When we found out I was pregnant I went a bit mad planning and reading about the different choices we had for taking care of our baby. One of the things we (…ok, I) decided was that we’d like to use cloth nappies on our little one, rather than the conventional disposables. My main motivation for using them was that we could pay for them in one go (and therefore not have to worry about budgeting for them in our weekly shop) – and also because you can get them in some REALLY cute designs.
People claim that, considering the extra 2-3 loads of washing a week, they don’t work out any cheaper or better for the environment (what with all the water, electricity and detergents you use) but, beside the fact that you can reuse the nappies every time you have more children, the more I researched the more I came to realise that it didn’t matter to me if I had to do more washing, use more electricity or detergent. What mattered to me was the landfill…
In one day we’ll probably change our boy’s nappy about 6-10 times, depending on his age. Over the course of a year that will be between two and three and a half THOUSAND nappies, all of which will still be in one piece on a landfill site long after me, my son and my future grandchildren have rotted away. Morbid but true. (To be honest, you don’t even need to be committed to real nappies to make a difference to landfill – using just one reusable nappy a day saves 365 going to landfill every year, If everyone did that it’d make a huge difference.)
A little more research taught me that conventional disposables can be filled with all sorts of chemicals and nasties, which might not be good for my baby’s skin. Both Luke and I suffer with incredibly sensitive skin, so it’s quite likely that our kids will too. I don’t really want to run the risk of using a brand of nappies that my little one could be allergic to.
So, decision to use “real nappies” made, but there are SO many types and brands on the market that I had no idea which ones I should be using. When I was a baby (33 years ago) my mom pinned me into folded squares of terry towelling with MASSIVE safety pins, then popped white plastic pants over the top. Things are a bit different now and you have the choice of:
- prefolds/flats – these are similar to the “old fashioned” ones, in that you fold them and then pop a waterproof cover on the top…but the covers are far nicer these days.
- two-parts – these are like the prefolds, but the absorbent inner is contoured to fit your baby’s body (so no folding).
- all-in-ones – as the name suggests, these are absorbent AND waterproof…and all in one piece!
- pocket – these are a waterproof nappy with a fleecy liner (that keeps moisture away from baby’s skin) that has a pocket you can stuff with absorbent material like microfibre or terry (to catch the pee).
…other things to remember are…
- nappies come in different sizes for different sizes/ages of child
- you can also get birth-to-potty styles that “grow” with the baby
- different types of nappy can be better at different times of day (e.g. day vs. night)
- the brands are all shaped differently and so some fit certain children better (or worse) than others…it’s not a good idea to spend hundreds of pounds on a certain brand until you know that they work for you and your baby’s bum
- if you’re using pre-folds or two-piece nappies you don’t need as many waterproof covers as you do absorbent inners (the covers can be used a few times in a day if they’re not soiled)
- you can use extra absorbent materials (called doublers or boosters) in all types of nappy
- creams can degrade nappies but you can use liners to keep cream away from the nappy material (they need to be washed separately or thrown away though)
- you can also get flushable liners that protect the nappy AND make disposing of poop a little easier
- some types of nappy take longer to dry
- some nappies can’t be tumbled
- you also need to get a nappy pail (to keep the soiled ones in until washday – but you don’t need to soak them these days – but a few drops of essential oil can help with any smells) and a wet bag (to put the soiled ones in when you’re out and about)
- you need to wash your nappies every 2-3 days…you don’t want them sitting in a pail any longer than that
…to be honest, even after knowing all of this, I am still non the wiser…
However, there is hope in the shape of nappy libraries where you can meet experienced cloth nappy users, find out more about the different styles and brands available, and (most importantly, in my opinion) try before you buy. I have no idea what size or shape or brand will fit my little boy best, so being able to borrow a few to try could save me wasting lots of money on nappies that don’t fit him.
But what to do til then? Well, there’s always biodegradable nappies, which:
- biodegrade (as the name might suggest) faster than conventional nappies (you’re looking at less than 50 years, rather than around 500)
- are made from natural components and don’t contain plastics or harsh chemicals
- don’t cost the earth (pun intended) – they are a similar price to the big brands
A work friend told me that although she wanted to use real nappies, her main priority with her first baby was breastfeeding, and so she tried to make her first few weeks as stress-free as possible by using biodegradable disposable nappies until she got her feeding routine established. She also said that it meant not having to shell out for a while load of newborn nappies, or birth-to-potty nappies that might not fit, and advised me to do the same. There’s a few brands to choose from, but I’ve gone for Naty to get us through the first few weeks…
…which are £4 for 26 size 1 in Tesco (compared to £6 for 45 Pampers).
They also make nappy sacks (which I got from Boots for £1.85 for 50), wipes, and products for new mums like breast pads and sanitary towels (I’ve seen ladies recommending them for post-partum use so I think I’ll get some of those too).
I’m excited to see how this nappy adventure goes. The pee and poop obsession has started already….