The beginner's guide to buying reusable nappies

Disposable or reusable?

Nappies, like everything else in childcare, seem to go in cycles of popularity. A few years ago, few parents would even consider anything but disposables - there's no doubt they are convenient and readily available from all supermarkets. These days, though, more and more parents are eschewing the disposable option for reusable nappies and things have certainly moved on since the days of soaking Terry nappies in a bucket of hot, soapy water.

Nowadays you have the choice of either buying and washing the nappies yourself or using one of the nappy laundry services, like Cotton Bottoms, available in most major towns and cities in the UK. The alarming statistics showing the damage caused by disposable nappies will certainly make you think about doing your bit to save the planet.

  • Nine million disposable nappies are thrown away daily in the UK
  • 50% of all the rubbish in a one-baby family is made up of disposable nappies
  • Nappies make up 4% of UK household waste
  • Some research suggests that a disposable nappy can take anything from 200 to 500 years to decompose

Although the initial outlay for reusables is considerable, in the long run, you can save a lot of money. According to one mum: "We worked out we saved at least £400 over disposables."

Some also argue that they are better for your baby's skin because of the many chemicals and gels used in disposables. One tip is to have a go with a free trial pack offered by many reusable nappy manufacturers and see how you get on.

On the downside they can be complicated both to put on and to collect together all the necessary parts - nappies, wraps, clips etc - or though you can now buy all-in-one reusables. Another thing to watch out for is how long they take to dry - particularly if you don't have an automatic dryer. Having every radiator in the house strewn with nappies is not an edifying prospect.

Some folks combine the two using reusable at home, and disposables when out and about. Not a bad plan particularly as more than one mumsnetter advised: "Beware travelling with reusables - think soggy bags in a warm car..."

Another option is to start off with disposable with a newborn (when nappies need to be changed endlessly and you're totally whacked) and move on to do your bit for the environment when poos are a bit more predictable/ less frequent. Whatever choice you make, the ultimate aim is obviously a dry, comfy child.


Last updated: about 3 years ago