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nappies

Babies, Families

Ending The Cloth Versus Disposable Nappy Debate

cloth versus disposable nappies

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Time has flown around here.  It feels like my youngest daughter should still be a six months old baby, but she is, in fact, two now – two and a half to be precise – and is very much a walking, talking toddler with a very definite mind of her own.  

We have been using reusable nappies on her since she was big enough to fit into them, so I would imagine that our time with reusable nappies and nappies, in general, is drawing to a close soon.

This is our fourth year of using the same set of nappies – I bought the set over six years ago when my eldest daughter was only months old, so I feel we’ve really got our money’s worth out of them.  I paid about £160 for our nappies, which was a HUGE expense for us at the time.  I was so worried that I would never recoup that investment.  Thankfully it turned out those worries were unfounded – these nappies have been well used!

washable nappies

As I have used reusable nappies on both my children, I often get asked questions about reusable nappies from people who are either interested in using them on their kids/future kids, or from people who have no inclination of using reusable nappies but are just curious as to how it all works. 

The chief reusable nappy question I get, hands down, is: “is it not a lot of work”?

I always answer with not as much work as you think.  All that reusable nappies really involve is just popping the dirty nappies in the nappy bucket, which is lined with a mesh bag.  When the bucket is full, just pop the mesh bag in the washing machine, and run on a 60°C wash. Then you just hang them up to dry when the cycle is done.  Job done.

The second question I get is “which is better, cloth or disposable nappies“?

I don’t think though, that it is a question of cloth versus disposable nappies.  Whenever I chat to people about reusable nappies, I’m keen to stress that reusable nappies don’t have to be all or nothing.  The cloth versus disposable nappy debate seems to perpetuate that it is all or nothing, which I think can be a bit of a barrier to getting new parents to think about using reusable nappies.  

My experience is that I don’t use reusable nappies on my daughter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because I’ve found it’s just not practical for us. 

At night-time, I’ve found with both my daughters that we needed to use a disposable nappy (especially more so now that she’s older).  I have tried using extra pads in the reusable nappies, to no avail, and have conceded that disposable nappies at night time it is.

When we go away overnight I use disposables then too.  We mostly use public transport when going away overnight and when travelling as a foursome, especially with a toddler in tow, it’s easiest to travel as lightly as possible.     

Yes, there’s no getting around the fact the reusable nappies are better for the environment than disposable nappies, but disposables are very much a part of our life.  As such, I do prefer to pick ones that have a lighter environmental footprint.  One such disposable nappy brand that I have been used on both of my daughters over the years is Eco by Naty.  

naty by nature nappies

Eco by Naty nappies are latex, chlorine and fragrance-free disposable nappies, which make for a more comfortable nappy, particularly if your little one has very sensitive skin.  The conventional plastic outer sheet of a disposable nappy has been replaced with a GM-free maize starch and cellulose fibre to make a breathable yet waterproof outer layer, and the nappies are filled with up to 65% natural materials.  

The nappies are the first nappies to gain OK Biobased Certification, which certifies products made from renewable raw materials, for extra peace of mind.

All of these fancy words all sound very well, but you’re probably wondering how they perform?  Well, over the last six years, I’m pleased to report we have had no problems with leaks and no real problems with nappy rash or skin irritation, which is the ultimate test, really!  The only times we have had problems with nappy rash is during teething, but I think that’s a given, no matter what nappy you use.

Whilst I am a seasoned Eco by Naty nappy user, I was surprised to learn recently that Naty also has a range of personal care products for the whole family.  From baby bath and skin care to family bath and skin care, each and every product is certified organic by Ecocert.  This certification means that there is a minimum of 95% of plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients (by weight) come from organic farming.

eco by naty baby shampoo

Each product is free of parabens, phthalates, paraffin, gluten, mineral oils, synthetic colours, synthetic fragrances, animal ingredients, and other such ingredients.  Not only that, all of the ingredients are ethically sourced, and cruelty-free.

As a family, we switched to using shampoo bars at the start of this year.  While it’s working out great for my partner and me, what we’ve found is that my girls haven’t taken too well to the shampoo bars.  After a month or so, we kept noticing both of them scratching their heads pretty vigorously. My initial thoughts were “ahh, poop, head lice”, but after going through their hair quite literally with a fine tooth comb, repeatedly and thankfully finding nothing, I realised that the shampoo bars must be irritating their scalp.  I have switched to Naty shampoo, which not only cleans beautifully, but I’ve found that their itching has stopped.  

eco by naty pantyliners

Naty also sell a range of organic feminine care which is made to the same standards of all their other products.  From tampons made from 100% organic cotton – to sanitary pads and panty liners that have a cloth-like feel, and are much more breathable and comfortable than their plastic based counterparts.  

Getting back to nappies, the next step for us will be potty training, and I will be passing on my reusable nappies to another parent.  As well as passing on the nappies, I’ll be passing along the advice that you do not have to use them 100% of the time to make a positive environmental impact.  Even using just one reusable nappy a day will save you from using 365 disposable nappies – which is a simply staggering amount!

