Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying that disposable nappies are the most convenient. There are so many things going through your head as a first-time (or second, third, etc.) parent that having a nappy you can buy anywhere and then just throw away is a blessing. However, society is moving more and more towards shunning disposable nappies and putting pressure on parents to use re-usable nappies. Although I feel this is a positive step, we still went through most of the first year using disposables, albeit with a guilt complex, until we eventually started trying re-usables. Having said that, I don't think disposables should disappear altogether.
What's wrong with disposable nappies, then?
There are various websites that give a good breakdown of why disposables should be avoided, including the Real Nappy Association and Twinkle Twinkle, but the main issues are:
Environmental - They take hundreds of years to biodegrade and use materials from mostly non-renewable sources.
Cost - Not only to the parents but also to the taxpayer; it costs roughly 10% of the price of each nappy to dispose of them.
Health - The absorbant gel in disposables is sodium polyacrylate and it's not known what effect, if any, this has when it's in constant close contact with your child's skin for several years.
Can I ever use them with a clean conscience?
If they're Moltex Oko - yes! Even if not, I still think it's a good idea to have a stack of disposables on standby.
They're generally more absorbant and so may be better for use during the night when the nappy isn't going to be changed for a long time.
When on holiday or even just out and about, you may need something quick and easy for those back-of-the-car changes. Having said that, some re-usable nappies are now just as convenient for travelling (although you still have to find washing facilities).
There are bound to be times when your pride and joy's digestive system goes into overdrive, probably at the time when all your re-usables are dirty or in the wash.
Which are the best disposables?
Surprise surprise, it depends on you and your baby. We've met roughly equal numbers of parents who prefer either Huggies or Pampers. Personally, we think the Huggies are slightly softer and more comfortable, but on the other hand we were showered with CDs and booklets from Pampers when we gave birth, which almost swayed us. I've also heard good things about Tesco's own brand - supposedly just as good as the main brands but a lot cheaper - although we weren't convinced. A few months ago, however, we found the perfect brand...
I've sung their praises already: Moltex Oko is a German brand of disposable nappies growing in popularity. They are the only disposables approved by Friends of the Earth as they're both recycled and biodegradable. The light brown colour can be a bit off-putting at first but in use they're as absorbant as you'd expect and leaks are extremely rare (which is more than can be said for our experience of the Nature Boy/Girl range currently available in Waitrose). I recommend them wholeheartedly, although at the moment they're still quite expensive and mostly only available by mail order.