Mother changing baby’s nappy. Picture: William Fortunato.
Mother changing baby’s nappy. Picture: William Fortunato.

6 alternatives to disposable nappies to use in an emergency

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Jul 16, 2021

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Stores, warehouses and factories throughout KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been looted and vandalised, resulting in a widespread shortage of basic necessities across the provinces.

The few shops that have managed to remain open are fast running out of stock with queueing starting in the early hours of the morning, wrapping around buildings by mid-afternoon. As a result, parents across are left in the rather dire position of being without essential baby supplies.

While we wait for things to ease up, there are ways to make your situation at home a little easier. With some DIY creativity, you can make your own reusable nappies out of anything from washcloths to T-shirts.

How to make reusable nappies:


If you’ve been using disposable diapers, you may not have a supply of cloth nappies at home - you know, the one's our grandparents used - but if you have a baby, you most likely have a good supply of washcloths. For cleaning up spit-up, nappy leaks and messes of all sorts, these soft and absorbent cloths can be fashioned into nappies very easily.

WATCH: How to fold a washcloth nappy

Receiving blanket

These are excellent alternatives to disposable nappies as they can be adjusted to your babies’ size and folded multiple times for extra absorption. Just, be sure to use one that is old or that you do not have any sentimental attachment to.

WATCH: How to turn a receiving blanket into a nappy


We all have old T-shirts in our wardrobes that we’ll probably never wear again. They can be folded, fastened to be repurposed as cloth nappies. Use the T-shirt nappy as either a cover or pocket along with flats or other absorbent inserts. Attach a diaper pin, snaps or velcro to secure.

WATCH: T-shirt nappy tutorial


There is a range of resources available online offering free diaper patterns free of use and in a variety of styles and sizes. You simply need to supply the fabric - cotton materials work best for breathability - old bedsheets and pillow covers would work in place. If you’re talented at sewing this is a magnificent alternative. Pinterest, YouTube and a variety of parenting blogs are stocked with helpful tutorials with step-by-step guides on how to make your own DIY nappy. For extra padding, absorbent nappy liners can also be inserted into the homemade nappies for extra security.

WATCH: How to sew your own nappies

Sanitary towels

Sanitary towels are made for comfort and securely fasten onto underwear making them a really nifty alternative to disposable nappies. They have the ability to soak up soft poo and pee, helping tide you over until you’re able to stock up again. These can be secured onto your DIY nappies or underpants of toddlers pre-potty training age.

Go nappy-free

As a last resort, go nappy-free. If your child is old enough to communicate their potty needs, allow them the chance to do so, even if there are a few accidents here and there. If your baby is smaller, simply place them on an absorbent layer of towels while they sleep, play or do tummy time. For babies, pooing is common during or shortly after feeding, if you are familiar with your baby’s signals or timing, you may even be able to predict when they need to go and prepare with wipes and paper towels.

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