Advantages of Disposable Nappies

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Perhaps you're surprised to see a page about the advantages of disposables on this website. I hope not, as I do try to present a balanced picture. It would be remiss of me to pretend that there are no plus points to disposables, so it is a question of assessing how important they genuinely are. What I would hope is that you look at these advantages, and then compare them against the advantages of cloth nappies and against the disadvantages of disposables, in order to see whether they are really worth the financial, chemical and environmental price we pay for them.

Gel-free and 'eco' disposables do exist, however, so – for a rather higher cost – you can have the following advantages of disposables along with a lighter conscience. Many cloth nappy users opt for these while in hospital or away on holiday, if washing facilities are not available.

In summary, therefore, these are what I consider to be the advantages of disposable nappies:

  • They are compact to carry around (individually, at least).
  • Pretty much everyone knows how to use them.
  • Many shops sell them, even garages.
  • They take about 1 minute less per nappy change than cloth nappies.
  • You don’t have to drop the poo into the toilet – you can just wrap it up out of sight (although that is against World Health Organisation Guidelines, for health reasons, as well as against the advice of many local authorities).
  • You don't have to put on any nappy washes or hang the nappies up to dry.
  • The cost of buying the nappies is spread over more regular, cheaper purchases. Although cloth nappies can work out cheaper over the whole time your child is in nappies, they do involve a higher upfront cost.

It is certainly true that when disposables were first introduced in the late 1950s, they were an important step towards effective emancipation for the mothers of the time. No more long hours spent washing and bleaching terries, and all that this entailed. Also, it meant that nappy changing could become far more of a joint parenting activity than had been the case before (although I have come across plenty of pre-1960 dads who can still change a terry to this day).

Anyway, just because these were advantages in the 1950s, it does not mean that they hold true today. The kinds of chores we do, how we do them, and the machinery we have to help have all changed radically in the last 50 or more years. Nappies have also come a very long way from the terries of our parents. Easy care is very much the name of the game. I have also not included protection against nappy rash as an advantage of disposable nappies, because the research shows that this is a complete red herring.

Overall, if you think these advantages outweigh the ones for cloth nappies, you may think again when you read about the disadvantages of disposables.

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