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Cloth Nappies are making a Comeback

This article discusses why more and more people have are returning to the use of cloth nappies on their babies. It includes the various benefits of Modern Cloth Nappies, the various types and why they are considered to be the obvious environmentally friendly choice.

When you think of cloth nappies, what do you envision? Old-fashioned flats with fiddly pins? Soaking, smelly buckets of soiled diapers in the corner of the laundry room? Leaky bottoms? Rubber pants? Droopy drawers? 

Cloth nappies are making a comeback, and they’re nothing like the ones your mother or grandmother despaired over.Modern cloth nappies (MCNs) are significantly improved from the ones our not-so-distant ancestors used. 

“Cloth nappies today aren’t what you’d expect,” explains Tauranga mum Kate Meads, aka The Nappy Lady. “MCNs are similar in shape and performance to modern disposable nappies. In fact, in some cases, these styles will even outperform disposables.” 

Modern age Kate travels New Zealand working with city councils, holding seminars and work-shops, dispelling myths and educating people about MCNs. Cloth nappies are not only cost-effective and better for the environment, they’re also a lot cuter than disposables, coming in a range of styles, fabrics, and colours. The four common types of MCNs are fitted nappies, pocket nappies, all-in-one nappies (commonly referred to as AIOs), and prefold nappies. 

Fitted nappies have two parts – an absorbent fitted nappy and a waterproof cover or wrap. The legs and waist are elasticated to contain “explosions” – Kate says that fitted nappies are “100% bomb-proof against newborn explosions”. They last for four or more hours, and while they are more expensive than old-fashioned flat nappies, they contain messes better than other nappies, even disposables. 

No worries 

Pocket nappies have three parts – a waterproof cover with an attached liner, and an absorbent booster or insert that tucks between the cover and liner. The liner provides a stay-dry barrier by wicking moisture through to the absorbent booster below. Like fitted nappies, pocket nappies have elastic at the legs and waist. They usually last upwards of two and a half hours, and are generally made of quick-drying synthetic fabrics. They’re a convenient option for when you’re out and about and don’t want a big fuss.on the go .

An all-in-one or AIO nappy is just what it sounds like – a one-piece nappy that doesn’t need to be stuffed, as everything is together. This style of MCN most closely resembles a disposable nappy, and parents find it easy to use and convenient when out and about. Grandparents give these the thumbs-up too, as they don’t need to “learn” anything in order to use them. They last upwards of two-and-a-half hours and can be a bit more expensive than the other types of nappy, because all of the components are together, rather than needing to buy separate covers or inners. 

Prefold nappies are the most basic type of cloth nappy, which means they are also the least expensive. They are made up of two parts – an absorbent “prefold” and a waterproof wrap. Usually made of cotton, they should last upwards of one and a half hours and do need to be changed more frequently than other cloth nappy styles. A cover or wrap with a leg gusset will provide the best fit. 

Pros & cons 

So what are the downsides to using cloth nappies? Well, you’ll be outlaying more money initially to build up the necessary collection of cloth nappies to keep you going through the week, but compared to the cost of disposables, you’ll be saving money in the long run – thousands of dollars – not small change to a new parent! 

According to Kate’s research, the total cost to keep a child in disposable nappies for three-and-a-half years is $5636 – to keep the same child in cloth nappies (including washing) for three-and-a-half years costs $1448, a whopping $4188 less. 

Eco choice 

You may turn up your nose at the thought of flipping poo into the toilet before you wash your cloth nappies, but Kate advises, “Use a disposable liner and you won’t have to touch anything.” 

On that note, did you know you’re actually supposed to flush the poo from disposable nappies, not bin it with the nappy? Seriously. Check the packaging of your disposables and see what it says. Not to mention that throwing human waste in the rubbish bin, where it will end up in the landfill, is a health hazard, whereas toilet water goes to a sewerage treatment plant where it’s dealt with appropriately. 

Another thing that a lot of mothers worry about is a mountain of laundry that cloth nappies could potentially create. But Kate says, “We wash our own underwear every day, so what’s the difference? A couple of cloth nappies thrown in a load of washing won’t create a massive amount of work.”   

- Katherine Granich

This article was published by: New Zealand Woman's Weekly, 23 May,