Throwback Thursday - Nappies

Cloth nappies have been around for a very long time, but they fell out of favour at the beginning of the 60's in exchange for something more "convenient" - disposables.

However, reusable nappies have always been here, in the background and are growing ever more in popularity, and when it is estimated that three billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, we think it's great that we're seeing this resurgence.

Originally (albeit not before moss, animal skins and leaves) cloth nappies were made from square cut material known as terry towels, bought cheaply, by the yard, off a roll and cut into 2’x2’ and hemmed at the edges. They were folded around the baby’s bottom and secured with safety pins and later on with plastic nappy pants.

Nappies were removed once soiled and left to soak in a bucket before being washed, dried and reused. We remember those nappy cleaning buckets used by our Mothers, and they stuck around well after we and all our siblings came out of nappies and used for many other tasks years thereafter. Many parents wonder whether reusable nappies are right for them, their family and their lifestyle, so I thought I'd share with you this chat I had with my best friend Katy, Mum to two year old Finn who told us about their family's experience with cloth nappies.

"The day Finn was born, the nurse popped him in a disposable nappy, but with the next nappy change we had this gorgeous moment where we wrapped him up in this warm, soft muslin and it just felt right and much nicer for him. The process of doing it was so easy and it felt like we were being kinder to him and we just realised how lovely and easy it was!"

"I knew I wanted to use cloth nappies before I knew I could even have children. When we got pregnant it was one of the things I was really adamant about getting sorted. I did some heavy research and it was pretty overwhelming. There are so many amazing brands and makes for any type of budget and any type of person, but if you give yourself the time to do the research, it's really worth it."

Katy's research led her to The Nappy Lady website. The sites advisors have a wealth of knowledge and work with you to find you and your baby the right fit. Katy explained that they prioritse everything in terms of budget, how often you'll be washing, how quickly they dry, etc. "The initial outlay can seem more expensive, but you can buy really good quality second hand ones or build up the collection over time.

The day Finn was born, the nurse popped him in a disposable nappy, but with the next nappy change we had this gorgeous moment where we wrapped him up in this warm, soft muslin and it just felt right and much nicer for him. The process of doing it was so easy and it felt like we were being kinder to him and we just realised how lovely and easy it was!

I think people can get put off by the extra washing, but it really doesn't feel like that. You just put the dirty nappies in a wet bag in a bucket and when the bucket is full you put them in the machine (still in the bag) and pop them on the rinse setting.

At such a young age the baby is only drinking milk, so that's basically all the poo is anyway. It isn't smelly, or off putting in anyway; you can't smell the bucket when you walk into the room and it's only there a day or so, so it doesn't have time to get smelly. After the rinse setting is done, we then throw in all the rest of his clothes, muslins, towels, etc - we're washing any way, so it really made no odds to us."

"My husband, Liam was a little unsure before we did it. He would say that we could do cloth at home and disposables when we were out and about, but I was uncomafortable with him saying that and was adamant I wanted to do it and didn't want to consider disposables! When we go out, we take as many nappies as we need, along with a bag of toweling wipes that we store in a wet bag, damp with a drop of lavender essential oil. We also take an empty bag for the dirty nappies and wipes. The wipes come in handy for hands, face, neck, bum and you can use two separate colours if you’re worried about mixing them. Again, you don’t notice smelly nappies out and about, Liam initially couldn’t get his head around the idea of carrying dirty and potentially smelly nappies and wipes around all day, but it really wasn’t like that at all. You just bundle it back up and keep it in the wet bag 'til you get home. When I got home I'd just chuck the filled wet bag into the bucket and I'd have a couple of empty wet bags ready to go, if I was going out again that day, or the next. It can sound fiddly, but you just get into a rhythm, like with a new born, you know no different, you just figure out what works best for you and you form a routine."

Katy opted for organic bamboo cloths - great for wicking away moisture. "I also bought fleece off the roll, cut it into strips and put it inside the nappy as a liner, which also does a great job at wicking away the moisture; he only ever had nappy rash associated with teething or being unwell, so the fleece lining was a particularly good addition for those occasions. Once Finn was weaning, his poos obviously changed, but still no big deal really, I just used the shower head to wash it all down the toilet! Those liners are great and sometimes enabled us to reuse the nappy because the mess would only get on the liner."

Katy's lifestyle is busy, they're an active family; hiking, camping, canoeing, but she doesn't find that it's any kind of burden, or that it's a huge extra job to do. "Wherever we went, no one ever minded if we needed to do a nappy wash and it wasn't tricky when we went camping, because most sites have washing machines. We also took larger wet bags with us, so we didn't need to take the bucket with us." She also runs Hikes With Tikes in Derbyshire, a walking group of parents, who go hiking together with their little ones and she said that about 80% of them use cloth nappies.

She described to me this overwhelming feeling of satisfaction she has that she is doing something really amazing. "I feel so proud that I have done my little bit, and I just really enjoy the whole process of hanging them out on the line, they're so beautiful and it just feels really nice! If you are really feeling nervous about it, you could do it slowly, so perhaps try cloth at home, but if you're going out for the day, switch to disposables and even if that's as far as you go, you're still doing your bit, you're avoiding putting alot of other disposables in the bin with that small gesture. Using cloth nappies became a bit of a catalyst for me and although I was already conscious about our impact, it helped me in other areas of our life and changed my whole outlook on much more. It's an ongoing journey that I keep chipping away at - I find it exciting when there's lots of alternatives. For somebody who is quite curious about leading a sustainable lifestyle, you are taken on this exciting path and you really feel proud that you are doing your little bit."

Photo Credit: nametags4u

I really don't think we could get a better appraisal than that! We hope that Katy's journey with cloth nappies has inspired you. Perhaps she touched on things you hadn't thought of, or she answered questions that you had about certain aspects of life with them.

There are some great options out there and whilst there may be an inital sticker shock, consider how much you'd be spending on boxes of disposables over the time your child will be in nappies and any siblings that follow along. Of course there's the environmental factor of the impact of all the single use materials heading to landfill too, aswell as the plastic and chemicals against babys skin. Another wonderful aspect of buying reusables is just how lovely they are; tonnes of designs, patterns, colours, fabrics and fits to choose from; we love to buy nice clothes for our children, these are just another fun and cute thing to shop for and be excited about!


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