Babies, Families

Eco Friendly Disposable Nappies

eco friendly disposable nappies

eco friendly disposable nappies

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One of my early posts on Moral Fibres was my experience of using reusable/washable nappies on my daughter.  At that point we were using 100% reusables, but at around the 18 month old mark we found that, despite our best efforts with booster pads, using reusables over night was no longer working.

With no other real solutions (waking up in the night to change nappies is not an option!) we switched to using a disposable overnight, which we also use now during bouts of bad nappy rash (particularly during teething!).  I’ve been using the more eco friendly disposable nappies on the market.  They are a little more expensive than other nappies, but as we only use one pack of nappies a month I don’t mind the little extra spend.

I really love my BumGenius washable nappies, but if reusables don’t work for you or you’re not into the idea of them then I thought I’d do a round-up of the eco friendly disposable nappies available in the UK.

Before I start, I do have some things to point out about eco friendly disposable nappies.  My main gripe them is that they say they are biodegradable, however due to the way landfill works, nothing truly biodegrades in landfill.  Oxygen is required for biodegradable matter to break down yet most landfill sites are so tightly packed that they do not let much or any air in, so any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly, or it is mummified.  Add to this the fact that biodegradable items in landfill release a considerable amount of the greenhouse gas methane, making biodegradable nappies not the best for the environment.

You might be tempted to compost nappies labelled as biodegradable instead.  Yet according to recyclenow you cannot compost biodegradable nappies in a compost bin as it poses a health risk.

Other sources say you can compost a biodegradable nappy at home as long as you don’t compost soiled nappies, so it’s confusing to know what to do.  Even if you can compost nappies, then if you are using disposables full-time, or even using them part-time like us, then you’d need a pretty massive composter to hold that many nappies over a sustained period, as well as the mixed waste that composters require.  I’d also imagine nappies taking quite a long time to decompose in a standard composter, so you might end up with a mountain before long.

However, I’m not completely down on disposable nappies.  The plus points with eco friendly disposable nappies are that they are typically made with far fewer chemicals than other nappies, which is good for the environment and your baby’s skin.  They also tend to made from more renewable resources, and made more ethically (Proctor & Gamble, who make Pampers, are well-known for animal testing, and perhaps more lesser known – poor workers’ rights, as well as using non-renewable resources).  So here is my run-down of the eco friendly disposable nappies available in the UK:

Eco Friendly Disposable Nappies Guide:

are naty nature care nappies eco-friendly

Moltex Oko –  Moltex say their production process is eco friendly and that their nappies are made with more than 50% renewable resources from controlled cultivation.  The nappies are also chlorine free, and contains no perfumes and minimal amounts of absorbent gels.  Apparently two parts of the nappy are also biodegradable – the inner fluff and the backsheet, if you feel inclined to separate them.

Bambo Nature – Danish made Bambo nappies top the Ethical Consumer’s league table of disposable nappies, and is the only nappy to be independently accredited – by the Nordic Swan eco label.  Bambo Nature has an absorbent starch core, rather than a chemical based core, and avoids perfumes and other such chemicals, including chlorine.  The nappies are 80% biodegradable, and according to their website the wood is derived from sustainable forestry

Naty Nature Care Nappies – Swedish made Naty nappies are made from 70% natural materials, and are also 100% GM, chlorine and fragrance free.   Although not gel-free, they claim to be based on biodegradable materials, and the nappy itself is 70% biodegradable.  We personally use Naty nappies, and can verify that we don’t get any leaks overnight, which is the ultimate test for a nappy!

Beaming Baby – Beaming Baby claim their chlorine free nappies contain 30% less chemicals than standard disposable nappies.  The absorbent layer inside the nappy does contain gel, but is primarily made from very finely shredded paper, which has the consistency of cotton wool.  The nappies are 65% biodegradable.

Tushies – Tushies are the only nappy to use absolutely no gel at all, relying on wood pulp and cotton for absorbency.  As such they are thicker than most disposable nappies on the market, but without any chemical gels. Tushies are 50% biodegradable.

Sainsbury’s also make an own-brand eco friendly disposable nappy, but I’m not sure what they mean by this as there is no information on the website apart from a tiny picture that you can’t enlarge.  If anyone knows any further details about these nappies then do let me know!

The other alternative if you didn’t want to go down the all washable or all disposable route is gNappies – which intriguingly are a reusable/disposable hybrid.  gNappies feature washable covers with disposable inserts.  The inserts are biodegradable, and can be placed in a home composter (not soiled ones).  gNappies say an insert can break down in typically 50-150 days.  The inserts are much smaller than conventional nappies however if you’re getting through around 5-7 inserts a day (around 40 a week) then depending on the size of your compost bin then it may be that your composter may fill quicker than you can make compost.

My opinion?  It’s difficult to know what the best option is.  If you don’t use washable nappies and don’t want the extra spend of buying eco friendly disposable nappies all the time then I wouldn’t worry about using non eco friendly labelled nappies.  I know washables aren’t for everyone, and budgets don’t often stretch to more expensive nappies which have at best a tiny added advantage over other nappies.

As parents, there are a million other things to feel guilty about without worrying about which nappies you use, and there are plenty of other more beneficial ways in which you can help the environment (just read the Moral Fibres archive for some inspiration!). However, if you use washable nappies and are looking for a nappy just for night-time use then the eco friendly disposable nappies fit the bill.