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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Real Nappies

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Following on from Eilleen's post about reusable menstrual products, I thought I might recycle a post I wrote about nappies (diapers) for Rhonda's blog in 2007.

We have six children. If we hadn’t used cloth nappies, our family could have put thousands of little bundles of paper, plastic, wee and poo into landfill. And we’d have paid around $20000 for the privilege. Yuck! Just thinking about that makes me guilty for the disposables we did use.

We used some disposable nappies – regular ones and then eco-brands once they became readily available – especially for overnight (when I couldn’t find a cloth nappy and cover to suit heavy wetting), travel, and when it just rained and rained and rained, which interfered with my washing. But mostly we used re-usable cloth ones – terry flats and cheap, basic flannelette fitted nappies with my firstborn, full systems of fancy fitted all-in-one modern cloth nappies (MCNs) for my next two (with the firstborn’s hand-me-downs as backup), and a mixture of what I had and what I could get for the following three children. I still have two children wearing night-time pull-up nappy pants most nights. One is five and one is three. I’ve made some of these pants, and bought another two pairs for around $20 each. That’s a bargain compared to the disposable option for preschoolers @ $1+ per pair.

The nappy pants I made for my toddlers for bedtime.

Choosing cloth nappies for your baby or toddler (it’s never too late to switch) can be an overwhelming task with the variety available now. There’s bamboo, hemp, soy, organic cotton and various other fabrics. Styles include all-in-ones, pockets, pre-folds, basic fitteds and more. If you’re unsure and have time to research, perhaps you could visit one of the nappy forums online to read what other parents are saying, and ask questions.
(from Kindred #23, p18)

Try a nappy or two before committing to a full set. Consider fabric type, colour, style, washing and drying requirements, price, quality of the nappy, environmental impact of the product, ease-of-use, health (is the fabric used something you want next to your baby’s skin around the clock?), and sizing (will it fit your baby for long, or do you need a set in several sizes?).

Modern cloth nappies are a joy to use. They’re easy to put on, soft and cuddly and come in all the colours of the rainbow. Washing them is no big deal. It’s just like washing towels, sheets or clothes. The washing has to be done and it works in with your daily routine so that you have nappies clean and dry and ready for baby to use. The only thing I found is that when I had my first sets of fitted real nappies, they couldn’t go in the dryer and they were very thick with multiple layers of flannelette. In our North Queensland wet seasons I found it difficult to get them dry because it rained for weeks on end. I later purchased nappies which could go in the dryer, and learned to revert back to the good old terry squares with a nice, snuggly cover for those very wet weeks.

Covers aren’t required for most all-in-one nappies. Covers themselves come in a wide variety of styles and fabric types and colours. These are part of your nappy system. There are also liners and boosters for within the nappy – to make changing easier, for baby’s comfort and also to increase the absorbency of the nappy for outings and night use especially. Another nappying requirement is wipes. There are regular wipes from the supermarket, eco-varieties of the same, or cloth wipes. Cloth wipes are often flannel squares with an overlocked or hemmed edge. Or bought face washers! They’re useful again and again and no problem to wash with the nappies. Lastly, you might need a wet bag to carry used nappies home from outings. This is simply a water-proof bag, usually drawstring, which is handy when you’re a no-plastic-bags household!

If you or someone you know can sew nappies, covers, liners, boosters, wipes and wetbags – you will save yourself a fortune! There are free printable patterns online for all of these items, or by looking at those available for purchase, you can make them up yourself. See Ottobre Designs Magazine Printables and scroll through the projects to see one example of a fitted nappy pattern and a pattern for a ‘wool diaper cover’. When searching online for patterns, include the U.S. term ‘diaper’ in your search. Patterns for these items are also available for purchase.

To purchase nappies and accessories, you can go to your local department store, baby boutique, some health shops or look online. There are online stores for large businesses and a variety of options to buy from cottage industries as well. Using the forum links above, you should be able to find an online supplier to suit your nappy preference and budget.

If you’re not ready to use cloth or prefer to use both real and disposable nappies, please consider the type of nappies you purchase. There are more earth-friendly disposable options in the supermarket, and even greener nappies such as Safeties, Moltex and Bamboo Nature brands.

And if you’d like to avoid nappies altogether – look up Natural Infant Hygiene or Elimination Communication. This is something we didn’t really know about when our babies were little, but did naturally with our children from the summer that fell around their first birthdays. All of our children were using the potty and/or toilet before their second birthdays, depending on when they began and showed interest.

Best wishes to you in your quest for the perfect nappy system. Enjoy these short years of your children’s lives and I hope you can manage to lessen the impact on the planet and budget using some of the options outlined above.


gaby said...

I use cloth nappies for DS and I love them, in many ways I think it is easier to use cloth at home, because I would much rather do the extra load of washing that nappies bring then do a late night dash to the supermarkets because you have run out. The money saving factor is good too.

Willo said...

I have used cloth diapers (Fuzzi Bunz) for both my boys. I also wanted to point out that although they are a little bit of investment at first, you can buy them used (who cares, they are just going to dirty them anyway) and sell them again so overall it is a HUGE savings to you over disposable as well.

Denise said...

I have given your blog an award - The Spreader of Love Award. It's posted on my site -

I am hoping this award will bring a few more readers to your wonderful site.

Mich said...

Hi Bel Can I just add a link to your list, the Australian Nappy Network is a not for profit group advocating the use of reusable nappies in Australia They run Reusable Nappy Week (the link) and also the Cloth Nappy Hunt (which is due to start in March). I am a director and also the WA co-ordinator and we are soon to be very busy here in WA attending festivals during March/April with our advocacy kit. Each state has a sample kit of nappies and these are available for loan for mothers groups, child health clinics, hospitals, anyone really. We are there to help people find out what cloth is all about, help them get started and have quite a number of projects that we would like to get underway (such as a proposal to councils to offer subsidies similar to those offered in the UK). We always need more members and helpers so if any SGFC readers would like to be involved or if they just need help getting started there are contact details on the website.


freyaw said...

My parents used cloth nappies for both my sister and myself. I don't know, offhand, how readily available the disposables were at the time (thirty years ago), but I know my parents would have chosen disposables anyway for reasons of cost and allergies. Should I ever have kids, I'm planning to use cloth nappies, and to ask my parents for help and advice. I look at the nappies used by my friends who are parents, but I can't ever imagine using them - the scented bits set off MY allergies, let alone those of any child of mine!

Bel said...

Thanks for the Award, Denise. :)

Michelle, thanks for the link and telling us more about Australian Nappy Network.

Thanks to others for their comments and happy nappying! x

bunting said...

Just wanted to add my congratulations to you on posting on such an important issue. I have had a little rant already about this on my own blog - so many of my friends have used disposables, and it really upsets me. Washables are so much nicer to use all round. My two have both used the set of nappies I got for No 1, and the nappies have subsequently been sold, or passed on, for other Mums to use. They were both out of nappies in the day before 2 and 2 1/2.
Every way we can help reduce waste is important, and this is one of the big ones. Thanks again.