Cloth Nappies vs Disposables - Which Is Best?

Posted by Haley Berryman on

When becoming a new parent every journey is different, but there is one experience that’s universal...changing nappies. But which option is best for you and your baby?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, your little bundle of joy will go through “approximately 3,000 nappies in its first year of life alone and average six diaper changes a day thereafter!” It’s easy to pick up a box of disposables at the supermarket, but we’re here to let you know there are other options. We break it down into bite-sized chunks so that you can confidently choose what nappies will be best for your family.

Cost: Price remains an important factor for families when it comes to choosing baby products. So what is the price difference of disposable nappies vs cloth nappies? And what kind of nappy is cheaper in the long run?

From the research, let’s assume your baby matches the AAP estimate and will go through 3000 nappies in their first 12 months, and 1095 in the six months following. We’ve whipped out the calculator to do the math.

Based on the price of the cheapest disposable nappies available in supermarkets, your nappies are going to cost around $1475 AUD in the first year and a half alone. If your baby toilet trains by two and a half years old, you’re looking at spending at least $2269 AUD on disposable nappies.

What about cloth nappies? Families who opt for full-time use of cloth nappies (both day and night) typically maintain a stash of around 24-30 nappies. For the sake of this cost comparison, let's consider the purchase of 24 reusable cloth nappies at full price*. With EcoNaps, this initial investment would amount to $839* AUD upfront. When cared for according to our EcoNaps washing guidelines, these nappies can endure for more than a year. In fact, many families continue to utilise them until their child completes potty training.*

At first glance, opting for disposable nappies from your local Kmart, Target, or Big W may appear to be the most convenient and economical choice. However, in reality, it could end up costing you hundreds of dollars more throughout your child's entire nappy-wearing journey.

Environment: The environment is another major consideration for families when choosing between disposable vs cloth nappies. This topic is close to our hearts. After having our first baby, we witnessed first hand the sheer volume of nappies being thrown into the rubbish. We learnt that it will take up to 500 years for a disposable nappy to decompose, and some parts NEVER disappear. This fact alone inspired us to start EcoNaps.

Disposable nappies are constructed with an absorbent pad made up of synthetic polymers (aka microplastics) combined with fibrous material such as wood pulp. This is sandwiched between two sheets of non-woven fabric typically made from plastic resins such as nylon, polyester, polyethylene, or polypropylene. These are assembled by mechanically, chemically, or thermally interlocking the plastic fibres.

Modern cloth nappies are made of soft absorbent layers of fabric, like cotton, hemp, bamboo or a combination of these. A leak-proof cover holds the absorbent layers inside the nappy. While the materials in cloth nappies are kinder to the planet, they comprise synthetic fabrics too to make them durable and waterproof.

Recently, there has been the introduction of biodegradable disposable nappies. These are made from different materials, like bamboo, fabrics and paper pulp. When thrown away, they decompose more quickly than ordinary disposable nappies. Even if you choose to cloth nappy in the day and use disposables at nights, these biodegradable disposable nappies options a great companion. Try out our favourite plant-based disposable eco-nappies by Ecoriginals here.

For us, this choice is a no brainer. If looking after the environment is important to you, cloth nappies are the best way to significantly reduce plastic in landfill. By choosing cloth nappies over disposables, you are diverting over 8000 nappies from landfill, according to the AAP, and essentially reducing your single-use plastic consumption by 99%.

Lifestyle: Let’s start with the topic on every potential cloth nappy parent’s mind, and that is laundry. Most people want to learn about the cost of washing cloth nappies and the time it will take.

Straight up, having a baby means there will be a LOT more laundry. Disposable nappies won’t impact your everyday laundry habits, however, cloth nappies will.

You can anticipate washing a load of cloth nappies every 1-2 days. The cost of washing depends on several factors, including the type of washing machine you use and the temperature of the washing load. Fortunately, washing cloth nappies can be efficiently integrated into your daily routine without adding much time. However, there's a lot more to delve into on this topic, so click here to explore further details about washing cloth nappies.

Nappy covers are crafted from water-resistant PUL and dry swiftly on the line or hanging rack. In contrast, nappy inserts consist of multiple layers of OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certified cotton and bamboo, which may require a longer drying time naturally. It's advisable to consider drying time when determining how many nappies you truly need. An effective tip when using EcoNaps nappies is to reuse the cover and only switch out the inserts. This means you might only need to invest in extra cloth inserts rather than additional nappies.

Convenience is another factor for new parents weighing the choice between disposables and cloth nappies. While disposable nappies may seem like the obvious pick for simplicity, many families are pleasantly surprised to find that cloth nappies are just as manageable. When on the go, cloth nappy users simply bring along a wet bag to store soiled nappies. This water-resistant and odour-proof bag effectively conceals dirty nappies until you return home to launder as usual. It truly is that straightforward.

When deciding between disposable and cloth nappies for your baby, everyday practicality, financial implications, and environmental impact all come into play. While disposable diapers may initially seem more budget-friendly, they carry a significant environmental burden and can become costly over time. We encourage you to consider what’s important to you as a family and make a choice that aligns to your values and lifestyle.

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