Is it time to make the change to cloth nappies?
When myself and my husband moved over to the Netherlands 10 years ago, we knew we wanted to start a family. We have both taken an ecologically minded route over the years; we have never owned a car, we have always purchased eco friendly cleaning products and skin care products (I now make my own products!) and we try and reuse or recycle whenever possible. So when it came to having a baby, there was no doubt in my mind that we would use washable nappies. Or is that diapers to a lot of people reading this? I am English so I will continue to refer to them as nappies in my blog!
My mum used to use the terry squares with me and my brother back in the day (basically a square of cotton material and a safety pin), which required a waterproof plastic cover over the top. This is how I started off in the cloth nappy world with my first child. I bought a pile of bamboo squares of material and some nappy nippas. What are nappy nippas I hear you cry? Nappy nippas are now used instead of the old metal safety pins that used to be used years ago. Crazy thinking back, using sharp metal pins near your babies skin, how dangerous! The fasteners used today are stretchy t-shaped plastic fasteners that have "little teeth" that grip onto the material and hold it in place. There are loads of folds to learn when you use terry squares. It was quite fun learning all the different names of the folds and the various ways of folding them.
But later on, I discovered things had come a long way since the days of the basic terry squares, pins or plastic fasteners and ugly thick plastic pants. I start researching more about washable nappies and discovered a wide range of easier alternatives. If you research cloth nappies online you can get very confused and overwhelmed. I got a headache from trying to understand the different types and makes that are available. Terms like "sized nappies", "hybrids", "all in ones", "birth to potty", "two part systems" and so on. It was a total brain ache for me in the beginning. I was looking and reading online but I couldn't physically feel the material or have a go at putting them together just from reading information on a website. This seemed very frustrating. How did I know which ones to buy and if they would work and if it would fit my baby? I started out by purchasing a few different makes and types to try out. I began to feel a bit lost in this cloth nappy journey and the research was becoming quite stressful. But I wasn't going to give up hope of doing this full time with my baby and any subsequent child I had.
In the UK where I used to live, cloth nappies (or washable nappies as they are sometimes termed) seemed to be more well known, than here in the Netherlands. This came as quite a surprise to me because I got the impression that this country is quite ecologically aware on a wide array of issues. From doing a bit of research, I discovered that a great deal of people over here in The Netherlands had never heard about cloth nappies before, apart from perhaps hearing from their mothers or grandmothers and had never actually seen a cloth nappy before. In some parts of the UK I found out you could visit a "nappy library" so you could borrow a few different types to try on your baby before purchasing. There were also companies that would collect dirty nappies, launder them and return them to you. Amazing!
The cloth nappy journey seemed very daunting for me, but I was determined to continue and start using them to see how they worked and see how easy they were to use. I ordered a few to try out from a UK company who shipped over to the Netherlands. It was so useful to finally get these nappies in my hands, feel them, put them together, try different systems and start using cloth nappies on my newborn baby. I now had experience trying certain types and I got on well with a couple of makes from Tots Bots called the Bamboozle Stretch (two part system) and the Easyfit Binky (all in one).
A few months later, I discovered a company called Kaatje Katoen. They are a well established Dutch washable nappy company who have been in business for over 20 years (www.kaatjekatoen.nl). I was very excited to find them. I will talk more about Kaatje Katoen further in this article.
At this point, I felt very confident in using washable nappies on my baby, I had discovered the ones that worked for us, the washing and drying was done every other day, as opposed to every day (this didn't seem to take much extra effort) and I had lots of experience and knowledge under my belt. I felt that "cloth nappying", (once we had established a routine), did not produce too much extra work. And come on, how many times a day do you change a baby's clothes if they have vomited or dribbled or spilt food or drink down them. There is always going to be constant washing when you have a baby. I think this is one of the reasons people are reluctant to start using cloth - the amount of washing that there is to do. But it really isn't much time and effort when you have a routine in place. Whether you store the dirty nappies in a bucket with a snap shut lid or in a zipped up hanging wet/dry bag in the bathroom, this is a personal choice. Storing and disposing of the poo is easy. The poo is caught on the thin liner that you lay inside the nappy. The liner and the poo can then either be flushed down the toilet if using special paper based liners (If you have a really old house flushing is not recommended!) or thrown away in the rubbish bin. Certain throw away liners are 80% biodegradable.
Sitting on the sofa on an evening while my son was in bed, I would pop the bamboo pads into each clean, dry nappy, lay a paper liner on the top and make a pile of "ready to use" cloth nappies for myself or my husband to use on our baby (even the daycare were willing to use them!) When the nappies were put together after washing and drying, they were convenient to use, as needed, just like a disposable nappy.
I had noticed on Kaatje Katoen's website that there was section about getting free advice from a consultant. Boy, could I have benefitted from that free advice when I was first researching to use cloth nappies! A free consultation with Kaatje Katoen, involves meeting at the consultants home, seeing and feeling all the different nappy types and systems in their demo box, explaining everything clearly to the client about how they work, how to wash them, store them and giving them advice afterwards to help them in their decision making.
I was at stay at home mum at that time, and I immediately contacted the company to ask if I could become a cloth nappy consultant for the Leiden area. A representative of the company visited me at my home to discuss everything involved. I was very enthusiastic and so excited to start this new venture. I wanted to spread the cloth nappy word to "Nederlanders" and also expats living here who were interested to try them. I have now been a cloth nappy consultant for Kaatje Katoen for around 8 years. I have given advice to hundreds of new and expecting parents in that time and have represented Kaatje Katoen at various pregnancy and baby fairs around the country.
I love educating new parents on the ease of using washable as opposed to disposable nappies and also on the important environmental aspects of using cloth nappies. Did you know that in the time a child is in disposable nappies you have sent around 5500 nappies to landfill? With cloth nappies you only need around 20-24. If you have any further children, you already have the nappies ready to use.
There are so many other advantages to using cloth nappies as well. Children tend to potty train up to one year earlier than children in disposables. Cloth nappies are better for baby's hips, the materials used in cloth nappies are so much more kinder to baby's skin. (no nasty chemicals near baby's skin). There are materials available such as soft, breathable bamboo or organic cotton. There are also savings to be made in the long run. The initial investment is quickly made back and it can save you 750 euro's or more during the time your child is in nappies. If you also switch to washable baby wipes you can save a further 250 euro's. Another plus for us, was that you always have a nappy supply in the house, so there was no risk of running out and visiting the store late at night because you have discovered you only have one nappy left!
Making the decision to start using cloth nappies was a no brainer choice for us. I just wished I'd have known there were consultants I could have spoken to for advice when I start this journey, because that would have avoided all the headaches. Now I am working part time doing something that I am passionate about. Being a cloth nappy consultant is a great job which fits brilliantly around my home and family life. I get to spread the cloth nappy word - socialise, give advice and drink a cup of coffee or tea and eat a slice of cake with my clients. (usually home baked too and I also cater for food allergies!)
If you are interested to find out more or know a friend or relative that may be curious, (whether they are expecting a baby or want to switch from using disposables), let them read this article and ask them to get in touch. I manage a cloth nappy Facebook page too, where I post interesting articles and let you know about the new products available from Kaatje Katoen. Here is the link https://www.facebook.com/beverleywye/
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my cloth nappy journey and who knows, maybe we will meet in the future for a free consultation ! I have so much more information to share...
Beverley Wye (Cloth nappy consultant - Leiden)