Re-usable nappies - do people really still use them?

Re-usable nappies - do people really still use them?

We had an eye-opening evening last night when a local agent for re-usable nappies visited us to demonstrate what's available for people wishing to stop using disposable nappies. Why would we want to do that? For us, it's a combination of the higher cost and the guilt we feel when we consider how much extra rubbish we're creating. Another argument is that most of us don't know what chemicals are used in disposable nappies or more importantly what effect these chemicals could have when there in constant proximity to our babies' skin. Recently, we've been compromising by using the acclaimed Moltex Oko nappies which are environmentally friendly disposables, but they are more expensive than pretty much anything else so we decided the time had come to try another way.

Looking at other websites and magazines, it's becoming obvious that re-usable nappies are a growing market and the resurgence in interest has led to new designs being introduced at a rapid rate. The aim for most manufacturers seems to be a re-usable that's as convenient as a disposable but at the moment that's still a long way off. Instead, the current status is that most re-usable nappies consist of several parts that you assemble with each nappy change, and every part can differ in shape, size, material, colour and of course price. And you thought choosing disposables was tricky! To simplify things, here are a few re-usable basics:

In general, any nappy (including disposable) consists of three main sections:

(It is possible to get away with not having a liner or a wrap - previous generations will vouch for that - but it's very unusual.)

In general, there are four ways in which these sections are combined:

So which is best? Like so many things, there's no perfect answer - it depends on your preference, how hectic your lifestyle is, what's easily available and your budget. Different people swear by different types but after having tried a few, we're happiest with the Stuffables from Mother Nature. You can get them ready in advance so you don't have three layers to hold in place while your little one wriggles around.

Whichever type is chosen, however, there's no doubt that more work is involved and it is initially not cheap to take the plunge into re-usables. It's recommended that you'd need around 12-18 nappies depending on your laundry habits and your child's toilet habits and at up to £10 each that can leave a big dent in your wallet. Having said that, it works out cheaper than disposable nappies over time and I reckon the average user would start saving money from about 6 months.

Future developments:

The re-usable nappy market in the UK is still relatively small and is apparently roughly equal to the advertising budget for Pampers. It looks set to continue growing, however, and I reckon we will gradually see a few of the many small companies that currently exist growing to dominate the market. With more market share and more demand they should be able to lower prices and distribute their products in more mainstream areas such as supermarkets (Waitrose are already doing this).

In addition, there are sure to be more product developments that will make using re-usable nappies more convenient, possibly including an increase in the use of hemp. When combined with cotton this creates a nappy that is more absorbent and less bulky.

Comments (now closed)

We're real fans of reusable nappies. My wife and I have used them since our daughter was born and so I now consider myself something of an expert. By far the best are Tots Bots - great colours, a great design and more importantly not fussy to use at all. Jessica will pick out her favourite colour (and often refuses to wear any clothes over the top of them) and we're finding that we're saving a small fortune. Despite being sceptical at first, I really recommend checking them out.
John13 July 2004

My daughter (now 3 and a half and dry for 2 months!) was in reusable nappies from when she left hospital, this saved us alot of money as a family and as long as you don't mind the washing machine being used alot more then you never have that "Quick, go to the supermarket and get nappies!" moment!
Richard17 June 2004