We are in the middle of Real Nappy Week so now is a fortuitiously good time to talk about my decision to use non-disposable nappies, or Real Nappies (aka Cloth Diapers) for my baby, known to everyone as Snarfle.
For me this was a no-brainer: how can I be an eco-activist and do otherwise? But the idea was daunting before Snarfle arrived. I had no idea how you put a disposable nappy on a baby, never mind a cloth nappy. Then one of my NCT friends told me about a local Nappuccino event, part of Tower Hamlets‘ drive to diminish the quantity of nappies sent to land fill by the borough. With the incentive that if I made a purchase I would receive a discount it seemed like too good a deal to miss, so with weeks to go I went along to the Idea Store in Whitechapel to find out how these new-fangled real nappies worked. My mother had been scoffing about the idea as her recollection of the terry towelling nappies she used on me was arduous and she could not believe that I would get along with them when we are so ‘blessed’ with disposability these days. But times have changed and todays’ real cloth nappies are extremely clever and easy to use (not to mention fun).
At the Nappuccino event we were talked through the various options for real nappies, which seemed bewildering and complex, so in the end I went for what was recommended and got a few different varieties from two of the big brands: the American BumGenius and the British TotsBots, spending a few hundred pounds in total on my entire nappy stash, which included a few accessories such as a lovely yellow bucket. (see the bottom of this blog for a break down and review of the various types of nappy we are using). My mother had warned me that I would spend my days up to my elbows in Napisan and shit, but that has not been the case. I love using real nappies, and they could not be easier. I started using them once Snarfle was a few weeks old and big enough to wear them (he was tiny at birth), flinging the dirty ones straight in the washing machine (via bucket) with my other washing as instructed. Dead simple: breastfed babies produce harmless liquid poop and it all washed straight out without me having to do any extra work.
I’ve also made it my mission to use as few baby wipes as possible, having discovered by accident that even the eco-friendly biodegradable ones happily survive a wash, so goodness knows how much trouble normal baby wipes cause to the environment. Instead I use cut up towelling that has survived from my baby days and washable minky flannels to wipe Snarfle‘s bum at home (now he’s doing proper poops I use tissue first which gets flushed down the loo). The wipes are dipped in a jar of water that contains a squirt of CJ’s Butter’s Carcass Cleaner and then they are chucked in the bucket with the nappies. I have even come to quite enjoy the near daily monotony of hanging out the washing (no tumble drying round here).
Bear in mind that cloth nappies are slightly bulkier than disposables, so you may need slightly bigger bottom halves: I have dressed Snarfle in Slugs and Snails tights (above) for the past six months and they give perfect coverage. Cloth nappies need changing slightly more often but I’ve had very few leaks – in general they seem to contain explosive breastfed poop better than disposables. These days there are very few poopy nappies because I’ve had some success with Elimination Communication so we often ‘catch poos’ on the potty or the toilet (Elimination Communication will be the subject of another blog post). Older babies tend to create solid poos like us adults, so what does get into a nappy just gets flicked straight into the loo, before the nappy goes into the wash with everything else as before. Real nappies are much more pleasant on a tender baby bottom (no nasty chemicals, no horrible plastics), they take up no more time (swap nappy shopping for doing the wash) and did I mention they are fun! So cute – particularly the illustrated range from TotsBots (I did attempt to contact the company for a Q&A but to no avail, they weren’t interested in talking – I would love to know who is behind their designs).
What makes me sad is that so few people are prepared to try cloth nappies out: we’ve entered an era where it is so easy to buy disposables that not only are we creating an ecological problem of nightmarish proportions, but we are encouraging a learnt behaviour that runs contrary to natural instincts, which must then be unlearned. Children all over the ‘developed’ world are staying in nappies far longer than they ever were in the quite recent past: creating problems for years down the line. The lengthening amount of time now spent in nappies is a direct consequence of their ease and availability. Yes they are a big outlay at the start, but when I hear my friends moaning about the price of nappies I bite my lip: my only cost is on washing powder and electricity, and if I have another child there will be no further expenditure – my provisions are already in place.
A disclaimer: I must confess that we didn’t always take cloth nappies out with us in the early days, we don’t take them away with us when there is no easy access to a washing machine, I have been lazy about taking them down to my parent’s house when they do childcare when I am work (must try harder) and we still use eco-friendly Naty by Nature Babycare disposables at night, just because I’ve not yet discovered (or indeed tried very hard) the combination that holds up all night and a wet baby is no fun on top of all other potential night time troubles. I’m by no means perfect at this cloth nappy business, but my point is: even if you can’t use real nappies 100% of the time it is still so so worth it to make an effort with them. For me it has meant peace of mind (I felt so bad when we spent a few weeks in Pampers at the start), our early investment has saved us money in the long run and they’re cute! So much cuter! I hear a lot of excuses for why people don’t use cloth nappies and I’m willing to put my neck on the line here and say that those reasons just don’t stack up.
So, if you are considering using real nappies on your baby I say go for it! Find your local Nappuccino (use the web, it’s a wonderful resource) to claim your discount on a starter pack and to help demystify the process. And take advantage of all the events going on for Real Nappy Week: it’s a great chance to meet others who are making a real effort to minimise their impact on the environment. It really doesn’t have to be that hard, and if this blog can inspire just a few people to try out real nappies then I will be so happy.
Things to do:
Get involved with Clothopoly by finding the game pieces on participants websites, and you could be in with a chance to win some great prizes. On Saturday the Great Cloth Diaper Change takes place at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood (book to attend here). This is an international attempt to get into the Guinness Book of Records with a huge worldwide nappy changing session, and will be followed by a Real Nappy Fashion Show. The website for Real Nappies for London is a great resource and lists all the events that are going on here.
A detailed breakdown of what we use:
We have a variety of BumGenius combinations which should last until Snarfle is out of nappies, making them very good value indeed (you can alter the size with poppers). BumGenius V4 come with separate inserts, making them quite bulky but also very absorbent so I tend to use them for long naps. The all-in-one versions have fixed inserts that are less bulky on the bum; this means that they soak up a bit less but I prefer them for ease of use. My BumGenius come in lovely bright pastels and dry quickly because they are made from micro fibre. I have found the popper versions to last far better than the ones which close with velcro – the velcro is starting to get a bit grotty and it sometimes catches on Snarfle‘s tummy, which isn’t so nice. Poppers can be more fiddly to use but will also hold up better (I hope) once little fingers learn to unpeel velcro.
From TotsBots we have a selection of jewel coloured Bamboozles made from super soft bamboo, and these are worn in conjunction with FlexiWraps which come in gorgeous illustrated designs. Both come with a velcro fastening which so far has held up very well and they come in two sizes which means I’ve recently had to invest in a few more as Snarfle has outgrown the smaller size. I also have the TotsBots V3 Easyfits in a selection of lovely illustrated designs. These are all-in-one nappies with a long tongue made from a beautiful soft minky fabric that gets tucked in after a wash. They dry super fast and close with adjustable poppers. When we are out and about I use Alva Wet Bags (in lovely minky animal print designs) to store both dry and used nappies in: be aware, pee soaked nappies smell strongly of ammonia when there are no neutralising chemicals involved, so they need to be zipped away. At any one time I have about 15-20 nappies on the go and this works perfectly for me. We have also trialled gNappies, which is a combination system that uses biodegradable inserts – these are a great idea for when we go away and have less access to washing facilities and I intend to make more use of them. Of course there are plenty of smaller brands out there who make lovely cloth nappies but I’ve been very happy with initial recommendations so I’ve stuck with what I know.
Finally, check out this super cute Elmo diaper cover available from BaBeBottoms. Etsy is a treasure trove of beautiful handmade nappies; they take their cloth diapers very seriously in America!
- Diamond Jubilee Party and Gift Ideas!
- Welcome, Snarfle Monkey
- Slugs and Snails Tights: beautiful patterned baby and toddlerwear for little boys (and girls)
- Snarfle is One: Celebrating Baby, Motherhood and Work
- Ena Salon Review: a new haircut thanks to Mothers Meeting