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Reusable nappies and wipes – why I encourage all new parents to make the switch

For literally hundreds of years (since the late 1500s at least), reusable nappies – or cloth versions thereof – were the mainstay of parents everywhere. That is, until 1947, when George M Schroder invented the first disposable nappy and changed the lives of millions of busy parents around the world.

No longer did stay-at-home mums have to boil and handwash countless nappies every day to keep up with demand (because, let’s face it, dads back then weren’t exactly hands-on when it came to baby admin). More mothers were able to take jobs or free up time for themselves. As innovations go, it really did positively impact the lives of so many.

And yet, at the time, few could have predicted the lasting damage this new piece of baby kit would have. When you consider that around 385,000 new babies are born every single day, disposable nappies and wipes have become a truly global crisis, and one which continues to contribute to the worsening health of our planet.

Not only does a standard nappy take around 450 years to biodegrade…globally, every minute, more than 300,000 disposable nappies are sent to landfill, incinerated or end up as environmental waste. On a daily basis, disposable wipes hit the headlines for blocking up sewage systems and waterways around the world. And that’s before you take into account the huge amount of energy, materials and water these products use in their manufacturing processes.

Whilst it’s true that new, more eco disposable nappies and biodegradable wipes are starting to appear on the market, the dent they are making is negligible. They’re still nowhere near as environmentally friendly as reusables, and don’t address the pressing issue of rising global waste.

Thankfully, with more of us now mindful of our personal carbon footprint and the amount of waste our families create every day, more and more parents today are going back to how it used to be, and shunning disposable nappies and wipes in favour of reusable, cloth alternatives.

I’m proud to say, I’m one of them.

After using disposable nappies and wipes for our first two children, we made the switch to reusables back in 2022 for our third. And I can honestly say it was the best parenting decision we’ve made.

Because reusable nappies are not only good for the planet…they’re good for parents and our babies too.

The many benefits of reusable nappies and wipes

  • Reusable nappies can be used over and over again for many years, without losing their effectiveness.
  • They are made from natural materials which are kinder to babies’ bottoms, reducing nappy rash.
  • You can increase and decrease they’re absorbency, depending on your baby, by adding extra cotton liners if needed, making them really efficient for long stretches without needing a nappy change (i.e. at night).
  • They are nowhere near as much of a hassle as we first thought, especially once you’ve got into a routine with them. To give some context, we do about three nappy washes per week, which is totally manageable (especially with both me and my wife sharing the load).
  • Despite costing more as an initial investment, over the years, we’ve saved literally hundreds of pounds that would otherwise have been spent on disposables.
  • They’re good value for money too. Most brands make a newborn size for tiny babies, and then a larger size with clever straps and poppers which adjust to fit babies from 3 to 18 months, meaning you won’t need to keep buying larger sizes as your baby grows.
  • Plus, they’re getting cheaper to buy every day, and there’s even a burgeoning second-hand market for reusable nappies, which just shows how much they retain their value and usefulness long term.
  • And when they are eventually disposed of, you can rest assured that they are completely biodegradable, minimizing their lasting impact on the environment.

In response to the naysayers, of course reusable nappies do require energy and water to make and wash, so aren’t completely climate neutral. But this is in no way comparable to the resources used to make, transport and discard of disposables around the world.

And yes, disposable nappies are still the more convenient option (which for many knackered parents is one of the most important deciding factors). But, from our experience, the small bit of extra work and planning needed to make the switch to reusable nappies is more than worth the benefits you get from them.

I firmly believe that cloth nappies and wipes are the way forward, and I would encourage every parent to give them a try.

My only regret is that we didn’t start sooner.

***

For more advice on pregnancy, birth and parenthood, my new book YOU THE DADDY: The Hands-on Dad’s Guide to Fatherhood, is OUT NOW to buy.

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