A couple of years ago when an expectant-dad friend of mine told me that he and his wife were going to be using reusable nappies for their baby, I thought that they were mad! I asked myself why anyone would even bother going this route when the very convenient option of disposable nappies was out there – I mean, progress and all that. My mind flashed to stock images of the 1940s, nannies and mothers alike losing sleep and cultivating wrinkles over the correct way to fold and fasten a cloth nappy. Why make life harder for yourself? Surely having a newborn around is enough of a challenge without having to figure out whether an angle or a kite fold would be the best option to fit your baby? I was truly amazed that anyone would go this seemingly archaic route in the 21st Century.
And then… I fell pregnant, and both my mother and mother in-law suggested my hubbie and I look into non-disposable nappies as an option for our baby. I quickly turned up my nose at the idea and needed a fair amount of coaxing to go with my husband to even look at a shop selling these types of nappies. Being a cynic at heart, I was by no means a quick convert. But the more I spoke to friends and researched, the more intrigued I became.
This intrigue lead me to draw up a list of pros and cons, to using both non- and disposable nappies, some of which I will now share with you.
- Convenience, convenience, convenience. Can I say that again? Convenience. Whether it’s being able to find them at any grocery store, or the fact that when you’re done with one you can simply bundle it up and throw it away – never having to worry about it again.
- The dryness factor. This is a bit of trial and error in terms of finding the right brand for you and your baby, but when you find the one that works for you, your baby will generally stay dry for as long as the packaging states (flow-dependent, of course). And with gel technology of today, the wetness is locked into the nappy and keeps nappy rash at bay for the most part.
- You are not looked at like an alien when you speak to people about using disposable nappies. So if you’re all about social image and not having fingers pointed in your direction, then stick with these.
- The Cost. This I found fascinating when a colleague of mine was complaining to me one day about how she spends over a grand on nappies every month – for just one child. I thought, surely not? But once I gave birth, I was very aware of the financial impact of disposable nappies. We all know that children are expensive, so my feeling is that wherever you can be thrifty – and not at the expense of your child – every little bit helps.
- The environmental impact. There are so many landfills that are literally filled to the brim with nappies. And these aren’t going down because disposable nappies take around 500 years to decompose – each. The carbon emissions and methane gas released into the atmosphere when one does decompose is toxic and is a large contributor to global warming.
- The Cost. Yes, the initial cost and ‘down payment’ for reusable nappies can burn a real hole in your pocket, but once you have the amount that you need (20-30 nappies will stand you in very good stead), that’s it! You don’t pay for another nappy after that. These can last you up until your child is fully potty trained – and then you can use them again for another child, or pass them onto a cousin or friend.
- The environmental impact. With most of the research done, non-disposabe nappies are definitely the greener option. Even with the use of water in washing these, it’s still a better option if you’re planning on leaving a healthier planet for your children.
- The cuteness factor. The range of designs that can be found for non-disposable nappies in the way of covers is just fabulous. It’s so much fun dressing up our babies in the cutest outfits, and adding an extra layer of cuteness doesn’t hurt. Whether yours is into Batman or The Little Mermaid, you can more often than not find a funky pattern that will suit your child’s sense of style. Block colours and abstract patterns are also available, and more and more South African brands, like Ubuntu Baby, are making shweshwe and other traditional fabric patterns available. (And now I wonder why we mostly insist on our little people wearing plastic and chemicals on their sensitive bums, when natural materials and cotton are so much better in terms of feel and health.)
- You can’t just get them just anywhere. Mostly, you need to find specialist shops to purchase these nappies. Most of them can be found online, but there are also smaller cloth nappy communities who stock certain products. The convenience of online shopping helps here, but often stores are out of stock of what you need (like nappy liners are always an issue for me), and then there’s having to wait for delivery.
- Not all reusable nappies are created equal. There is definite trial and error here with finding what type of nappy works for your baby – do you buy those with one or two inserts? Or just go for an all-in-one nappy? When we first bought ours, my husband and I just put together an assortment of different brands, not really knowing what we wanted in a nappy. I would’ve really liked the me of now to have been a friendly customer in the shop we went to to recommend a decent brand. Some brands really do not cut it and end up being a waste of money.
- You will be looked at like you’re an alien when you speak to people about using non-disposable nappies. Even though disposable nappies have only been around since the 1950s, while cloth nappies have been used since the late 1800s, the quick-fix mindset of our society over rules and sits on the side of the convenient.
Somewhere in between:
- The dryness factor. There have been many times when disposable nappies have let me down severely and reusable nappies have saved the day. Don’t just assume that because a cloth nappy doesn’t have fancy science behind it that you won’t be pleasantly surprised when one keeps your baby dryer than any other nappy.
- More and more places are making non-disposable nappies avaialble to consumers, and this is not only from an online perspective. The new nappies of today no longer rely on being folded in a specific way, and are shaped like disposable nappies for your convenience. There are also pop buttons on the nappy covers that accommodate your baby’s growth. Using a biodegradable liner means that it collects the solids for you, and this is something you simply flush away down the loo.
- The washing. There is no need for a nappy service in 2016 – cloth nappies are, for the most part, machine washable. And in order to keep your supply fresh and ready for baby, you’re doing the same amount of loads of laundry as you do normally.
As is with all things baby, this decision is obviously all about personal preference and choice. But it doesn’t hurt to go that extra step to making informed decisions that will help our children; both now and for the future.
- South African cloth nappy users Facebook group
- Fancypants products
- Fluff and Squish at 27 Boxes in Melville, Johannesburg
- Monkeybum in Port Elizabeth
- Snugglebum Nappy Shop in Cape Town
- SA Cloth Directory