In the past, using cloth nappies meant extra mess, extra fuss and a serious commitment to the cause. The simple terry cloth squares, safety pins and waterproof coverings required a lot of work. Nappies would need to be changed more than 10 times throughout the day and then have to be soaked and washed almost daily. Despite all this hard work; nappy rash, pooh explosions and leaking was common.
Nowadays, cloth nappies are a whole different ballgame. Converts rave about them so much I had to investigate a bit further. Are cloth nappies the way forward? Is it really so much easier with the modern cloth nappies?
For the critics: the extra laundry seems to be the major off putting factor. Many mums aren’t keen to add an extra load of laundry to their daily requirements. In a study (sponsored by the National Association of Diaper Services) it was found that laundering cloth nappies at home used as much water as flushing the toilet 15 times per day. While this is a significant amount of water, this amount is reduced if you have a water efficient washing machine.
The energy costs of cloth nappies are also significantly reduced if you line dry instead of using the tumble dryer.
Reasons to use cloth nappies:
– The environment: Possibly one of the most important reasons to use cloth nappies is to do your bit for the environment. One disposable nappy can take 450 years to break down; one baby uses thousands of nappies between birth and potty training.
– The savings: You can also save thousands of Rands on the cost of nappies by using cloth. Sure there are start-up costs, but once you have your stash there are hardly any running costs, and the nappies can be re-used for your next children too. Once you’re done with babies you can sell the nappies for even more savings and cash back.
– No exposure to dangerous chemicals: For many mums, not to have all those chemically treated plastics up against their little ones behind is a major motivator.
– Comfort: As one seasoned cloth nappy user said, “Imagine wearing a maxi pad 24 hours a day for more than two years?” There’s little doubt that a cloth nappy feels nicer for your baby.
– Fewer shop stops: Using cloth nappies also means fewer shop trips to acquire nappies constantly. You can kit your kid out with nappies to last until potty training in one simple purchase.
– The adorable factor: Another surprising reason you might enjoy cloth nappies, they come in the most adorable patterns and are almost always a talking point with curious moms. Just one brief look at Pinterest for cloth diapers and you will see!
Buying cloth nappies
The sheer volume of cloth nappy choices can be overwhelming. Some tips from cloth nappy veterans:
– “Check what the fabric is made of: the more natural the better.”
– “Buy at least 20 nappies, or a two day supply.” Buy too many and you might be tempted to leave laundry day too long and end up with stained nappies, too few and you will be forced to do laundry daily and even use the tumble dryer when you are in a pickle (no good for the nappy, the environment or your electric bill). Try one or two of any brand before committing to a full stash of only one brand.
– “Don’t worry too much about other accessories: some quality cloth nappies, a bucket and nappy liners is all you really need.”
– “Consider lifetime savings when buying all the kit – it might be expensive to start up but think of all the savings over the years. Cost per nappy, multiplied by 2 and a half years worth of wear is very significant.”
There are different types of cloth nappies, each with their own advantages. The “all in one” seems to be popular; with an absorbent layer and a waterproof included. The pocket nappy is another popular choice, as the absorbent inner can be removed. Shaped/fitted nappies are popular too. These are three or four part systems, a waterproof wrap, a inner nappy and then the booster/liner. Because there are a few ways that poop can be absorbed through the shaped nappies, these are great for overnight. It is still possible to get the old-school flat terry cloth nappies. These aren’t as effective, but are vastly cheaper!
If you are really unsure, buy a trial pack from one of the many providers. Better yet, buy a few samples from several different brands. Every mum has her favourite and the reasons differ widely. You’ll also need a stash of nappy liners and a bucket for soaking. Experts also recommend a natural washing detergent. If you’re doing cloth for environmental reasons and to minimize your child’s contact with toxins – environmentally friendly washing powders are the way to go. As for using the nappies; most come with studs and are very easy to put on. Use a flushable, biodegradable liner inside and you are good to go! It couldn’t be easier.
It’s not easy to find a parent who has tried cloth nappies and not been bowled over by the numerous benefits. That may be because there aren’t any such parents. It seems like once you go cloth you never go back. Give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.