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disposable VS resuable: nappies and wipes

April 12, 2013

What is one of the most important decisions you will make for your children, we hear you ask? Which school you should send them to? No! Whether to use disposable or re-usable nappies or wipes? YES!

Well, maybe not the most important questions, but for many, this question is a difficult one. With rising costs involved in keeping your baby’s hygiene in check (The Women’s Environmental Network commissioned a study in 2006 which concluded that using disposable nappies could cost around £500 more than using reusable ones, which would initially cost anywhere from £80 to £200), as well as increasing concern regarding the chemicals used in disposable nappies, many parents are paying more attention to their options.

After our recent competition with Cheeky Wipes we thought it would be interesting to analyse your options for you and we were pretty surprised by what we found. For example, did you know that by the time your child is potty trained (between 2 and a half and 3 years on average) they will have used between 4,000 and 6,000 disposable nappies. All of which go to landfill.

Disposable nappies have their benefits, don’t get us wrong. They are so convenient, lightweight and easy to get hold of that many mums appreciate their easy, no fuss approach to keeping your baby ‘contained’. The polyacrylates inside the nappy that absorb everything turn into a gel when wet, containing the wetness, and can hold many times their own weight in liquid. They also don’t contribute to your already huge laundry load, which itself minimises the effect on the environment caused by repeated washing and drying.

The option to explore the world of reusable nappies and wipes is not one that all parents are open to, however, it can ultimately be more rewarding, ‘saving the world’ together style. Not only are you dramatically reducing the contents of landfill sites (only damaged nappies need to be thrown away), reusable nappies can be used by subsequent children which can only help keep your bank account a bit fuller. The environmental benefits cannot be ignored, as reusable nappies can be better by up to 40%, with the effect ultimately decided by the parents and how they choose to wash and dry the nappies or wipes.  Ultimately, though, most parents choose these nappies or wipes because of their economically friendly impact – many councils offer schemes such as cashback, vouchers and free samples to encourage parents to change to reusable nappies for free or at a discount. You can even make your own inserts and/or wipes from fleece which is a hugely absorbent but fast drying man-made material and reduces the cost further. It is also interesting to note that one size of reusable nappy often lasts from birth to potty training as they feature adjustable poppers or Velcro.

Reusable nappies and wipes have their downsides too. They aren’t a very convenient option as they need to be washed regularly (although not after every use as many have a removable highly absorbent slip inside) and this washing naturally incurs quite a bit of energy and water use. They can also be less absorbent and may not fit quite as tightly as disposable nappies, which means leaks. Many parents say that they feel chained to either the washing machine or the dryer in a bid to stay on top of the washing needed to keep up with your baby’s body, which is the last thing you need with a small child and potentially older siblings.

Many parents choose to make a compromise in the form of eco-friendly disposable nappies. These are often cheaper than regular disposable nappies and are not made using chemicals, so for those reluctant to expose their baby to chemicals that aren’t 100% necessary, these nappies are a nice compromise. However, these nappies often don’t break down any quicker than ordinary disposable nappies, they just contain fewer polyacrylates, so can be kinder to your baby’s bottom (many parents claim they reduce nappy rash considerably).

With so many options, parents are bound to find an option to suit them and all it takes is a bit of experimenting! You don’t just have to stick to one option either – why not try mixing and matching disposable with reusable options?

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