The Battle of the Nappies: Reusable vs disposable

What’s best for you, your baby, and the environment?

As if becoming a parent wasn’t stressful enough, you’re now faced with a million and one decisions to make for the benefit of your child. Here at Point 6, we’re delighted to work with some of the world’s biggest ‘mum and baby’ brands, so we understand some of the worries of parents.

Nappies are just one of the choices you’re faced with, and with most of these things, there’s no correct answer. Many parents and experts swear by reusable (or cloth) nappies, whereas others are equally big advocates for disposable — and everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s right. We’ve tried to sum up the debate around reusable vs disposable and hopefully help you find the best solution for you and your baby.

What’s best for your baby?

Far from the only factor, but the most important one, should always be what’s best for your child. It’s not uncommon for nappies of any type to cause things like nappy rash, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions — pretty uncomfortable stuff! That’s why it’s important for you to consider the material the nappies are made from and if there are any chemicals in there that may cause discomfort for your baby.

Since many disposable nappies tend to use some plastic, reusable nappies just about have the edge here. Take TotsBots Cloth Nappies for example; their nappies are completely Oekotex 100 certified and contain ZERO harmful chemicals. You get a bit more variety in terms of styles and colours with reusable nappies too, which could help to stimulate your baby’s inquisitive mind.

On the flip side, however, many parents report that disposable nappies tend to absorb liquid better. This is up for debate though, with many of the leading reusable nappy brands — like TotsBots — insisting that their cloth is super absorbent and leak proof. 

Which is better for the environment?

With more and more consumers looking to buy consciously, companies have a responsibility to offer environmentally friendly products and services — and this, of course, extends to nappies. 

By the very nature of their names — ‘reusable’ and ‘disposable’ — it would seem that cloth nappies have the clear advantage in this area. It’s estimated that disposable nappies take 500 years to decompose, and many of them don’t even break down in landfill. Experts claim that using reusable nappies will halve your weekly waste, thus reducing your carbon footprint by a whopping 40%.

But the argument is perhaps not as clear cut as it seems on first viewing. Those who back disposable will remind you that the extra energy and money you spend by needing to use your washing machine more has a negative effect on the environment. It is recommended that you wash a reusable nappy at around 60°C to ensure all harmful bacteria is killed, adding a few more quid to the energy bill.

What’s more, companies like Pampers are taking steps to be more green, promising that all of their manufacturing sites across Europe use 100% renewable energy and their packing is 100% recyclable.

Photo by Laura Ohlman from Unsplash

What about your wallet?

It’s normal for new parents to find themselves a little strapped for cash, so anywhere you can save a few pennies is welcome. It is reported that reusable nappies can save you up to £500 over the period your child is likely to be in nappies, with some sources claiming savings can get as high as £750!

Disposable nappies are generally more cost-effective in the short term, but that’s about as far as the counter argument goes. Reusable nappies clearly win this round, but there’s far more to the debate that just money.

So what’s the downside of reusable?

At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking that reusable nappies are emerging as the (relatively) clear winner, despite some strong counter claims from Team Disposable. But we haven’t spoken about a huge factor in this decision, and that’s convenience.

New parents, single or otherwise, are always short of time — especially when you bring work, hobbies and other children into the equation. Ask any mother and they’ll tell you they feel like they have approximately zero spare minutes in a day. So convenience plays a huge part in their thinking, and it can often override any environmental concerns — especially if you’re reducing your carbon footprint in other ways.

Let’s not beat around the bush here… with reusable nappies, you’re going to need to deal with more poo. And that’s never an enjoyable experience, even if it’s the by-product of your own little bundle of joy. Disposable nappies come with the privilege of being able to wrap it up and chuck it away without much thought. 

Disposable nappies are also far more available, meaning they dominate the supermarket aisle and become the easy choice for a parent trying to quickly complete the weekly shop. Consumers love choice too; the choice is a lot more varied with disposables, so parents can choose the type that fits their baby comfortably and also fits their budget.

Photo by Picsea from Unsplash

Find your best option

As we said at the start, there’s no right decision or better choice — how can there be with so many factors to consider? But hopefully we’ve given you a balanced argument from both sides of the debate. It’s up to you now to trial and error, test different brands, and see what fits your lifestyle and budget best. 

Check out the rest of the Point 6 blog for more hot topics.

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