Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Cloth nappies: saving money and saving the environment

Nappies, nappies, nappies. So much of your time as a parent is spent surrounded by nappies! So why not blog about nappies? Not just any nappies. This week (or fortnight) is Cloth Nappy Week in New Zealand and as I am a total fan of cloth nappies, it seemed only appropriate that I share a bit on the topic. I'll try and keep it to just that, a bit, but I have a lot to say about cloth nappies. I'm someone who is generally labelled as quiet (yet I write a blog???), but this is one topic where I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm for the subject, but I will do my best.

Before you grimace in horror at the thought of using cloth nappies, let me reassure you that cloth nappies, or modern cloth nappies (MCN), no longer refers to those big, white, complicated to fold nappies that our mothers and grandmothers used back in the day. MCNs are fitted, compact, easy to use and come in a range of super cute designs.

In fact, when it comes to MCNs, the options are so endless that it can be a bit of a problem trying to get your head around everything when you first start out. I know I encountered this when I began delving into the world of MCNs. I did so much reading on different nappy systems (terms like prefold, fitted, pocket, snap in, all in ones soon become quite familiar), whether to use sized or one size fits all and what type of insert to use (cotton, microfiber, hemp, bamboo to name a few). Confused already? Don't worry, there is an amazing New Zealand website, The Nappy Lady, that lays out everything you need to know in a very readable and user friendly way.

I could share all the information I have gained from my readings but I did promise to try and contain myself, so if you are looking into MCNs (and I really think you should) then visit this website. Instead, I thought I'd share a couple of very convincing reasons for using cloth nappies and a few tips I have picked up from my experience so far.

So jumping straight into it, why use MCNs? For me, there were two main reasons: the cost and the benefits to the environment. I'll be honest and say that if it turned out that MCNs cost more than disposables, we probably wouldn't have gone done this route because as much as we want to look after the environment, we simply don't have the funds to do this now we're down to one income. I'm jumping ahead of myself now though. Read on...

The cost

As I said, for us this was the biggest factor. When you first look into cloth nappies, you might balk at the cost. At $20-$30 a cloth nappy, it seems expensive. However it doesn't take long to see that cloth nappies are far, far cheaper than using disposables. I could lay out the costs using my own experience but really, why invent the wheel? The Nappy Lady website has done this already so I have simply borrowed my information from there. It makes for some impressive reading, and I'm only borrowing a few figures, visit the site for a more detailed breakdown of costs.

Cost of disposable for 1 child (incl. rubbish bags and wipes): $4845
Cost of cloth nappies for 1 child (incl. washing and cloth wipes): $1452.77

So using cloth nappies is a savings of $3392.23 per a child.

That is a lot of money, particularly if you're down to one income as many are. If you use your nappies for more than one child, well the savings just continue. Plus, at the end, they might be in good enough nick that you could sell them on Trade Me...trying doing that with your used disposables, not too many takers for them I would imagine!

The environment

Disposable nappies are just that, disposable. They are used once then thrown away. Great for parents, not so great for the environment. After all, our waste goes somewhere and just because we can't see it, doesn't mean it ceases to exist. For the first few weeks of Miss A's life we used disposable nappies full time and we put out at least one rubbish bag a week. Now we're on cloth full time, we might put out one bag a fortnight. That's a lot of bags not going to the dump, and we're only one household.

Those two factors add up to a pretty convincing argument to use MCNs in my opinion. It's just logical. I won't continue to push it though, rather, if you do decide to go down the MCN path, here are a few tips I have from my experience so far. Actually, even if you aren't considering MCNs read on, as not all the tips relate to cloth nappies, but just nappies in general.

#1 If possible, head along to a Nappy Lady Workshop. Here you'll be presented with so much useful information about MCNs (that comes in a handy booklet you get to take home and peruse at your leisure, because trust me, you won't be able to take it all in at the workshop), have the chance to view a huge range of nappies and best of all, come away with a pack which includes 3 different cloth nappies (worth over $90). The workshops cost $25 but hey, you get the pack worth far more so it's totally worth it.

#2 Don't buy your nappies before baby arrives! Instead, build up a collection which contains a few different types (your handy pack from #1 is the perfect base for this) and trial them first. This is not my tip but rather one I heard over and over again and am so glad that I took on board. Different nappies will suit different babies. I found the nappies I ended up with were not ones I initially would have purchased if I hadn't trialed first. I also found it incredibly helpful when friends with cloth nappies let me borrow one to two to trial...this might seem weird, sharing nappies, but really, they've been washed, they're clean, it's totally fine, and so much cheaper than buying your own just to trial. Alternatively check out Trade Me or second hand baby shops.

#3 Ease into cloth nappy use. Having a newborn is exhausting and if it is your first, there is already so much else to deal with without attempting cloth nappies too, so give yourself a few weeks to adjust first. In saying this, some people use cloth full time from the start and that's okay too. I personally started out with disposables and gradually introduced cloth nappies, first aiming to use just one cloth nappy a day, then two and after that, I had the hang of it and it was quite easy to swap over to cloth. In saying that, you don't have to use cloth full time. Some people use cloth nappies just at home, only during the day or night or maybe just one or two a day. All of these options are great, you're still saving money and putting out less rubbish, so it definitely doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach.

