With a good dose of guilt about destroying our planet and her mother’s words ‘Well, I had four children and I used terry nappies on all of you’ ringing in her ears Lucy Gooding makes a decision to try reusable nappies...
“I have pangs of guilt”
Like all first time mums-to-be I spent the last few months of pregnancy meticulously planning my baby’s start in life. I would have a stress-free water birth, breastfeed exclusively for six months, use washable nappies from day one and cope with tiredness through a combination of yoga and organic food. Yeah right.
Three days after Arabella’s birth reality well and truly set in. Exhaustion overwhelmed me and I’m ashamed to say that the freshly laundered stack of reusable nappies that Manchester City Council had kindly lent me stayed neatly piled in the nursery cupboard while I ploughed through the Pampers.
Nineteen months later and my addiction to disposables continues apace, but despite the convenience I have pangs of guilt – an eye watering three billion nappies are thrown away in the UK every year (that’s nearly eight million a day!) and 90 per cent of them end up in landfill. What’s worse is that no one really knows how long it will take for the plastic in them to decompose, but even the optimists guess at a few hundred years.
With baby number two due in just three months time, I decide to attempt saving the planet, and if I’m honest it’s not just the greenie in me that using resuables appeals to. I’m keen to save some money and I’ve read that using washables can be up to £500 cheaper than disposables – with the savings increasing if you reuse them for another baby. So, with my mum’s words of ‘Well, I had four children and I used terry nappies on all of you’ ringing in my ears I head off to the computer to do some research.
Where to start?
There is such a dizzying amount of choice in the reusable nappy market that it’s no wonder that lots of potential users switch off in confusion before they’ve even lifted the lid of a nappy bucket. Orla (Orla) McElroy (McElroy), outreach worker at the Women’s Environmental Network says education is key to getting more parents to make the switch. “There are lots of different brands out there, but what people need to realise is that there are just a few different systems. We have a helpline and there are lots of nappy agents that will come to your house to show you all the different systems and how they work without pressurising you into buying.”
It seems that there are three basic designs. The classic flat nappy is the one that most of our mums would have used with a pin and wrap. Shaped nappies are designed to fit more snugly to your baby’s bum and needs a separate waterproof wrap on the outside and the all-in-one, is basically a reusable equivalent of a disposable.
After much surfing and deliberation I buy a ‘birth to potty’ pack of Motherease One Size shaped nappies for £225 on Ebay which I chose thinking that the new baby would be able to use them as well (they have a popper system which means you can make them smaller for newborns and younger babies). They look lovely and come with everything I need including wraps (in three sizes), liners, boosters (for night time), a funny looking bag which I assume is for carrying them around in when you are out and a nappy bucket.
Ready, steady go – day 1
The nappies arrive and as I eagerly unpack them Arabella is standing in the nappy bucket while Matt, my husband looks on, commenting: ‘Blimey – looks like a right palaver’. I have to admit I am a little nervous – Arabella is a wriggler and sometimes it’s almost beyond me getting a disposable on before she’s halfway across the room. How will I cope putting a liner in, putting on the nappy and then a wrap? And what about night time? Will they leak horribly and wake her up?
A few days in and it’s going pretty well. I’m genuinely surprised at how good they are – they don’t seem to leak any more than disposables, though I have to admit to using a disposable one night after a bad leak the day before. Orla comments helpfully: “There will be times when your baby’s clothes will get wet, but that happens with all nappies – even disposables.’ She has a point.
Fortunately Arabella seems to like them, though not enough to lie still while I change her. The only drawback is that I quickly realise that she needs a booster in every nappy, not just at night, so I order ten more from Ebay and try to survive with what we’ve got in the meantime.
One thing I was worried about is that we might have problems getting her clothes over the nappies as friends had told me that baby clothes are designed with slim disposables in mind. I can see a few problems ahead when I try to use these nappies on a newborn but so far so good – even the jeans fit, albeit more snugly than before.
A bold pioneer
By the end of the first week I really feel like I am getting into my stride, and am beginning to feel like a bold pioneer as other mum’s I know ask to see them and probe me about them. I listen to myself becoming almost evangelical and hear myself saying ‘even the washing isn’t that bad, I just do a load every other day’. Will I be switching back to Pampers? No, it just wouldn’t feel right now to throw all those nappies away anymore, and just think of all the money I’ll be saving!
by Lucy Gooding