Eco-friendlier alternatives to disposable nappies, inspired by my daughter, Penelope!
How did the search start?
I started to look into nappy options in the first few months of my pregnancy with Penelope, born in November 2018, which included cloth nappies, disposable nappies and more environmentally-friendly biodegradable nappies. I researched cloth nappies, as my mother raised twins (my brother and I) with them, and so I naturally leaned into that option for my own first-time journey into motherhood. As disheartened as I am living in a world filled with toxic chemicals and production lines harmful for the environment, I knew I needed to find a balance between what would be economical, work for me as a mother and my lifestyle, and also help me do my best to reduce my carbon footprint.
Some dirty facts
- 2 billion disposable nappies end up in Australian landfill sites each year. Source: ABC
- A staggering 3.75 million disposable nappies are used each day in Australia and New Zealand, and it takes about one cup of crude oil to make each nappy. Conventional disposable nappies are estimated to take up to 150 years to break down. Source: Sustainability VIC
- In Australia and New Zealand, 95% of parents opted for disposable nappies because they are undoubtedly convenient. Source: Choice
Nature vs Nurture
As determined as I was to follow in my mother’s footsteps of raising Penelope with cloth nappies, this enthusiasm was not shared by my husband – and as I needed his support. The reality is we live in a small Sydney apartment; our laundry is located down 2 flights of stairs, I will be and have been looking after Penelope 99% of the time with no help (working husband and no family support), and also the only one doing washing. That’s #mumlife! There are pros and cons to both sides. Cloth nappies do have their own environmental footprint. Find what works for you and your situation, and an option that will keep you sane at the same time!
I am not ‘eco-perfect.’ The important thing is to do your bit to make a difference.
Have I used traditional disposable nappies?
Yes! I, of course, have used the traditional disposable nappies (happy to be very open about this, I am not eco-perfect)! The last minute dashes to the supermarket when I have run out (sheer exhaustion gets to even the most organised of people). I have also been gifted a lot of bulk boxes from family and friends or had drop offs to home when friends have come to visit and cuddle Penelope, and it would have been a waste not to use them.
Why I had to switch
By 4 months of age Penelope’s skin ailments were out of control and I had no idea why. She was red, raw, sometimes bleeding, and it made her so uncomfortable she cried a lot. I went to our family GP and thankfully I got a diagnosis – eczema (apparently common in babies and children) and psoriasis (hereditary, from my husbands side of the family) and for life would require a ‘skin management plan.’ As it turns out, Penelope inherited VERY sensitive skin from both her parents (yay)!
Together with the lotions and potions I was using (on her and myself) I also worked out the traditional disposable nappies were irritating her skin, giving her frequent bouts of thrush and nappy rash. On average these took a month to clear at a time. Time to change, and quickly!
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Here are my top 3 brands:
When I purchase disposable nappies, on my weekly adventures out of the house (some online since COVID19 life), I found brands that offered what I wanted. They were great for Penelope’s skin, convenient/easy for me to use, and also eco friendly. The biodegradable disposable nappies I have trialed and use are:
Tooshies By Tom:
- These are no ordinary baby products: I LOVE that they’re a female founded company that exists to create a positive impact across personal and baby care (the brand incorporates TOM Organic and Tooshies by TOM)
- 12 hour protection: Penelope is a good drinker (breastfed initially, now water and her formula) and did not leak through overnight
- Planet friendly: nappies are made from certified organic bamboo, the world’s most sustainable plant. Made with a 100% biodegradable back sheet & a blended organic bamboo core
- They are made of non-toxic materials, are naturally insulating, anti-microbial and softer than previous designs, which means Penelope has no rashes
- Cruelty-free: Not tested on animals, cruelty-free & 100% vegan
- They offer other personal products (menstrual cups, pads, liners & tampons), maternity products, as well as 100% biodegradable and compostable baby wet wipes).
- Founded by a Australian parents of 3 kids, raised in Byron Bay – I do love homegrown!
- The nappies felt soft on Penelope’s skin (no skin outbreaks from rubbing or chaffing) and no nappy rash
- The nappies use compostable packaging (a world first!) which takes only 90 days to biodegrade and are made of 90% plant based ingredients
- You have a ‘money back’ guarantee, so you can trial the nappies before investing in bulk. When buying in bulk you receive a 17.5% discount
- They are a brand that offers biodegradable baby wipes
- Only negative: I did find Penelope leaked through when used overnight
Eco By Naty:
- I found these nappies to be soft (leaving no nappy rash). Wood pulp us the main absorbing ingredient and the rest of the nappy is made of natural, biodegradable materials
- They have a great, wide waistband and are a snug fit, which means no leaks overnight)
- There is an Aloe and Vitamin E infused top sheet, and even with Penelope’s sensitive skin, she was ok with this. These disposable nappies are fragrance-free and unbleached
- Available to purchase online. Savings apply when you buy in bulk. They are also easy to grab off the shelves at your local supermarket. I shop at Woolworths)
- Business profits go to supporting women and children in need (a cause close to my heart)
- They offer other personal products for women (pads, panty liners), maternity wear, as well as baby wet wipes)
- They have a plant-based potty in their range, which I look forward to buying when it’s time to toilet train Penelope (it’s made from sugar cane).
How to choose a nappy option that will work for you:
- Cost: Is this affordable ongoing for you and your family’s budget?
- Convenience: Is this the best option for you and your lifestyle?
- Performance: Will the nappy do what it says it does?
- Environmental impact: Is this the best option to leave the least carbon footprint?
- Sizing: Is it ‘true to size’? Does the waist band work for your baby’s size to ensure no leakages (day or night)?
- Materials: Are the materials organic, from renewable/reusable sources, non-plastic, non-toxic, whilst being gentle on your baby’s skin?
Be your child’s hero – go eco!
Hey YOU! Do you have a favourite eco-friendly nappy brand!?
How did you choose a nappy option that works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Let me know on my Instagram!
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Header image of Kate & Penelope by Kiri Shay Photography.