Updated: Mar 9
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It takes 500 years for a disposable nappy to decompose in landfill… 500 years! I can’t remember exactly when in my pregnancy I made the decision to use cloth nappies, but I do remember this is what triggered it.
There I was, pregnant with my first child, thinking about all of the different things I wanted for her; what type of mother I would be; what cute outfits I could buy; what the nursery would look like… at no point did it even cross my mind what nappies she would be in. Then, this fact, 500 years, reached my periphery and all of a sudden all I knew was, I didn’t want to be part of it.
I didn’t know anyone who used cloth nappies, I didn’t even realise that they still existed or how far they had come since the days of the terry towel. I started doing some research to see what I could do to not contribute to this figure.
Initially, I looked at eco disposables and while they contain no chemicals, are more ecologically friendly in manufacture and kinder to baby’s bottom, they still take around 50 years to decompose and none of them are entirely biodegradable. From here, I first learnt about the modern cloth nappy, no folding of terry towels and pinning together, no soaking them in a bucket of ammonia in the back garden, no boiling them on the hob… Modern cloth nappies can go straight in your washing machine and be used again and again - I was interested.
I started to speak to more people about using cloth nappies and was pleasantly surprised to find that two of my friends, who were also pregnant at the time, were planning on using them. This was great news, they were both due before me so I could lean on them for advice and guidance. Most of my other friends who already had babies looked at me in amazement when I told them my plans, closely followed with a flickering glance of “we’ll see”. I wasn’t deterred by this, it simply spurred me on, it made me work harder and more determined to reach my goal of becoming a cloth bum mum!
Once my friend’s little ones arrived they both gave me the same advice, get some disposables to start with, becoming a mum for the first time is an absolute whirlwind and sometimes you just need an easy win. This, coupled with my research where I learnt I would need a separate set of nappies for newborn before the birth to potty nappies were likely to fit, seemed reasonable to me and I stocked up on Beaming Baby eco-disposables to get me through the first few weeks.
As my due date loomed, I completed The Nappy Lady’s questionnaire and received her recommendations on how to get started. Following this, I sent her a multitude emails asking all sorts of questions, about boosters, day vs night, and constantly changing my mind about which brand I wanted to use. For some reason I was unable to bite the bullet and order the nappies.
My Dad had kindly offered to pay for my stash to get me started, but something kept stopping me. I realised it was not being able to physically see the nappies, I wanted to touch them so I could fully understand what I was looking at on my screen and how it transpired in real life. Luckily, The Nappy Lady is local to me, and one of her team was attending the La Leche League Christmas Fayre, so off I went to have a face to face conversation and touch some nappies.
At the Fayre I met the lovely Roisin who couldn’t have been more helpful. We talked about everything from what I needed, how much I wanted to spend and what my drying facilities were. From this, we settled on either the Motherease Wizard Unos or Bumgenius Freetimes, each for their ease of use and fast drying time. Roisin kindly let me know that The Nappy Lady would be offering discounts as part of a Black Friday sale, so I waited until then and bought my entire stash.
A few days later the nappies arrived and I suddenly got very nervous… I had them now... My Dad had spent all of this money… I was actually going to have to do this!
All cloth nappies need pre-washing, to remove any residue from manufacture and to help them reach their maximum absorbency. This bought me a few more days.
The nappies were now ready, but my 5-week old little girl couldn’t possibly be 8lb yet, they couldn’t fit? She was, I was just making excuses. The first nappy went on, but surely the fit couldn’t be right, I’ll ask the ladies in my phone, a few photos uploaded a Facebook Group for checking and the nappy came off. I would wait to hear back from them - make sure I’d got it right. I had so many supportive responses and was directed to a fit video specifically for the Wizard Uno - a slight tweak and the fit was fine.
That was it, I had no more excuses, I had a stern talk with myself and decided to be a bit kinder. It didn’t need to be all or nothing, I could start with just using them during the day and at home, I could work up to overnight and out of the house. The next nappy went on, a few hours later it needed changing, it was easy, what was I worrying about? It was so easy in fact, that night I popped a stack of nappies by the bed for the night changes and we went straight into overnight. The next day I was meeting my friends and without a second thought, I packed up four of my cloth nappies and a wet bag in place of my usual disposables and away we went.
I’d built up in my head that cloth nappies were going to be so much more difficult to use than disposables, but they weren’t. If you are using an All in One nappy, there is very little difference in use other than washing them every couple of days.
If you are considering cloth but don’t know where to start, talk about it. Talk to your friends, they may know someone who is also using them. Talk to your local nappy library, this is a great resource for trying cloth nappies before committing to buy. Talk to nappy retailers, these teams are the experts, they have been cloth nappying for years and can give you guidance based on your circumstances and expectations.
All in all, don’t be scared, it doesn’t need to be all or nothing - even one cloth nappy a day could save 900 disposables from landfill.