Over the last few years reusable / cloth / washable or real nappies have become a more and more popular choice for parents, and it’s only natural that a range of options has recently opened up in the realm of wipes too. A wide choice is now available when it comes to wipes, and we’re not just talking about different brands of baby wipes (scented vs unscented, water-based etc.), but also about reusable / cloth / washable wipes now becoming a more wide-spread reality, as parents are becoming more aware about the chemical content of disposable baby wipes and are choosing more eco-friendly and natural options.
When it comes to newborn babies, the advice is still to use plain cotton wool and cooled boiled water, as new skin means very sensitive skin! Most parents who have tried using cotto
n wool and water (and especially tiny cotton wool balls) will probably tell you that this isn’t the most efficient way there is (how many cotton balls to wipe that stubborn meconium off baby’s bum??). Even the larger cotton pleat and cotton pads do require a certain amount of items being used and thrown away at any one session! But why is the recommendation there in the first place? It’s no news that disposable baby wipes (with the exception perhaps of water-based wipes, which claim to contain 99.9% of water and a small amount of fruit extracts) contain a lot of chemicals which can irritate the very sensitive skin of a newborn baby. Cotton wool, on the other hand, is pure and natural and not irritating, despite the concern that some parents have of leaving little shreds of residual ‘fluff’ on baby’s bum – don’t worry, as that is completely safe and hopefully not bothering your baby too much!
But in the interest of options, is cotton wool really the only available choice when it comes to picking something that is natural and won’t act as irritant to baby’s sensitive skin? This is where reusable wipes really come into their own. Whether you cut a micro-fibre blanket up or use a terry cloth, buy purpose made wipes or buy hand- and mum-made wipes out of the funkiest materials and patterns, re-usable wipes provide a great alternative to cotton wool, whether you’re in the early days, or months down the line. Cloth wipes are simple and easy to use, they help you save tons of money, they are better for the environment and for your baby’s skin, and, let’s face it, they have a ‘better grip’ and are more ‘efficient’ than their cotton wool balls counterparts!
In terms of practicality and being as hassle-free as their disposable cousins, cloth wipes can be as practical as you want them to be. All you need is somewhere where your clean wipes will ‘live’ and some clean water (ideally, you can still use cooled down water that you boiled and left at room temperature for a while to avoid risk of scalding baby); of course you’ll also need a place to store the dirty wipes (possibly, somewhere that’s waterproof and has a lid or a zip to keep bad odour out of the way). If you’re planning on using cloth wipes while on the go, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, as once again, you just need to bring with you a small bag to carry your clean wipes in and a zipped, waterproof one to carry your dirty wipes back home with you. Once home you just pop them in the washing machine like you would with cloth nappies (if you use them) or just on their own.
Going back to the option of disposable wipes, we now know that they are full of chemicals, and they will cost a bit more than cotton wool and water or cloth wipes, but no one can argue about how practical they are. You can buy them from pretty much anywhere in all the brands / scents / packet size etc. that you could ever imagine. They require no washing, they’re dead easy to carry around with you, and they generally make your life simple – dirty ones are off in the bin (not down the toilet please, unless you want your Local Authority to spend a lot of your hard-earned money to clear blocked pipes all the time, or for them to end up washed up on a UK beach). They certainly make nappy changing quick and easy, and they can be used for so many other baby- and child-related matters! Think weaning, sticky fingers, messy faces and clothes etc. Of course, like their nappy cousins, wipes have a high impact on your pockets and on the environment – think about the disposal of the wipes (which are not biodegradable) but also their packaging, and you can be sure that in the life of your young children you will be going through a lot of packages!
The reality is that anything you use will have pros and cons, whether it’s impact on sensitive skin, price, environment, practicality etc. Maybe each method has its time and place or maybe one is best than others for you and your family, whether some of the time or all the time. The choice is yours. All we really hope for is that people have access to the right information to make choices that are right for them! So have a go and if you have any questions, just give your local BabyNatal teacher a shout!