Switch over to cloth nappies, a tricky subject all the same. Years ago, parents would use traditional towelling cloth to change their babies. We all know how much plastic waste disposable nappies cause, so it would seem a no-brainer to switch to one of the new colourful brands of reusable nappies. They are easy to use, are free from toxic blue gels (which makes babies not feel their own toilet movements, which means longer potty training) and work out more affordable. Eco by Naty is an eco-potty made with sugar cane, with a non-slip base.
But most modern reusable nappies are made from polyester (often recycled plastic bottles). Sounds good, but when you place synthetic fabrics in a washing machine, the friction causes microplastics to break off, and they reach the sea to get ingested by marine wildlife.
- You can use a Guppyfriend (a one-time purchase that collects them), but they don’t collect all of them. So if you wash microfiber nappies, you are releasing plastics back to the ocean, which is really no better than leaving them on a landfill.
- The only eco-friendly nappy is one made from natural cotton, hemp or bamboo. They take a little longer to dry, but surely it’s worth it for the planet? For newborns, you can use muslin squares which can be repurposed later on into burp cloths.
- There is plenty of help out there, if you need it. One idea if you really don’t want to be bothered by the longer drying times, is to buy starter kit of cotton happies (includes liners and a bucket, with a discount voucher from Real Nappies for London.
- Then just sign up to a nappy laundry and get soiled nappies collected, with a fresh batch (laundered to NHS standards) delivered to your door each week. London’s Nappy Ever After uses cotton pre-folds and you get them washed and dried for you.
- Whereas one baby uses around 5000 disposable nappies before being potty-trained, you can get away with 20 to 30 reusable cotton happies, which costs far less long-term, and saves the hassle of hauling home packs of disposable nappies each week.
You also need a few accessories like a nappy changing bag and soaking bucket (keep covered, away from pets) and a few waterproof liners. Rather than disposable baby wipes (one of the most common causes of clogged sewers), switch to Vesta Living Organic Cotton Baby Wipes.
- Most cloth nappies have a liner that catches solids, which are flushed away. Wash nappies every couple of days to avoid smells,, at 60 degrees (due to weaker immune systems).
- Pop used nappies in a reusable wet bag then wash every few days, and use pre-wash with half the detergent dose, to remove soiling. Then use a long warm wash with full dose of Bio-D detergent. with one tablespoon of Bio-D Cloth Nappy Sanitiser & Stain Remover. Replace fabric conditioner (reduces absorbency) with white vinegar in the final rinse. Don’t use bleach.
- Using cloth nappies/diapers usually means less nappy rash, as there is less plastic or chemicals. It’s most common when teething after trying new foods. So change liners often, and use a natural cream to help.
- Wash new nappies a few times before use, to help better absorbency. Most babies poo after waking, so always change as soon as your baby wakes up. Avoid talcum powder (an inorganic substance) and choose a safe baby-friendly powder instead.
- If you still wish to use disposable nappies, at least go for brands that are free from chlorine bleach. Natural Collection sells better brands made with natural cotton and cornstarch. Although some say they are biodegradable, never flush nappies down the toilet, you’ll block the drains. Just dispose of as normal, these simply do less harm at landfill, as regards off-gassing of chemicals.