Nappies & Me
Sustainable Overton volunteer Laura writes about her experience with reusable nappies.
How I started: Like every new parent, I spent my pregnancy researching and shopping for my upcoming arrival, complete with an (expensive!) trip to The Baby Show in London. Here I saw some reusable nappies for the first time, and witnessed a first-hand demonstration of the cleaning power of washable wipes, Cheeky Wipes, cleaning up peanut butter as a poo substitute! Both are UK companies and I was totally convinced by the benefits of reusables: for my baby, for the planet and for my pocket. My husband has incredibly sensitive skin, so I wanted to minimise chemicals on my baby’s skin, just in case.
I bought a starter kit from TotsBots including All in One nappies, a bucket, wet bag, wash bag, liners and night nappies for about £200. Although these are called Birth to Potty nappies, they don't tend to fit until babies weigh about 11 or 12lb as their legs are just too skinny to begin with, so I borrowed some newborn nappies for the first couple of months.
How to use them. I've found these nappies very easy to use. They fit just like a normal nappy, with velcro to do up, and with 20 nappies I wash around every 3 days.
I use a 2 part nappy (an absorbent inner and a separate waterproof cover) also from Tots Bots overnight and these last 12 hours without leaks without fail. There is a fleece liner which goes against the baby’s skin against and protects from nappy rash even when nappies are worn overnight.
What did they cost? Over the last 6 years / 3 babies I have bought and sold various nappies, and now have a newer version of the Totsbots Easyfit. Many of the nappies I have bought second hand, and sold ones I'm no longer using on either ebay or Facebook buying groups, and estimate I have spent another £150 maximum, so total spend £350 - not bad for 3 babies. Even more so when compared to the estimate of £500 - £1800 per baby depending on whether you use supermarket or branded or eco nappies as these vary for 4p to 22p a nappy.
What about newborns? When my other babies have been small, I have either bought second hand newborn nappies again and sold them after for the same amount pretty much, and borrowed some from a nappy library. Newborn nappies are used for such a small amount of time they don’t offer such a cost saving, but can be bought and sold second hand which reduces the cost significantly.
What about away from home? If I go on a long weekend away, I take my big wet bag and just wash when I get home. If I’m staying with family or somewhere with a washing machine I just wash as usual. Any longer holidays away from home, I have bought disposables, but tend to take my wipes and wash these by hand as they are so much more effective at cleaning.
Almost no nappy rash. Disposable nappies have lots of chemicals in which often cause reactions to babies skin, especially sensitive ones.
As nappies are elasticated across the back, you avoid the dreaded “poo-plosion” where whole outfits are covered in poo. They contain poo brillaintly.
A big cost saving - this was key for me as I wanted to avoid returning to work immediately after my maternity leave. Compared to Naty nappies or other economic / big brands, I reckon I've saved easily £3000.
No bin overflowing with stinky nappies. Poos are flushed away rather than being put in the bin, and dirty nappies are stored in a lidded bucket which doesn’t smell.
They are very pretty!
You do need to be organised with washing, but as babies generate a lot of washing, this isn't new! It's an extra 2 or so loads each week.
You need to allow time for them to dry - I'm lucky to have outside space for drying, so have chosen nappies which are more absorbent but slower drying, though there are nappy types for every situation.
Different babies suit different styles of nappies, depending on their shape, how much they wee at once, as well as your lifestyle and drying options so finding the ones for you can be a bit trial and error. It's definitely worth trying before you buy - either through a nappy library, borrowing from a friend or buying a few second hand.
You can also buy reusable swim nappies rather than using a disposable one each time you swim. These you just wash with your swimwear, and this is an easy switch even if you don't want to move to cloth full time.
But the best thing I bought wasn't these nappies, it was my wipes. Around 11 billion wipes are used in the UK each year, which is a very scary fact.
Reusable wipes are easy to use as you can just bung in any wash, they are quick to dry, gentle on babies skin and brilliant at cleaning up anything; bums or hands and faces once babies start weaning. I chose a full kit from Cheeky Wipes with boxes to keep the wipes in, and a set of white wipes for bums and coloured for hands and faces, but a pack of cheap flannels would do too. At home I just wet as I go under the tap, and out and about I either use a bottle of water if I'm in the park or woods, or if I'm changing in some toilets again there is of course a tap. There are options to take wet nappies with you ready in a special bag, and use essential oils, but I think these are very much optional extras. In 6 years of nappies, I reckon I have bought maybe 7 or 8 packs of wipes, to be used either on holiday or for DIY jobs about the house, and have saved about a zillion pounds (or at least £1500 anyway). The fact you can use them for cleaning anything just goes to show how much chemicals are in them, which I don't want on my babies’ skin.
Nappy bags Often every disposable nappy goes into a bag before it goes in the bin. That's a lot of plastic, and these cost too, about 1p a bag. Over a baby's lifetime that's a lot of bags and the 4000 ish of these 1ps add up.
A final and often overlooked benefit is that I can never run out of either nappies or wipes, which means I can be less organised and not worry about shortages in a lock down!