It’s one of the lesser discussed, yet crucially important decisions we make when becoming parents – whether to opt for disposable or reusable nappies. Opinions are pretty polarised when it comes to our young ones’ undergarments: factors like cost, convenience and environmental impacts have resulted in a wide range of views and publicity for various manufacturers – so we thought we’d get to the bottom of all the conflicting facts and figures…
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that disposable nappies are incredibly convenient compared to reusable ones. What with new babies using between six and 12 nappies every day in their first few months, the prospect of having your washing machine constantly on the go cleaning reusable ones can be an unappetising prospect. Whilst you can sign up to nappy-washing services for between £10-£15 per week, the general consensus is that disposable nappies – being light, portable and easy to purchase – come out on top in the convenience category.
People often think that disposable nappies are immeasurably more damaging to the environment than reusable ones – but although an astonishing 3 billion disposable nappies are thrown away in the UK each year (with some parts taking up to 200 years to degrade), reusable nappies can be just as damaging given the amount of washing and drying needed to keep them.
However, if you wash the latter on a low temperature and hang them outside rather than sticking them in the tumble dryer, you can dramatically decrease your carbon footprint and ensure that your landfill impact is negligible. Biodegradable disposable nappies made with organically grown components are another option, and boast a significantly lower impact, both when they are being made and when taken to landfill.
So, with a little careful planning, you can be just as environmentally friendly using whichever type of nappy you like.
The clear winners here are reusable nappies; compared to the hundreds – nay, thousands – of disposable ones you’ll get through when a little one comes along, you’ll only need between 16-24 reusable nappies until your bubba begins to potty train. What’s more, you can continue to reuse them if and when you have another child, and can even re-sell them(!) when your kids grow out of them.
To go into more detail, purchasing the cheapest brand of cloth nappies works out at a mere £80 for a two year supply, plus around £1 a week for washing – compared to at least £200 a year for disposables. WhatPrice estimates the total cost of keeping a baby in disposable nappies for two years at a staggering £800 – so if you’re feeling frugal, reusables are definitely the way forward.
One clear advantage disposable nappies have over traditional cloth ones comes in the layer of super-absorbent polyacrylate crystals, which can absorb many times their own weight in liquid. When it comes into contact with moisture, the layer turns into a gel which contains the wetness and reduces the chances of nappy rash. Reusable nappies are usually less absorbent than their disposable counterparts, so can need changing (and washing) more often – but thankfully many brands have a removable inner layer which means you don’t have to change the whole thing each time.
Deciding which type of nappy to go for can be easily influenced by what you were brought up with yourself, but it’s worth considering the above points if you want to make sure you’ve made the right decision for you. Then it’s just the name, nursery, godparents, car seat…