#4 Combine washing. Let's be honest, life with a baby consists of A LOT of washing so why would anyone in their right mind want to add more through using cloth nappies? Fair question. Well, the simple solution is to not do more washing. How? I chuck my nappies into the washing machine, put them through a rinse cycle, and then add in the rest of Miss A's washing and do a full cycle from the start. So yes, it takes extra water, but not extra loads. You may need a few extra pegs though.

#5 The sun is your best friend! I had heard that the sun would remove those stubborn stains but I didn't believe it, surely it was a myth. But no, IT'S TRUE! The sun is amazing. When at all possible, I hang my nappies out in the sun and the stains just disappear.  Winter will be a bit more of a challenge but I'll deal with that challenge when it arrives.

#6 Pamol can stain nappies. I'm just including this as I freaked out when suddenly these weird, greyish stains appeared on one of two of Miss A's nappies. At first I thought it was some sort of mould but after a little research, I discovered that pamol (or other medicines in different parts of the world) can create this discolouration. The nappies are clean and completely fine to sure and the stains will fade over time in the sun.

#7 Redbush tea is your other best friend. Okay this isn't actually linked to cloth nappies, just something I wanted to share. Redbush tea (or Rooibos tea if you're South African as I am) has so many amazing health properties and benefits. One that I stumbled across online is its ability to prevent nappy rash. I make a cup of tea, pour it into a spray bottle (it lasts for ages), and use a little at each nappy change. It is remarkable what a difference it makes as when I don't use, we deal with nappy rash far more often than when we do use it. Redbush tea can be found in most supermarkets in the normal tea section, or in the South African section if you're lucky enough to have one.

#8 Cloth wipes. When we first arrived home with Miss A, the thing that overwhelmed me most was using cloth wipes. I had them all ready to go, but I didn't have a system! How was I going to use them? How would I wet them without leaving Miss A unattended on the change table? Where would they go once they had been used? I was actually in tears that first afternoon as it was all too much. I do think that excessive hormones and having a tiny human being in the house for the first time may have contributed slightly to this though. After overcoming this initial obstacle, I love cloth wipes! I decided to use cloth wipes after hearing so many horror stories about the chemicals in wipes. You can buy cloth wipes or make your own, which is what I did. I simply found a sheet at an op shop (a soft, flannelette one is perfect) for a couple of dollars, cut it up and overlocked the edges. I recommend making the wipes a decent size (mine are about 25cm x 25cm) so you only need one each change and they easily cover your hand. I found a container which is next to the change table and I have a few wet wipes in here at a time. Once used, they go in with the nappies and as I'm already washing nappies, there is no additional washing. Another handy hint, buy two different sheets. This way, it is easy to distinguish between bum wipes and other wipes.

#9 Invest in a a wet bag. These are waterproof, washable bags which you can use for dirty nappies while out and about instead of using plastic bags. At home, the nappy and bag simply go into the wash (obviously taking the nappy out of the bag first!)

Finally, I thought I'd share which nappies I use you. I am not sponsored by these brands (if only!) and remember, every baby will suit different nappies  so your experience will be different to mine.

I have 2 types of nappies in my stash, one for the day and one for the night. Both types are one size fits all (OSFA) as I really didn't want to bother with buying 3 different sized nappies which is the alternative option. A slight side note before I continue, despite the name, generally OSFA nappies don't fit newborns so when I started, I brought a few small nappies from a second hand shop. I used these as I got used to cloth nappies and while deciding what nappy system to go with.

Peapods: These are my day nappies and I chose them for several reasons.

  • They have adjustable elastic in the leg gussets. This means that as Miss A grows and goes through skinny or chubby phases, I simply adjust the legs to avoid leakages. 
  • They can be used as snap in or pocket nappies. 99% of the time I use them as snap ins. This means that as long as the cover of the nappy is still dry, all I have to do is change the insert, definitely saving in washing. 
  • They have a trifold insert which is really absorbent. As it unfolds, it is easy to dry (although they can still take a while) and the way in which it is designed means the top layer is a stay dry layer and the bottom 2 layers are bamboo, so quite absorbent. 
  • They do up with snaps, making them difficult for little hands to undo. 

spots n bots: These are an Australian brand that my mum found at a market, designed by a mum for her baby. Since then the company has taken off. A few things I really like about them:

  • They are a pocket style nappy which fit quite securely. I have only had one leak so far which was my fault as I put the  nappy on too loosely. 
  • They close with Velcro, meaning that if a nappy change is necessary at night, I don't need to fiddle around with snaps.
  • They easily fit several inserts so as Miss A grows, I can add additional boosters if necessary. Currently I use 2 inserts. One may be enough, I just have never tried, and right now I love the limited sleep I do get to risk it. 
  • I love the feel of the fabric! They have a waterproof PUL minky cover which is very soft and micro-suede lining which keeps bubs feeling dry at night. 

So there we go, the end is in sight. I have done my best to contain myself on this topic, believe me, I could have written so much more! If you are still wavering about whether or not to use cloth nappies, they come with my husband's recommendation too. After overcoming his initial reluctance and receiving a short demonstration, he stated that he in fact found them far easier than disposables! That is quite something coming from a guy in my opinion. 

What is your experience with cloth nappies? I'd love to hear any tips you have to share? Leave a comment below or on my facebook page. Alternatively, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them too. 

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