Editors Note: I asked David to look into organic cloth diapers/nappies, to see if they were worth the money. His take on all the options there are when looking at cloth nappies these days certainly had me laughing, and when it comes to the savings over disposables, I’m laughing all the way to the bank!
Nappies are something most grown men will run from. Sorry Mums. But like it or not they are a necessary product when raising children and there are choices to be made that are worth knowing about. The Dads may find this interesting. Assuming you don’t use disposable nappies, you still have choices to make. According to The Real Diaper Association in the first few years of your child’s life you are going to change a lot of nappies, around 6,000. Imagine if you have twins! So what is involved in a nappy apart from the obvious?
Nappies are made up of liners, absorbent layers and a waterproof cover. Liners are in touch with the baby and are gathered up for the emptying process. It is possible to use flushable liners which make the job quick and easy and some claim to be biodegradable. Interestingly you can use fleece liners as well, which are water resistant and have the advantage of being washable. Lastly there are silk liners which although they need hand washing, are reported as having some advantages in helping with nappy rash. OK so that is 3 types of liners. Ready for more choices?
The next part of a nappy is the absorbent layer. Now stay with me. There are different materials and lots and lots of ways of arranging them to produce nappy varieties including all-in-ones, pocket, one-size, fitted and prefold nappies. Each with different properties, each with different layers, and each with differing benefits.
All of these layers have differing absorbencies and drying times once washed. (Editor’s note: See our Sustainable Baby Category, for details of the different styles). It is in the layers where the organic components are to be found as the choices include bamboo, hemp, cotton, and microfibre (yes I know it’s not organic but it is included for completeness). Oh, and we can probably rule out some cottons as the majority utilise a lot of pesticides in their production. Wikipedia says “Conventional cotton is one of the most chemically-dependent crops, sucking up 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of insecticides on 3% of our arable land; that’s more than any other crop per unit.”
So that leaves us with bamboo, hemp, organic cotton as far as organics go. Then there are the blends. Hemp blends well with cotton which if organic is a good eco friendly blend of layers. Hemp cloth is a great water absorber and is very durable. Bamboo is naturally anti bacterial, anti fungal and also a good absorber of moisture. However the cloth made from this takes longer to dry which is worth bearing in mind if you have a wet winter. There are some chemicals involved in the production of bamboo cloth so it is not 100% clean. But enough of that because there is a third consideration, the waterproof cover. Are you still with me?
This is what separates the nappy insides with baby’s clothes. Your choices here are simple – wool, fleece and PUL fabric which is a laminate of polyurethane and cloth. It ought to be noted that there is a difference between waterproof and water resistant. The choices become a little clearer if you rule out the PULs to avoid artificial elements, but are still a little daunting.
OK, here is my favourite bit :
It gets a little messy (pardon the pun) to compare the costs but the first one to rule out is disposables. The wonderful people at The Great Cloth Diaper Change estimate the savings when using cloth diapers as around $2000 for your first child, and more if you use the nappies for a second or third baby. At Baby Soft Landings they have a cost breakdown than includes all one-size nappies (the most expensive sort) and drying in an electric dryer, and you still save close to $2000. Even allowing for electricity hikes there is a clear advantage in price alone, let alone how many millions of nappies are flushed into our ecosystem. Interestingly the cost per child of cloth nappies does not increase directly as you don’t need twice as many cloth nappies for the next bub, but you sure will if you use disposables.
But what about organics, I hear you ask, because after all that is why you are still reading? I loved doing the research for this and came across some fantastic product names. How about the ecobumba, or bumgenius? If they don’t make you chuckle, then I suppose I better get back to the task. Well the bottom line is its very hard to compare between plain cotton or organic because there are so many variations it will do your head in. But what a fantastic bunch of options they are. The bit you can’t put a price on is the advantage of creative genius against frugal boredom. Huh, I hear you say? The point is that plain, square, cloth nappies are incredibly boring. Have a look at the options in the organic world and rejoice!
OK it’s time to confess. I am a Dad but was not part of the family when they were little ones. But as an uncle I failed miserably in the baby changing stakes because all there was around were plain cloth, probably cotton nappies. Trust me guys, they are impossible. Oh yeah Supermom can use them, and probably while on her iPhone, but when I look at the products that are out there I can see huge advantage in products by the likes of Bumgenius as they make the task easy. They are organic (if you can excuse the PUL and some polyester, but the bits in contact with skin are 100% organic. So how then do you measure cost? Because surely function and ease of use must count for something? What value is there in the peace of mind that you are applying fabrics that are 100% free of noxious chemicals to that young and tender skin. After all, is that not our job?
To help ease the cost, there appears to be a market for reselling, so some of the cost can be reclaimed, but my view as someone who has never successfully changed a nappy is go for the organics; go for the clever innovations; and leave the chemically infested alternatives alone. Yes they are more expensive, but quality always is. And since no one ever regrets quality, the choice is easy.