The thought of throwing away upwards of 6 disposable nappies a day (even more when babies are new-born, sometimes it can be as many as 13 a day) really made me feel despondent. Having visited many landfill sites around Johannesburg and after seeing first hand, all the disposable nappies littered about, I became very aware of the large environmental impact each little human being is having on the planet.
After researching the topic, I also became aware of the chemicals used in disposable nappies and how these can potentially be absorbed through the skin and have harmful effects on babies. Some of the common chemicals include chlorine, used as a bleach to whiten the diaper material, sodium polyacrylate, a super-absorbent polymer that forms the core of the nappy, dyes and perfumes/fragrances. To avoid these ingredients, one would have to purchase disposable nappies that are chlorine-free, dye-free and perfume-free.
And so I always knew that I would be a cloth nappy mom one day and now after having successfully used cloth nappies with my son for 9 months, even while he has been attending crèche, I thought I would share some of my knowledge, experiences and what I have learnt.
We have all heard our parents and older generations talking about the original cloth nappies which involved steri nappy buckets, lots of sterilising, washing and they were quite bulky. Modern cloth nappies and washing machines have greatly improved.
Here are some of the main Pros and Cons of using modern cloth nappies:
- Cost savings
- Theinitial investment is between R3500 – R8000 depending on which brand of clothnappy you choose. Thereafter you will spend very little, only on disposableliners if you choose to use them and detergent for washing.
- Whereasdisposable diapers can cost between R10000 – R15000 per child from birth untilpotty learning.
- Onceyou have invested in a cloth nappy stash you can also reuse those nappies foryour subsequent children and save even more money.
- Health benefits
- Noharsh chemicals on baby’s skin.
- Environmental benefits
- Nodisposable nappies going to landfills.
- Accordingto the South Africa’s Cloth Nappy User Association (SACNU), a single child willuse 4140 disposable nappies and generate almost a ton of waste (952 kg) by thetime they have potty learned.
- Incontrast, a child using cloth nappies will only generate roughly 2.2kg of nappywaste.
- Cute factor
- Thereare so many different patterns and colours to choose from and a cloth bum babyis just the sweetest thing.
Cloth nappies are also great for swimming or going to the beach as they don’t get as heavy and soggy as disposables when wet.
- Washing, drying and sorting does take a bit of time.
- Washing nappies uses additional water and
electricity that you will have to use/pay for.
- Although many of the cloth nappy moms in Cape Town have successfully managed to continue using their cloth nappies even with the very strict water restrictions in place.
- Also, from an environmental perspective, the manufacturing of disposable nappies would also use water and electivity.
If the weather is rainy and it is humid, nappies can take a bit more time to dry properly.
The different modern cloth nappy styles include:
Other important elements that will help on your cloth nappying journeyinclude:
So, what do you actually need to successfully use cloth nappies full time?
Cloth nappy moms refer to their “stash of nappies” and as part of this stash I would recommend the following:
- About 22 – 24 OSFM nappies (this means you only need
to wash nappies every 3 days)
- I have 10 AIO, 7 pockets, 4 sleeves and 3 night
- My favourite are the pockets followed by the AIO’s
- Pockets dry the fastest as the inserts are separate to the waterproof cover and mine have double gussets around the legs which prevent any leaks
- AIO’s are the easiest to refold after washing
- Most OSFM nappies fit from when baby is 4.5kg – 5kg. So, I used flats (hemp and bamboo) and covers when my son was born until he could fit into the OSFM nappies
- I have 10 AIO, 7 pockets, 4 sleeves and 3 night nappies
- 2 bin liners (laundry basket wet bags for the dirty nappies at home)
- 2 wet bags (for when out and about and for sending to crèche)
- 20 reusable cotton wipes that get washed with the nappies (if you are going the cloth nappy route you might as well save money on wet wipes to)
- Liners (I have 10 reusable fleece ones which I use at home and disposable ones for crèche)
Now let’s talk about those poos and washing the nappies
For exclusively breastfed babies before starting solids
Oh, the baby sh#t yellow poos! Exclusively breastfed baby poo is quite runny and does not need to be rinsed off the nappy before washing as the poo is water soluble. So, a rinse cycle (I did a quick 30 minute wash at 40°C without any detergent) and then a longer wash cycle (with detergent) is sufficient. This also means that you don’t really need to use liners until starting solids.
After starting solids and for formula fed babies
Liners are advised as the poo is usually more solid and not as soluble in water and therefore needs to be removed from the nappy before washing. You can either flush the poo and liner or rinse it off if you are using a reusable liner. To wash the nappies (and wipes, liners and wet bags) I do a rinse cycle (either 30 or 60 minutes at 60°C without any detergent) and then a longer wash cycle (60 minutes at 40°C with detergent).
According to SACNU, all laundry detergents without softener, are safe for cloth nappies. Fabric softener tends to coat the fibers of the fabric inhibiting absorption. I use MIMU Baby Laundry Liquid or Triple Orange Laundry Cream and I sometimes add a few drops of lavender essential oil to add a nice smell.
I do keep a few disposables on hand for those “rainy days” but overall I have really enjoyed using modern cloth nappies. We have experienced very few nappy leaks or nappy rashes and my environmental conscience has been calmed knowing that I am reducing my son’s negative environmental impact.
I would highly recommend those interested in using cloth nappies, to give it a go. Even if you begin by just using them while at home or during the day, buy a few and gradually start building up your cloth nappy stash.
For more information and to find out where you can purchase cloth nappies from have a look at these websites/companies:
- South Africa’s cloth nappy user association (www.sacnu.com)
- Just about everything you need to know aboutcloth nappies is covered on the SACNU website and they have a Facebook pagewhere you can ask questions.
- Biddykins (www.biddykins.co.za)
- An online shop, offering affordable nappies andtheir service is great.
- Fancypants and Bamboobaby (www.bamboobaby.co.za)
- Pokkelokkie (www.pokkelokkie.co.za)
- Luli and Co (www.luliandco.co.za)
- Mother Nature Products (www.mothernatureproducts.co.za)