Sure, cloth nappies are cute, and once you decipher the difference between an all-in-one and a pocket nappy, you can start exploring the endless prints and colours available and it becomes a bit fun. Plus the added padding on your childs’ bottom is bonus protection in the adorable wobbily-leg days of conquering the art of walking. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I decided to look into using cloth nappies, I was mostly fueled by a desire to avoid creating unnecessary waste via disposable nappies, but it was also the convenience of always having nappies on hand, and saving money that also strongly appealed
I started fairly intensely researching reusable nappy options and absorbed all the information I possibly could, I watched videos on youtube, endless googling meant that I read through nearly every blog post available at the time, and I joined a mix of facebook groups centred around cloth nappies and green parenting where I loved reading the discussions, tips, and advice being shared, as well as feeling relieved that such communities existed, something that’s rarely apparent from the outside.
At that point I never really gave much thought to my involvement in their primary function. It was more about how many do I need, what material do I prefer, which ones dry fast so I wouldn’t be swamped by them hanging from every surface drying through winter in my small London home etc. Should I invest in the expensive ones or could the cheaper brand be just as good etc. I knew there would be poo & wee and it would need to be washed off, however it didn’t dawn on me that every day for the next four years, I would be dangling pokey nappies over a open toilet, willing its detachment in a single, clean move, so that I didn’t have to employ the use of a trusty poo scraper to remove the remaining mess. Or worse, if it was particularly mushy & sticky i might have no choice but to dunk the nappy directly into the toilet bowl and swish it around – not too vigorously though as I’d learnt the hard way that too much movement led to contaminated splashback on my face. It didn’t dawn on me that every day for the next four years, I would be dangling pooey nappies over the open toilet.”
Parenting is a great way to toughen yourself up in the face of grossness. From being covered in newborn baby sick after a feed, to the endless amount of snot clearing. The proximity to, and sharing of, bodily fluids on a regular basis becomes the very uncool norm.
Here’s the thing though, something way more uncool than baby poo, is the fact that every day in the UK, over 8 million disposable nappies are used, and then swiftly discarded. This amounts to 3 billion nappies entering landfil every year. Once there, the lack of light and oxygen makes decomposition extremely difficult, even bio degradable nappies it will take at least 300 years to break down in these conditions. Single use items that do not decompose are having such a disastrous effect on our environment, from whales that are being found with stomaches full of plastic bags, to a beach in Hawaii who’s sand is actually 15% micro plastics.
Over 8 million nappies are disposed of every day in the UK.
I remember feeling a bit intimidated by the Mums on forums and in facebook groups swooning over each others reusable nappy stash, literally 30/40/50 nappies proudly and carefully arranged in rainbow order, stacked neatly in ikea bookshelves and lined up in drawers. It can quickly get a bit intense and overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Try investing in 1 and see how you go, slowly building up as funds allow and as you figure out what works for you and your child. Even small changes can bring big results. By using cloth nappies 1 day per week over 2.5 years, it would equate to 600 fewer disposable nappies in landfill.
In addition to the waste they create, disposable nappies use 20 times more raw materials, two times more water and three times more energy to make than reusable cloth nappies. Besides depleting natural resources, manufacturing disposable nappies also utilizes non-renewable energy sources.
My dislike for regularly getting up close with my childs poo has been outweighed by my discomfort around the though of the extra waste caused, the resources used to manufacture, and the ongoing environmental impact that the alternative would have created.
The notion that you throw something ‘away’ is a dangerous one. There is no away, and I look forward to a future where more people recognise this.