Older generations of Irish people will remember the use of cloth nappies. Traditionally, cloth diapers consisted of a folded square or rectangle of fabric such as linen and fastened with safety pins.
Anecdotes from years ago tell us that using cloth to dress baby’s bum was a painstaking process of boiling, washing and drying. When disposable nappies were introduced in the 1950s, mothers everywhere rejoiced. However, cloth nappies are making a comeback and for very good reasons. Yvonne Evans explains why.
Tradition…with a twist
1) Using cloth nappies does not mean going back to safety pins and folding, like the parents of pre-1950. Cloth nappies are more convenient than ever featuring velcro and poppers for easy fitting. They are soft, made from organic materials and come in a massive range of sizes and colours.
Saving the earth..
2) Disposable nappies contribute to four per cent of our landfill usage and take approximately 500 years to decompose. Even eco-friendly nappies, which, can be purchased in health food stores, take a long time to decompose.
It is estimated that 600,000 nappies are used in Ireland everyday, and 94 per cent of which end up in our landfills. One baby will create 2.5 tonnes of waste; go through approximately 4,000-8,000 nappies over two years. County Councils all over Ireland are calling parents to start using cloth nappies over disposables.
Disposable nappies contain a plethora of chemicals such as plastics and perfumes, which have a major negative impact on the environment. Despite instructions on the packaging, most people incorrectly throw disposable nappies, with the poo still inside, straight into the bin.
While decomposing, the human waste lets off methane, one of the most damaging of the greenhouse gases, and may even pollute the groundwater. To keep your baby in disposable nappies until they are potty trained, 4.5 trees will be sacrificed.
3) Let’s face it, nappies stink! Despite what you might think, modern cloth nappies actually smell far less than disposables. On average, you will use five nappies a day, that’s 35 per week. With bin collections generally only taking place once a week, that means you may have a very stinky kitchen or bathroom for a few days! Gross..
Let it snow! Wait…what?!
4) Ten years ago and more, the absorbency in disposables came from wood pulp. This is no longer the case, except for the cheapest of own-brands. The nappies have indeed decreased in size, but that is because super-absorbency granules have replaced the wood pulp in them. Essentially, the same product as you can buy in your garden centre to add to the soil to improve water retention. It’s also the same stuff Hollywood uses to make fake snow! Disposable nappies are largely believed to contain chemicals and materials that may irritate your baby’s skin. Nappy rash is a common complaint amongst parents who purchase disposable nappies, something cloth parents don’t usually complain of.
Cloth nappies keep newborns hips slightly wider apart than disposables do, but this is actually the optimum position for a newborn. When a baby is born, their hip joints haven’t fully developed, and at their six-eight week check, the doctor will check for ‘clicky hips’ or hip dysplasia. If baby has clicky hips, they often need to wear a hip harness. This harness keeps their legs wider apart so that the hip ball and socket joint are held in a deeper position and can develop properly. This usually helps prevent the need for hip operations later on. Cloth nappies don’t have the hips in as wide a position as a hip harness, but the extra width and support cloth nappies provide can sometimes prevent the need for a hip harness at all.
Another health benefit to using cloth nappies is that children who wear them generally tend to potty train faster. Cloth wearing children are more aware of being wet and recognise the sensation of urinating much earlier on.
It’s all about the money
6) Keeping your child in disposable nappies for three years may cost you between a thousand and two thousand Euros, depending on the brand and how frequently your child needs changing. Disposables can never be reused so you will spend at least €1,000 on your second and subsequent children.
The beauty of cloth is that you can buy and sell ‘pre loved’ nappies. Even with laundry costs, cloth nappying is still the cheaper option in the long run. Cloth nappies come in a variety of sizes, colours and print. The most economical type of cloth nappies is the birth to potty types. These nappies can be used when your child is a newborn right up until potty training age. Approximately 20 cloth nappies is all you need for your little one’s first two years of life.
You just need to look at cloth nappies to see just how much more attractive they are! Whether you are into cupcakes and rainbows or Game of Thrones, there is a nappy to suit everyone’s taste. Cloth nappying often becomes a hobby for many parents, collecting rare and limited edition prints.
Personally, I use birth to potty Flip nappies and Tiny Nipper wraps. They are so versatile! You can use virtually anything as an insert, a towel, a muslin, anything! They are great for babies with little legs like my Ollie.
For more information see clothnappylibrary.ie or the Facebook page ‘Cloth Nappy Library Ireland.’