Why use cloth nappies?
As the parent of a new baby you will change about 5,500 nappies in the two to three years before your child toilet trains!
In their first six weeks, your baby will churn through about 500 nappies alone! Let me tell you, that's a lot of nappies..... and, lets be honest straight up here, that's a whole lot of poo too!
We're guessing if you've found your way to this website, the kind of nappies you're going to use to catch all that poo has been playing on your mind. Even if for just a fleeting second, long enough to type "cloth nappies" into Google! We're also going on a hunch that if you've thought about nappy options then you're here because you'd like to know more about cloth nappies in particular!
Let us start by saying THANKS! In Australia about 10% of families use cloth nappies (some of the time or all of the time). It's nice to know there's another person out there prepared to swim against the tide!
We also know that there's a whole lot of reasons flying around out there about why you shouldn't use cloth nappies. Between this page and our FAQ (frequently asked questions) page we hope you can gather enough information to make you feel confident that using cloth nappies (some of the time or all of the time) is a great way to go!
In the mean time, if you want a quick guide to busting some popular myths about cloth nappies be sure to print out a copy of the fantastic Myth Busters poster put out by the Australian Nappy Association, which you can find at the bottom of this page!
Here are our top five compelling reasons to consider cloth nappies for your baby.
Good for your bank account.
At first the cost of a modern cloth nappy compared to a disposable nappy may seem expensive, until you consider you will buy 20 to 30 cloth nappies in compared to more than five THOUSAND disposables!
Whilst the decision to use cloth nappies requires an upfront spend, once those nappies are yours, the money doesn't have to be spent again and you can start saving! Think of all the lovely things you could buy with that $2,000. Or maybe it could help you afford an extra couple of months home with your baby.
- 5,500 nappy changes x .50c each nappy = $2,750 (50c per nappy change)
- 25 modern cloth nappies x $30 each = $750 (13c per nappy change)
- 25 traditional cloth nappies & waterproof covers = $200 (.03c per nappy change)
- Cloth nappies can be used for subsequent children, making them even more economical, the more you use them!
- More savings can be made by using washable bamboo or cotton wipes, PUL changing mats and wet bags.
- The cost of laundering cloth nappies (including water & detergent) sits at around $200 for 2.5 years, depending on the area you live and the individual washing machine you use.
Good for the Environment.
According to figures released by Choice in 2010, Australians throw away approximately 2.1 BILLION disposable nappies every year*. The majority of these end up in landfill whilst the rest litter our beaches, road sides and parks.
The debate about environmental impact of cloth Vs disposables has raged for a long time, with the primary focus being on the amount of water used in each type of nappy. However the environmental impacts of the nappy you choose are far greater than only one aspect of our environment. A full Life Cycle Analysis was released in 2010 by the University of Queensland and compared all aspects of each type of nappy. The results favoured cloth nappies as the more environmentally sensitive option if correctly laundered. ***
- It takes as much energy to produce one disposable as it does to wash a cloth nappy 200 times.
- It takes twice the amount of water to produce one disposable nappy than is used to wash one modern cloth nappy for a year.
- It takes a full cup of crude oil to make the plastic for each disposable nappy.
- Disposable nappies use over 8 times more non renewable raw materials (different kinds of plastics made from non-renewable crude oil) and 90 times more renewable materials (paper pulp from wood) than modern cloth nappies.
- Cloth nappies can be made from environmentally sustainable materials, like bamboo, hemp, wool & organic cotton, all of which use less water and energy to produce than traditional cotton.
- Bamboo, hemp and organic cotton do not require chemical pesticides, are quick to grow and can easily be produced on sustainable plantations.
- Disposable nappies account for approximately 1/3rd of household rubbish in a family with a child under two years, this has a huge impact on the costs of waste removal and landfill management, costs which are passed on to us through our local council rates.
- No-one knows exactly how long the plastic part of a disposable nappy takes to break down, but it is not biodegradable. It's estimated each nappy takes between 300 and 500 years to breakdown. That means that part of every disposable ever put into a landfill site is presumably still there.
- 'Eco disposables' use less chemicals and generally contain less dyes and gels but take decades to break down in landfill as they are only biodegradable when composted under stringent conditions - which are not met in a standard landfill facility.
- Modern cloth nappies do not require soaking, bleaching (or ironing!), or any of the other outdated practices that have been incorrectly quoted in past studies. They can be washed in cold or warm water and can easily be dried using the sun's energy. New technology means our washing machines and dryers are more efficient which further lowers the impact on the environment when using reusable nappies.
* Link, A (2003) Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. Women's Environment Network
*** LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT: REUSABLE AND DISPOSABLE NAPPIES IN AUSTRALIA Kate O'Brien et al - *** www.qdocuments.com/11/pdf/life-cycle-assessment.html
Good for your baby.
When using cloth nappies and reusable wipes you have considerably more control over the chemicals (if any) that come in contact with your child's delicate skin.
Disposable nappies are full of chemicals such as Sodium Polyacrylate, Tribuytl Tin (a highly toxic chemical), chlorine, alcohol, synthetic perfumes, sodium lauryl sulfates and sodium flouride. Many of these chemicals have been banned in womens hygiene products and have been proven to be extremely toxic when absorbed through the skin, many with long term risks.
The plastic that lines a disposable doesn't allow air to circulate which can cause heat rash and skin irritations in some babies. Disposable nappies keep boy's genitalia at a higher than normal temperature (up to 1 degree), possibly affecting their fertility. ** More and more reports are emerging of babies and children who have received burns from the chemicals used in disposable nappies when they have 'burst' whilst being worn.
Many parents are concerned cloth nappy use will cause nappy rash on their baby. Cloth nappies do not cause nappy rash. Independent research has found that as long as a nappy is changed frequently, the type of nappy worn is not a significant factor in causing nappy rash. The most common causes of nappy rash are irritation caused by chemicals (including washing detergents), bacterial infection or high acid levels in a babies urine.
Costello A et al 1989 The Sanitary Protection Scandal. The Women's Environment Network
*** Getting to the bottom of diaper rash (1996) Medical Post. Toronto , 32 (10), 53)
Very convenient and easy.
Perhaps the greatest concern for families looking to use cloth nappies is the perception that it takes a lot of time or that disposables are more convenient. That simply isn't true.
Modern cloth nappies are shaped like a disposable and do up in the same way with snaps or velcro. Even traditional nappies that require a separate cover to make them waterproof are really quick to fold once you've done it a couple of times.
Modern cloth nappies are extremely absorbent and don't require changing more regularly than disposable nappies (every 3 hours or so). They are designed to be easy to use, easy to launder and above all easy to wear. Once you have a system in place your choice to use cloth will be fast, easy and efficient.
The Darebin Cloth Nappy Trial released in 2007* showed the cloth nappy users spent on average 5 minutes more per day "nappying" than disposable users (this includes changing, washing, folding & rubbish removal).
Modern cloth nappies are seriously stylish and trim fitting.
Whilst disposable nappies are generally white with a small patterned tab or covered with cartoon characters or (even worse, advertising), modern cloth nappies come in a amazing range of colours, prints & fabrics. They're so cute you'll never want to cover them up. Which means you also save on pants! Teamed with a t-shirt, singlet or dress modern cloth nappies are their very own fashion statement.