I’m sure it will surprise no-one to hear that we use cloth nappies. They reduce landfill, save money and are all round more environmentally friendly options. Here is a great article from Which? describing the circumstances under which reusable nappies are 40% better for the environment (unless you use a tumble drier, but I’ve never needed to.)
I thought I’d pop down a few thoughts on them and how we do it in case anyone is interested. I’m not really trying to persuade people either way though. In fact I get sick of all the baby advice articles. Especially those titled “the top 10 baby essentials”, or “the 10 baby items I bought and never used”. Because whilst I think cloth nappies are better for the environment I think that all parenting choices only come down to two things – does it work for your baby and does it work for you.
Since every parent and every baby is completely different I just don’t see how the top 10 anything can be so universal. My favourite baby advice articles are 1) those which teach you how to find out enough about you and your baby in order to make the right choices and 2) those which freely give hints and tips without making judgements.
We have found reusable nappies to be pretty simple and hugely money saving! But it has only been successful for our circumstances because –
1. We had a lot of practical support and advice from an experienced friend – including many hand me down nappies to get us started.
2. We could afford the start up costs for cloth nappies. We’ve spent about £250 in total on nappies from birth to potty (mostly second hand thanks to Ebay!). You can do it cheaper – we have chosen to have a lot of spare nappies in case of emergencies. I wanted to make sure we weren’t running on fumes at any point. A significant chunk of money this was used to buy cloth night nappies as normal cloth nappies wouldn’t do it and the only nappies which were absorbent enough were not available second hand.
3. We have a very easy going and sleepy baby (now an easy going and still pretty sleepy toddler). Anything else and we could easily have been too frazzled to make it work.
4. We have a lot of space in our house/garden – and cloth nappies need space to dry. In Summer this is easier than Winter and both are easier than Autumn/Spring. Why are Autumn/Spring so bad… it is too rainy to put the nappies outside and too warm to put the central heating on. Drying a bamboo nappy takes AGES under these conditions… that is why we have so many nappies.
5. We both work from home and we both work part time. There is always someone available to take 10 mins to hang out a washing load or put one on.
6. We have solar panels (told you we were crunchy!) and a really energy efficient washing machine. Any increase in energy use due to the washing machine being on a lot is offset somewhat by the solar energy savings and the more efficient appliance. We only do full washing loads to save energy and it is perfectly ok to put nappies in with your other clothes.
The most important thing I discovered in over a year of doing cloth nappies… most people use far too much washing powder/liquid in their machines. If you use too much powder in a nappy wash then bad, bad things will happen, so you only use about 1 level tablespoon per wash. If 1 tablespoon of powder and a 40 degree wash can get poo out of a nappy, then 1 tablespoon will get sweat out of a t-shirt. Since we started this our washing powder consumption has dropped so much that we use less than 2 boxes of Ecover powder per year. Much less than we used before we starting washing all those nappies.
If you are still interested after all that then you can get a free consultation from the Nappy Lady here – worthwhile as one size of nappy won’t fit every child. We didn’t buy many new nappies – but thanks to her advice the ones we got were perfect.
Cloth Nappy Tree is also a very helpful community if you need any extra support and they have a great second hand sale section on the site.