For a new parent choosing a nappy can be overwhelming, so we help you choose between traditional flat cloth nappies, disposable nappies, modern cloth nappies and natural nappies and accessories. Take a look at our nappy supplier summary table below.

An overview of the types of nappiesComparison of features on nappiesHow much will nappies cost? : How can I save money on nappies? : What about nappies and the environment?Summary of nappies

Finding a nappy that suits your baby and your lifestyle is a personal choice, and every option has its own set of pros and cons. Firstly, you need to decide between disposables or cloth reusables, and then within those categories you have a whole host of other options. In this series of articles we walk you through the key factors you will want to consider when choosing which nappies to use and dispel a few nappy myths along the way.

An overview of the types of nappies

There are three main categories that you can choose between:

  • Traditional cloth nappies, known as flat or square nappies
  • Disposable nappies
  • Modern cloth nappies which are pre-shaped and re-usable.

In very broad terms, the key qualities and relative benefits of these nappies can be summarised in the following table:

Nappy Qualities


Low Cost Medium Cost High Cost
Least convenient Cloth flats
Medium convenience Modern Cloths
Most convenient Disposables

Cloth nappies have always had the obvious benefits of being the cheapest and better for the environment, but in the last decade they have become less popular as parents searched for quicker, cleaner and more convenient options.

Disposable nappies have grown in popularity largely due to convenience, but they are also perceived as more hygienic and better at keeping baby’s skin dry than cloth nappies. Nowadays that is not strictly true, with the development of modern reusable cloth nappies.

Modern day re-usable nappies are a far cry from the traditional cloth flats and issues of hygiene, nappy rash and convenience have all been well and truly addressed. While disposables still do what they have always done, modern day cloth nappies are dispelling old nappy myths and giving parents a real choice. Nowadays both disposables and re-usables are hygienic, dry and convenient and problems with old cloth nappies are being blown out of the nappy bucket.

Before you make your choice, take a look at the arguments for both disposables and reusables and also consider information about traditional cloth nappies which are still available (although getting harder to find).

Comparison of features on nappies

In the next articles we look at the key qualities of each type of nappy.  For your convenience, we have provided a summary here:

Nappy Performance

Poor Good Excellent
Convenience Cloth flat naps Modern Cloths Disposables
Stay Dry Quality Cloth flat naps Modern Cloths Disposables
Nappy Rash Cloth flat naps Modern Cloths Disposables
Leak Proof Cloth flat naps Modern Cloths Disposables
Style / Comfort Cloth flat naps Disposables Modern Cloths
Environmental Disposables Cloth flat naps Modern Cloths
Cost Disposables Modern Cloths Cloth Flat Naps

As you can see, there is no one type of nappy which comes out a clear winner.  You will therefore need to make your own personal choice based on which factors are most important for you and your family.  For many parents, common decision drivers include cost, convenience and impact on the environment.

How much will nappies cost?

This is the biggie and there is no one answer, as it depends on a lot of variables; however, as a general overview, disposables are most expensive, flat cloth nappies are the cheapest and modern re-usables are in the middle.

Here are some indications of the costs of each type of nappy:

Disposable Nappies

Disposable nappies cost approximately 30-65c per nappy depending on the brand and size, so that’s about $3 – $5 per day (for a period of approximately 2 years). If you want a true comparison, you should also allow about $2 per week for rubbish collection.

Modern Cloth Nappies (MCN)

Depending on the system you are using, modern re-usables cost $15 – $30 per nappy and you will need approximately 12 – 15. Taking the high end of the market, one set of modern re-usables is equivalent to about 4 months of buying disposables. After that it is simply the washing and drying costs you need to take into account.

Traditional Cloth Flat Nappies

You will need 2 dozen cloth nappies, which cost approximately $40 per dozen, plus pins, liners, over-naps and nappy buckets. All up it will cost you approximately $120 to get set up with cloth nappies and then it is just the washing and drying costs you need to take into account.

How can I save money on nappies?

The number one way to save money with nappies is to use flat cloth or re-usables over disposables, even if it is just for some of the time. Some parents choose to use re-usables when they are at home and just rely on disposables when they are out and about. Likewise, some parents use re-usable nappies during the day and disposables at night.

If you are planning on using disposables a lot of the time, try shopping for your nappies online. There are plenty of New Zealand based websites which sell nappies in bulk boxes and many offer loyalty programmes or special discounts for multiple purchases. Buying online in bulk boxes is much cheaper than buying individual packets of disposables from the supermarket.

You may also like to get together with some of your ante-natal group and purchase in even bigger lots – the savings are worth it.

You can also buy cloth nappies on Trade Me and buying second hand can help you save a lot of money.

What about nappies and the environment?

Cloth and re-usable nappies are a lot easier on the environment than disposable ones.  Whilst you will be putting some detergent and sterilising solution down the drain, this pales into insignificance compared to the environmental impact of disposable nappies.  If you would like to read more about this, go to:

Zero Waste New Zealand Trust is a charitable trust and was established in 1997. The focus of the Trust is to support the activities of community organisations, councils, businesses, schools and individuals involved in waste minimisation and recycling. They have produced an article specifically about nappies.

The Nappy Network is a community group interested in supporting the use of modern washable nappy products. They provide education and support to expectant and new parents as well as caregivers. They educate through brochures, a website, demonstrations and parent-to-parent support groups. You will find lots of great ideas and information here.

An up-to-date and informative website with information about different types of nappies, how-to guides and contacts for meeting others interested in cloth nappies.

Summary of nappies

At the end of the day, there is no “correct” choice to be made when deciding which nappy system to use. You will need to weigh up which factors are most important for you and your family.  Most commmonly, parents base their decision on some combination of three key factors; cost, convenience and environmental impact.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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