When you have a baby, one thing's for certain: there will be lots of nappy changes!
It can be tricky for new parents deciding whether to choose cloth nappies or disposable nappies for their baby. Some parents choose to use exclusively cloth or disposable nappies, while others will opt for a combination of the two. It's important to figure out what will work best for you as parents.
To make things a little easier for you, we've put together a list of the pros and cons along with real parents views on the option that works best for them and their babies to help other parents make an informed decision.
- They are better for the environment as they are washed and reused as opposed to being thrown away
- Fewer trips to the bin - it's thought using reusable nappies can half your household waste
- Cloth nappies can be cheaper in the long run as babies are usually in nappies for around 2.5 years - they can also be used for future babies or sold onto other families
- Cloth nappies are less likely to cause nappy rashes as they don't usually contain any harsh chemicals that could irritate your baby's skin
- Additional laundry means extra time, effort and energy
- You need to be careful when washing cloth nappies to make sure they are sanitary - it's advised been to wash them on a 60°C wash
- Once your baby is eating solids, the 'remnants' need to be dealt with and flushed away
- Cloth nappies are less absorbent than disposable nappies so they may need to be changed more frequently
- Cloth nappies have a greater upfront cost than disposable nappies
- Cloth nappies aren't so easy to use if you are travelling or staying somewhere that doesn't have access to washing facilities
Real parents who use cloth nappies
During my second pregnancy I decided to look into cloth nappies due to the environmental impact of disposables. Bringing another human into the world is just about the worst thing you can do for the planet so I was looking to limit that impact where I could. I completed The Nappy Lady questionnaire and purchased my recommended nappies.
Since switching to cloth, I've learned more about the wide-ranging benefits of cloth. It's not just about saving thousands of nappies from landfill, but it keeps harmful chemicals away from your baby, helps promote healthy hip-development and saves money. Plus, if you want it to, it can become a bit of a hobby!
That's not to say my journey has always been plain sailing. My husband was very resistant to switching and was very negative. But over time he has come round to them and sees the benefits - he even has his favourite nappies! We also went through a stage of leaking nappies which was frustrating. Both cloth and disposable nappies leak occasionally - that's just part of parenting. But persistent leaks should not be happening. I reached out to The Nappy Lady's free advice service and they helped me tweak what I was using to find a combination that worked for us.
If you're considering cloth then just go for it! See if your area has a nappy library where you can hire a kit of mixed brands for a very cheap price. Check your local council, many offer money back schemes or even starter kits. Complete The Nappy Lady questionnaire to get a personalised recommendation of what to buy for your circumstances. Join a few Facebook groups and you can hopefully pick up some preloved bargains. And once you have your nappies, it doesn't need to be all or nothing. Just try using one or two a day, before long you'll be reaching for them more and more.
Laura, mum to Edie aged 19 months.
Let me start by saying I love cloth nappies! But… the only reason I even knew they existed was because of a new mum whose Instagram account I followed. Before this I still thought the only reusable nappies were the old fashioned terry towels secured by a safety pin. A lot of people don’t realise how far modern cloth nappies have come!
We started using cloth nappies about a week after my baby was born, once I felt up to tackling the washing! My ‘baby’ is now 19 months old, and although we don’t use cloth exclusively, I would say she has been in cloth nappies over 95% of the time. I love cloth nappies because they are more environmentally friendly, they are kinder to my babies skin (we’ve never had a nappy rash or needed to use any creams!), and if you buy quality and look after them you will be able to sell them on once you’ve finished using them! I have bought and sold pre-loved nappies so I know first hand that they hold their value. Plus, they come in so many cute patterns.
The only real problem we’ve had was during the night. I used to feed my baby a lot over night, and of course this meant a lot more wee! There were a couple of occasions when she started sleeping longer in the night where I found she was very wet in the morning, which of course made me feel awful. The absorbency in the modern cloth nappies I had just wasn’t cutting it for us, but I managed to find the solution in using old fashioned terry nappies doubled up - a bit trickier to put on initially but now I love them and we haven’t had an issue since.
If you’re considering using cloth nappies my advice would be; don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I always have a few disposables in the drawer just in case of emergencies. I’d also say make sure you have a really good wash routine and do a bit of research before you start - cloth nappies aren’t hard to wash but you do need to care for them properly. They are the dirtiest thing you will ever wash after all! Invest in nappies that can be washed at hotter temperatures, make sure you are using the correct amount of detergent for the size of your machine and water hardness, and do a short pre-wash before the main. Oh, and don’t let anybody tell you that you won’t be able to do it!
- More convenient to use as less washing and drying involved
- Better for times when you don't have access to washing facilities (for example, on holiday)
- Easily available in supermarkets and convenience stores
- Disposable nappies are thought to be more absorbent than cloth nappies
- Some consider disposable nappies to be more sanitary as they are only used once before being thrown away
- Lower upfront cost and initially cost effective as cost can be spread out with weekly shop
- Disposable nappies will usually end up in landfill where they take a long time to decompose
- There is a huge choice of disposable nappies available and some may not fit your baby well - you may have to try a few different brands before finding one which works for your little one!
- While they may seem cost effective at first, the cost of using disposable nappies does add up over time
- Some disposable nappy brands may contain harsh chemicals which can cause skin irritation and nappy rashes for some babies
Real parents who use disposable nappies
Tara, expecting her first baby in 2021.
"We will be using disposable nappies when our baby is here - the initial outlay for reusable nappies is insane and I just couldn’t justify spending that on something they’re going to do their business in. I like the environmentally friendly factor of them but let’s be honest, when you’re exhausted with a newborn changing nappies every five mins, who’s got time to worry about that? 🤷♀️"
Shania, mum to 3 month old Sophia.
"We use disposable as personally they are just more convenient for us, and the brand we use costs as little as 99p a pack which isn't a huge expense. Sophia is 3 months old and we haven't actually bought a pack of nappies since she was born as when I was pregnant we were getting a pack each time we did our shopping and it spread the cost out. I didn't really research cloth nappies, however I've seen people selling bundles for like £200 and that big cost at once seemed a bit of a set back for us, and also the extra electricity to wash. Personally disposables are just easier for us, especially after those explosions!"
What do Mamamade recommend?
We recommend choosing whichever type of nappy that works best for you and your baby! Do your research, consider the pros and cons, speak to friends and family, and don't feel pressured into either - it's a parenting decision that's only yours to make.
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