Should 2019 Be The Year You Embrace Reusable Nappies?

You can get washable nappies in every colour and design under the sun.

More people really need to use washable nappies. It’s estimated that every child in disposables generates half a ton of landfill waste a year, waste that isn’t going anywhere and will be clogging up the earth for centuries. So, if you put a new Pampers on and your child immediately voids their adorable little bowels into it, that’s 500 years or so of failing to decompose in exchange for a minute of dung-catching.

A lot of people are reluctant to use reusables though – they seem like effort, or a lot of money, or like the kind of thing weird families that wear sacks do, but they’re really not. Here are a few reasons to consider touching cloth.

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It’s Cheaper In The Long Run

For about £150-£200 you can get completely set up with a whole baby’s worth of nappies, reusable wipes and all the necessary buckets. You can spend more, of course – there are some super-fancy ones out there – but there’s also a pretty healthy market for second-hand ones. (Don’t worry, people clean them before they send you them.)

There are some really nice groups online where there’s a real sense of paying it forward, and you can snap up older nappies for peanuts. Buying disposables in bulk can make them really cheap, around 10p a pop, but that still adds up – you’re still looking at about £300 a year. And if you use reusables and have another kid, hey bingo, you’ve got everything you need already.

It’s Really Not That Much Extra Work

Reusable nappies need washing, obviously, but the heavy lifting is taken care of by the washing machine and clothes horse. Really. Depending on the type of nappies you get, they might need a bit of construction each time – ramming an absorbent hemp insert into it, laying a liner in it, etc – but it’s not hard work.

It’s a perfect kind of mindless task to do in front of the telly, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when you look at a neat, completed pile of nicely stuffed nappies. All in all, it’s maybe an hour and a half of work a week, if that. You need to keep on top of it or it becomes a nightmare, but every child is an admin hellscape at the best of times anyway.

They’re Not Just For Arseholes

There’s definitely a certain kind of person one pictures when thinking of people who use resusable nappies – smug, holier-than-thou types who don’t own a telly and make their own organic hummus. But you know what? It’s like veganism – a lot more people do it than you might think, but you only notice the ones that are all in your face about it. There are awesome communities online of washable nappy users, with barely a wanker to be found.

Changing Nappies Isn’t Fun Anyway

You may or may not be familiar with the idea of the ‘poo knife’, a butter knife kept in the bathroom and used to scrape poo off a poo-filled nappy your baby has pooed poo into, and into the toilet to be flushed away. If you tell someone without a child about that they recoil in horror, but it’s really not that bad.

Changing a nappy involves wiping human waste off a human bum, so it’s nobody’s idea of a party at any point – throwing in one extra gross bit isn’t going to make much difference (and it’s only occasionally necessary anyway – most of the time you can just give it a bit of a shake and the dump will fall into the bowl with a satisfying thunk).

They Might Actually Be Better For Your Baby

There’s some conflicting science out there in Nappyland. Studies part-funded by nappy companies seem to conclude that disposable nappies are super awesome. Other research, still debated, suggests disposable nappies can lead to a lower sperm count in boys, and anecdotally, that nappy rash occurs much less frequently in babies wearing cloth nappies than disposables.

They’re Quite Nice

Occasionally you see disposable nappies with a nice picture of a cat on them or something, but for the most part they’re dull as anything – white with a little blue ‘here’s some wee-wee’ stripe. You can get cloth nappies in every colour and design under the sun. The Wizard Uno, for instance (a pricey nappy, but a lovely one) comes with sharks, mountains, foxes or cacti on it, while a Little Lamb Pocket comes in something like 15 different designs.

It’s Really Not Difficult

Gone are the days of jabbing big spiky safety pins through a complicated bundle of fabric, managing to spear both your hand and your child’s thigh. They’re all poppers and velcro now, and fairly idiot-proof. Plus they’re thankfully free of the stupidest system in the world – the yellow line on some disposables that turns blue when wee touches it. What maniac decided yellow should represent a lack of wee? It is literally the colour of wee.

If you can handle that baffling nonsense, you can probably handle velcro.

Think of The Planet, Yo

Do you want your little bundle of joy to have a non-knackered planet to grow up on? If every kid is generating half a ton of nappy waste a year, that’s pretty planet-knackering. You can buy biodegradable disposable nappies, of course, but very little actual biodegrading happens in a landfill, and odds are they’re going to end up sealed in non-degradable bin bags anyway. If using cloth nappies, you might as well go the whole hog and use reusable wipes as well. In London alone, 30 tons of “flushable” wipes are pulled out of the water every day – they’re flushable in the same sense wood is edible.

Also, if you use disposables and just ball them up every time, depending on where you live and how good your rubbish collection is, you might be living with a plastic bin full of human shit outside your front door for two weeks. Each to their own, but that’s kind of manky.

  • CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article did not contain links to the research comparing disposable and reusable nappies - these have now been added.