Cloth vs Disposable: ‘The Dirt’ on Dirty Nappies

If you have arrived at this blog, you are probably concerned or curious about the impact your parenting choices are having on the environment, your child’s health, and your finances. Read on for the facts about cloth and disposable nappies and how to choose which is right for your family.

How many nappies do babies use?

The number of nappies used will naturally differ depending on factors such as the age of your baby, as well as genetic factors that decide if they are a light or
heavy wetter (or somewhere in between). On average, newborn babies use
approximately 12 nappies per day, whereas toddlers average 6-8 nappies per day. With most babies working towards toilet training between 2-3 years of age, this
means your baby will go through approximately 5500-8000 nappy changes.

Disposable Nappies

Disposable nappies usually consist of a waterproof plastic outer layer, chemicals for absorbing liquid (often sodium polyacrylate), and an inner liner to go against
the baby’s skin. They may also contain glues, dyes, and synthetic perfumes. Unfortunately, disposable nappies are currently a major contributor of landfill in Australia.

With most families currently opting for disposable nappies, approximately 3.75
million disposable nappies are discarded every day in Australia and New Zealand.

Each nappy will then take hundreds of years to break down in landfill. The main
reason disposable nappies are so popular is because they are seen as a
convenient choice, particularly for families with a busy lifestyle.

Biodegradable Disposables

These  usually do not use chemical absorption, but rather use paper pulp and similar products for absorption instead. They are generally much more expensive than regular disposable nappies. Parents who want to reduce their environmental impact but who are not yet ready to go 100% cloth often choose to use biodegradable’s alongside their cloth nappies. There has been some speculation about whether these are truly biodegradable due to the conditions in landfill being less than optimal, but I am certainly no expert on this topic, and have not been able to access reputable evidence either way.

Cloth Nappies

There are many types of cloth nappy available in Australia. Traditional varieties
include old-school square ‘terry’ nappies, pre-folds, and fitted nappies, all
of which require a nappy cover/shell to make them waterproof.Modern varieties include pocket nappies, all in ones, and all in twos (or snap-ins). Nappies may be sized, or one-size-fits-most.

Stay tuned for a blog post soon about the different styles of cloth
nappies and how to use them
.

Generally a full-time stash of cloth nappies is considered to be 24 nappies to allow time to wash and dry the nappies in between uses. Of course this figure varies depending on your babies requirements for nappy change frequency, and your preference for washing frequencies. Another factor to consider is whether you would like to have ‘back ups’ in case of rainy weather etc. Personally, my full time stash is approximately 35 nappies.

Cloth nappies are also so much kinder to the environment! Even factoring in fabric production to make the nappies and nappy laundering, cloth nappies that are air-dried are still a much better eco-friendly choice.

Deciding Factors

Mainstream brand disposable nappies cost around $0.30-$0.50 each, purchased in large packs. This equates to approximately $1600-$4000 per child. Cloth nappies vary in price depending on the style and brand that you choose. A basic full-time stash (24-35 nappies) of pocket nappies can be purchased brand new for $200-$300.

Financial and Environmental impacts can be further reduced by buying some or all of your stash second hand (beware of faulty elastics and delaminated PUL), using your cloth stash on additional children down the track, selling or gifting your stash to another family to use when you are done, switching to cloth wipes, and air-drying nappies rather than using the clothes dryer.

Full time cloth is not for everybody. Many families use cloth part time, often using disposables for overnights and when out and about. Remember, every cloth nappy used is another disposable that won’t go to landfill.

Often a major barrier to using cloth for families is fear of all the washing! It can
be a little inconvenient at times, but honestly only adds about 10 minutes each
day onto my usual cleaning routine (compared with using disposables). A small
price to pay to reduce my impact on the planet in my opinion! For advice and
tips on cleaning your cloth nappies see our product care page

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any questions, or want to have a chat about any of the topics covered here, head over to our contact page, or message me on our facebook or instagram accounts @greenthingsonlineshop

Information Sources

https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/You-and-your-home/Live-sustainably/Single-use-items/Nappies

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652615001535

https://www.choice.com.au/babies-and-kids/baby-clothes-and-nappies/nappies/buying-guides/disposable-and-cloth-nappies#Disposable%20vs%20cloth

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