Here at the Australian Nappy Association, we are super excited to bring you our Cloth Nappy Super Hero Series, This series puts real mums and dads in the spotlight and celebrates every day Aussie families using cloth nappies. If you have a story to tell about how you stumbled into cloth, or consciously choose it, or struggled and triumphed, or found it a breeze… we’d love to share it with the world!
Amanda is a loving mother of one, the messy half of a partnership, Developmental Physiotherapist and researcher, and working towards a lifestyle with zero waste. You can follow her on Instagram @greenapartmentproject
Allow me to introduce our family: myself (Amanda), my partner Robin, and Gigi (5 months), and we’re a cloth family. We’ve used cloth nappies since Gigi was 7 days old, and we are excited to share our journey with cloth so far for the Australian Cloth Nappy Association’s Cloth Nappy Super Heroes blog.
…but while we certainly don’t feel like Super Heroes, we definitely want to be like Captain Planet saving the earth. However, we want our lifestyle choices to come to a point where “saving the planet” is no longer an aspiration, political agenda or something that is seen as “out of the ordinary”. Rather, we want to see a world where environmentally friendly choices are the default option, and disposable is for special circumstances (e.g. disability).
“But all that washing? How on earth do you cope?”
Well, any parent of any newborn child knows that your washing exponentially increases when you have a baby. There are poopy, vomity clothes, bibs with bits of food, face washers, breast pads etc. And if you commit to other reusables in the household, you also have to wash things like produce bags, cotton totes, and rags used as “paper towels” amongst other things.
We truly believe that our actions have a secondary positive impact on our environment, so we are externally motivated to ensure that we prioritise reusing and washing before turning to disposables.
However, I always tell people to prioritise their mental health first. If you really think the extra washing will do your head in, perhaps consider using cloth part-time, or subscribing to a nappy wash service if you have one in your area. In our first few months, we received a nappy wash subscription from Botanic Baby Melbourne from my Aunty. The weekly cost was comparable to buying box of “eco-friendly disposable nappies” each week, and I highly recommend them to anyone in metropolitan Melbourne who wants to outsource their washing.
Speaking of the cost of nappies…
“But cloth nappies are so expensive!”
And I agree, to an extent. The initial outlay of the fanciest nappies can cost you nearly $1000, but averaged over time, you will end up spending more on disposables in the long run. I will be the first to admit that my partner and I are strict with our finances. Robin is on a full-time income, and I am a full-time student with a modest scholarship. All up, we have spent $326 on cloth nappies (not including the money we spent on the wash service). Our collection consists of:
- 2 Ohbabyka (aka “China Cheapie” nappies) – $20
- 2 Alvas (also “China Cheapies”) – gifted
- 3 new Designer Bums – $90 (I went halvies with a friend in a 6 pack at an expo)
- 2 new Baby Bare in discontinued prints – $36
- 6 second hand Baby Bare – $90
- 12 Botanic Baby prefolds and 3 covers – $90
- 3 hand-me-downs (bumgenius, no brand, and Beach Bums) – free
Buying second hand or cheaper styles (e.g. prefolds or terry towel flats) can significantly reduce the initial outlay if you’re on a tight budget.
(Pictured: “nappy graph” showing the cost of disposables on the “y-axis” with a cloth nappy higher than the disposable, and the “x-axis” showing time.)
“But if environmentally-friendly is really your thing…it still takes a lot of resources to make a cloth nappy…and it still has “evil” plastic in it anyway.”
And so do eco-friendly disposable nappies. When reading into the ingredients of eco-friendly nappies, they contained a lot of wood pulp, and even then, still had some plastic in them. The key difference here is that cloth nappies are part of a “circular economy”. That is, they don’t go to landfill, or at least not for a few years when a cloth nappy eventually reaches the end of its life. I think this image captures it best:
(Image credit: Modern Natural Baby)
Now multiply the disposables by all the babies in your neighbourhood…it’s mind boggling. And if you’re not sending your “eco nappies” to a commercial composter, sending them to landfill won’t help them break down as they’re not in ideal aerobic conditions to decompose.
“It just adds to your mental load having to think about washing nappies…you’re a busy parent!”
It certainly takes some planning to keep on top of things, and it’s fair to say that my capacity to plan and be organised is one of my strengths. But once again, if you live according to your values, you end up making time for the things you feel are of high importance in your life. We pride ourselves on being a low-waste family, so we keep ourselves accountable by being organised with our week.
One of my hot tips with cloth nappies is to keep an eye on the weather forecast for optimal drying conditions, and if that doesn’t work, locate your nearest laundromat for a dryer (or in our case, ask Gigi’s grandparents nicely), or use styles that can dry indoors (e.g. terry flats or prefolds) if the Bureau of Meteorology tells you it will rain for an entire week.
We choose to reuse, and use cloth nappies because:
- It’s cheaper in the long run
- It’s better for the environment
- We’re washing more stuff anyway
- They look fantastic!