Cloth nappies are akin to what our parents and grandparents used before disposables became popular, but these days they are far from those towelling squares that we tend to associate with cloth nappies. Those square folded nappies are still around if you prefer to go old school, but like many things that have been revolutionized, newer cloth nappies have also been redesigned and has evolved into a ready to go and easy to use item of clothing that has become an obsession to many. Now, they come in a variety of styles, (which is an article on its own and I cannot pretend to be fully knowledgeable on all of them,) fabrics, prints and even brands. Most cloth nappies function very much like a disposable with the added benefit of it being washable and reusable.
To most, the idea of nappies being washable and reusable sounds like a nightmare, but like our clothes, socks and even underwear, cloth nappies don’t require much additional work other than an extra load of laundry.
How does it work?
My nappy routine involves changing my son like one usually would, then putting the soiled nappy into a nappy bucket that has a mesh drawstring bag. Every second day or if the bucket is full, I pull out the drawstring bag and drop it into the washing machine. I do a pre-rinse to rinse out the wee and then I either wash the nappies on its own or if I need to, fill up the machine with more laundry and run a regular wash cycle with detergent, without using fabric softener. Thereafter you have the wonderful display of a washing line filled with cute, clean and fresh fluff (as it is fondly called).
Then there’s always the revolted question, “What do you do with the poop?” Exactly what everyone else does with poop, flush it down the toilet. With the aid of a biodegradable and flushable bamboo liner that’s placed in the nappy, wee passes through the liner and catches any solids so you can just turn your nappy upside down and drop it into the loo. Admittedly, on occasion baby poo has missed the liner, but a lovely invention that has been dubbed a nappy sprayer, aka a handheld bidet or I like to call it an istinjaa hose, any rogue excrement can be showered off directly into the toilet. As much as you might think it is, I promise you, it’s nowhere near as gross as being vomited on.
Why did I choose to use cloth nappies?
Long before I was pregnant with my son, I started researching alternatives to disposable nappies purely with the intention of trying to do my bit in saving the environment. Some may argue that washing nappies would be using more water, but there are ways to offset the extra load’s water by reducing your consumption elsewhere, such as shorter showers and even the type of washing machine you use. That said, I have learnt that it actually uses about 34 litres of water to make one disposable nappy and after it ends up in a landfill, it could take between 250 to 500 years to decompose. This was the catalyst to the start of my journey of going green and me realising that I need to be more conscious of my impact on the environment in many aspects of my life. I still have a long way to go though and my intention with using cloth nappies is to raise and teach my son the importance of being mindful of this as well.
What does it cost?
Depending on what brand and type of nappy, the price may put many parents off, but once you’re set, the saving, which is a bonus, will become evident after a few months of not buying disposable nappies, if you choose to go full time. If you don’t have the cash available for the initial start up cost of a cloth nappy stash big enough to use full time, you could choose to do cloth part time. Then, over a few months add as it suits your budget with types you like best until your stash is large enough to stop using disposables. A word of warning though, with the huge variety of options, collecting cloth nappies can be become addictive.
The thought of giving up the convenience of disposables completely could be daunting for many parents, old and new. So if you’re interested in attempting cloth nappies but still a little apprehensive, you don’t have to commit to doing it full time to start making a positive change on the environment. With the right intention and every soiled cloth nappy sitting in it’s nappy bucket, there’s one less disposable filling up a landfill and the beginning to a better future for our children and selves.
Nielfa Cassiem-Carelse is a wife, stay-at-home mom, freelance graphic and book designer, living between Cape Town, RSA and Dammam, KSA. She loves drinking tea and iced coffee, cuddling cats and is affectionately called a hippie. Can be found lurking on social media platforms @nielfahanifa.