Feel like a rant, so I am publishing the article I wrote recently for our local NCT magazine.
Real Nappies – My Thoughts
I first started thinking about nappies when I was five or six months pregnant with my first baby, Charlie, late in 2003. I read articles in various places, which detailed the cost to your pocket, baby’s bottom, and the environment as a whole, of using ‘disposable’ nappies. Personally, I would argue that they are one of the least disposable items you could purchase. They also preserve in a wholly unappetising way their contents. Can you imagine what all those wees and poos are going to be like in about 200 years time when that plastic finally starts to break down? Yuck. My antenatal friends were horrified that I was even thinking about using washable nappies, but I felt that we were making a conscious decision that would a) reduce pollution b) save money and c) be more healthy for the baby.
I found that Babyworld’s website had a particularly good article detailing pros and cons of using real nappies, and they also had written up a testing panel of Mums and babies that was really helpful, and very useful to me when I wanted to choose a type of nappy and where to buy them from. There are so many to choose from, lots of lovely colours, patterns and styles – it really adds to the baby shopping fun!
I started with a test pack, which included about 4 or 5 different kinds of nappies – cotton tie-ons, fold ups, all-in-ones with various covers. I and my pregnant co-workers had lots of fun trying them on a dolly to see what they were like, Eventually I chose 2 kinds that I though would work best – the tie-ons, and fold ups. Of course, best laid plans all go to pot – before I had a chance to use my new purchases, the baby came along 5 weeks early in March 2004 – and far too small for the nappies we had. In our SCBU, we were not supported in using real nappies, so the first 2 weeks we had to use minute ‘disposables’.
Once I got home with the baby though, I emailed my supplier and ordered preemie size nappies – great ones actually because they did up with plastic snaps, and fitted well – even on a tiny child. They lasted a good while, and I bought the next size up because they were so nice to use, and then when Charlie was bigger, I was able to use the tie-on and fold up versions.
Of course, the ‘downside’ of using real nappies is they need washing, and at first I found it hard to keep up, but once I had enough (yes I bought more!) we would wash overnight every 2 or 3 days, and line dry in the morning, Usually that was enough. The wraps didn’t get washed unless they had poo on them, or started to smell too much of wee – and my husband put a fold up airier on the bathroom wall so they dried off between uses. I didn’t really find it that hard – at least we have a washing machine!
Cost of nappies
Where we used to live in Hertfordshire, our council had a scheme where they would pay £40 towards the cost of your real nappies, so we took advantage of that, and altogether, we spent about £200 - so really, £160 with the subsidy. We went on to have Isabelle a year or so later, and she has also used the nappies, so between the two children, the cost is about £80 each. I think this compares extremely favourably against the cost of using the alternative, even when you factor in the cost of washing (and drying if you use a tumble dryer, which I did infrequently, preferring the line, or an airer).
Whilst Isabelle was very new (again, an early baby), and Charlie was still in nappies, we also used environmentally friendly biodegradable nappies. They really helped us out, and we still use them now for night time (both children are out of nappies in the daytime). They are an excellent compromise, and also if you are lucky enough to go away from home for a holiday or visit your friends at any time, offer you the chance to continue your friendly ways – without needing the laundry equipment. We still put poos in the toilet as if we were using washables, and we use biodegradable nappy bags if we are away from home to dispose of them.
We also stopped using baby wipes – you can get through a surprisingly large quantity. The normal ones don’t degrade particularly well, and are full of nasty chemicals, and the biodegradable ones are very pricey (which is an issue to consider in our household). We bought a large pack of very cheap small flannels for about a pound, and just put a few in a travel baby wipes box. We soak ours in water mixed with a drop or two of lavender essential oil – usually lavender as this is safe for baby skin) and make sure we have a nappy bag to put the used ones in. They then go into the nappy bucket and get washed with the rest.
Both my husband and I have been very happy with the choice we made, and I think the children benefited as well. Neither suffered with nappy rash except when they were teething, and they have both come out of their nappies at a reasonably early stage – we think, because they could feel that their nappies were wet – generally not the case with the modern disposables. We would make the same choice again and always recommend them to friends with babies on the way, and even those who are using disposables. We all have the power to make a choice and this one could really make a difference to the world we leave for our children.
I found that the Women’s Environmental Network who promote Real Nappy Week had lots of useful information, Babyworld, and the suppliers that I used as well, so I am listing their contact websites in case you want to do your own research. Also, don't forget contact your local authority to see if they offer a subsidy for using real nappies.
I wish you the best of luck in choosing and using real nappies.