choosing nappies

Choosing nappies

Some parents find that disposable nappies are the most convenient option for them at change time. In contrast, others prefer to use washable ones. While the choice is ultimately yours, there is no doubt that washable nappies are kinder to the environment.

Disposable nappies

If you decide to use disposable nappies, there is a wide choice of brands available from which to choose. Prices vary, and there are options to suit most budgets; however, you need to keep in mind that the better quality (and hence more effective) nappies keep their contents contained better. It’s worthwhile trying out a few different brands to see what suits you and your baby, and what the ideal compromise is for you between quality and price.
Please dispose of used nappies carefully. Nappy bins are available to buy which you will need to empty 2 or 3 times a week. Alternatively, you can wrap each dirty nappy in a nappy sack and put it in the bin.

Washable nappies

If you use cloth nappies, you can wash and dry them yourself or, where available, use a nappy service who you pay to take away dirty nappies and swap them for clean ones.
There are many services to support the use of reusable nappies. Please speak to you child health nurse (or equivalent) about what is available in your area.
Throw-away liners with washable cotton nappies may be a good option for those looking for an environmentally friendly compromise.

Going nappy free

Call it what you will – nappy-free, elimination communication or natural infant hygiene – the ultimate in environmentally friendly options is to do away with nappies altogether. Nappy-free is a system used since babies were invented and is still used around the world today.

Nappy free babies enjoy a range of benefits, including:

  • Their basic needs are met, rather than caught and dealt with at a more convenient time,
  • Reduction in a nappy rash,
  • Reduced exposure of skin to harmful chemicals
  • Extra kangaroo care (sling) time with mum or dad
  • Enhanced communication and bonding between parents and infant

Parents, on the other hand, get out of nappy changing duty, get to know their baby’s routines and have less gear to carry around with them. PLUS baby is toilet trained at a much earlier age.

The flip side to this is you have to be on the ball and fully engaged with your baby for this to work, and there is bound to be the odd accident while you are all still figuring it out. Visit the Nappy Free site for further information. A DVD is available for parents wishing to manage their baby’s elimination needs in this way.

Changing your baby’s nappy

All you need is a change mat or clean towel, and you can change your baby on the floor. Some mums prefer changing stations which allow you to stand up when you’re changing your baby’s nappy. If you do use a changing station, remember never to leave your baby alone on it, in case she rolls and falls. To reduce the risk of choking, keep nappy sacks out of reach of children.

Time for a change?

  • Wet nappies will feel warm and heavy on baby’s bottom, and you’ll be able to smell dirty nappies. Some disposable brands have wetness indicators on them. Please see the box they came in to discover if your brand does this.
  • Be prepared.  Make sure you have a fresh nappy, a bowl of warm water, something to clean baby’s bottom and a small soft towel. Finding what you need is out of reach once your baby has his nappy off is just asking for trouble!

Options for cleaning baby’s bottom include cotton wool balls, paraben (chemical)-free baby wipes, or you can make your own. Buy a large roll of chux kitchen wipes (or similar – you can generally get these cheap at the dollar shop), rip them to their appropriate size and pop them in a bra bag or pillowcase. These can be washed in the washing machine on a cold cycle with sensitive washing powder. Once finished, hang them to dry in the sun, and you will have hundreds of chemical-free wipes. These are a gentle on baby’s skin, as well as environmentally friendly.

What do I need at change time?

When you are ready and have everything you need at hand:

  • lay your baby down on her back on the changing mat or a clean towel
  • unfasten her clothes from the waist down
  • undo and remove the dirty nappy ( baby boys are likely to wee on contact with cooler air so be prepared with a cloth to catch it)
  • hold your baby’s legs and feet up
  • wipe her bottom and genitals clean with cotton wool balls/chux soaked in warm water (remember to wipe baby girls from front to back to avoid infection)
  • pat her dry with the small soft towel
  • apply nappy cream if she has any red or sore skin
  • put on a clean nappy
  • wash your hands.

Hand hygiene

Washing your hands is essential for the health of both you and your baby. Good hand hygiene can help to avoid tummy bugs and other illnesses, most of which will be killed by washing with soap and water. As a short term measure keep some hand sanitizer on your bench, in your car and your nappy bag.

Here are some examples of when you should take care to wash your hands:

  • after going to the toilet or when you change your baby’s nappy
  • before making up the baby’s bottle or expressing breast milk
  • after touching objects that could  house germs, e.g. a bin or mop
  • before eating or feeding your baby
  • after touching pets, their food bowls, toys or cages

Nikki-Lee Rossiter (BMid) Registered Midwife
Photo by Elvira Koneva used under license from