget for how many cloth nappies you’ll actually need when you consider washing and drying times. And don’t forget the bucket for soaking and disinfecting.

Disposable nappies

No one can deny the ease and the convenience but the growing awareness regarding cost and the environmental impact is something that some just can’t ignore.

The pros:

They come in a wide variety and you have endless amounts of choice when it comes to size, type or need, so you don’t need to worry about making the wrong choice for your baby and wasting money.

They are more absorbable and you don’t need to change as regularly for ease of wear.

The cons:

They have a massive environmental impact with some brands taking up to a staggering 500 years to break down.

They are a major contributor to greenhouse gases because very few people get rid of the  poo in the toilet before throwing them away, and they end up decomposing on the landfills and releasing methane in the process.

They contain materials that some argue can contribute to sensitivity and irritation to baby’s sensitive skin.

The in-betweeners

For those looking for an alternative to easy-to-use disposable nappies and time-consuming cloth nappies there are a few eco-friendly alternatives out there.

Eco-friendly disposable nappies like these ones from Mama Bamboo which are made from 100 per cent biodegradable bamboo fibre layers and 100 per cent biodegradable chemical free FSC approved pulp or these ones from Kat & Kin which use fewer chemicals than standard brands and the core is made from chlorine-free fluff pulp, harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Reusable cloth nappies. The cloth nappies from Bum Genius are made from organic natural fabrics, Bambino Mio's cloth nappies are chemical-free, and The Nappy Lady offers a range of absorbent and environmentally friendly washable cloth nappies as well as covers, liners, disposable nappies and swimming nappies.

If I could go back, I would be less nervous of cloth nappies and the “messiness” that comes with them. I would try a combination of cloth and more eco-friendly and biodegradable disposable nappies which are now more readily available than they were three years ago. In the end, you need to make the choice that best works for you, your baby and your budget.

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