Why choose cloth nappies? Whether it’s environmental, economical or ethical, there are many reasons why you may choose to use reusable cloth nappies.
Many parents are choosing reusable nappies for varying reasons, the most obvious being cost savings.
The Guardian estimated that using disposable nappies will cost up to £1884 per baby* which means the potential savings are very significant, upwards of £1500!
I’ve never yet met a parent who didn’t want to save a bit of money here and there. Having a baby can be expensive, and the cost hits you at exactly the time that we are likely to have less money coming into the household. Switching to washables can save you a lot of money, even factoring in the cost of washing. Using disposables will cost around £1 per day, or more if you use branded nappies, disposable wipes, nappy sacks, and so on. If your baby wears nappies till he/she is 2½, you could easily spend upwards of £1000 on disposable nappies and wipes. This is, literally, money in the bin. And you start all over again with baby 2. It’s different with cloth nappies. You can get yourself kitted out very well indeed with nappies and washable wipes for a few hundred pounds, and then use the nappies again for baby 2 (and 3…). You can even sell them on at the end to recoup some money (if you can bear to part with them, that is). Even buying a large number of the most expensive, designer nappies will still be cheaper than using disposables, but you can save even more money by doing washables.
Of course, there are also the environmental benefits to consider. Disposable nappies were invented for high days and holidays not to be used every day. We don’t use plastic cutlery every day so why use plastic nappies? (In spite of manufacturer claims of ‘cotton like’ and ‘cotton soft’ the average disposable nappy is made from over 95% extruded plastic and contains no cotton at all.) It has been estimated that every disposable nappy ever used is still sitting in a land fill site somewhere and scientists think they will take up to 500 years to decompose. Here in the UK we are throwing away 8 million nappies per day so it doesn’t take a genius to work out why our council tax is rising. Local councils pay large amounts to remove rubbish and with 4% of that rubbish coming from disposable nappies that’s an awful lot of their money being thrown away.
For many people, becoming a parent makes them think more about the environment. What kind of world is it that our children will inherit? It’s a frightening thought, but every disposable nappy that has ever been thrown in a bin is still out there, and still will be for hundreds of years! And even though packets of disposable nappies carry instructions to flush the poo down the loo, mostly the poo gets wrapped up with the nappy and goes in the bin. Would you put your own poo in the bin?! We don’t often think about the poo-in-bin thing, because it’s what most people do, but when you stop to think about it, it’s pretty yukky! And there’s the impact of making all those thousands of nappies that a baby will get through in the first few years. This all comes at an environmental cost to us, our children, grandchildren, and the many species of flora and fauna that we are privileged to share the planet with. Using washables is completely different. Your nappies do not end up in the bin after a single use (I’d be hopping mad if someone accidentally threw one of my fluffy bundles away!), and all the poo goes in the loo, where it’s supposed to be. The environmental impact of washing the nappies is far less than the impact of making disposables. You can think of using washables as your gift to your grandchildren’s world.
Disposable nappies can be brilliantly absorbent, but they achieve this through the use of plastics and chemicals rather than bamboo or cotton. When you consider that a baby’s skin is much thinner than an adult’s, it makes us think again about what we put next to their skin 24 hours a day for several years. Many people switch to cloth because their baby’s bottom is simply happier in washables. Nappy rash is far less common in cloth-bottomed babies than with babies in disposables, because of the many chemicals used in disposables. For example, Polyacrylic Acid is the stuff that absorbs the wee in disposables. It’s really good at doing this. But it is linked to toxic shock syndrome, which is why it has been banned from use in tampons. Women working in factories producing and Polyacrylic Acid are known to suffer from various problems, including fatigue, weight loss, and damage to their reproductive organs. And even if a baby’s skin doesn’t show a visible reaction to disposables, we don’t really know what those plastics and chemicals may be doing in the long term. There is some research that shows that disposable nappies may cause a baby’s genital area to overheat, as disposables are less breathable than washables. Overheated boy-bits are linked to fertility issues. I’m not telling you this to scare you. This is information that we all need in order to make choices. Parents are bright, even when they’re knackered, and try to make decisions that are right for their families. But we can only make informed decisions if we have information, even if it is just a wee bit scary (sorry for the bad nappy pun there!).
Earlier Potty Training
Yes, we all end up loving our washables, but even the greatest nappy addict is a teeny weeny bit glad when they stop having to change nappies several times a day. And when you use washables, that day may come a bit sooner. Cloth nappies can allow a baby to feel when they are wet, and this can help them to potty train just a bit sooner.
Children who use cloth nappies learn to use the toilet on average six months earlier than their counterparts who use disposable nappies (and than they would in disposables). For a very simple reason, a child wearing genuine nappies is aware of when they are wet, and therefore establishes the connection between bladder release and a wet nappy as soon as it happens. This is the first and most important step in toilet training your child. Similarly, the concept of reflex toilet training (i.e., putting children on a potty before the age of 18 months) is currently out of favor. The primary reason for this is because a child wearing disposables has no knowledge of what is going on in terms of bladder discharge until they are around 18 months old and can grasp it intellectually.
This is probably not the main reason that people switch to cloth (though I have known mums look across a nappy changing table and exclaim, with a hint of nappy-envy in their voice, ‘What is that cow-print nappy?!’), but, let’s be honest, it helps. Cloth nappies are very good-looking these days. Fluffy, great colours, adorable prints, the choice is yours. In the summer, a good-looking nappy is an outfit in itself. But be warned, it can get addictive!
Reusable diapers are now available in a wide range of unique designs, colors, and fabrics, with soft cotton inserts and simple fastenings such as Velcro or poppers to make changing easier.
When I see how many babies are using disposables, I am amazed at how many of them have explosive poo – which may often reach the back of the neck – and how many parents simply accept that this is what happens when using nappies. Make no mistake about it: when you use the proper real nappies, your child’s poo is contained where it belongs: in the nappy. The best containment method is a well-fitting cloth diaper. Reusable diapers have a snugger fit than disposables, and if using a two-piece system, they have both the nappy and then the wrap as distinct areas to prevent any escape.
How would you feel wearing paper knickers stuffed full of chemicals every day? Enough said? Due to the fact that they do not include any harsh chemicals, dyes, or plastics, natural cloth nappies are thought to be less prone to cause nappy rashes.
No Stinky Bins!
As we move to a fortnightly bin collection, the benefit of cloth nappies is that there are no piles high of stinky cloth nappies.