Should I Use Cloth Nappies or Disposable Nappies?

When it comes to choosing the right nappies for your baby, there’s no denying that the choices available can feel somewhat daunting. One of the most popular debates by parents is whether disposable nappies are better than cloth nappies and vice-versa. Both types have their pros and cons, and the decision you make should be an informed one that also meets your lifestyle needs. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about cloth nappies and disposable nappies:

Cloth diapers beside a change table

Image Credit: designedbypk (Source: Pixabay)

What Are Disposable Nappies?

Disposable nappies are undoubtedly the first choice for many parents of babies and toddlers. They first came into use in the mid-20th century. Today, they have become the default option for many parents in much of the world.

All disposable nappies are made with a plastic outer layer and contain an inner layer manufactured with super-absorbent chemicals embedded in it. They’re typically available in all supermarkets, chemists, and retail stores that sell baby products.

Advantages of Disposable Nappies

One of the main draws of disposable nappies is how they’re available to buy in a range of different sizes and styles. What’s more, disposable nappies are often available to buy under supermarket own-brand labels, resulting in some cost savings to parents.

Another advantage is disposable nappies get sold in packs, ensuring an ample supply for most situations. Newborn babies usually need up to 12 nappies a day and up to eight for older babies and toddlers.

Disadvantages of Disposable Nappies

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of disposable nappies is the fact they are disposable. There is no way of recycling disposable nappies, so they all end up going to landfill sites. Over 200 billion disposable nappies end up in Australian landfill sites each year.

Plus, a disposable nappy takes up to 500 years to break down. While it is possible to buy biodegradable disposable nappies, the rate they decompose will depend on landfill conditions.

What Are Cloth Nappies?

Before the advent of disposable nappies, parents used cloth nappies on their babies and toddlers. Cloth nappies, as the name suggests, are nappies made from cloth. Most cloth nappies get manufactured from cotton, but alternatives are available like hemp or bamboo. Despite the popularity of disposable nappies, more parents are switching to cloth nappies for several reasons. Cloth nappies are available in several types, such as “terry” squares, pre-folded, fitted, and pocket styles, along with “all-in-one” types.

Advantages of Cloth Nappies

There are many benefits cloth nappies. For example, the primary advantage of cloth diapers is how they are reusable and don’t contribute to landfill waste as severely as disposable nappies.

Cloth nappies are available in different styles and sizes, the same as disposable nappies. Plus, they represent significant cost savings compared to disposables because of the fact they are reusable.

Disadvantages of Cloth Nappies

If you’re new to cloth nappies, one disadvantage you’ll notice is how you may not quickly change nappies as you do with disposable nappies.

However, preparing cloth nappies in advance can help reduce the steps needed when changing your baby’s nappies.

Another disadvantage is you need to wash and dry used nappies, meaning you’ll factor into your costs the electricity, water, and washing detergent you use. Thankfully, those costs are minimal. Also, some types of cloth nappies may make dressing your child more challenging.

Which Type Should You Choose?

If you’re a new parent, it makes sense to start with disposable nappies so you can get to grips with how to put them on your baby and take them off.

You might also consider using disposable nappies if you’re travelling somewhere far from home and don’t have any washing facilities at your destination or during your journey.

Otherwise, it makes sense to transition to cloth nappies because the benefits of using them geberally outweigh those of disposable nappies.

How to Transition to Cloth Nappies

Are you keen to give cloth nappies a go but worry if they’re the right choice for you and your baby? A great option is to transition to them by using cloth nappies during the day and disposable nappies at night.

You will likely need around 20 or so nappies, to begin with, as you’ll need to factor in your washing and drying routines. When you’re happy that using cloth nappies is okay, you can then start using them on your baby at night as well.


Both disposable and cloth nappies have their pros and cons, but cloth nappies often make more sense for parents in the long term as they are a more sustainable solution.

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