The bottom line (making the best decision about nappies)

With so many choices on the market, how do you choose what nappies are right for your baby? Here are the options.

Nappies are an item all parents of new babies will need to have on hand, all the time, in sizes that suit the baby’s current size and “elimination habits”. The five factors to consider when choosing what kind of nappies to use are price, convenience, quality, suitability, and environmental issues. So what nappies are available, and how do you choose what will best work for your family and your baby?

Disposable nappies

Convenient and easily available at your local supermarket, disposable nappies are a popular choice particularly for parents of newborns who are time-poor and overwhelmed with laundry. Newborns need their nappies changed several times a day, and those meconium-poo early nappies can be pretty revolting to deal with. The main benefits of disposable nappies are that they are convenient, easy to use, and often come in super-cute prints. Purchasing them will add to the budget, although you can often find disposables on sale at various places, and if you stock up when they’re on sale or buy in bulk, you can make significant savings. The other main drawback to disposables are concerns about the waste created in landfills by used nappies, but there are brands of disposables that are compostable or that have compostable components.

Disposable nappies are shaped for either the male or female anatomy, as boys tend to wee more in the front of the nappy, while girls wee toward the crotch of the nappy. However, newborn nappies are often “gender-neutral”, so don’t panic if you can’t find “girl newborn nappies” or “boy newborn nappies”.

There are a dizzying array of disposable nappies available in your local supermarket,and it’s a good idea to try a couple of different brands to determine what will work for your baby. Some companies will send you samples (check out nappy brand websites or visit their stands at baby shows), or ask a friend with a newborn if you can have a nappy or two to test out at home with your baby.

It doesn’t matter which brand of nappies you choose as long as you are happy with their performance. Some nappies work for one baby but not another, for various reasons. Read nappy reviews online, talk to other mums at coffee group, and keep an open mind – a more expensive “premium” brand might actually work out to be cheaper in the long run if it performs better than a cheaper, lower-quality nappy that you have to change twice as often.

How many nappies do I need?

The million-dollar question! If you’re using disposables, a rule of thumb is to always have a spare packet of nappies in the house, and when you open it, go and buy another one. It’s a bit more difficult to estimate for newborns, because it really depends on how big your baby is at birth and how fast they start to grow. Many parents of new babies are caught out buying way too many newborn-sized nappies and finding their baby outgrows them before they all get used! Start out with 50 or so newborn nappies and top up as needed. If you’re using cloth nappies, it depends on what type you’re using, how often you want to do washing, and how often you go through them. Have a chat to your cloth nappy retailer for advice.

Cloth nappies 

The phrase “You’ve come a long way, baby!” certainly applies to cloth nappies – modern cloth nappies (reusables) are stylish, easy to use, and more convenient than ever (and they come in cute colours and prints). There are five basic styles of cloth nappies:

PREFOLDS: These are simple, with an absorbent core that you fold and cover with a waterproof outer wrap.

SNAP-INS: A step up from prefolds, they have extra layers in the middle which snap together for more absorbency, and are covered with a waterproof outer wrap.

POCKETS: These nappies have three parts – a waterproof outer wrap that has a “pocket” inside where you insert absorbent layers.

FITTED: These look a bit like two nappies stuck together – a fitted absorbent inner nappy which attaches to a waterproof outer cover. They offer a lot of coverage (great to protect against newborn poo explosions and overnight wees).

ALL-IN-ONES: The most similar to disposables in the way they work, these nappies are all in one-piece – no separate parts to put together.

Cloth nappies are cost-effective, as you generally buy them once and then can use them for more than one child, and modern cloth nappies can come in one-size-fits-all styles with snaps and velcro tabs that let you size up and down depending on your baby’s size. Down sides are that they are a costly outlay at a time when you might not have a lot of disposable income – costing between $10 and $40+ apiece (depending on style), you’ll need a good number of them if you don’t want to have to do washing multiple times a day. Cloth nappies can take a while to dry in damp weather, and you don’t want to be caught short.

Cloth nappies aren’t really that hard to use – you don’t need to soak them or treat them with special products, as this will actually shorten their lifespan.

Combination of disposables and cloth

Many parents choose a combination of disposable and cloth nappies to suit their lifestyle best. You might choose to use disposables when your baby is a newborn and needs multiple nappy changes each day, and then use cloth when their toileting is more predictable and they are using less nappies. You may use cloth nappies at home and disposables for daycare, or cloth nappies during the day and disposables overnight… It’s up to you, but this is a good option if you want the best of both worlds, so to speak.

Flush the poo down the loo

You probably don’t realise that all nappies, whether disposable or cloth, have one thing in common: You’re supposed to empty poo into the toilet and flush it down, not wrap it up and throw it out. Poo is not meant to be thrown into your household rubbish.

Nappy accessories

While nappies are a must-have, there are a whole range of optional accessories that will make your life easier – or are just nice to have. Here are some accessories you might want to consider.

• NAPPY BIN: This can be a simple lidded bucket, a pedal-bin with a lid, or even nappy disposal systems where you open a lid, put the dirty nappy in, and turn the top to seal the nappy tidily into its own nappy bag.

• BABY WIPES: You can make your own reusable wipes from terry cloth, or purchase disposable baby wipes which are scented or unscented, in travel packs or in big bulk packs you can put into refillable containers.

• BARRIER CREAMS AND NAPPY RASH PRODUCTS: Powders, lotions, and creams to help treat and prevent nappy rash and chafing of delicate bottoms and legs.

• SWIM NAPPIES: Special nappies that can be worn in the swimming pool or at the beach, which hold in poo but allow wee to soak through (regular nappies can’t be worn in water because their absorbency would make them too heavy and bulky).

• NAPPY BAGS: Totes and backpacks, some with special adapters to hang on the pram, with lots of convenient pockets to hold nappies and supplies for when you’re out and about.

 • CHANGING MATS: Disposable, wipeable, or even washable, these are great for nappy changes on the go, for travelling, and for public restrooms.

CHANGE TABLE: Special waist-height furniture that makes changing your baby’s nappy more convenient and saves you bending over and straining your back. Caution: Never leave a baby unattended on a change table.

WET BAGS: Waterproof bags to hold dirty clothing or used cloth nappies.

• NAPPY WALLETS: Compact bags to hold one or two nappies and a travel pack of wipes, these are great to pop into your handbag or keep in the car.

Newborns wee every hour to three hours and poo several times a day, needing up to 12 nappy changes a day.

Nappy-changing tips

• Never leave your baby unattended on the change table or during a nappy change – they can roll over or grab nappy cream/powder very fast and make a mess!

• Set up a nappy changing station for yourself in the lounge, with a basket of nappies, wipes, nappy cream, etc so you don’t have to run back and forth to your baby’s bedroom or wherever you keep their nappy changing supplies.

• Wipe babies from front to back, and make sure you clean around boys’ genitalia well, as it’s surprising where poo particles can end up.

• Babies often wee when their nappies come off and they feel cold air, so pop a change mat or clean nappy under them before you take the dirty nappy off.

• With boys, “keep it pointing south” – when they have no nappy on, they can wee straight up in the air, and many an unprepared parent has ended up with a face full of wee. Keep a face cloth handy to lay over their genitals as you’re changing them in case of “fountains”!

• As your baby gets older and more wriggly, you might want to change them on the floor to ensure their safety.• Keep all creams, plastic bags, lotions, powders, etc out of your baby’s reach.

• Hang a mobile or toy over your baby’s change table to keep them interested and entertained while you’re changing them, or give them a toy to hold to occupy them

Getting off to a plastic-free start here

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