The Great Nappy Debate


Bringing home your new bundle of joy for the first time is such a joyous occasion, but when it comes to changing nappies; well that’s when a whole world of possibilities are revealed to you. You are now faced with the daunting task of choice! What do you use? Do you use disposable nappies or cloth nappies? Which brands are better to use? Should you be going for comfort, quality, quantity or a combination of all three? It can all become extremely confusing and overwhelming very quickly and it might seem like no one has any straightforward answers to help you.
For all new mothers that are currently faced with the task of choice, we would like to present to you the facts about disposable nappies and cloth nappies, and further highlight the pros and cons of each and their effect on the environment.
For those that don’t yet know, the definitions of disposable nappies and cloth nappies are listed below so you’re not left in the dark while we continue with this article.
Disposable Nappy – The disposable nappy is a type of underwear that allows one to defecate or urinate, without the use of a toilet and is able to be disposed of or thrown away after use.
Cloth Nappy – The cloth nappy is a type of underwear that allows one to defecate or urinate, without the use of a toilet and is able to be reused.
But first we need to go back to the beginning, when nappies were first invented. When they were originally made out of cloth before anyone even thought of the modern disposable nappies we see today!

Blast From the Past 

We met with experienced mother of 6 and proud grandmother of 11, Grace. She took us down memory lane and told us that back in the 60’s and 70’s, it wasn’t any harder than it is today to change a baby’s nappy. But it was a lot more time consuming as after a baby had soiled their nappy, you had to make time during the day to wash them by hand, then hang them out to dry and wait until they were ready again before you could use them. Sometimes on rainy days or even rainy weeks you would find yourself waiting extremely long periods of time before you could use the next round of nappies. 

She excitedly told us that she could clearly remember the day the “modern” disposable nappy was introduced into her world and from then on it changed everything. She found that she now had more hours to spend quality time with her wonderful children and whenever she used the new nappies her babies seemed happier.

“I only wish this kind of nappy was introduced sooner, as it would have saved me so much time” Grace told us, “And instead of spending my days washing dirty diapers, I could have spent that time enjoying life with my children”.

Now who wouldn’t want that?

The Truth About Nappies and the Environment 

We understand that every mother is different, but the one thing that’s clear is the type of nappy that each mother uses is dependent on what her priorities are:

  • A mother that is low on time will typically favour disposable nappies; whereas
  • A mother that is more concerned about the environment will generally prefer cloth nappies.

There is a common view that cloth nappies are more eco-friendly and have less of an impact on global warming than disposable nappies. But recent studies have shown that this is a large misconception, and that the difference between using cloth nappies or disposable nappies on the environment is smaller than most people think.

The studies show that for babies between 0 – 30 months old, the environmental impact of using a washing machine, drier and hot water to clean cloth nappies is equivalent to using disposable nappies over the same timeframe. They also show that cloth nappies can at times have an even higher imprint on the environment depending on how they are washed and dried! So if you do plan to use cloth nappies be sure to take care of them and use the correctly :)

Now that we have figured that one out, what else is there to know?

So What is the Difference Between Disposable Nappies and Cloth Nappies?

It is clear that there are many differences between cloth and disposable nappies, and for each type there is also a multitude of brands to select from. So to help make things easier for you as a new mum, we have trimmed it down to the basics and compiled a list of the key points for your convenience. It will now be so much easier for you to compare the pair. 


Disposable Nappy

Cloth Nappy

They are cheaper to begin with.

They turn out to be cheaper in the long run.

They are convenient and easy to use.

They can be reused.

They are considered to be more sanitary to use than a cloth nappy.

They have been known to smell less during use than disposable nappies.

They use less of your time as you don’t need to wash and hang them out to dry. After flushing the poop down the toilet, you can throw the nappy conveniently in the bin.

Your bin will be less full of nappies.

They have been created with special technology built into the nappy.

Contribute less to landfills compared to disposable nappies.

The technology used in them has been designed to have higher absorption capability and can also help absorb the liquid into the nappy and away from the baby’s bottom resulting in minimisation of nappy rash.

More comfortable for baby to wear due to the material they are made of.

They come with warnings that tell you when a nappy is wet to help reduce nappy rash.

You are able to select from a range of cute designs, making them more of an accessory.

They are available in many sizes and at most supermarkets.

Easier to find the perfect fit and once you find it you can keep the same nappy for a length of time.

They are now being designed to be organic and biodegradable, making them more eco-friendly.

They have a range of organic materials e.g. cotton or bamboo that means the nappy contains no harmful chemicals or plastics. 


Disposable Nappy

Cloth Nappy

They are considered to be more expensive in the long run.

They are initially more expensive to buy in comparison with the disposable nappy.

They are found to contribute more to landfill in comparison to the cloth nappy.

They are considered to be less sanitary than disposable nappies.

It is hard to find the perfect fit.

They are time consuming to maintain.

You need to use trial and error before you find the right nappy, and even then once your baby out grows that nappy you’ll need to start the process all over again for the next age group.

If you forget them when going out, you are not able to go buy the exact same one at your local supermarket.

During the trial and error process you may spend a lot of money on nappies you won’t use.

They need to be washed and dried in the correct manner to ensure they are sanitary before reuse.

They need to be disposed of correctly.

They are not convenient and easy to use

Your bin will be constantly filled with stinky nappies.

They don't come with any special technology.

So Which One Should I Use? Which Brand is Better? Which One is Better For My Baby? 

This is one question we can’t answer for you, as each mum and baby is different from the next. You will need to try different types of nappies and see which one your baby seems happier with and which one results in less nappy rash. Once you find it then stick with that brand and with that kind of nappy. But we hope this article has cleared up any misconceptions or lingering queries you had to help guide you in the right direction!

At the end of the day, whether you use disposable nappies or cloth nappies, it is simply up to personal choice as our research has shown that they both have their advantages and disadvantages, and they both have a similar imprint on the environment. Just remember that the most important thing is to keep your baby feeling comfortable and happy and we trust that you as a mother will know what to do (or find out what to do!) to keep your adorable baby smiling!

Have fun changing your baby’s dirty nappies! :)


 Esther @ The Little Baby Shop

For more details and in-depth research on this topic by Environment Agency click here 

Images courtesy of adamr, imagerymajestic & Boians Cho Joo Young from

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