Eco Parenting, Let's talk nappies...

March 21, 2019

Eco Parenting, Let's talk nappies...

Which nappies are best?  What are the eco-friendly options?

The Nest Co is all about giving you information, tips and considerations to help you make the decisions that suit your baby, your values, your finances and your lifestyle.  

We totally understand that as parents you have to keep it real.  You might choose to go with disposables full-time, re-usable nappies only or a combination. 

And, even if you decide to go re-usable nappies full-time, there might be times where you choose to use disposables, such as during tummy bugs or when travelling.

When my two were small, I used Huggies (my personal favourite at the time), I also tried Treasures and a cheaper brand of disposables from an online discount nappy supplier (but those smelt like chemicals and put me off!).  Many of you, like me, may choose to use disposables.  They are a convenient, no mess option.  Depending on your budget, there are now some great eco-friendly, biodegradable options available.

With more and more focus in the media and even at my little girl’s Kindy (Pre-School), I thought it would also be fun to research modern cloth nappies and see what's available, so I can share this information with you.

When I first started researching eco-friendly nappy options, I was really excited to find there are quite a few options available now and they’re far more practical and user friendly than they were when my two were small.  The designs for the little nappy covers are super cute too!  I really hope we're lucky enough to have one more baby, so I can try them out for myself... 

Whatever is right for you, we hope the following helps you figure out will work for you and your baby.  

Disposable Nappies

The advantages:
  • They're really easy to put on baby
  • Keep baby's skin dry due to their excellent absorption capabilities and gel core
  • No need to scrape out any material
  • Simple to discard, simply roll up and secure with tabs and pop them in the rubbish
  • No washing or drying
  • You can buy them at a huge range of local stores as well as online
  • There are now biodegradable and organic disposable nappy options
The disadvantages:
  • They're expensive
  • Not as environmentally friendly as re-usable nappies and contribute to landfill (the non biodegradable disposables can take at least 200 years to decompose).
  • Because they're so absorbent and keep moisture away from baby's skin, there's no wet sensation, children may take a little longer to be ready to toilet train

Note: There are brands of disposable nappies out there that use water-based inks, are fragrance free and don't use harsh chemicals.  Our friends at Rascal & Friends are one of these brands.  Rascal & Friends are also working on developing an Eco Nappy option.

Naty Eco Nappies are another option if you're looking for a more environmentally friendly disposable nappy. They also use printing inks that are free of heavy metals, are fragrance free, use chlorine free and Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp with a leakage barrier made of 100% GM free, compostable, corn based film that is watertight and breathes naturally.  This means the nappy breathes naturally for an airier, drier and more comfy baby's bottom.  

Compostable Eco Nappies (Auckland only at this stage)

A newcomer to the market here in New Zealand is little & brave.  They are an Auckland based company who make wholly compostable nappies (developed by a scientist in Tasmania) that are used with a washable, reusable fabric cover.

These nappies are designed to be composted in a commercial facility, it is not recommended that you compost them at home.  little & brave have their own Composting Facility available in Auckland, although they are looking for more options throughout New Zealand in order to expand their service.  If you live in Auckland, you can drop nappies off at two locations one in Kumeu and one in Penrose or you can organise for one-off or regular collections from your Auckland doorstep.  

Re-usable Nappies

The advantages:
  • Initial outlay is more expensive but over time they can be more economical than disposables.  (you can also control what temperature you wash the nappies and whether you use the dryer or not, to help reduce overall cost even further and put you in control).
  • Kinder to the environment, especially when using eco-friendly washing detergents
  • Re-usable nappies do not contain any harmful chemicals or plastics which means they're kinder to sensitive bottoms
  • The super cute designs and colours make them absolutely adorable
The disadvantages:
  • You can't just throw them in the bin, they have to be washed and dried
  • The initial outlay can be expensive
  • You need to take a little extra care to ensure they are clean and sanitary
  • Can be a little more difficult to manage when travelling
I had some questions about using re-usable nappies - here's what I found out:
  1. How difficult is it to wash/dry re-usable nappies? It does depend on the type of re-usable you purchase and how thick the absorbent padding is.  If you purchase the nappies where the inserts are a separate piece, then you can wash/dry them individually and they'll take less time to dry than the all-in-ones.  Obviously the season also plays a part and it will be faster to dry them over Summer.
  2. Do I need to soak re-usable nappies in a bucket?  Not any more, you simply remove any solids and place them in a bucket or dry pail and wash normally in your machine every 2 days.
  3. How many re-usables will I need?  A newborn baby needs a nappy change on average around 10-12 times a day (approx every 2-3 hours).  It's recommended you wash re-usable nappies every 48 hours (every 2 days), so based on this, for a newborn you'd need approx 24-30 nappies.  Note, older babies don't need to be changed as often and you won't need as many nappies.  If you are using nappies that require a cover, it's a good idea to have at least 4 covers but preferably up to 7 covers.  (You don't need to change the cover every nappy change unless it is soiled).
  4. Is nappy rash worse with re-usable nappies as opposed to disposables?  
    There’s nothing to suggest either nappy type cause nappy rash.  The key with both types of nappy is to change frequently, especially after a bowel movement and to wash baby’s bottom regularly (eg: using non-irritant wipes and bathing once a day in water).  Other common causes of nappy rash could be the type of detergent used, the type of wipes, food sensitivities or allergies, teething etc.

