One way we are both eco and frugal is by using reusable, washable cloth nappies. I invested in a range of cloth when Chaos was born. He used them until he was two years old and then of course Mayhem took over and is still using them now.
So, cloth nappies, are they stinky, disgusting and hard to use? Nope. Don’t get me wrong, cloth is more hassle for you. Disposables are just that, put them on, your kid uses them, then throw them away. Wipes, the same. The problem then..? Well, disposables cost you a s*it load of money, literally, and a s*it load of waste to landfill.
The average baby gets through 4,000 disposable nappies by the time they’re potty-trained, costing families £400 a year plus and creating the equivalent of half a tonne of carbon dioxide. If you use disposables your carbon footprint sucks.
Most toddlers are out of nappies (during the day) by the time they’re two-and-a-half, by which point parents will have spent £1,000-plus on disposable nappies and upwards of £250 on the associated paraphernalia such as baby wipes, nappy bags and nappy bins. Switching to reusable cloth nappies aims to save you at least £150 per year, per child (more if you go for the eBay cheapo nappies or buy second hand). This saving also includes the estimated cost of washing. If you use reusable wipes, you can save even more. In the UK some councils offer incentives in the form of money or vouchers if you are using cloth. I got £30 for each child after sending off a form signed by my health visitor.
One incentive for me was that the layout costs are all upfront; I bought the cloth when I was on a full-time wage and had money saved to pay for all the stuff in a lump sum. Since then my wage massively reduced with statutory maternity pay and now, we’re taking time out and don’t have a wage. The fact that we don’t have a regular monthly outlay for nappies and wipes really, really helps us out.
It’s not all about cost though. Although experts don’t really know, they estimate that disposables, like plastic bags, take up to 500 years to breakdown. Disposables go to land fill, which we have too much of. Disposable wipes end up in landfill, down the toilet and littering our beaches. Bad. There is also quite a bit of evidence about how it’s uncool to put all of the chemicals in disposables next to your babies skin. I’m not an expert on this so feel free to google it. Scary reading.
Choosing which cloth nappies can be a bit of a minefield as there is loads of different types, shapes and sizes. You can buy sized nappies, newborn, size 1 then size 2 and 3 should do most. Like disposables they are sized by weight. Just like disposables babies have different shaped bottoms so some brands fit better than others, so using a loan kit is a great idea to see what brand suits your babes bum. You need to do a bit of research before you buy anything but the great news is that you can try before you buy, as most councils/nappy libraries have loan kits. Cloth nappy companies also have discounted trail kits to purchase and if you don’t like them you can send them back and only pay a small fee. If you really don’t know what you want and can’t be bothered researching you can always get someone to do it for you, The Nappy Lady has been providing independent cloth nappy advice since 1999 . Fill in the advice quesitonnaire on the website for a personal recommendation.
We have BTP, birth to potty nappies, annoyingly , unlike their descriptive name, they don’t fit all babies from birth, as they’re only suitable from 10lbs. With Chaos we used disposables for a little while, with Mayhem we hired a newborn sized nappy kit from the local nappy library for £5 for a month. He was a nearly 9lb so he was only in newborn sizes for his first month, it saved having to buy disposables for a month and gave me a chance to try out loads of new fluff (cute term for cloth nappies). Our btp nappies are pocket nappies and come with booster that you stuff them with. Microfibre boosters are a great start but when they get older you need more absorbent boosters made from either bamboo or hemp.
The biggest, major hassle of cloth is of course, the washing and the poo. Pre-weaning, not a problem, it just comes off in the wash, post weaning, you need nappy liners, either reusable cloth ones (easy to make yourself) or paper disposable ones. Cloth does take you time and you have to make sure that you are up for it. I have 20 cloth nappies, do two washes a week, then take about an hour, hanging out, sorting and re-stuffing the pads and liners. The dirty nappies go dry, into a wet bag (specifically designed waterproof nappy bag, usually a way to spend money choosing a cool designs) and are left 2-3 days before washing. If you leave them longer it’s no biggie, everything washes out. If there are stains then hang your nappies stain side to the sun, it’s crazy how many stains just disappear and sun-out.
If you’re using cloth and doing all of the washing then you might as well use cloth wipes. It saves you even more money and you just throw them in the wet-bag and wash with the dirty nappies. Also they are fantastic at wiping up poo, much better than disposable wipes which just seem to move the poop around the bum, they actually wipe it up, usually in just one wipe. You can buy cloth wipe kits from eBay or from Cheeky Wipes, again there’s loads of different fabrics and colours available but to be honest you can easily make your own, which I did. By the way, Cheeky Wipes offer essential oils and clean and mucky plastic tubs. I tried these but didn’t like the reaction on Chaos’ skin as he is a bit of a sensitive sausage. On clean wipes I’ve used camomile tea, just a cup of hot tea poured on the pot of clean wipes, or just plain old water. Water works fine. There is no need to soak the dirty wipes, just chuck them in the wet bag with the dirties.
Talking about poo, we’ve all had containment issues with epic poonamis. With disposables, this means that bubba is covered, right up the back and a full change of clothes is required. With cloth, containment is rarely an issue. Honestly, I can only remember one escaped poonami and that’s because the nappies wasn’t a great fit, some brands will fit your bubba better than others, that’s why a test kit from a nappy library is a great idea. Cloth is great at containment.
Another thing to consider about cloth is that they are bulkier than disposables, but not massively. Using pocket btp nappies might mean you need to go up a size in vests. I haven’t really found it a problem, brands like frugi do trousers that are cut for cloth, or H&M seem to have generous bottom-sized clothes. Cloth nappies don’t restrict movement and provide extra padding for those inevitable falls. Oh and did I mention that they just look so much better on than disposables!
Oh, I do have to mention though, one really bad thing about the cost aspect of cloth nappies is that they’re pretty addictive. I could spend soooo much more but my frugality and common sense holds me back…once you see a gorgeous print, design or colour on your little ones bum you want more! Look how gorgeous our washing line looks (sad I know)!