Weighing up what’s best for your baby, your budget and your planet

Every mother has her own individual point of view on the age-old debate of diapers. Today’s nappy choices can seem endless, unlike our ancestral mothers whom were forced to use accessible materials from Mother Nature to protect their baby’s bottom.

The Inuits placed moss under sealskin as an early form of diapers, while, both Native American and Inca mothers packed grass under a rabbit skin diaper cover. Cloth diapers were only introduced in the late 1800s. Even then, it wasn’t until the mid 1900s that cloth diapers had met its match with the invention of disposable diapers.

It’s safe to say that modern-day mummies have many more options than our grandmothers – from disposable, biodegradable disposable, prefold cloth nappies, to all in one reusables, just to name a few. Ultimately, your decision will come down to cost, environmental impact and, more importantly, your personal preference.

So here’s the scoop on poop… disposable vs washable nappies!

Washable diapers

Most of our mothers, our mother’s mothers, and even all the mother’s before them have all done it. The process of mum’s struggling for hours in the laundry soaking sheets and terry towelling, rinsing, washing, drying and folding, is no more. But washable diapers have even evolved quite far since the days of developing a talent of folding flat squares and clasping oversized diaper pins with one hand (avoiding stabbing your little one in the tummy!).

There are over 200 brands of washable diapers on the market, with cost and value varying as well. It is important to invest in good quality reusable nappies, taking into consideration that you will be washing them every day for almost three years. The initial start-up cost of 20 reusable nappies, boosters and liners is estimated to be around $500. This cost does not factor in laundering costs of water, electricity and washing powder.

Pea Pods are a popular brand, at under $20 a pair they are a snug fit, breathable, and use ultra absorbent bamboo lining. When disposable nappies can cost over $1 per nappy and you’re using 5-6 a day, think of the savings not only to your hip pocket but for the environment too.

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Extra time and planning

Compared to the nappies of convenience, washable diapers take up more time for laundering and drying the nappies. Holidays and weekends can also contribute to issues such as finding facilities to soak and wash soiled diapers. Even winter can cause a problem as it becomes harder to air-dry washed cloths. Simply put, washable diapers require just a small extra level of planning.

Nappy service companies can assist with these domestic duties. Lavenderia NappyCare wash, dry, and fold reusable cloth nappies, facilities the process for busy mums as they can wash and home deliver up to 60 nappies for $25 per week. Overall, this luxury would cost almost the same amount as the overall cost of disposable nappies.

Water borne waste

With daily washing, reusable diapers require a large amount of water for soaking, washing and rinsing. Washable diapers produce four times more water borne waste than disposables. They also require the use of detergents to sanitise the soiled diapers that end up polluting the water system, unless you’re using earth care or bio degradable laundry products – bicarb and vinegar usually does the trick!

The environmental impact of reusable diapers can be reduced depending on laundering usage, such as choosing air-dry over tumble-dry.

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Disposable diapers

Due to accessibility and cost, disposable nappies only became popular in the last couple of decades. The design has evolved drastically, with mothers at the forefront lines of the development.

Assuming your baby will need up to two and a half years worth of basic disposable diapers until he or she is potty-trained, Baby Soft Landings calculated the total cost would be at least $3339. This value also includes the cost of one packet of disposable wipes a week. As a new mother, it may take a bit of experimenting with brands and types to find the right fit for your baby.

Think of the savings you could make if you were putting your diaper costs into a high rate savings account over the course of three years? 

Nappies of convenience

Disposable diapers are often labelled the nappies of convenience as they can be bought and binned anywhere. Being portable and disposable it’s easy to become dependent upon them for their convince and time saving advantages.

Disposed in a landfill

Traditional disposable diapers produce four times more solid waste than cloth nappies. Disposable diapers are produced with synthetics, such as bleach, plastics, and adhesives. Raw materials like wood pulp are also used to fill the nappy.

Disposable nappies are believed to take roughly 500 years to break down. According to a study conducted by the Environment Agency on the lifecycle of disposable nappies, every child wearing nappies accounts for 1-2 tonnes of waste to landfill over their lifetime!

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Biodegradable Nappies

Recently, biodegradable nappies have become more accessible to mothers who would like to be more conscious of the environment. Actress Jessica Alba recently founded The Honest Company to promote and sell natural and eco-friendly baby products. Created with the idea of only using organic materials and products on your baby’s skin cleansing the materials that touch a baby’s skin, The Honest Co. features baby-care to household-cleaner products.

Along with reading all the informative parenting books, it is important to research your extensive diaper options. You might decide on washable nappies for days spent at home and disposables for when you go out and about.

A lot of the time it will come down to trial and error; whether it be washable, disposable, biodegradable, you will find the right nappy or combination that works best for your baby and your budget, as well as the planet.

Written by Melissa Cortes, Yahoo!7 Moneyhound – Fetching you a better deal. Moneyhound.com.au is a price comparison site that can help you save money across all your monthly bills. Try it now, it’s free.
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  • Informative read, covering key aspects comprehensively


  • Great! Really good knowledge to know! Thanks for sharing this!


  • yeah disposables are my choice and i will have to stand by that. lol


  • When I had my first child I bought terry towelling and flanellete materials. Sewn and embroidered the nappy for my little girl and turned them all into bath mats after my baby developed allergies. Later the doctor suggested not to used cloth diapers and instead used disposables. I never looked back and used disposable for all my five children. At times, I’m feeling guilty but then I have to choose between reliability. Allergies or Disposable diapers?


  • i have tried both but i prefer disposable for the time factor


  • I’ve used both disposables and cloth, and cloth is my favourite for comfort, health, fashion and the environment. Mum of 3.


  • We used disposables for our son. Cloth nappies seemed to irritate his skin, leaving him red and sore. Changed him regularly and kept trying different washing powders, but no difference. We used cloth for my daughter. As far as cost, by the time you take into account the cost of nappies, liners, soaking and washing products, water, electricity and time, disposable aren’t too expensive and I guess


  • I’ve always used disposables but looked at washable new styles with our last child but still found it easier in our lifestyle to use disposable.


  • I never even considered using cloth nappies. I am glad they are becoming more environmentally friendly


  • Weigh up the pros and cons and work out what’s best for you.


  • So many things to consider!


  • Disposable nappies – best invention since sliced bread. I started off with the cloth nappies, the buckets, the napisan and then I saw the light.


  • I think it’s good to have both disposable and washable in hand :)


  • they both have their pros and cons


  • I think the extra power and water costs (along with soap etc) balance the costs of disposable. Each to their own but I get tired of hearing how we’re wasting money as we chose disposable.


  • I think it really is personal choice nowadays – the pros and cons seem pretty even to me


  • I have used both and disposables work out cheaper, with washing, drying, poweder and softener

    • A friend being a new mummy says the exact same thing, at the end of the day disposables work out a lot cheaper and she has more time on her hands to do other things.


  • We use both disposable and reusable.


  • I love the convenience of disposable, but must say using cloth nappies part time has saved me a lot!


  • I have some Modern Cloth Nappies, I got some that were resizable, I have used them from about 6 months and my son is 2 and we still use them. They are great!


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