Choosing which nappy you will use for your baby will depend on what is important to you and your family. In the first few years of your child’s life, you’re going to be changing a lot of nappies — probably around 6,000! There are a number of things to consider, such as cost, convenience and the environment.
Different types of nappies
There are several types of nappies — some are reusable, others are disposable.
- Cloth squares — these are folded and fastened with pins or clips, and work best with a good-quality waterproof cover or pilcher. They fit snugly and are made of fabric that absorbs liquid, usually cotton (terry, flannelette), and also hemp, bamboo or a blend. Detergent makes some cloth nappies go hard over time, so using a wool mix is better.
- All-in-ones — these have a waterproof layer on the outside or near the outside layer. They’re as easy to use as disposables, but a lot cheaper. They don’t need extensive soaking or bleaching and can be fastened with velcro, clips or press studs.
- All-in-twos or 'snap-in-ones' — these cloth nappies have a leak-proof shell and one or more absorbent 'snap-in' layers or 'boosters', which you take apart for washing. They dry faster than all-in-ones.
- Pocket nappies — these have a water-resistant outer fitted shell, with a layer sewn to the shell along three sides and open at one end. Absorbent inserts are placed between the shell and the layer to absorb the liquid. The absorbency level can be adjusted with inserts made of different materials.
- Disposables — generally consist of a plastic outer layer, a layer of super-absorbent chemicals, and an inner liner. They come in different packet sizes and are made for a range of ages.
- Biodegradable disposables — these use a non-chemical absorption method. When you throw them away, they break down completely in landfill over time. They’re made from a variety of materials, such as bamboo, fabrics and paper pulp. These nappies are better for the environment, but are often more expensive than non-biodegradable disposables.
Cost and convenience
When weighing up the pros and cons of disposable vs reusable nappies, you might want to think about some of the following questions:
- What about financial costs? Cloth nappies cost more up front, but are generally cheaper in the long run. You might switch between types over the time your baby is in nappies, so it's worth taking a look at the costs. You can do your own breakdown of the cost differences between reusable and disposable nappies — work out how many disposable nappies are in the packet and how many nappies you use every day. This will show you how much you're spending on disposable nappies
- Will you want to wash nappies rather than throw them away? For example, you might consider the time spent washing versus the smell of soiled nappies in your bin.
- What about when you're out and about? Will you find reusable or disposable nappies more convenient? Does this matter to you?
- What type of nappy will perform the best? Is one type likely to result in less leakage or fewer daily changes? For example, reusable nappies will need to be changed more frequently than highly absorbent disposable nappies.
- What are the environmental costs? Are environmentally friendly options important to you?
You don’t have to choose 1 type of nappy over another — for example, you might choose to use reusable nappies at home and disposable nappies when you’re out.
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Last reviewed: December 2020