One of the topics we discuss in our BabyNatal Practical Baby Care classes is nappy changing. As with everything else we do at The Natal Family, we like to give parents plenty of useful information to help them make informed choices. This means that in our classes we go through a lot of options. And when it comes to nappy changing, parents can not only choose between different brands of disposable or eco-friendly nappies, but they can also opt for cloth or reusable nappies.
Sometimes in our classes, when we mention cloth nappies, parents-to-be look at us in horror. “Is this about the muslin cloths and pins that my grandmother used to use??” Not quite! The good news is that the demand for cloth nappies has exploded in the last few years, and as a consequence, reusable nappies have come a very long way.
There is a huge amount of choice out there – different brands and types, different fits, different materials, different patterns and colours etc. But essentially, most cloth nappies are shaped in the same way as disposable ones and they fasten (through Velcro or poppers) in a similar way too, which makes them really easy to use. More modern versions of nappy pins still exist and are a great option to use with some shaped nappies, muslins or even pre-folds – some parents do prefer these as they have total adjustability and feel they can achieve a better fit than with some of the shaped nappies available on the market.
When parents express an interest in cloth nappies we always suggest that they try a few different types and brands before committing to buy.
Ultimately, which reusable nappies will work for you and your family will also depend on your personal preferences and motivations – why are you interested in cloth nappies in the first place? What draws you to cloth?
There are a few main reasons why parents might decide to use cloth (exclusively or together with disposable nappies) for their babies. And here are some of them.
1. They are cheaper
A single cloth nappy can set you back on average of £10-£20, depending on which brand or type you buy, whether you buy brand new or whether you buy an individual nappy or buy in bulk. Of course, the price of a cloth nappy is a lot higher than the one disposable nappy, which is only a few pennies. But the pennies spent over 2 or 3 years do add up! And don’t forget that you’ll use that cloth nappy again and again. And if you have other children, and your nappies are still in good condition, you can use them for your other children too. It’s said that even considering washing costs (water and electricity with every extra load of washing you’ll be doing), cloth nappies can save you on average £500 for each child. That’s not bad, especially if you have more than one child and use the same nappies again.
2. They are better for the environment
Cloth nappies don’t get thrown away or sit in the landfills for hundreds of years. If you use cloth nappies full time for your child, you’ll probably need 20-25 nappies in total. Even if you ended up putting them in a rubbish bag when you’re done using them, they’ll probably all fit in a very small bag, and that would be the full extent of the environmental impact created by 2-3 years of nappy usage! When it comes to considering the environment, a child in disposable nappies unfortunately produces a lot more waste – we’re thinking bags and bags of disposable nappies piling up before your child learns to use the toilet. And it’s said that disposable nappies take approximately 500 years to decompose, so it’ll be a few generations before we see the nappies we’re using today disappearing from the landfills.
3. They are better on the skin
Reusable nappies are made of natural, absorbent materials. Whilst disposable nappies contain chemicals which absorb all the wetness and still allow your child to feel dry, cloth nappies don’t contain any chemicals. They completely rely on the absorbency qualities of the materials used. This means that you might need to change them a bit more often than their disposable counterparts, but you can be sure that your child isn’t exposed to any chemicals. There’s no conclusive research on the effects (if any) that the chemicals contained in disposable nappies might have, but some parents choose to minimise exposure where possible, just to be on the safe side. Another advantage is that the layer that is in contact with your baby’s skin is often cotton, which can be a lot softer and more comfortable than the material used in the disposable nappies.
4. They are a treat to eye
Yes, you’ve read this right. Reusable nappies are very cute! And using cloth allows you to choose what you like best or what you think your baby looks cute in, just as you would do with their clothes. Nappies can be personalised, embroidered and even hand-made in unique prints and shapes. They become real keepsakes that you won’t want to part from, ever! And getting that brand new, sought-after print or limited edition is exciting – there is something about ‘getting fluffy post’ (i.e. with nappies in it) that only parents who use cloth can really understand. Of course, an argument to collecting more nappies than you need is that you may reduce your cost savings. But that’s exactly why we say it’s important that parents consider their own preferences and motivations when deciding what nappies (and how many) to buy. If cost saving isn’t what drives you to the reusable avenue anyway, then whether you’re saving money or not, you’re still making the right choice for you and your family. Perhaps you are planning to use the nappies with further children or sell them on anyway?
5. They hold their value
As we mentioned, cloth nappies can last you a long time and can be used for more than one child. Once you’ve finished using them, you can pass them on to a close friend or relative or even sell them on. There is a big market for pre-loved nappies, and you can find plenty of groups on social media where parents looking to buy or sell nappies can get together. Custom-made or limited edition nappies sometimes can even sell at a higher amount than their original price! When buying pre-loved it’s important to ask for plenty of evidence of what conditions the nappies are in, as with repeated usage and washing, if not looked after correctly, some nappies could lose some of their absorbency. Watch this space for a blog post where we share some useful tips on how to look after your cloth nappies!
It’d be great to hear from you! Are you using or did you use cloth nappies? What are your reasons for using them? Or are you a new parent considering using cloth? What do you like about reusable nappies the most?