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The Great Nappy Debate - Disposable or Reusable?

May 25th, 2020
Chrissie
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The Great Nappy Debate - Disposable or Reusable?
There has always been a big debate about which type of nappy (diaper) is best to use for your child – with firm supporters in each camp! Those in favour of reusable nappies quoted cost and the facts that material nappies are softer and less irritant, whilst disposable fans mentioned the time-saving element and convenience of disposables plus the fact that they are more absorbent. Today, the biggest question that must be addressed is not any of these, but the huge environmental impact of using disposable nappies.

The basic facts about disposables

According to Which? The consumer group, by the time a child reaches the potty training stage (about 2.5 years), they will have used about 4,000 disposable nappies and these nappies will have produced half a tonne of carbon dioxide and taken up a huge amount of space in a landfill site. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, trees and plastics are used to make disposable nappies. As the NCT (National Childbirth Trust, UK ) explains the environment that we all depend on is an important consideration. Each year, parents throw away around three billion disposable nappies to landfill. That’s about 2% to 3% of all household waste. And that’s a lot considering disposable nappies take up to 500 years to decompose’.

The cost of using disposable nappies

Without a doubt, disposable nappies are very convenient to use – making nappy changing almost pleasurable (in some sense)! The main drawback is that the chemicals they contain to help absorb the moisture can be irritating for babies with sensitive skin.

The use of disposable nappies comes at a cost – and not just to the environment. The cost of using 4,000 nappies plus all the baby wipes, nappy sacks and a nappy bucket adds up to more than £1,200. The cost of choosing to use disposable nappies according to Money Saving Expert, can be reduced to about £750- £950 if you opt for own label disposable nappies rather than branded ones- but it is worth doing some research as some own brands are really good and others disappointing and it could be a false economy.
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Reusable nappies are not cheap either!

Reusable nappies are definitely better for babies with sensitive skin and can be adjusted to fit better than disposable ones. The main bill is the initial outlay. There are numerous material nappies on the market with a whole range of price tags and you will need to buy two packs so that you have 20-24 nappies. The important thing is that if you are planning to have more children, it is well worth investing in top quality, as these will wear the best. Even if you are not planning on a larger family, there is a demand for good quality, second hand nappies so you will be able to recoup some of the financial outlay.
It will take time to decide on what type of reusable nappy will suit you best as there are the traditional terry towelling squares to use with safety nappy pins and there are many modern shaped and pre-folded cloth nappies with popper or Velco fastenings. Many of the new designs are colourful and have strips that grip around the leg helping to prevent leakage. All types are worn with plastic panties over the top to prevent any leaks.

There are other costs to consider with using reusable nappies. A liner makes easy work of cleaning up a soiled nappy. You can opt for biodegradable disposable liners or you can choose washable liners. There will also be the added cost of using the washing machine several times a week plus baby wipes and nappy sacks. Once all of these costs have been taken into account, the average cost of using reusable nappies is £600. As NCT comments -
‘Cloth nappies can work out cheaper in the long run. They can be reused for future babies or sold on. Reusable nappies save you around £200 to £500 over the 2.5 years that your baby is likely to be in nappies’.
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The possible solution.

Many modern mums are opting for the ‘best of both worlds’ and using a combination of the two. There is no doubt that when you are out and about for the day or on holiday, that disposable nappies are the easiest and most convenient to use. For most of the time though, you will be at home so using material nappies is not a problem and used with bio-degradable or washable liners this option is definitely kinder to our planet.

Chrissie x

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