Baby in nappy

Head to Head: Reusable vs Disposable Nappies

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What do you wrap your baby’s soft as silk (and as dangerous as Mount Vesuvius) bottom in? Reusable nappies or disposable diapers?

There’s no right or wrong answer…but when you’re making your decision to use cloth or disposable nappies, or indeed a combination of both, it helps to hear all sides of the argument.

-We’ve put two passionate bloggers head to head to argue the pros and cons of each option. Becky from The Mummy Adventure is a cloth-bum mum and Jo from Jo’s Nursery says she’d never use anything but disposies. Both are mummy to two young boys.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL ARGUMENT

Becky Gower

Blogger Becky Gower with her son Archie

“If Henry VIII had used disposable nappies then they would still be rotting in landfills now – fact. Every year the UK dumps 1.21 million tons of dirty nappies in landfills and it takes 500 years for each one to completely decompose,” Becky informs us.

“Well, cloth nappies are not as ‘green’ as everyone thinks they are,” begins Jo. According to the Nappy Information Service there’s little difference in the overall environmental impact of disposable and washable nappies. Disposable nappies contribute to household waste while washable nappies consume energy, water and detergents.

Jo Brigdale

Blogger Jo Brigdale with husband Stuart and son Thomas

TIME IS MONEY

“You can’t argue the fact that cloth nappies save money too – the average child will use 6,000 in their life time,” Becky retorts. “I bought a kit of TotsBots nappies when I had my first son. Three years later the same nappies used by my second.  I spent nearly a year with two children in cloth nappies and saved nearly £2,000 – enough for a lovely family holiday.”  Kiddicare sells similar Bambino Mio starter packs. Read more about the range in this special Bump Baby & You Q&A.

Jo decided she’d be using disposable nappies early on in her first pregnancy. “The main reason is washing! I can barely keep on top of our laundry pile. Adding stinky nappies into the mix really didn’t appeal! With two kids, the washing pile has only got bigger so I continued to use disposables, despite offers from the local council to convince me to try cloth.” Some local councils offer Real Nappy Incentive schemes which include free cloth nappy trials or money off vouchers.

“I spend enough hours in the day doing the housework and laundry. Children are only young once and time spent with them is precious – I’d rather be reading them a story than doing extra washing,” Jo continues.

Becky explains it’s not THAT bad, “Yes, there is a bit of extra work. Every three days I put on an extra wash. I tip the nappies straight from the bucket into the machine, do a cold rinse and then a wash.  It takes five minutes – about the same as it took me to empty the bin every day when we used disposables.”

THE LOGISTICS

At home, maybe cloth nappies are manageable, but what about when you’re out and about, asks Jo. “I already look like a pack horse when we go out – cloth nappies would mean ANOTHER bag! At least people would give and the double buggy a wide berth as I’d be carrying an armload of dirty cloth nappies with me!

“I can’t count how many nappy changes I do every day. My toddler drinks like a fish and my baby does very big poos when he’s teething which disposable nappies only just about handle. I’m sure changes would double if I used cloth nappies as they absorb much less than disposables,” Jo adds.

Becky acknowledges that cloth nappies do take up a bit more space in a nappy bag. “I still managed to fit everything I needed for my two boys in cloth in a standard change bag though. There are so many benefits to using cloth. They are more reliable, holding in all my sons’ poop-losions. Rather than festering in a bin or bag, pooh is tipped straight into the toilet. Lidded buckets contain smells until wash time.”

The advantages of cloth nappies don’t end there. “You can never run out! Even if the shops are shut, you can’t get out of the house or you only have enough money left for nappies or cake – using cloth means it’s no problem! Have cake! They help promote good hip position for babies and provide cushioning for toddlers learning to walk. They are often colourful and look great with a T-shirt on the beach or in the garden. Plus, it’s thought that cloth nappied babies potty train on average six months earlier than those in disposable nappies.”

THE LAST WORD

And finally, in case Becky hasn’t managed to convince you to go cloth, she begs you consider this: “Did you try paper or plastic knickers after you gave birth? You tell me what feels better on your bits; those or soft, breathable big cotton pants? I rest my case.”

Final challenge from Jo, this time for nappy manufacturers. Whilst cloth or disposable is a personal choice for every family depending on their circumstance or preferences, “With today’s technology, I wonder why standard disposable nappies can’t be made more biodegradable?”

Is it the role of the manufacturers to take responsibility and steps to sort the issue? More so than the parents that are drowning in pooh and pee just trying to survive the day? Food for thought indeed, mums and dads…

For all your nappy needs head to baby specialist Kiddicare. Discover our exclusive and award-winning just4bums disposables and the full range of Pampers, plus reusable nappies by Bambino Mio.

5 Comments

  1. Really good debate here I’m doing cloth personally but am worried about going out and about with the extra luggage but I think maybe using a liner with the nappy might help as you could just replace the liner not the whole nappy staying on course with that option you could just bring some pre-folds and when baby does it’s business just change the liner & pre-fold definitely more space in the bag, All in all my conclusion is the pro’s outweigh the cons with cloth and I recommend Ecoegg which replaces detergent completely and has no chemicals and is great for sensitive skin x

    rachelk95
    Reply
  2. When we were expecting our little girl we totted up a rough estimate of what we’d spent on disposables for our son in the 3 yrs he was in nappies – even allowing for supermarkets’ own brand and buying when on offer we had small change left out of £1000. Add to that the mountain of landfill waste and I was determined to at least give reusables a try this time!
    We bought a birth to potty set from a friend for less than £100 (still looking fresh despite seeing her little boy from 2 months to pull-ups) and started from 8 weeks as I’d been warned about fitting issues with smaller babies. After a couple of messy days while we got the hang of things we have been using them for nearly 3 months now, we find we have far fewer leaks than with disposables and only resort to them if we know we are going out for a whole day or away overnight.
    We soak in cold water with a teaspoon of Napisan, then wash with the rest of the laundry using Ecover detergent – we don’t use softener anyway as my husband has issues with it.
    Yet to see how it will go when she starts nursery or when the weather gets too bad to dry outside, but even part-time they should save us money. I can see the pros and cons of both sides but I think the biggest con in both senses of the word has to be the price some makers charge for disposables – we get all our from Aldi now and they are just as good as the big brands, better in fact as Pampers always gave our son one case of nappy rash after another. Not so much as a hint of it yet with the reusables!

    Fiona Dexter
    Reply
    • Hi Fiona, great comment – thank you. An inspirational read for anyone considering making the move to reusables!

      Kiddicare
      Reply
  3. I have 7 children and only now use cloth nappies with number 7 . I considered it with number one but at the time (18 years ago) they were just to expensive for us as we had a very tight budget. I use the close pop in nappies and they are brilliant but I do use a disposable for the night because even with a extra liner (or 2) it wouldn’t hold till the morning and pampers baby dry are just the best for long and restful nights. Pop ins are way better though for holding breastfeeding poo, with all disposables I tried except huggies (which they do not sell anymore in the uk and most of Europe ) they leak at the back sometimes all the way to the neck. After all these years pampers still do not have a stretchy backto hold better. I do ask myself how the calculations are made saying that cloth nappies will safe a lot of money which will be the case if you use it for more than 1 child but for one child not a lot of difference. I bought my pop ins for about £300. When using from birth there is a bigger saving but most are way to bulky. I started using them when my baby was 3 months. I use a 1 disposable for the night and 4 cloth nappies(10pm/9am12pm/3pm/7pm).
    I buy pampers baby dry for £0.09 each×4×365=£131.4 for a year× 2.5=£328.5 for using pampers(as it asorbs so well 4 is mostly enough). The first 3 months is were you would use 6-8 nappies (£48.6 -£64.8)but to say I would save £1000s as some website suggest is just not true(washing is not even calculated here). But I am happy with them as I did not bought them to save money.
    Just wanted to share this inside as some mothers do want to try cloth nappies to save money.

    Maryam
    Reply
  4. I agree with Maryam. There are little savings to be made by using reusables, with the prices of disposable from budget shops being so low. Using them on one child means you will probably just about break even. Reusables are expensive, I have already spent £120 on various trial packs for my 18mo and still by far don’t have enough to start using them full-time. But we have enough to use them overnight and at the weekends with some success. I am hoping to recoup some of the money spent when baby No 2 arrives in June. I must add that using reusable wipes adds to savings, but I will find it much harder to give up disposable wet wipes. I must also admit that choosing, buying, using and even washing and drying cloth nappies is very gratifying as well as therapeutic. We also noticed that our household rubbish shrank to just one bag, which we cannot help but be pleased about.

    lilia_fellini
    Reply

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