An estimated three billion nappies (around 500,000 tons!) are thrown away every year in the UK.
By the time a baby is potty trained, they could have used between 4,000 to 6,000 disposable nappies.
This accounts for 2-3% of all household waste. Ref: - Reusable nappies or disposable nappies? | NCT
It’s estimated that disposable nappies take between 150 to 500 years to break down.
Making the switch from disposables to modern reusable nappies has never been easier. Reusable nappies have convenient cleaning methods and highly absorbent liners making them just as reliable as disposable nappies. The modern versions are easy to put on and take off, and some say they smell less than disposable nappies due to their absorbency.
Reusable nappies also have an added bonus of being free of harmful chemicals and plastics whereas disposable nappies contain 61% plastic, 34% wood and 5% other materials. Disposal nappies are much more harmful to the environment upon disposal. The impact of cloth nappies is mostly a result of the detergents, water and energy used to rinse, wash, and dry them, but overall, they tend to be the more environmentally friendly option if they are line dried and washed in full loads.
Why choose reusable nappies?
We’ve identified our top 7 reasons why choosing reusable nappies could be better for you, your baby and the planet!
1. Less expensive overall
The average baby gets through 5,000 disposable nappies from birth until potty trained, which costs parents between £700 and £1,000! Research shows parents could save at least £200 to £500 by using reusable nappies and more savings can be achieved if these nappies are reused on a second or third child. With the variety of reusable nappies available, there is one for every budget.
2. Kinder for little bums
Reusable nappies are breathable and are made from natural fabrics, ideal for sensitive bottoms. It is believed that there may be a link between nappy rash and the chemicals found in disposable nappies. Reusable nappies allow air to circulate which may prevent nappy rash and to help your child maintain a healthy temperature.
3. It’s fashionable!
More and more parents are switching to reusable nappies for their cute patterns and colours. Forget visions of plain white terry cloth nappies, modern reusable nappies come in a wide range of adorable designs that can be matched to your little one’s outfits. Reusable nappies are so cute you won’t want to cover them up and there’s no better way to stay eco-chic!
4. Reliable against leaks
Reusable nappies are just as reliable against leaks and explosive poos as disposables. Keeping your child’s poo contained where it should be, in the nappy!
5. Easy to use
Today’s reusable nappies have evolved from the old-school terry towelling used by our mums and grannies. Modern reusable nappies are exactly that, modern. They’re made from versatile fabrics which have the best fit and performance that have been designed for today’s busy parents.
6. Better for the environment
In the UK, 8 million disposable nappies are being thrown away every day. Along with all the raw materials required to create disposable nappies, the cost of disposing them is excessive as well. The annual disposal cost to local councils (and therefore taxpayers) of disposable nappy waste is around £32 million!
By choosing to use reusable nappies for your baby, you can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the threat to forests involved in manufacturing of disposable nappies.
7. Can help to potty train earlier
Reusable nappies rely on absorbent fabrics rather than the chemical gels that can be found in disposable nappies, so they naturally feel wet to touch. This helps your child to associate feeling wet with the sensation of needing to have a wee. Thus, anecdotal evidence suggests children who wear reusable nappies tend to potty train earlier.
How do reusable nappies work?
In general, reusable nappies combine a water-resistant outside layer sewn together with an absorbent inner layer. They're shaped to fit from newborn to toddler and can be fastened with velcro, clips or press studs.
A reusable nappy is usually made up of the following:
- the cloth that provides absorbency
- the wrap, a waterproof outer cover - some even have cute designs on them
- some reusable nappies also come with a removable liner that works like a sanitary towel to catch the waste. Nappy liners are used to help prevent heavy soiling, and there are disposable and washable versions.
The layers on the baby’s skin are usually made of soft materials like cotton, bamboo or microfibre. All the parts are washable.
They're shaped to fit from newborn to toddler and can be fastened with velcro, clips or press studs.
There are several different styles of reusable nappies. See what the different types of reusable nappies are by clicking on the section below, and decide which might be best for your circumstances.
Different types of reusable nappies
All in One Nappies
These are nappies where everything is built into one place - the absorbency and the waterproofing. These nappies are easy to use, and great for childcare. They also tend to be the preferred choice for sceptical parents who feel overwhelmed at the prospect of reusable nappies. However, one of the downsides is that they can be slow drying.
These nappies have a pocket at one or both ends of the nappy, and the absorbency is stuffed in and out of that pocket. They are just as easy to use as an all-in-one once the absorbency is stuffed in. Because the inserts pull out, these nappies dry quickly. Pocket nappies are probably the most popular type of modern cloth nappy on the market today.
All in Two Nappies
These nappies are comprised of an outer waterproof cover, or "shell" with absorbency that either snaps or lays inside. These nappies can be used by replacing the wet absorbent pads for fresh ones at change time and reusing the cover (unless soiled). They typically dry quickly and are great for out and about use as you can just carry replacement absorbent pads with you.
Also known as two-parters, these nappies are our preferred choice for over-night use. They provide good absorbency, and the two layers mean they provide good containment. They tend to be bulkier than other nappies, which is why many parents only use them at night-time. Fitted nappies can be made from a variety of materials, such as cotton, bamboo or microfibre.
This covers terries, pre-folds, and flats. They are squares of absorbency that can be folded and used inside a waterproof cover. Flat nappies are versatile, good for all ages and stages, and dry very quickly. Using flat nappies can be as easy as folding into a pad, or you can try out some more elaborate folds,
Different types of reusable nappies - Pro's & Con's
|All in One Nappies
|All in Two Nappies
Hi, my name is Katie and I’m a mum of two girls in the Standish area.
My reusable nappy journey started in 2017, when my first daughter Eleanor was born.
I remember when she was really tiny we were still getting used to so many new things with a baby that we were a bit scared of the washable nappies we’d bought – they have a few more parts! After the first one though we were totally at home with them and have used them consistently with both children.
The main benefit for me has been not having to regularly buy nappies; once you’ve got a set to use, you don’t need to buy more. Nappies can be adjustable so depending on which ones you buy they grow with your baby. We’ve used all the same nappies for Jessica as for Eleanor so have hardly spent any money on nappies for Jessica, apart from one or two new ones. One of my friends uses them too so we have shared some of the tiny baby ones. My children have also had virtually no issues with nappy rash; the nappies don’t seem to irritate them.
My husband and family have been really supportive of us using reusable nappies, which I think is half the battle. If you can make sure you get those around you on board such as your parents and grandparents it helps you and your baby really stick to the reusable nappy routine.
I must admit, before I tried reusable nappies I was of the opinion that this was a lot of excess faff I didn’t need with a new baby, but really, they aren’t difficult to put on, and you have to do lots of washing anyway with small children!
My top tips from my own reusable nappy journey are:
- If you buy or borrow the right nappies to begin with, they can grow with your baby and you won’t need to buy more until they’re much bigger.
- Buy a nappy bag to take with you out and about to put dirty reusable nappies in.
- If you like washable nappies you may also like washable wipes, you can wash them all in the same wash, saving money on wipes as well!