If you’re currently pregnant, then you might already know what I’m about to say.
If you don’t, then reading it is quite likely to make you cry, scream, lock yourself in a cupboard, or all of the above.
I almost don’t want to tell you, in case you freak out. But, since this is on the Internet and I won’t actually have to watch you having a breakdown while heavily pregnant, I’m just going to go ahead and say it.
A baby will need approximately 2,000 nappy changes in the first year alone.
I’m sorry. I had to say it.
It’s ok, really; it won’t feel like anywhere near that many. You’ll be so exhausted you’ll probably sleepwalk through most of them.
At least you’re not having twins! Oh, you are? Well, what are a few more nappy changes between friends?
What are the benefits of modern cloth nappies?
Jokes aside, now. The reason you’re here is because you’re considering using cloth diapers.
Below are the major differences between cloth and disposable nappies. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the article.
Let’s see how the use of modern cloth nappies benefits not only the baby but the whole family.
Cloth nappies vs disposables: the environmental impact
Doing 2,000 nappy changes is a great deal of work. If you choose to use disposable nappies, you’ll need to buy (and throw away) 2,000 nappies. Not only is that costly, it’s also bad for the planet.
If each baby born in Australia used that many disposable diapers, it would mean almost 900 million nappies going into landfills each year.
Slow to decompose disposables
A disposable nappy takes at least 200 years to decompose.
The baby having his disposable diaper changed right now will be a great great great great great grandparent by the time that single disposable diaper decomposes. That is a terrifying thought. And when your baby’s great great great great great grandkids are playing out in the patch of landfill they call a garden, they might not be very pleased with how we looked after the planet for them, or with the carbon footprint and environmental impact we left behind.
In past decades the inside of the disposable nappies was made of wood pulp, which used to absorb the moisture. These days they use chemicals that convert moisture into solid gel almost straight away.
A better alternative
A more environmentally friendly option is to choose cloth nappies. Even taking into account the energy needed to wash them, these cloth diapers are still much better for the environment. Modern cloth nappies have a very long life before they make it to landfill because they can be used for more than one child.
Reusable diapers, as the word suggests, can be used and reused again and again.
As the child grows, the absorbent insert will just be bigger to make it highly absorbent. These interior liners are made of different materials (cotton, bamboo, hemp, linen…) so the baby will be dry for prolonged periods. There are many brands in the market. Have a browse to see what kind of cloth diaper is best for your little one.
Cloth nappies vs disposable diapers: cost
By the time your toddler’s toilet training is completed, you will have spent just under $4,000 on disposable nappies. The costs can be so high you could say you spent $4,000 on landfill, if you want to be dramatic. If you opted instead to use cloth nappies, your expenditure would total less than $1,000 for the average child, and that includes the cost of washing and drying cloth nappies. Yes, the initial investment on cloth diapers will be higher but using cloth nappies saves you money, and that’s hardly something you can complain about.
A kit of modern cloth nappies will cost you around $500. It might sound like a huge initial investment, but they will last till your baby is potty trained, and you will even be able to use them on any subsequent children you might have.
And, when you’re finished having children, you’ll probably be able to sell the nappies on and get back some of the money. There is a big market for second-hand modern cloth nappies because they’re built to last. In fact, some mums buy second-hand nappies, use them from birth until toilet training, and then sell them on for the same price they originally paid. Bargain!
Even the most expensive cloth diapers will still be a much cheaper option than disposables, in the long run.
The thought of the extra washing might put you off, but don’t worry about that. You’ll soon get into the hang of knowing when you need to put a wash on, and then it’s no problem at all. Really, you won’t even notice it.
Cloth nappies have evolved
When you hear the term ‘cloth nappy’, you are probably imagining a square of fabric with a safety pin.
Luckily, the traditional cloth nappies have gone through huge advancements since those early days. Modern cloth diapers are now a similar shape to disposable diapers, and they’re really easy to use. There are no sharp pins in sight!
Modern cloth nappies also come in an array of bright and beautiful colors and patterns, so you’ll definitely be able to find some you love. There are lots of different types of modern cloth nappies to choose from.
Some fasten with poppers; others with velcro. You might like to try out a few different brands before settling on your favorites.
If you want to try before you buy, you can hire nappies from modern cloth nappy libraries across Australia. This will give you a better idea of which ones are best suited to your baby. Once you’ve decided on your chosen brand, it might be worth buying in bulk to save money.
When you consider the financial benefits, along with the environmental advantages, it’s easy to see why modern cloth nappies are growing in popularity.
Diapers and baby’s skin
Cloth diapers are much kinder to babies’ skin than disposable diapers. This is easy to understand as it’s much better to have a piece of natural fabric against your skin than to have a plastic-like fiber full of chemicals, such as sodium polyacrylate. Even the name is ugly! These chemicals convert your baby’s wee and liquid poo into solid waste so their skin is kept dry.
Using cloth nappies will mean no, or much milder, diaper rashes.
A diaper rash happens much more frequently with a disposable nappy. At the end of the day, the main cause of nappy rash is having an artificial material around your baby’s bottom for a long period of time.
Cloth diapers and becoming diaper-free
Parents swear that cloth diapers help their older babies become more aware of when they need to go to the toilet.
Disposable nappies are filled with a chemical powder that absorbs the moisture the moment it appears. That means that children are almost instantly dry after they’ve voided.
With cloth diapers not only do we avoid the use of harmful chemicals against our little one’s skin but, when our child is wet or soiled, she will feel it, making her aware of her body functions much more quickly. This is key to gaining sphincter control much faster.
Research shows that children are diaper free at an earlier age the sooner they become aware of their voiding habits. Children will gain sphincter control eventually, even without the need to be toilet trained, but if you can’t wait for that to happen naturally (as most of us can’t), it will be much easier to achieve with cloth diapers.
How to clean cloth nappies
These days, even if you’re a new parent, cleaning cloth nappies couldn’t be easier. You take the inside of the diaper, get rid of the waste in the toilet, and just place the terry squares or musselins (the inner part of the cloth diaper) inside the washing machine. You can do this at night time and your fresh cloth diapers will be ready to use in the morning.
You probably won’t need to do an extra load of washing as using cloth nappies doesn’t really add that much extra to your average load of washing.
You can also get disposable liners. A disposable liner is a piece of material placed on top of the inner layer of the nappy and it comes in quite handy when the baby has done a poo as it keeps the waste concealed and you can throw the liner away directly.
How many cloth nappies do I need?
Unlike disposables, the number of cloth diapers you’ll need will be quite small if you compare it with the number of diaper changes each child will have. Remember we said at the beginning of this article that it would be around 2,000 a year? Don’t worry, though; disposable diapers are, well, reusable.
You can start with just a few pocket nappies. The pockets are the colorful outside covers – the part we see. These will last a long time as they have many press studs to allow you to make them ‘bigger’ as the baby gets older.
For the inner part of cloth nappies, you’ll need about 10 to start with. Start low; as you get used to them, you can acquire more cloth diapers. Try different materials –cotton, bamboo, hemp… and see which ones are best for your baby; work out which have fewer leaks, or prevent nappy rash, and build up your stack with those.
Remember that you’ll be able to use them with your next baby, or babies, if you have more children. You can also take them to a resale shop when you’re done.
When to start using reusable nappies
You can start using cloth nappies straight from birth, although the average age to start is usually about 3 months. Most parents who intend to use reusable nappies from birth tend to have disposables on hand, too – especially in the first few days. When it seems that changing nappies is all new parents ever do, disposable nappies tend to come in handy.
Here’s some extra reading about reusable nappies: