Hi, my name is Amber and I'm the owner of Cradle to Crib, an ethical children's clothing company focused on making baby & toddler clothes last longer. I'm also a self-confessed eco-living addict. It started off as a money saving choice and now my house is filled with homemade handsoap, dishwasher tablets, and "unpaper" towels.
We're in the middle of Real Nappy Week, and given that I still have an article that I cut out of a newspaper in 2007 talking about the benefits of cloth nappies (true story), the team at Cotswold Baby & Toddler Company asked me to write a guest blog.
If you already embrace cloth nappies, there's probably very little I can tell you. As you well know, once you've entered the world of cloth nappies you want to learn more and more until there's not much else left to learn. If, however, you are curious to try it but don't know where to start, you're in the right place!
So why Cloth (or Reusable, or Real - there's no right or wrong way to say it) Nappies?
1) Omg the money you'll save. I save money the way people play sports, and the numbers don't lie on this. I've heard estimates of £600 savings for one child, but let's look at the figures - I'm going to be fairly generous to disposables to show you that even looking at the worst case scenario, you're still saving. To cut out the boring bits, I'm working on averages for the below figures (I know your newborn uses 4 nappies before noon, but trust me, this too shall pass):
4.25 nappies per day x 2.5 years in nappies = 3,878 nappies
3,878 nappies at cost of £0.13 per nappy = £504 if you use exactly the amount you buy and always get a decent bargain. I reckon the actual cost could be up to double this amount, but let's work with a figure of £500 per child.
If you went out and bought 24 brand new, individually packaged Bambino Mio All-In-One Nappies from me right this moment (24 is the max you'd ever need - 12 per day for a newborn, washing every day - that will very quickly tail off and become more manageable), it would cost you £380 - already a savings of £120. But you're very unlikely to do that, because why would you? That's a terrible idea - and that's coming from someone who would directly profit from this terrible idea. Promise me you will not buy 24 individual nappies!
Instead, you'd buy a multi-pack and a couple of individual nappies, maybe some pre-loved nappies - you might even try your hand at making a couple, and you'd probably pay something like £150-£250 for 24. Or you might even get them all second hand and you are quids in. Your council probably has a Real Nappy Scheme where you can get cash towards your purchase. Gloucestershire offers £30 towards Real Nappies if you can provide your child's birth certificate or your Mat B1.
Planning to have more kids? Hats off, mama, you win at the money saving game because all babies to follow will cost you virtually nothing (...as far as nappies go, at least).
Not planning on more kids? Sell to other frugal mums and recoup most of or even all of your costs.
Oh yes, you heard me.
Yes, you can toss a disposable nappy when you're out and about, and you don't have to deal with it again. Great, but you can just as easily throw it into a wet bag and I swear to you on my secret stash of Jaffa Cakes (that is a sacred oath) that you will not smell it. The real convenience comes in at home, though.
With disposable nappies, you stick them in a bin in your house. I don't know how long you wait before you empty that bin, but if you're anything like me then any length of time is far too long. Then it piles up until collection day. And every time you go out to the wheelie bin, you hold your breath and pray that the stink doesn't knock you over. If you have a newborn and you have a collection every other week, that's 168 smelly nappies in your bin. NO. THANK. YOU.
Reusable nappies are so, so much easier than you may think. Liquid soaked nappies go straight into a wet bag. Solids go down the toilet and the nappy then goes straight into a wet bag. When it's time to do the laundry, tip out the wet bag and throw everything in the washer. Easy, not smelly. Pro tip: attach a hose with a spray nozzle to your toilet and set up a changing station in the loo if you have the space, although this is not necessary.
And what's more convenient than knowing you'll never find yourself without a nappy in the house at 6pm on a Sunday once the shops have shut?
3) More comfortable for babies. I am not mum shaming when I say this, because I was in disposable nappies and do you know what? I don't harbour deep seated resentment towards my mother, nor do I remember what said nappies felt like. If you have not used Cloth Nappies before, so what? You have enough to worry about, and you have loved and provided and cared for your baby so well - don't give it a second thought. In fact, have a look at the next point if you want a reason to feel better about it (seriously).
The only reason I bring up this point is because I would defy you to find a single Cloth Nappy company that doesn't have a story that goes something like this:
"Our Founder started this company when their 1st/2nd/3rd child developed a rash from disposable nappies. After looking for alternatives that would irritate baby's sensitive skin, he/she decided to make his/her own Cloth Nappies, and before long other parents were asking for him/her to make Cloth Nappies for them. That was X number of years ago, and we're still helping parents who want an alternative for their babies."
Disposable nappies are better than ever, but who doesn't love a pair of comfortable cotton pants?
4) Obviously there's the environmental factor. I've deliberately saved this until last because it's the most obvious, but also the most contested. I can't tell you how much misinformation is out there about eco friendly choices. Just because something says eco friendly does not make it so, and no choice is perfect.
The downsides of Reusable Nappies are as follows:
-cotton cultivation and everything that goes into that - this especially applies to non-organic cotton products.
-use of washing machines to clean the nappies (...and everything that goes into that)
I'll tell you something you might not read on most articles talking about the benefits of Reusable Nappies - if you aren't caring for the nappies as described below, the carbon production of 2.5 years of Reusable Nappies is approximately the same as disposable nappies - it might even be higher if you think it necessary to wash the nappies at 90C. I'm sorry if that's news to anyone, and if you want to check my sources, have a read of the 2008 EA/DEFRA study. The positive takeaway from this is that the only reason they're close is because the manufacturing of disposables has improved dramatically.
However, all is not lost, and the environmental factor can still be a reason to use Cloth Nappies. With optimal care, carbon dioxide production can be up to 40% lower for Reusable Nappies over disposables.
Optimal care includes:
-Energy efficient washing machine
-Washing full loads as often as possible. And please do not fall into the trap of thinking you need to run an empty cycle after each load of nappies - you don't.
-Wash at 60C or below (follow instructions for your product, they might call for lower temperatures)
-Line dry. Not only is this environmentally better, direct sunlight helps to get rid of any stains. This can of course be done inside next to a window, as well.
-Reuse the nappies either with a second child or by selling them on. This offsets the production CO2 output.
5) So many options! You could do All-In-Ones, or Shaped Nappies, or Pre-Folds with a waterproof cover. You can literally take an old towel and pin it together à la the Post-War era. There are plain ones, patterned ones - I've even seen colouring book pattern nappies that you can decorate yourself. They are so much fun, and it's so easy to get started with them!
I could literally talk about this for hours, but hopefully that gives you a bit of insight into the world of Reusable Nappies. I'll be selling All-In-Ones at the Baby & Toddler show if you want to stop by to have a look and a feel, or just ask any questions.
Let me know in the comments if you're interested in more information about eco-friendly living, as I'll soon be launching a blog talking about incremental changes possible in the pursuit of a lower carbon footprint, as well as examining what's actually eco-friendly and what's a false economy.
Thanks, and happy changing!