Choosing the right nappy

Choosing the Right Nappy – Disposable or Reusable and Other Options

Choosing the right nappy for your baby is a really important decision. Your baby will wear around 8,000 nappies in its lifetime and for the first couple of years will have a nappy against its skin nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, you want to be sure your choice of nappy is up to the job, safe, comfortable, non-irritating and chemically sound. Not only that, you will be changing most of those 8,000 nappies yourself, so you want to have something that works for you as well as your baby.

How to choose the right nappy for you and your baby

Nowadays, there are more nappy products on the market than ever before. However, the first choice you will have to make is whether you wish to use a disposable or reusable nappy – or perhaps a combination of the two.

Disposable nappies – the pros.

  • Convenient
  • No washing
  • Easy to use
  • Availability
  • Absorbability
  • Lower initial capital expense

Disposable nappies – the cons

  • They go to landfill and cause long-term environmental harm.
  • They are so absorbent that they may prevent young children from feeling wetness and may thereby make potty training more difficult in the long run.
  • Non-eco disposables can contain many chemicals, including chlorine, petrochemicals, perfumes and dyes.
  • They are likely to cost more than reusable nappies over the long term.

Reusable nappies – the pros

  • They are more environmentally friendly, particularly if you use them for more than one child.
  • They are cheaper over the long term, particularly if you have more than one child.
  • They are more likely to be made from organic materials.
  • You may qualify for a council-run incentive scheme.

Reusable nappies – the cons

  • You will have additional washing and drying to do.
  • They are not as absorbent as disposable nappies.
  • You are likely to require a greater initial capital outlay.
  • Not as convenient.

Whether you decide to use disposable or reusable nappies will depend as much on your personal circumstances as it does on the lists of pros and cons above. Furthermore, you may find that your approach changes as your baby grows – you may also find that a “mix and match approach” is what works best for you. Be flexible and do what works for you and your family.

The different types of reusable nappy

The world has moved on from the days when reusable nappies were confined to a piece of terry towelling held on with a safety pin – although this is still an option. Nowadays, there is a whole raft of possible choices for reusable nappies, including:

  • Cloth squares: the old-fashioned nappy involves a square of absorbent cloth (typically terry towelling, hemp, bamboo, flannelette or a wool blend) that is folded and then fastened with a baby-safe pin or clip. Most parents will then cover the nappy with a waterproof cover.
  • All-in-ones: these are a specially-designed type of cloth nappy that come with a waterproof outer layer as well as Velcro, press studs or clips for fastening.
  • All-in-twos: similar to an all-in-one but the outer layer is easier to take off for washing.
  • Pocket nappies: a pocket nappy is made using a waterproof cover that has a polyester lining which forms a pocket between the lining and the cover into which an absorbent pad can be inserted.

How you care for and clean your reusable nappies will depend on the type you choose. If your budget permits it, there are even a few nappy laundering services available in the UK. But one thing is for certain, cloth nappies will add to your laundry pile and will need certain special considerations to make sure you keep the nappies and the rest of your laundry safe and sanitary.

If you are unsure whether reusable nappies could be for you, some councils provide starter kits and cloth nappy hire schemes so you can try before you invest in all you will need to make this a feasible choice.

The different types of disposable nappy

Just as the world of reusable nappies is a drastically different place from just a couple of decades ago, so too is the world of disposable nappies. Nowadays, as a parent and consumer you have a choice between standard disposables and biodegradable disposables:

  • Standard disposables: these usually have a plastic outer layer and a skin-friendly inner layer – between these is an inside barrier of highly absorbent chemicals.
  • Biodegradable disposables: these are usually made from bamboo, cotton or pulp and use non-chemical absorbents. These nappies tend to be more expensive and may not always be as absorbent and durable as standard disposables.

Nappies and caring for your baby’s skin

The type of nappy you choose will have an impact on the ongoing costs and workload you will encounter. How often you change your baby’s nappy and how you care for your baby’s skin will depend on a number of factors and it’s important to remember that even the most expensive nappies cannot stop nappy rash and skin sensitivity issues. These can only be addressed by regular nappy changes and thorough cleaning of your baby’s skin.

See our article on How and When to Change your Baby’s Nappy for more information.