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The ultimate guide to nappies – your nappy choices explained

A pile of disposable nappies and modern cloth nappiesdYou just can’t do without nappies.

Unless you’re planning on trying elimination communication you will have to buy nappies for your baby for a good couple of years at least.

So what nappies are available and how do you choose the best nappy for your family?

There are plenty of different styles and makes of nappies to choose from, plus a dizzying array of associated products.

We’ve listed below the main types of nappies available and the pros and cons of using each. We’ve also included a quick guide to nappy changing!

There are two main types of nappy available on the market today (with variations available within each type). These are:

Disposable nappies

Disposable nappies are fitted nappies that are used once and then thrown away. These nappies are readily available, convenient and easy to use – there’s no laundry and the nappies fit easily with velcro tabs. Those are the pros, the main cons are price (it adds up if you’re using disposables from birth to toilet training) and the environmental concern about the waste created in landfill by disposable nappies.

There are a number of different brands of disposable nappy available and you should probably try out a few to see which ones suit you best – your decision will probably be dependent upon performance and price.

Disposable nappies are widely available from supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies and some nursery stores. There are also local companies providing the convenience of home delivery for bulk purchase.

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of using disposable nappies you can look for eco disposable nappies. These have a higher percentage of biodegradable material but with similar performance qualities and convenience to traditional disposable nappies.

Cloth nappies and modern cloth nappies (MCNs)

Cloth nappies have come along way since you were a baby and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the different options available — ranging from the traditional ‘squares’ (in different materials and colours) to fitted cloth nappies (also called modern cloth nappies) which go on baby much like a disposable with snaps or velcro tabs — no folding, no pins! These are available in a range of fashionable colours and styles.

From a cost-saving perspective, terry squares are the cheapest. With the right fold and cover, terry squares can be used successfully and they fit from birth to toilet training, so therefore save money. They also dry fast which is great for any climate.

Modern cloth nappies range from $10-30 each but can last your child right up until they are toilet trained. And if cared for well will probably last for subsequent children as well.

Many parents are surprised to learn that it isn’t hard to use and wash MCNs. They don’t need soaking or chemicals (in fact, these will shorten their lifespan). The basic process is:

  1. Remove nappy from baby and empty poo in toilet (easier with the help of a liner or a product that hoses waste straight into the toilet).
  2. Pop the nappy into a dry bucket with a fitted lid. This is called dry pailing.
  3. Every second or third day empty the bucket into the washing machine and wash! Dry on the line to take advantage of the sun’s natural bleaching and sanitising properties.

For those of you with convenience concerns, there are cloth nappy laundry services too!

There’s a large amount of modern cloth nappy brands out there so you may need to try a few different types to find one that suits you and your baby.

How to choose the best nappy for you and your baby

At the end of the day, which type of nappy you use is an entirely personal preference. You may even wish to use a combination of different types of nappies – for example, cloth nappies at home and disposables when you are out. Or cloth at daytime and disposable at night.

The common factors affecting parents’ choice of nappy include:

  • price
  • convenience
  • environmental impact

If you’ve considered the above points and you want more input from parents who’ve been there before, join our lively nappy topics discussion area.

Nappy accessories

There is a range of nappy accessories available and you’ll make your own mind up on what is necessary and suits you and your baby. Here are just some of the types of products available:

  • disposable nappy waste solutions- – from scented bags or nappy disposal systems to complete sanitising systems
  • nappy stackers (for stylish storage of nappies)
  • wipes – from pre-medicated nappy wipes to cotton wool and lotions
  • anti-nappy rash products – from powders to barrier creams
  • change tables or change pads that fit onto pre-existing furniture
  • laundry powders for cloth nappies and shaped nappies (including organic and sensitive ranges)
  • nappy bags for outings–check out our nappy bag packing checklist
  • liners for cloth and fitted cloth nappies (disposable or washable options)
  • plastic fasteners to eliminate the need for pins
  • swim nappies – disposable and reusable options

Nappy changing tips

  • use a safe changing area
  • gather everything that you need and place it all in easy reach before you start each change so that you don’t have to leave your baby mid-change
  • never leave your child unattended on a change table, for whatever reason, and always keep one hand on your baby. As your child gets older and more ‘wriggly’, consider changing baby on a lower surface, or even on a change pad on the floor.
  • always wipe a baby girl’s bottom from front to back to prevent any cross infection
  • make sure you clean well around baby boy’s genitalia to remove all ‘unwanted substances’
  • little boys tend to pee when their nappy comes off, so if you don’t want you, or baby, to get wet during a change, place a muslin or cloth over baby while changing
  • a toy or mobile above the change mat should amuse baby during a change and reduce squirming
  • keep any lotions, pins and plastic bags well out of baby’s reach.

What if your baby gets nappy rash?

Nappy rash occurs when your baby’s skin becomes irritated after it reacts with the urine in their nappy. The best thing to do is change your baby’s nappy as often as it needs to be, and if they get nappy rash, treat it as quick as you can.

There are quite a few common skin conditions in babies but you can identify nappy rash in the following way:

  • Inflamed skin: skin in area looks red and weepy
  • Blistering – the skin may blister and peel, leaving raw patches (ulcers)
  • Ulcers may appear on the healthy skin near the rash, and the rash can sometimes spread to the tummy and legs.

To treat nappy rash:

  • Change your baby’s nappy more frequently.
  • Try disposable nappies, which can be better at absorbing liquid away from the skin.
  • Look at the ingredients in your nappy wipes – some contain alcohol which can irritate a baby’s skin. Also make sure your baby’s soap or bath wash is safe for baby skin.
  • If you use cloth nappies, make sure you change them very regularly, and do not put plastic pants over the top of them. When washing, ensure these nappies are totally rinsed of chemicals or detergents, and preferably tumble dried as this makes them softer on baby’s skin.
  • Clean your baby’s bottom with plain water every time you change them – if this does not appear to help, try using a soothing, nappy rash cream to help heal the area.

— written by Jannine Barron from Natures Child

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4 Comments so far -
  • Shay says:

    We live in Melbourne and use a nappy service. It’s awesome! for $40 per week they wash our nappies for us 🙂

  • Mila Corner says:

    My child is just 2 months old and I have been using cloth nappies for her. I am thinking of switching into disposable nappies since washing cloth nappies from time to time gets quite tiresome sometimes. But in doing so, I am afraid that she may develop rashes. I am in quite a dilemma.. Think you can help??

    • Hi Mila, Many parents use a combination of cloth and disposable nappies. I mostly used cloth during the day and disposable at night. I’m afraid you won’t know whether your child will develop a rash until you try. Remember though, that rashes are usually caused having wet nappies against the skin – these days disposable nappies are extremely absorbent and very good at drawing the moisture away from your baby’s skin. I would think that if she is rash free in cloth then she’ll be fine with disposables. Worth a try. All the best xx

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