Happy Real Nappy Week! I know, I know, there’s an awareness week for everything these days, but this one is particularly close to my heart so I had to write something about it (and schedule it to post automatically in case I couldn’t get internet where we are on holiday this week – eek, hope the random computer in charge of this somewhere likes me, I guess it must do if you’re reading this!) In fact it turned out to be 2 posts worth, so this is the first instalment, and the second will come on Wednesday (if the automatic publishing thing works – this could all go horribly wrong!)
First of all, I have to say I cringe slightly at the name ‘Real’ Nappy Week – are disposables just a figment of my imagination then? I prefer to use the word ‘cloth’ when talking about what I put on my boys’ bottoms. If we’re not careful, banging on about ‘real’ nappies as opposed to disposable ones can become just another one of those parenting choices that gets blown up into some big debate and leads to parents in one camp criticising those in the other for their apparently inferior choice. So what I definitely don’t want to do with this post (or any others I have written on cloth nappies) is make out that I think our choice to use cloth nappies is superior to the choice of many of my friends who use disposables. Our choice has worked for us, but we are all different with different families, lifestyles and priorities. All I want to do is share our experience and get info out there to those who want to know about it – basically all for my love of cloth. It’s a case of take what you like, and leave the rest.
Having got this disclaimer out the way, here begins the post proper. I’ve posted about cloth nappies a few times before. This time last year I wrote about our experience of just one type of nappy with Andrew, and then more recently I wrote about expanding our stash for two bottoms, and later gave the pros and cons of each type we now have since we’ve used them for both boys. What I want to do here is a kind of FAQ-style post with points that I’ve been asked before by those who are thinking of using cloth or who are using it already but have some issues/questions. Today I’ll cover the two most common questions I’ve been asked, and the next instalment will cover the rest.
Why do I use cloth nappies?
- Save money – This was our main reason for choosing cloth. We were kindly given a set of preloved Motherease nappies suitable from birth to potty, which fitted Andrew very well. Even when I had to buy more when Joel came along, I managed to get some brand new ones in an online sale and some preloved ones online and at a nearly new sale. Overall we will have only spent around £200 on nappies for 2 children (including flushable liners), and even when you take into account the cost of washing them (which Tom worked out with a clever gadget you put on the washing machine), this is nothing compared to the cost of disposables which would be into the thousands for two children. If we had waited to have another baby until Andrew was out of nappies, we would have spent even less, and the more children you use cloth nappies on, the cheaper they work out to be.
- No waste for landfill – I was going to write ‘better for the environment’, but I recently edited an article for the Cambridge NCT magazine written by a sustainability consultant who has looked into the environmental impact of both types of nappy – his verdict was that cloth nappies aren’t as green as we might think if you take into account detergent, central heating (to dry inside) and tumble-dryer use; the best way to limit environmental impact is by using eco-friendly detergent and line-drying outside, which is what we do whenever possible. To my mind, comparing cloth and disposable nappies is like comparing apples and oranges when it comes to green credentials. Each has an impact on the environment in a different way, and it’s hard to say if one is ‘better’ than the other. One thing I do know is that our bins are not full of nappies that will get chucked into a landfill site.
- Convenient – We do most of our shopping little and often on foot or by bike, which means we wouldn’t find it easy to carry home big packs of disposables when we go shopping, or we would end up going in the car more often and spending money on petrol. We have all the nappies we need at home already, and every now and then we get some flushable liners delivered from an online shop with free delivery.
Are they as reliable as disposables?
Yes, often even more reliable. There is an ‘if’ coming though….. if you get a good fit.
Our experience of disposables: When Andrew was a baby, we started off using disposables for about 6 weeks, and we didn’t think there was much difference between different disposable brands, most of which we got free or money off with Bounty pack vouchers and supermarket parent club offers – they all seemed to be reliable. But Andrew rarely pooed in his nappy (that’s a whole other post for another day). When Joel came along, pooing wherever, we noticed that Huggies in particular were rubbish at containing newborn poo compared to others, and a real explosion wouldn’t be held in by any brand (we used disposables when we were away at Christmas); I also know that my niece, who is a month older than Joel, can only wear Pampers because other brands just aren’t a reliable fit. We used to use disposables at night with Andrew, but when he was about 18 months old, they started to leak regularly and he’d wake up wet all the time, so we switched to well-boosted cloth nappies, which I originally thought wouldn’t last the night, and they work well apart from the odd night.
Our experience of cloth: The difference between cloth nappies and disposables is that cloth come in all sorts of different shapes and styles, and babies of course come in all sorts of shapes and sizes too, so it can take a bit of trial and error to find cloth nappies that work well with your child. This was something I learned when Joel was younger, as we did have some poo leaks with the Bambino Mio wraps because his thighs were too skinny for the leg holes (my niece had the same problem). But these were a bargain second hand so I didn’t mind trying a couple of other wraps (Rumparooz, Blueberry) which turned out to work much better with our pre-fold nappies for his thighs. Once we found what works best after a few incidents, I’d say our cloth nappies are now more reliable than disposables for overnight and containing newborn poo explosions.
One thing I would say is that in general, you need to change cloth nappies more frequently than disposables, unless they are heavily boosted (like for overnight use), because natural fabrics just absorb wetness to the point that they are saturated, whereas disposables contain chemical gels that keep absorbing wetness until they would eventually explode – don’t try this at home, but putting a disposable in a swimming pool would be a great experiment to show your child!
How do I know which nappies will fit my baby/toddler best?
If you haven’t bought any cloth nappies yet and are wondering where on earth to start and what will fit, I would recommend three options:
- Find a cloth nappy library – You can borrow nappies just like you borrow books at a more conventional library. See the UK cloth nappy library page on Facebook for your nearest one. There isn’t one in Cambridge yet, and I’m seriously tempted to look into starting one, again just for my love of cloth and wanting to spread that love.
- Look out for bargain sets of pre-loved nappies at nearly new sales or online – I bought a pre-loved starter pack of Bambino Mio pre-fold nappies and wraps for £20 at an NCT nearly new sale, and there are so many that we have shared them between Joel and my niece. Even though the wraps aren’t great, the pre-folds alone would cost much more than that new. For pre-loved nappies online, I particularly like Gumtree, which is local so you avoid postage costs, usednappies.co.uk, preloved.co.uk and the classified ads section on the clothnappytree website.
- Buy one of each of a few different styles new – If there’s no library near you, or you can’t get any pre-loved, try just buying a few to begin with rather than splashing out on a big starter set which might not suit your baby. When you know what works best, you can always get more of your favourite styles.
If these answers have got you interested in using or switching to cloth nappies, stay tuned for more FAQs on Wednesday, same time, same place……