Baby and You


Baby in a white reusable nappy
Wondering about the differences between using disposable or reusable nappies? Claire Muffett-Reece has put together a helpful guide to each type

Nappy Days

Wondering about the differences between using disposable or reusable nappies? Claire Muffett-Reece has put together a helpful guide to each type

If you’re of a certain age and ask your parents about changing your nappies as a baby, they will likely recall using terry cloths, boiling them within an inch of their lives before hanging them on the line to dry. This will usually follow with a few funny anecdotes of when the nappy wasn’t properly pinned in place!

Sure, disposable nappies were about before I was potty trained in the late 1970s, but it just wasn’t part and parcel of your everyday shopping routine. Cost was the major factor – food and paying the bills took priority, so why pay for something you’d simply throw in the bin when you could wash and reuse cloth varieties instead?

These days, however, that’s all changed. Disposable nappies are widely available, from premium styles and biodegradable brands to supermarket own and even budget options. Buying disposable nappies is as common as popping out for a pint of milk – but does that necessarily mean they’re right for you? Take a look at our guide to disposable and reusable nappies to help you figure out what works for both your baby and your lifestyle.


Disposable nappies: they’re everywhere you turn, from corner shops and petrol stations to vending machines in the women’s loos. Seen as the ultimate in convenience, they’re also easy to use, whipping them on and off with the handy sticky tape attached to the sides. They come in a choice of sizes, from newborn all the way up to 6+ (more on that ‘+’ symbol later) and are also, as a rule, more hygienic due to just removing the entire nappy after each change. They’re also faster to use, too – plus you’ve got the added benefit of most people knowing how to change one, should you ask a friend or family member to clean your little one’s bum for you.

However, they’re not without their concerns. The price of disposable nappies is still an issue, especially when considering a newborn goes through around 10-12 changes a day, although bulk buying can save some money. Statistics state on average, you’ll have spent around £1,000 plus by the time your little one gets potty trained (typically two-and-a-half). Then there’s the environmental concerns – it’s widely thought disposable nappies take around 500 years to break down, while putting the soiled contents in the bin, rather than down the toilet, produces high quantities of methane, which contributes to global warming.


With the environmental concerns of disposables, it’s no surprise that reusable nappies are growing in popularity. Moving on from the old terry cloth-styles of our parents’ or grandparents’ day, you’ll no longer suffer from safety pin pricks doing them up thanks to their handy popper or Velcro designs. They come in an array of colours and prints and with many brands, one size can be used from birth right through to potty training. Most include biodegradable liners, which you can flush away, or you can even choose to invest in washable liners if you really want to do your bit for the environment.

The cost when compared to disposable nappies is good, too – around £250 to purchase 15-20, depending on the brand. That doesn’t mean to say, however, that they aren’t without their own set of disadvantages, the main one being a lack of knowledge from any friend or family member not used to dealing with them. Besides the fact you’ll be the one changing all the nappies, you also need to consider your own environmental impact when owning them, from the fertilisers used on the actual cotton to the gases emitted from lorries carrying the materials to factories worldwide. Then there’s the washing and drying to consider.

Let’s go swimming!

Don’t forget about adding swimming nappies to your shopping list if planning on going for a splash with your little one! You’ve got a choice between disposable or reusable, however, their aim is to solely hold in poo should your baby have the urge when in the pool, so should be washed or thrown away as soon as they’ve been used.

Eco Power: How to best wash your cloth nappies

  1. Store your nappies in a dry sealed bucket until you have a full load to put in your washing machine.
  2. Most parents choose a 60° wash, however, reduce the impact on the environment by pre-soaking in a bucket then see if your washing machine has a shorter wash time that’s still at the same temperature.
  3. Step away from that tumble dryer! Yes, it’s convenient but it’s awful for the environment, so hang those nappies outside to dry or put on an airer in the house instead.
  4. Use non-biological powder to protect your baby’s skin – it’s unclear if this has an impact on the environment but a happy baby with detergent-free skin means a happier parent!
  5. You can even get someone else to do the hard work for you, with a dedicated nappy laundry service who will hire you reusable nappies, taking away your dirty ones and replacing them with fresh.

Did you know?

  • Scottish housewife Valerie Hunter Gordon started developing and making a disposable nappy, called Paddi, in 1947.
  • Newborns on average go through 10-12 nappies a day, which reduces down to an average of six to eight a day.
  • The ‘+’ sign on a nappy does not mean it’s a little bigger – in fact it relates to the absorbency of the actual nappy!
  • Talking of absorbency, disposable nappies are able to hold many times their own weight in liquid.
  • Dermatologists are vital when it comes to designing nappies, rigorously testing them to protect your baby’s delicate skin.




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