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How to buy the best disposable nappies

By Anna Studman

The pros and cons of using disposable nappies, how many you'll need, how much they cost and how to keep costs and environmental impact down.

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Choosing the best nappy can be a bit trial and error as nappies are all different shapes sizes and the type of nappy that's best for one baby might not be right for another.

But there are three things you need to think about: nappy size, nappy fit (to ensure your baby's nappy is leak-free) and cost.

See the best nappies from our reviews.

How many disposable nappies do babies use per day?

In the first few months after birth, your baby will use between six and 12 disposable nappies a day. That adds up to around 372 nappies a month.

As they get older, they are likely to need less nappies, But they could still use anything between four and 10 nappies a day until they're potty trained, which could be anywhere between 18 months and three years old

Based on using eight nappies a day until they're two years old, that would be more than 5,300 nappies.

5,300The number of nappies your baby could use by the age of two

How much do disposable nappies cost?

Disposable nappies usually cost anything between 5p and 16p each, depending on which brand you choose and the age of your child. That means you'll need to budget around £30 a month on top of all your other baby essentials.

Over the first two years of their life, based on using eight nappies a day and the more expensive nappies, you could be spending up to £860.

£860The amount you could spend on nappies in the first couple of years

But there are ways to cut the cost of nappies. When we surveyed 2,000 UK parents about the nappy brand they use and we found that some budget nappy brands were rated as highly as pricey ones.

Based on using eight size-2 newborn nappies a day, if you were to use one of the cheapest highly-rated brands as opposed to one of the most expensive, you could save nearly £50 in just the first three months.

Visit our page on the best disposable nappy brands to find out which came out on top, and which you'd be wasting your money on.

Disposable nappies: the pros

Convenience: disposables are very convenient, as you just throw them away after use. They're easy to buy, too – leading brands, such as Pampers, can be picked up in any supermarket, and many supermarkets have own-brand ranges, such as Aldi Mamia.

Easy to transport: they're slim and light, so you can easily carry several around with you when you're out and about, and they don't add to your washing load.

Absorbency: modern disposable nappies contain a highly absorbent material called polyacrylate. This is trapped inside the nappy layers and can absorb many times its own weight in liquid. When the polyacrylate gets wet, it turns into a gel, containing the wetness.

Energy use: although they have a significant negative impact at landfill sites, disposable nappies don't use energy through repeated washing and drying like reusable nappies do.

Fit: disposables tend to be less bulky on a baby than reusable nappies.

Disposable nappies: the cons

Apart from cost, here's why you might want to think twice about using disposable nappies

Waste and environmental impact: if you opt for disposable nappies, as most parents do, you'll be buying them for two-and-a-half to three years after the birth of your baby. During this time, you'll throw away thousands of disposable nappies, which is a significant contribution to landfill.

Chemicals: disposable nappies aren't simple material – they also contain an added absorbent ingredient, sodium polyacrylate, that sits next to your baby's skin. 

Harder to potty train: some experts and parents argue that, as toddlers can't feel the wetness as much with modern disposable nappies, it makes it harder for them to potty train.

How do disposable nappies affect the environment?

Each nappy can take 200-500 years to naturally degrade, so the sheer number of disposable nappies thrown away presents serious problems to the environment

This is particularly true when you consider that each baby could use more than 5,000 nappies before they are fully potty trained. 

The manufacture of disposable nappies itself is another significant factor in terms of environmental impact.

Are any disposable nappies recyclable or biodegradable?

Most nappies are recyclable or biodegradable, but there are greener disposable nappy options available. Brands such as Nature Babycare offer nappies made from renewable and natural materials that are semi-biodegradable and will therefore decompose more quickly.

You can also choose eco-friendly nappy accessories. There's a wealth of them available on the high street, such as The Pop-in disposable nappy liners and Earth Friendly baby wipes, to help make your nappy-changing routine greener. 

Lastly, some nappies and accessories are packaged in recycled materials. The NCT has a full list of eco-friendly nappies and accessories.

Disposable nappies vs cloth nappies

There are pros and cons to both types. Disposable nappies are convenient and cheap in cost per nappy, but not good for the environment. 

Reusable nappies are more expensive to buy initially and you'll need to wash them. But they could end up being cheaper in the long run as you won't have to continually buy new packs of nappies. You'd also be saving a lot of nappies going to landfill.

Some parents decide to use a mixture of both, using disposables when going out for the day or on holiday where there's no washing machine. Others use disposables during the night and reusables in the day. 

Our page on how to buy reusable nappies gives you all the pros and cons of choosing these types of nappies.

How do I find a disposable-nappy brand that suits my baby?

There are three things that will affect which disposable nappies you go for: fit, size and cost.

1. Nappy size: disposable nappy packs each display a size guide based around a baby's weight. There are also different stages of nappy: newborn; older/more active baby, which are shaped to fit babies who start to crawl; toddler, designed for active toddlers who are starting to run around; and trainer pants/pull ups/easy-up pants for children being potty trained.

2. Fit: most disposable nappies are designed with three features to give a snug fit: easy-fastening Velcro tabs, an elasticated waistband and elasticated leg holes. You might need to experiment with different brands to find one that best fits your baby.

Best disposable nappy brands – parents rate nappies for ease of use, value for money, fit, comfort and absorbency. 

If you're not a Which? member, you can sign up to a Which? trial to access these and our thousands of other reviews. 

3. Cost: supermarket own brands are generally cheaper than the big brands, such as Pampers, but there are plenty of offers to tempt parents who choose to go with the big names. 

We analysed the cost of Pampers for one year to find out where's cheapest buy Pampers


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