Top reasons for using real nappies

23 Nov

While I’ve made it clear that I love washable nappies I thought I’d set out some the reasons for choosing to go real on the nappy front. 

 1. Environment
Each baby who uses disposable nappies is responsible for 300lb of wood, 50lb of petroleum feedstocks and 20lb of chlorine in its first year. This is in addition to adding to the stinking mountain of nappies sent to landfill every day (8 million disposables a day are thrown away in the UK) where they sit for hundreds of years (if not longer, since we don’t know how long they’ll take to break down). These sorts of stats make me feel a little depressed and I just couldn’t be responsible for making such a decision on behalf of my baby. So I decided to skip the bin bags of stinking disposables and invest in 24 washable nappies instead. 
According to the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis on nappies, washable nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables. You can maximise the benefits of choosing real nappies by modifying your behaviour, eg washing your nappies at lower temperatures, only line or air drying, reusing your nappies on a second or subsequent child. Check out Go Real’s site for good advice on how you can make sure you’re getting the best for the environment by using washable nappies. 
There are also environmental benefits to using nappies made from hemp or bamboo, which are less demanding of water/pesticides than cotton. Or, if using cotton, sticking to organic cotton. You can also find nappies made under ethical conditions and made in the UK or Europe, to minimise nappy air miles. 
2. Money 
Real nappies definitely involve a lot more upfront cost than using disposables. But there are significant savings to be made over using disposable nappies (particularly if you choose to buy premium “eco” disposables). 
I estimate that we spent about £300 pounds on nappies/accessories plus £54.15 voucher we got from Haringey council. There’s also the cost of laundering (which I’ve never calculated!). But we chose quite expensive nappies (mostly Bumgenius and Tots Bots birth-to-potty options) on the basis that we can use them until he toilet trains and can also use them on our next baby. 
You may prefer to spread the cost of your nappies by using sized nappies, where you only purchase new sizes once your baby reaches that size. Or use prefolds (or muslins) and wraps, which I think are the cheapest option. 
Many local councils offer incentives to use real nappies (because of the landfill burden caused by disposables) so it’s definitely worth investigating where you can get a voucher or cash back on a purchase. There’s also a thriving second-hand market for real nappies – check out Cloth Nappy Tree.  Buying second hand is very cost effective and has the added environmental benefit of getting even more use out of real nappies. 
We also use washable wipes, which helps cut waste but also helps add to your savings in the long term. 
3. Ease of use
Modern washable nappies are easy to use, look and feel fabulous and are very little extra work. Using something like a Bumgenius or Tots Bots Easyfit honestly feels just like using a disposable, except that you’re not chucking them out afterwards! The modern velcro or popper fasteners that are super easy to use, even with the wriggliest baby. I’d have to recommend poppers over velcro, as after 20 months of use our velcro is looking quite worn. And my son can also open the velcro very easily, which is not always ideal! 
For me, the biggest proof of how easy they are to use is the fact that my mother (a complete and utter real nappy skeptic after raising 6 children in terry cloth nappies and plastic pants and having no fond memories of them at all!) is a convert. She loves how easy they are to use (and how cute they are) and wishes that her older grandchildren had been in them too. We’ve also never had a problem with childcare providers using them and in fact a positive response to real nappies was one of the key things we looked for when checking our childminders and nurseries. 
4. Helping to tune into your baby 
A washable nappy helps you to tune into your baby’s weeing capacity much more easily than a disposable (which always feels dry!). This is particularly reassuring in the early weeks of establishing breastfeeding as you have tangible (and soggy!) evidence of your baby getting enough to drink. It also helps if your little one gets sick, as you can get an indication of impending illness by drier nappies (or impending recovery by wetter nappies). 
There are also reputed benefits in terms of earlier potty training, but since we’re not at that stage ourselves yet I can’t say whether it’ll apply to us! 
Of course you can always choose to try elimination communication and attempt to avoid the environmental impact of nappies entirely. 

One Response to “Top reasons for using real nappies”

  1. Green Power December 22, 2011 at 4:55 am #

    I’ll promote your green related website on our blog. Plenty of traffic and rewards for taking a second and submitting a product or idea you have for green energy

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