The conversation goes a little like this...
Colleague 1: I can't be changing nappies. I'm too old for that.
Colleague 1 (gentle teasing): Look at her. That's your life now.
Me: Yep. I spend a lot of time thinking about nappies. Buying them, changing them, washing them.
Colleague 2: Washing them?
Me: Mhm, I use cloth.
Colleague 1 nods in understanding.
Colleague 2: Cloth?
If you're a cloth bum mum (or dad!), you have probably had a similar conversation before. Using cloth nappies (I don't like using the term "real" nappies) can be a bit of an unknown. For many it conjures thoughts of the old terry nappies my generation of babies wore. They have moved on greatly since then, appearing and going on more like disposable nappies.
They also have the reputation of being hard work. I have many friends who would rather buy the cheapest disposables than switch to cloth. The extra washing and prepping seems like too much. Honestly it isn't. When using cloth nappies full time, they only produce two extra washes per week.
After finding out I was pregnant with Baobao, her Baba and I visited various baby shows. There the idea of using cloth nappies was planted and I began to research. At this point, I wasn't aware of the cloth nappy meets held monthly in my area, and so did all of the research independently.
There are several reasons why we have decided to use cloth nappies with Baobao:
On average, a baby will go through 4000 - 6000 nappy changes before they are potty trained. Each of those nappies will be sent to landfill or in the case of my borough, incinerated, causing untold trouble for the environment and that's not including the nappy sacks, wipes etc. In all but the winter, we air dry our cloth nappies, so aside from the extra two washes a week, we are putting less of a strain on the environment.
- CostThe initial outlay for cloth nappies can be as large as you want it to be. We use a higher end brand sized nappy (gNappies), so our outlay is a little higher than usual. This is further exacerbated by my collecting prints. The outlay for 20 nappies in each size is as follows:
-gNappies newborn bundle (12 newborn pants, 6 small pants) £109.95
-gNappies small pouches x2 £25.90
-gNappies small cloth inserts x3 £68.85
-gNappies medium rainbow g's pack £69.95-gNappies medium pouches x2 £25.90
-gNappies medium cloth inserts x3 £68.85-gNappies large rainbow g's pack £69.95
-little lamb bamboo boosters x2 £24.00
Total (without extras) £463.35
Over a short amount of time, this can seem like a huge amount of money. Lets compare to some disposable nappies.
-Pampers Active Fit at 19p per nappy (Boots) x4000 £760 x6000 £1140
-Aldi Mamia at 8.5p per nappy (Aldi) x4000 £340 x6000 £510
-Tesco love Baby Ultra dry at 11p per nappy (Tesco) x4000 £440 x6000 £660-Naty at 21p per nappy (Sainsburys) x4000 £840 x6000 £1260
Compared to some of the cheaper supermarket own brand disposable nappies, our higher end cloth nappy can be more expensive, depending on how many nappies you end up using, but once your initial outlay is done, you don't have to spend any more. There are of course cheaper cloth nappy brands that you can use and Go Real estimate that you can save between £150~£1000 by using cloth nappies. This saving increases if you have multiple children, as you can reuse the nappies with the younger sibling.
- Better for baby
Cloth nappies are designed to 'breath' and so will still allow air to the baby's bottom. You are also more aware of how often you have to change them. Some people believe that cloth nappies cause nappy rash, especially after pampers led a defamatory campaign in their leaflets to new mums last year. This simply isn't the case.
On average, we will change Baobao's nappy every 3-4 hours. We know that the cloth inserts and boosters that we use can last about 4-5 hours. We also change a soiled nappy as soon as we notice it. This would be the same if we were using disposable nappies. This is because the best way to prevent nappy rash, whichever type of nappy you use, is frequent nappy changing.
On the whole, this has worked. Baobao has only ever had one bad case of nappy rash. This was while she was at nursery, where they used disposable nappies and may not have changed her as frequently.
The main difference between disposables and cloth, that makes cloth better for baby's bum, is the lack of harsh chemicals. You know exactly what you have used to wash the nappy. The materials are all natural - the inserts we use are fleece, hemp and bamboo - and if the nappy stays on too long, they will only leak wee on to her clothes, rather than burst and leak harsh chemicals on to baby's bottom.
Back in the 'dark ages' when I was a baby, you had terry toweling squares. They were big and bulky and well, not very nice to look at to be blunt.
Now, cloth nappies are very different. You can still get terry squares, in fact, smaller ones are excellent for newborns, but on the whole, most nappies are now shaped, making them as easy to put on as disposables.
The main change, however, is the covers. Nowadays, cloth nappies are bright and colourful, with stylish prints. You no longer need to hide them. If anything, they are designed to be shown to the world. Many cloth bum mums will even collect different ones.
When deciding to use cloth over disposables, my main reasoning was the fact that I didn't want to contribute to landfill waste with nappies that would never decompose. We do use biodegradable nappies for nursery, but they will break down much faster than a regular disposable nappy.
Writing this post, however, has made me feel much more secure in my decision. Cloth nappies look much better than disposables. Rather than an ugly ragged white line peaking out from under Baobao's trousers, we have a brightly coloured waistband. Plus, in the long run, we have most definitely saved money. It's win-win all round.