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Nappies – Disposable or Real?

05/07/2013 | Child Health, Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

Nappies are part of life for new parents – after all your baby will need a nappy change several times every day and you need to get yourself organised so that changing time goes as smoothly as possible.  When disposable nappies first hit the shops several decades ago they were adopted by most new parents who could afford to use them.  Why not?  Disposables make life much easier for parents (especially the person who does the laundry) – they don’t need soaking or washing and seemed to keep baby drier than traditional alternatives. 

However, since then we’ve become much more concerned about the environmental impact of disposables which may take up to 200 years to biodegrade.  When you think that on average each baby will use up to 4,000 nappies before they’re potty trained and that there were more than 700,000 babies born in the UK last year, that adds up to a mountain of nappies.  It doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that disposable nappies have a huge impact on the environment and this is one of the reasons more and more new parents are turning their backs on disposables and opting for reusable nappies instead.

Reusable nappies have come a long way in recent years.  The development of new fabrics means that nappies are available in a variety of designs so there should be something to suit everyone.  There are three different categories of cloth nappies and we’ll take a quick look at each.

Fitted Nappies

These tend to be made from bamboo fabrics which offer superior absorbency and durability combined with the softness that you need for baby’s bottom.   They come in a variety of sizes (small, medium, large) or are adjustable – One Size Fits Most (OSFM) or Birth to Potty (BTP).  Synthetic fabrics (such as Zorb) can be added to boost absorbency, however these nappies do need to be covered with a waterproof ‘wrap’.  Wraps come in a variety of types and fabrics, PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) or fleece.  Another option is knitted woollen covers (soakers, longies and shorties) which act as clothing.  The wool used is 90% pure wool that must be hand-washed and lanolised regularly (not necessarily after each use as pure wool naturally repels moisture and will air dry easily).

Pocket Nappies

These are probably the most popular reusable nappies and have a hidden PUL layer which makes them waterproof.  They’re fabricated from an attractive outer layer with a softer inside layer that has a pocket that takes an absorbent insert (absorbency being determined by the thickness of the insert).  Pocket nappies are usually made from Minky/Plush – a range of soft, synthetic water-repellent fabrics that come in a wide range of colours and patterns, meaning they can be co-ordinated with baby’s clothing for an integrated style.

All In One Nappies

Known as AIOs, these nappies combine the absorbency of a fitted nappy with the waterproof PUL layer of a pocket nappy and are held in place with snap closures.

Changing and Washing

Changing a reusable nappy is just as simple as with disposables.  Most fasten with snaps or Velcro and are fully adjustable for a growing baby.  A cold rinse is recommended before washing (especially if nappy is soiled) and then it’s just a matter of chucking them in the machine on a 40 degree cycle (leave out the fabric conditioner – it will impede the absorbency of the fabric and is not good for baby’s bottom).  All of these nappies dry quickly, but can be put in a drier if necessary.

Although these nappies may seem expensive initially (about £100 for a starter kit), you’re actually buying a nappy system that will save you so much money in the long run (up to £1000 per annum on disposables).  Many young mums swap or sell their nappies and covers/wraps when they no longer need them, adding to the environmental advantage of these nappies. 

Check out some reusable nappy systems here:

Made By Amber

Plush Pants

Kittikins

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