Re-usable nappies aka washable nappies

reusable nappies

Re-usable or washable nappies, are they worth it? How do you use them? How can I persuade my husband or partner to give them a go? How can I persuade myself?

Read this funny take on a wife persuading her hubby about re-usable or washable nappies! My husband actually wrote the article years ago. It was for an NCT (National Childbirth Trust ) newsletter. We was pretending to be me [the wife] and chose a pseudonym to publish it under….

Anyway, I still think it is a really great way to convince your partner, or yourself, to give re-usable or washable nappies a try. Doing your bit for the environment while saving lots of money!

reusable nappies
reusable/cloth nappies hanging on a washing line

Persuading the Hubby, part 1: “Re-usable nappies”.

 “I think we should go for use re-usable nappies, what do you think?” I asked my hubby as I rested my hand on my bump.  It was one of those seemingly innocuous questions in the last couple of months of my pregnancy which brought a strange look of fear and horror across his face, closely followed by a barrage of reasons why he thought we really should do something else.  It was the same response that came after I said “I think we should have a doula at the birth, what do you think?” and the time we were having a cup of tea and I proposed “I think we should hire a birthing pool and have a water birth in the kitchen!”.  (All of which, incidentally were great ideas and turned out very well indeed after I eventually won him round). But back to the re-usable nappies…  Mr Hubby’s initial reaction was that it was going to cost a mountain of money, we would forever be needing to change the baby, the nappies would wear out, the house would smell, the washing machine would be contaminated and according to his mothers aunts best friend (who was apparently once a health visitor), the baby would get permanent nappy rash.  I admit it did sound bad the way he said it… …but I couldn’t bear the thought of all those disposable nappies going to land fill so I set about putting his mind at rest.  Of course, in the end, it wasn’t all plain sailing, so here are my tips and tricks for making re-usable nappies work:

The cost argument: Yes, with new re-usable nappies costing £15 (2011) a piece it could have cost quite a bit up-front, but in the end I got £30 back from the Real Nappy Incentive Scheme by filling out a form online. I also won several bundles of nappies from freecycle, preloved, netmums and ebay, which of course Mr Hubby was sent out to pick up and gave me the added bonus of some nice quiet time in the evenings. I admit, second hand re-usable nappies does sound a bit rank, but most of them were good as new!  With a bit of cunning, it’s worked out much more economical than disposable nappies and as an additional cost-saver, rather using wet-wipes I use mini “top-n-tail” muslin squares from MotherCare dipped in water to clean the botty which then go in the wash with the nappies!

The frequency of nappy changing argument:  In the end I used a mix of disposables and re-usables.  The re-usables would stay dry for around 3-4 hours, which just wasn’t practical at night, but during the day as any mother will tell you the baby always seems to wait until just after you’ve changed them to release a sub-atomic explosion in the lower regions.  So regardless of what nappies you’re using you end up changing them just about the same number of times.  Disposables were also useful in the first couple of weeks, when all I wanted was some sleep, and even just thinking about turning on the washing machine an additional time was not an option.

The house will smell argument: In the first week of using re-usables I followed the mother in laws advice (always a bad idea of course, but since she came from the generation of the Terry’s square I thought I’d give her the benefit of the doubt) which was to put the used nappies in a bin containing some sterilising fluid until it came time to wash them.  This sounded ok in principle, but turned out to be grim in practise, especially when two days later I tried to transfer the dripping nappies from the sterilising fluid bin to the washing machine. Yuk! In the end I found that a few drops of tea-tree oil in a sealed nappy bin with a tight fitting lid did and keeping the nappy bin dry did the trick.  Better still was to hang a washable cloth bag inside the nappy bin, so I could just transfer them from the bin to the washing machine, bag and all without needing to touch a single nappy.

The baby will have permanent nappy rash argument: Maybe in the old days that was the case, but it seems that the modern day re-usable inserts really do take the moisture away from the baby’s skin.  I did find it useful to use different types of nappies as the children grew up though, as some more bulky types of nappies seem to hold more water for longer.  I started with BumGenius nappies, then added an additional insert as the children grew older, and then moved on to TotsBots, but of course there are many options so it’s worth trying a few varieties cheaply off friends or freecycle if possible.  Despite hours in front of youtube I never got the hang of folding a Terry’s square, although once I did produce something resembling a napkin at a fancy restaurant. If the baby does get nappy rash and needs sudocrem for a few days, then most manufacturers recommend you put the baby in disposable nappies but just so that the cream doesn’t damage the absorbancy of the re-usable inserts.

Finally, the nappies would wear out argument: Well, they haven’t yet! Two years on and my second son is using the same nappies that were previously worn by his brother and which were probably previously sported by the son of the nice freecycle family.  Indeed, if you keep an eye out, those same nappies will no doubt be on freecycle from me again in a couple of years… …unless of course I can persuade Hubby to go for a “number 3”… but I suspect that is going to be another one of those fear / horror reaction moments!

See The art of persuasion, part 2: “Water birth in the kitchen” in the next blog post.

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