Modern reusable/washable nappies are just as easy to use as their disposable alternatives.
To be honest, I feel a little bit guilty that we didn’t use washable nappies straight away.
We thought that modern reusable nappies would be like the ones from our childhood, and they’re just not. They are totally different. We were also totally ignorant of the environmental implications of disposable nappies.
I am absolutely convinced that in 30 years our children will look back in disbelief at our generation using so many disposable nappies.
10 Shocking Facts About Disposable Nappies
A typical child will use between 4000 and 6000 nappies before being potty trained
Around 8 million nappies are thrown away each day in the UK. That’s over 3 billion every year.
By volume, disposable nappies are the largest single-item found in landfill sites. They account for almost 8% of all landfill.
It takes 500 years for a disposable nappy to biodegrade
For every £1 that is spent by parents on disposable nappies, the taxpayer has to spend 10p disposing of them.
By switching to reusable nappies, a family with one child can save up to £400 per year.
The absorbent fabrics used in modern reusable nappies can reduce nappy rash. They contain none of the chemical gels which most disposable nappies contain.
Some UK councils give new parents vouchers worth up to £55 to help pay for a stock of reusable nappies
It’s not just landfill you reduce - you also save precious space in your wheelie bin! That’s a bonus considering rubbish collections are becoming less frequent everywhere.
Some evidence suggests that babies who wear reusable cloth nappies are potty trained around 6 months sooner than babies who wear disposables.
COMPLETE GUIDE TO WASHABLE NAPPIES
Modern reusable nappies are hugely different and far superior to the ones you might remember from your childhood. You don’t need safety pins or a degree in origami to use them.
They come in a variety of styles to suit your needs and there are many designs to choose from.
The old reasons for not using reusable nappies don’t really apply any more.
All-in-one nappies are just as easy to use as disposables. The outer layer is waterproof. Inside, there are sewn-in absorbent pads which are usually made of microfibre and/or bamboo. A thin biodegradable liner sits between the baby's bottom and the absorbent pads. This liner catches the solids and allows the liquid to pass through.
Many all-in-one nappies have adjustable snap buttons, meaning that one size fits most.
We Like: Very easy to use
We Dislike: Once you have washed one, you’ll find it takes a little while to dry because of the super-absorbent design. The way round this problem is to buy a larger stock of these nappies than if you used a different design. All-in-one nappies tend to be the most expensive reusable nappy option, but we used them and we loved them.
FLAT NAPPIES & PRE-FOLD NAPPIES
Flat nappies are old-school rectangles of fabric. Pre-folds nappies are already folded and stitched which makes them easier to use than flats. The nappies are held in place with a pin.
We Like: Still the cheapest option
We Dislike: Outdated design. Additional waterproof outer-layer is essential. There is no denying that flat and pre-fold nappies involve a lot more effort and hassle than other types.
The key design feature of pocket nappies is the presence of a pocket on the inside of the waterproof outer layer. This pocket is used to house an absorbent layer or pad.
The absorbent pads are typically made from microfibre, bamboo or hemp. The outer layer is typically made of polyester.
We Like: Flexible. It is easy to add additional absorbent pads for overnight or on long journeys and use less during the day which reduces the bulkiness of the nappy and improves comfort.
We Dislike: Changing the absorbent pad can be unpleasant. A synthetic material (usually polyester) is in contact with your baby's bottom, rather than cotton or something soft and natural.
Unsurprisingly, these nappies are made up of two parts. The absorbent layer is placed or secured inside a waterproof outer shell. If the outer layer isn't soiled then you can just replace the absorbent layer, making these an economical option
We Like - Very absorbent.
We Dislike - Not quite so easy as an all-in-one nappy.
These nappies are shaped and fasten just like disposable nappies. The cloth fits around your baby, and then you cover it with a waterproof outer wrap.
We Like: Snug fit. Lots of different designs to choose from.
We Dislike: Again, not quite so easy as an all-in-one nappy, but they are usually a couple of pounds cheaper.
REUSABLE NAPPIES - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW MUCH DO REUSABLE NAPPIES COST?
It varies widely. You can find packs of 10 really basic flat and pre-fold nappies for £10.
If you are just starting out and looking for a starting stock of good quality all-in-ones nappies, you could easily spend £400.
This probably seems like a big up-front cost, but remember that using disposable nappies will be significantly more expensive.
ARE YOU COMPLETELY AGAINST THE USE OF DISPOSABLE NAPPIES?
Not totally! We can see how useful the occasional disposable is on a long journey, for example. However, if everyone (or even the majority) of people use disposables all the time, the country is faced with a major environmental issue.
HOW MANY REUSABLE NAPPIES DO I NEED?
If you’re going to use them all the time, then you’ll need at least 16. If you can afford 20 or even 24 then you won’t have to wash them quite so often.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO CHANGE A REUSABLE NAPPY?
If your baby has done a poo, then obviously you need to change it straight away. Otherwise, changing it every 3-4 hours should suffice.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
A nappy bucket (we used this Tomme Tippee one which contains the smell!)
A nappy bag.
Reusable nappy liners.
HOW LONG DO REUSABLE NAPPIES LAST?
That ultimately depends on how many nappies you have, which is obviously in proportion to the number of time each nappy gets washed.
Washing at high temperatures and tumble drying will accelerate the deterioration of reusable nappies (just as it does with all clothes, especially those which contain elastic).
To get the most value out of your reusable nappies, use a special nappy cleaner, wash at 40 degrees and air dry whenever possible. It’s quite possible that a starting stock of 24 one-size birth-to-potty nappies will last 2-3 years.
HOW DO REUSABLE NAPPIES WORK WHEN I’M OUTSIDE OF THE HOME?
Parents carry lots of stuff. One small extra you’ll need to carry is a wet bag. If you have used a biodegradable, flushable liner, you can dispose of that in the normal way.
The absorbent layer should be stored in the wet bag until you get home and you can transfer it into the nappy bucket.
Are there any other advantages to using reusable nappies?
Some research suggests that on average, babies who wear reusable nappies are potty-trained 6 months sooner than babies who wear disposables. This is good news for the environment, your bank balance and life in general!!
However, we would caution against reading too much into that research due to the huge variation in potty-training techniques and children themselves.
HOW DO YOU WASH REUSABLE CLOTH NAPPIES?
Quite easily! Washable nappies no longer need to be soaked, boiled or machine washed at 90 degrees.
Modern washing machines are so much better now that reusable nappies do not need to be sterlized. They can easily be placed in a separate laundry container and washed at 60 degrees.
Using biodegradable (or flushable) nappy liners makes things even easier. The soiled liner is flushed away with any solid waste. The reusable part simply goes in the washing machine.
Whilst it’s best for the life-span of the nappy to be air-dried (they can easily last 2-3 years like this), reusable nappies can also be tumble dried when time is short.
DO REUSABLE NAPPIES LEAK?
There is no design-related reason why they should. Just as with disposables, it is important to make sure you have the right size for your baby and that it has been fastened correctly.
You can also use extra layers of absorbent pads to increase the absorbency of the nappy overnight or on long journeys.