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Saving the planet one nappy at a time….

August 10, 2008

We chose to use washable nappies on the baby. It was not a hard decision to make – they’re better for the environment and they save you money – not just a few pence, but a substantial amount. Some people estimate that they can save you around £500 per child.

You can save even more money if you wash your nappies during the night when electricity is cheaper. We have a timer on our washing machine and programme it to wash the nappies at 1am. You can also save money if you reuse the nappies on a second child, although obviously that may depend on the spacing of your kids.

I think people who use disposables think that real nappies will be difficult but they’re really not. In fact, the hardest thing about real nappies is choosing which ones to go for! There are a huge range of products on the market and it can be a little bewildering. You can have shaped, flat, pre-folded or all-in-ones.  We found going to a council-run ‘Nappacino’ evening really useful. At the event a nappy expert talked us through the different types and discussed the pros and cons of each sort. In the end, we opted for One Life birth to potty nappies. These are shaped unbleached cotton nappies that fasten with poppers and are then covered with a nappy cover. The nappies are designed to fit your baby for as long as he or she is in nappies. You simply use different poppers as your baby grows. Putting them on is just as easy and quick as putting on a disposable. 

Another thing that probably scares people off, is the idea of all that soaking, boiling and sterilizing to get the nappies clean. Well, thanks to modern washing machines, none of that is necessary these days. Washing the nappies is really very simple: we store the used nappies in a nappy bucket until we have enough for a load, then all that is required is for them to be washed at 60 degrees using non-bio washing powder and a spoonful of nappy sanitiser in with the powder. It really is that easy!

Another common concern about real nappies, is that they might result in your baby getting nappy rash. Although most advocates of real nappies claim that your baby is just as likely to get nappy rash in disposables as in real nappies, we did find that our baby tended to get nappy rash quite frequently to begin with. However, rather than switching to disposables, we switched from flushable paper liners to washable fleece ones and this really helped. The baby does still get a bit of nappy rash from time to time (usually when she’s teething) but its very infrequent and only a mild rash. 

Finally, some of the mums I know who’ve given up with real nappies, have said they’ve had problems with leaks. I must admit, I’ve not experienced any problems of this sort but I think it is a common worry about real nappies. I suspect the key is finding nappies that fit your baby properly. Ones such as Onelife are very adjustable so you can easily find a good fit. Some places offer nappy starter kits where you can try out a range of styles and brands of nappies to check which fits your baby best. 

I’m sorry if I sound a bit too evangelical about the whole nappy thing, but I do think it’s important. Some people maintain that there is little difference in the environmental impact of real and disposable nappies because, although real nappies don’t end up in landfill, they require extra water and energy for washing and drying. I think this really depends on how you are washing and using the real nappies and there are lots of steps we can take to reduce the environmental impact:

  • Dry the nappies naturally either on the washing line or on a over-the-bath drying stand.
  • Only wash when there is a full load. We sometimes add other whites, such as towels and flannels, in with the nappies to make a full load.
  • Use an efficient washing machine.
  • Use a renewable energy supplier – we use Good Energy.
  • Use eco-friendly washing powder – we use ecover.
  • Use unbleached cotton nappies.
  • Reuse nappies on a second child or else offer them up on freecycle.

If you’re really not convinved about real nappies, then a better alternative to standard disposables is to use biodiogradeable nappies such as Moltex-OKO or Nature Nappies. 

Rant over. You can ready more about real nappies and find local suppliers here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sphilange permalink
    August 10, 2008 4:26 pm

    Very interesting. I had been wondering about disposable diapers versus reusable. I didn’t know they had ones that are shaped, instead of just being a plain piece of cloth. You’ve convinced me to use them, they seem much more environmentally friendly!

  2. snapdragons permalink
    August 10, 2008 10:54 pm

    My mother used cloth nappies on me, and likes to report that she wore out the dial on her washing machine by re-setting it for a second rinse, so many times. She says that I never got a rash, and credits that second rinse.

    The shaped ones look neat. What WILL they think of next?

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