Cloth or Disposable Nappies: What’s best for your family?

Should you use cloth or disposable nappies for your little one? Nappies are a crucial part of a baby’s daily routine and care. As a parent who wants the best for your child, it is only natural that you want to choose nappies that fit in with your personal and family values.

Whichever type of nappies you choose, a case can be made for both nowadays. To help you in making the right decision for you and your family, let’s consider how they compare when it comes to convenience, health, comfort for baby, impact on the environment and price.

The number of disposables vs cloth nappies used during one year of a baby’s life

Convenience

In the past, parents had to deal with pins and folds when using cloth nappies; making them seem complicated and even scary. Not anymore. Cloth nappies now come with snap closures or Velcro, which makes changes just as quick and easy as with disposables. They also come in a range of styles, customizable absorbency by adding or subtracting inserts, and a waterproof outer layer to prevent leaks. Cloth nappies do generally require changing a little more often than disposables. For most babies this is every 2-3 hours, with the exception of night nappies which only require changing if baby has pooped, and nappies for newborns who poop all the time!

Health and Comfort

There is no significant difference between disposable and cloth nappies when it comes to baby’s health and comfort. Leaving your baby in a wet or soiled nappy for too long can lead to rashes and an uncomfortable baby. But cloth nappies have an advantage here. While disposable nappies are more breathable, some babies react to the chemicals in them. On the other hand, with cloth nappies, you are certain of the ingredients coming into contact with baby’s skin. It is important to note that if cloth nappies are not washed properly, they can cause rashes due to ammonia build up from wee. Check out our advice on washing cloth nappies to find out what a good wash routine might look like. You can also see advice from The Australian Nappy Association about washing cloth nappies.

Alva cloth nappy australia

Environmental Factor

The manufacturing of disposable nappies consumes resources like paper and plastics. They also build up in landfill, hanging around for approximately 500 years without breaking down. This is a statistic that shocked me into action and lead me to use cloth nappies with my own children. Cloth nappies have considerably less impact on the environment. Whilst cloth nappies do require an initial manufacturing cost of resources, they may be reused over and over which helps to mitigate this cost to the environment. The number of uses you get from each cloth nappy before they need repairs will depend on how well you look after them. Generally you can get 200 or more uses per nappy. After this time elastics may require replacing and so on.

Parents often express concern about the amount of water used to clean cloth nappies. This is significant, however the amount of water used in manufacturing disposable nappies is actually higher. Additionally, disposable nappies leave behind much more waste in landfill. 

Price

Using cloth nappies is a great way to save money as they are a one-time purchase. Disposable nappies can cost between $2,000 and $3,000 for about two years, while cloth nappies will cost between $800 to $1,000 within the same period if you wash them yourself. Cloth nappies also have the added advantage of being reused on any new siblings that come along or being sold to another family to continue using them.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right nappy for your baby is a personal decision. In order to make the best decision that suits your lifestyle, it is important to consider the pros and cons of each option. Different factors matter more or less to different people. What are your priorities for your family and lifestyle? For my first daughter, as a new mum,

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