In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.
With two children born within two years of each other, I have done thousands of nappy changes and experimented with a variety of nappy types and brands. My preferred nappies are cloth, which is often regarded as the eccentric preserve of masochistic hippies. Many of the assumptions made about cloth nappies are, in my experience, wildly inaccurate. So let's take a look at some common misconceptions.
1. Cloth nappies are tricky to use
For many people, the idea of cloth nappies brings to mind the old fashioned terry squares, with giant pins and noisy, thick plastic overpants. Most modern styles fit much like a disposable, fastening with poppers or velcro. Some systems involve a waterproof outer, or wrap, over an absorbent nappy; others are just one piece.
Folded nappies are now usually fastened with plastic "nappy nippers" rather than tricky pins. The waterproof wraps are now made of PU, they are soft, fine and barely rustle at all! They also come in a huge range of attractive colours and designs. I often think it is a shame that my baby's nappy is hidden under his clothes, and I always feel particularly organised if it matches his outfit!
2. Cloth nappies are expensive
The initial outlay for cloth nappies can seem like a lot of money. Typically a new birth to potty set will cost £200-300. Crunch the numbers on disposables however and the cheapest option works out at around £800 for just the first 2 years. That's without factoring in the cost of wipes, nappy bags, and other accessories like bins. If you are planning on having more than one child, there is no need to buy more cloth nappies after the first - you just keep saving.
There are ways to save money on your cloth nappy stash too. Many councils have a "Real Nappy Incentive Scheme" which often means you can apply for vouchers to pay for nappies, or nappy laundering services.
You can also buy cloth nappies second hand in very good condition. If you really keep an eye on online auctions and baby sales, you can even buy unused sets, or seconds very cheaply. There are cheaper options for new nappies too, I recently bought some pocket nappies for under £3 each.
There is a cost to laundering the nappies, especially if you tumble dry them, but even then, you will still be saving.
3. Cloth nappies are hard work to wash and dry
It is true that cloth nappies involve a little more work, you cannot simply bag them up and throw them in the bin.
Nappies are usually stored in a dry pail. Solids are flushed down the toilet (perhaps in a flushable nappy liner) and the nappies are kept in a sealed bucket until they are washed. There is no soaking, no sterilising and no bags of faeces hanging around until bin day.
It's true that there is quite a lot of washing; but let me break this to you now, as a parent of an infant, you will be doing a lot of washing. With the spit-up giving way to food and finger paints, it is relentless, an extra load of nappies here and there barely registers. In my experience disposable nappies also leak far more than a cloth nappy and wrap, and that means more clothes and bedsheets to wash. With a newborn and 20 nappies, I found I was washing them every other day, but at a year this dropped down to around twice a week.
Nappies dry beautifully on the line in dry weather, and the sun bleaches out any stains, but even in the winter they can be dried on an airer in front of a radiator in a few hours.
4. Cloth nappies are uncomfortable
It has to be said that even the modern, ergonomic nappy designs are quite bulky. Disposable nappies are often marketed as being thin, light and not restricting movement. We must be careful of making judgments for babies based on adult comfort standards. Some interesting studies have shown cloth nappied babies to be less prone to hip dysplasia, their growing joints supported by the fabric of the nappy. With all that bum-shuffling and unexpected sitting down, perhaps babies appreciate a bit more padding.
Microfibre and fleece make cloth nappies quite dry on the bottom too. Although it is said that the "feedback" from a cloth nappy is useful in potty training.
5. Cloth nappies are inconvenient for travelling
Cloth nappies are a bit bulky to carry around when you are out and about. You will need a wet bag for used ones too. Mums who prefer cloth nappies usually adapt to this with a slightly larger change bag.
What is a bit trickier is going away for more than a few hours. Travelling with a baby can be quite a trial, without trying to fit in laundry, or carrying a sackful of used nappies.
Even if you feel you need to switch to disposables for a weekend away, or just for a day's shopping, this will not negate the huge financial and environmental benefits of using cloth nappies the rest of the time.