My mother has frequently regaled me with tales of cloth nappies – how she used to wash them all by hand, boil them and dry them on the line. I remember seeing her folding the squares to fit my baby sister’s podgy bot and hold it in place whilst securing it with a large pin. It was indeed a time consuming, fraught process. The birth of disposable nappies caused parents to rejoice the world over. Cloth nappies very quickly became a thing of past nightmares.
Since this day, billions of disposable nappies have been used. Not one of them has decomposed and will not do so for at least another 500 years. We are filling our world with them – landfill, the sea, back alleys…They are synthetic bags of chemicals – TriButylTin and sodium polyacrylate are two of these chemicals. They may make contact with baby’s skin, being absorbed into the systemic circulation. TBT is considered to be a toxic chemical and is associated with obesity in humans. It is highly toxic to marine life, causing endocrine problems and even death.a
Today’s reusable nappies are a massive industry and with good reason. They range from the basic square style to pull-up style nappies. They can be made from cotton, wool and bamboo for example. They are very absorbent and kind to the skin. They come with waterproof wraps to protect clothing. They tolerate endless washing and are very convenient. Aside the initial cost of buying the nappies, they generate huge savings. The cost of disposable nappies for 2.5 years is between £850-£1000. The cost of 20 odd reusables is about £200 and washing costs about £1 per week. Needless to say, you can then lend them to your friends and reuse them for any further babies. They have a very long lifespan and get softer and dry more quickly as time goes by. Most non-bio detergents are so good these days that hot washes are not necessary for the cleaning of the nappies. Especially in the pre-weaning days, thirty and forty degree washes do a perfect job.
When I started to use reusable nappies for my baby, I was prepared for failure and suspected that I would be taking a trip to Tescos for some Pampers before long. This has not happened. She is now five months old and has been in bamboo reusables since the day she was born. They are great. Their design is like that of a ‘normal’ nappy with velcro fasteners. The waterproof wraps keep her clothes dry and the lip of material on the inside of the leg contains any nasty surprises well. I have used disposables on holidays and end up using twice as many as they do not contain anywhere near as well. My daughter does not cry when her nappy is wet when using reusables as the liners remain very dry and hence don’t get cold against the skin.
I will not lie about the washing – it does generally mean that there is one baby wash a day, but it has always been this way so I am used to it and it doesn’t even register in my placenta brain anymore. I wash the nappies with baby clothes and apart from the odd item having to go back for a second whirl, they always come out clean. In the summer, they dried on the washing line but now its cold and wet, I dry them on the radiators which are on anyway. I don’t have a tumble dryer but would definitely consider buying one if another baby comes along. People who use reusable nappies report that their babies don’t get nappy rash. Although my daughter is only five months old, I have not yet seen any evidence of nappy rash with her. Her skin is lovely and she appears to find her bamboo pants very comfortable and warm.
With nearly eight million disposable nappies being thrown onto landfill sites in the UK every year, the burden they represent is a scarily real one and one that is the responsibility of all modern parents. At babysfirstplanet.com, we are trying to promote the use of reusable nappies and the recycling of baby and children’s goods in South Wales. It is free to join the website and we are encouraging as many people to register so that they can become informed about reusable nappies and hopefully recycle their unwanted baby items with parents in the area. Please, if you are an ecosound Mum or Dad then seriously consider reusable nappies. The current situation with the disposable nappies blighting our planet is very much one of ‘buy now, pay later’ .