As with anything baby related, there are a few different varieties of re-usable nappies, so it can be very confusing!!!!

One of the trickiest things with re-usable nappies is getting the right fit for you and your baby.  One option to reduce the cost while you figure this out, is a Nappy Hire Kit from a Nappy Hire Service.  This is an option where you can hire a number of different types of re-usable nappies in a starter pack or custom package.  You may like to google for options in your area. 

Many re-usable nappy retailers offer trial packs, where you can purchase a few different nappy types to try before you invest in buying all you need.

For advice and more information, you can also get help from the many facebook groups – they’re a great resource to ask questions and get more information. 

Here's one I found....

Raising Ziggy - Cloth Nappy Pay it Forward  Group is a great concept too - the idea behind this Facebook Group is to create connections between parents wanting to start cloth nappies but feeling overwhelmed and parents with spare cloth nappies wanting to help.  Everyone in the group is either a beginner or an experienced cloth nappy user happy to share info....

(see this article I found in Natural Parent Magazine which talks more about this Facebook Group - Modern Cloth Nappies: Confusing! Expensive! ....Free? )

Here's some more information about re-usable nappies:

The basic types of re-usable nappies are:

  • The flat nappy – this type of nappy is a cloth or terry square nappy.  These are the traditional cloth nappy that you fold and use with a cover to stop leakage.  These are the most economical of the re-usable options but are a little more fiddly (you have to know how to fold them) and less convenient than other options.
  • Prefolds – these are the next step up from a traditional flat nappy.  They are a multi-layered rectangle with three panels.  They’re secured with a snappi and used with a waterproof cover. They're easier to use than the flat cloth nappies (as they're partly folded), can be folded different ways to suit baby's size and needs.  This type of nappy is an economical option that is especially useful for newborns because they can be folded to fit snugly.   
  • Pocket nappy – These have a pocket between the waterproof outer cover and the lining where you place an absorbent insert.    
  • The all-in-one nappy – this is a fitted (shaped) nappy.  It has a waterproof cover, absorbent layers and lining which are all sewn together.  This means they'll take longer to dry.  These are one of the easiest nappy types to use.
  • The all-in-two nappy (or snap-in-ones) – similar to all-in-ones.  The difference is that these have a waterproof outer and absorbent insert which can be detached for faster drying.  You won't need to change the cover at each nappy change which can make them a cost effective option.
  • Fitted nappy – have an elastic waist and legs and are made of absorbent material and are used with covers.  Often fastened with velcro or snaps.  These are great for avoiding leakages and you don’t have to change the cover at each nappy change - often used for nighttime..  You can use boosters with these to add more absorbency as needed.

For loads more info and tips, visit the Nappy Lady -

If you’re considering using re-usable nappies, this is what you’ll also need
(in addition to nappy covers which are needed for Flat, Prefold and Fitted nappies):

  • Nappy bucket – a common method is dry-pailing.  This means you place the dirty nappies into a bucket or hanging nappy pail until you are ready to wash them (it’s recommended you wash them within 48 hours)
  • Nappy liners* - especially if you are using baby bottom creams as these can clog the nappy fibres and reduce absorbency.
  • Washable nappy bags to place dirty nappies in whilst out and about.

*Note: ensure you avoid flushing nappy liners down the toilet, even if they say they're flushable.  Many don't break down in water - Herald article - click here

Optional Re-usable Nappy extras:

  • A “poo scraper” – for those sticky soiled nappies in order to remove stubborn material before placing them into your nappy pail.  A rubber tipped brush is excellent for this job - for a great example you could try something like this one from Kmart.... (click here for an example)
  • A nappy sprayer for the toilet – these plumb straight on to your existing toilet’s water supply line.  They have a pressure sprayer to rinse messy nappies. (click here for an example)  They’re also handy for rinsing potty’s later on or using as a bidet. (if you don’t want to purchase one of these, you can simply hold the nappy in the flush of your toilet)
  • You can purchase nappy pail deodorisers that are placed on the underside of the lid of your nappy bucket
  • Canesten Hygiene Rinse or Dettol anti-bacterial laundry sanitiser for treating nappies if your little one is unwell

A few tips for re-usable nappy use:

  • If you are pregnant and planning to use re-usable nappies, you may like to purchase a nappy every week in the last 6 months of your pregnancy so that when baby arrives, you have your nappy stash sorted.
  • Many parents use cornflower on baby’s bottom as a natural barrier and to help keep skin dry.  This is especially good when using re-usable nappies as creams tend to make the nappy itself less absorbent.
  • Soak new nappies in cold water for 24 hours, then wash them normally to boost their absorbency.
  • Avoid fabric softeners as they can reduce absorbency
  • If your nappies become less absorbent over time, you may need to strip wash them (this isn’t something you need to do regularly, it’s usually only if there’s a build-up of things like baby bottom creams or after using fabric softeners. 
    1. Wet the nappy(ies) in the area that has the build up
    2. Use a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid (with no hand moisturizers) and smear it across the area, then rub the fabric together to get it frothy
    3. Leave them to sit for about 15 mins
    4. Give them a rinse under the tap or in a bucket of warm water
    5. Wash in the washing machine (no need to add laundry detergent).  We suggest a warm wash.
    6. Dry as usual 

I hope this article has been interesting and given you some information to assist you in deciding which nappy option is best for you and your baby.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact us at

Happy nesting, from the team at The Nest Co x

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