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All my friends use disposable nappies for their babies, but I am worried about the environment. What should I take into account when choosing what type of nappies to use?

Not that long ago, women routinely used cloth nappies and the occasional disposable nappy for traveling and convenience. This has changed dramatically in the last 15 years and the swing has been firmly towards disposables. The increase in working mothers has contributed to this trend – it’s partly a time issue! However there is no doubt that the modern disposables use incredibly advanced technology to keep baby dry, snug and rash free for as long as possible. The convenience of a nappy you can just throw away is very attractive, reducing the problem of that smelly nappy bucket in the bathroom, and the problem of carrying home a dirty cloth nappy after an outing. The scratchy, uncomfortable disposables of 20 years ago have been replaced by sophisticated nappies, with the texture of cotton and designed for extreme comfort. The efficient adsorption of fluid, combined with a layer of fabric which stays dry next to the baby’s skin, means that for some babies sleep is less disturbed by a very wet nappy.

As for the environment, there is no doubt that the amount of time that it takes for a nappy to decompose has placed a huge strain on rubbish sites. Consumer pressure has encouraged the manufacturers of disposable nappies to investigate the biodegradability of disposables. You should consider the fact that every baby who wears disposables will have sent roughly two tons of nappies (about 5000 in number) to the landfill. Quite a thought. If you want to use disposables, yet are concerned about the environmental implications, it is worth your while to investigate which brands are more degradable than others. There are a few disadvantages to disposables, such as anecdotal evidence that if babies are too dry and comfortable in their disposables, that they will not have any motivation to be potty trained.

While many women believe that disposables reduce the incidence of nappy rash since the fluid is efficiently wicked away from the baby’s skin, this has not been borne out by scientific research. This may be an instance where your baby gets the final say. Some babies do not do well in cloth nappies, and find the waterproof pants to be extremely uncomfortable. Other babies may find the disposable nappies to be hot and irritating. So this may be a decision best made after you have had a chance to see what suits your baby.

What may influence your decision is whether your town has a nappy service. This is a service that provides you with nappies, and does a regular collection of dirty nappies and exchanges them for clean nappies. Since the nappies are steam cleaned, they are extremely sterile and cleaner than you could get them cleaning at home. The other advantage is that the nappy service will provide you with soft flannel nappies for the first few weeks, and then swop them for toweling nappies when you feel your baby is ready. This saves on the initial outlay. The nappy bucket is the only down side, but it is usually a sealed container which keeps the smell contained. Also due to the popularity of disposable nappies, there are very few nappy services around any more, mainly in the big centres, so you would need to check this out before you consider what your choices are!

Toweling nappies that you wash at home will never be as clean as those from a nappy service, but that is probably what you wore as a baby and I bet you are none the worse for it. There are cleverly designed cloth nappies on the market that have the design of a disposable, and some even have water proofing attached. The use of a biodegradable liner can reduce the problem of soiled nappies and ease the cleaning process. The environmental aspect does come into play here too, since you would be washing a load of nappies every day and probably using a very hot cycle. You may need to tumble dry them if the weather is poor. So there is an environmental downside to each choice. Plus this choice is time consuming, so factor that into your decision.

So in the end it comes back down to you and your baby. Baby’s comfort and well-being are paramount, and your convenience and conscience need to be weighed against each other. It’s your call!

See also:

Nappy - Nappy rash

Nappy - Nappy changing etiquette

 

 

 

 

 

 
   
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