Cloth Nappies vs. Disposables
When faced with an article explaining the benefits of using cloth nappies, I am sure that 9 out of 10 of you will expect to be told about the landfill problems of the 2.9 billion disposable nappies a year used in the UK. Well, you can relax: that is not what this article is about. Landfill is of course a huge issue, but there are far more benefits to using cloth that need to be considered.
So, what are the benefits of using cloth nappies?
Let’s start with the cost. The industry-accepted cost of using disposables averages about £800 per child over 2.5 years.
Compare that with this: using cloth nappies can cost as little as £100 for the same period. And those nappies will also be largely reused (with top up items if needed) for subsequent children.
My first baby's nappies cost about £300 all told. My second baby's cost £60. When both children came out of nappies, I sold my nappies and wraps for about £100. That’s not one parent, but two, who got a bargain using cloth nappies.
Let’s look at chemicals.
Like it or not, we live in an increasingly chemicalised environment. It will be many years before we know the full effects of household chemicals on rising incidences of asthma, allergies, learning difficulties and cancer, but it is unlikely to be good news when it comes.
Yet many parents don’t even seem to have made the connection that a modern disposable nappy is a chemical product, in direct contact with a large proportion of their child’s skin, and therefore ought logically to be looked at in the same way as other chemicals around the home. Organic clothing and disposables are a total incompatibility.
Ten years ago and more, the absorbency in disposables came from wood pulp. Not any longer, except for the cheapest of own-brands. The nappies have indeed got smaller and smaller, but that is because the wood pulp in them has been replaced by super-absorbency granules. They are effectively the same product as you can buy in your garden centre to add to the soil to improve water retention! Cloth nappies may be bigger on a child when they first go on, but they are no bigger than a wet disposable when they come off!
But disposables and their disadvantages are only part of the story. People who choose cloth nappies and stay with them do so because they prefer them.
Here are a few reasons why…
Get the right nappies, and they are far more leak-proof than disposables – providing you get the right advice and system. No-one should accept leakage problems as the norm, whatever nappy system they are using.
Another myth put about is that wetness causes nappy rash. The disposables industry spends millions of pounds a year promoting this idea, to the extent that not only parents but also midwives and health visitors often believe it as well. I’m afraid, though, that it is tosh.
Consider the following:
- If wetness causes nappy rash, all children in cloth nappies would have nappy rash. Obviously they don’t, and no mother would accept that.
- Equally, no children in stay-dry disposables would have nappy rash. Yet Huggies, in their own advertising (in 2000), stated that 57% of children (presumably almost all in disposables) in a large European-wide study suffered some form of rashing every 2-3 weeks. As a mother, I sincerely hope this is not true.
There are many potential causes of nappy rash, and in a very tiny minority of children, wetness is indeed one. The existence of special ‘sensitive’ versions of disposables gives a clue to another: many children are sensitive to all the chemical (especially fragrance) additions to disposables. Or, to put it another way: for some children, not only do disposable nappies not protect them against rashing, but they in fact cause it.
Ah yes, I can hear you saying. But cloth nappies are so much hard work. I have a job, and don’t have the time to spend folding terries or washing them.
No, no, no! You don’t have to fold them! Modern cloth nappies are shaped, and fasten with velcro, poppers or little clips called Nappi Nippas. Also, they hardly take any more time than disposables – is five minutes a day really going to affect the time you spend with your child or on any other activity? You just bung the nappies in a 60 degree wash every couple of days.
Many people even find that the total amount of washing they do when they use cloth nappies actually goes down, as they no longer have to do so much washing of clothes and bedding as a result of leaks.
And, finally, you’ll love them.
Cloth nappies evoke an emotional response in parents. Whether this is because they address some kind of deep-seated need for parenting satisfaction, I have no idea, but the simple truth is that parents who use cloth nappies love them with a fervour which borders on the religious. Very often, this comes as a surprise to those parents – more than one customer has commented to me “I never thought I would feel so passionate about cloth nappies”.
If you don’t feel the same about the disposable nappies you are using, perhaps it might be worth finding out what it is about the cloth nappy experience which is so different. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!