Cloth nappies are funny things. Or rather, people’s attitudes towards cloth nappies are funny. I’m a clothie (well, The Baby is; childbirth didn’t have *that* big an effect on my pelvic floor, thankfully), and I’ve noticed that in the nappy game, other mums fall into two firmly opposing camps.
On the one side, there are the families who wouldn’t dream of using cloth. Why would you, when you have disposables at your, well, disposal? All that extra washing and drying, the grim reality of scraping poo out of nappies, having to change your baby more often… No, thanks. These people, no doubt, have me pegged as an eco freak, an earth mother, or worse, a sanctimonious do-gooder.
Then, on the other side of the fence, you have the cloth aficionados. The mums who love their real nappies so much, they have stashes of 100 nappies plus. They know every brand – no matter how obscure – inside out. They have nappies in every possible colourway. They use cloth day in, day out, and even buy extra luggage allowance so they don’t have to use ‘evil sposies’ when they go on holiday. Much of the time, their babies roam around bare-legged, just to show off their beautiful designer nappies – which, incidentally, sell for upwards of £20 a pop.
What I struggle to find are people like me. For me, using cloth is a lifestyle choice, not a fashion statement – or an eco statement. I confess that landfill anxiety plays only a small part in my decision to use washable nappies, although I suppose that was what got me started in the first place, when I switched The Boy from disposables to cloth at 11 months old. If I’m honest, back then, I was jumping on a bandwagon. Six years ago, Decent Mums Used Cloth (or at least on the parenting forum I frequented at the time), and I felt positively guilty for not giving it a try.
So, I did give it a try. I bought a complete, unused birth-to-potty set of Motherease nappies and wraps from eBay for a princely £50, and I gave them a go. And, to my surprise, I was impressed. They looked so much comfier than scratchy paper disposables, for a start. They were absorbent, they washed and dried well, and – best of all – they gave my skinny runt of a toddler enough of a bum for his jeans to stay up. I was a convert.
Then, as The Boy hit two, we ran into difficulties. The nappies started to leak. Even in a just-changed nappy, one big wee would flood out everywhere and require a whole change of clothes. I was about to give up and go back to disposables when someone suggested that these nappy-busting mega-wees could be a sign that The Boy was gaining bladder control – holding on and on, rather than letting out constant dribbles – and could be ready for potty training. Sure enough, we ditched the nappies altogether, and within three days, he was completely dry, at just under 26 months.
Second time round, I planned to use cloth from the start; our old nappies were sitting there waiting, after all. The Baby was just two days old when we first put her in a reusable.
She looked cute – but she *hated* it. She suffered from reflux, and her overstuffed bottom put her at a painfully uncomfortable angle, so we gave up. We tried again several times over the next few months, but it wasn’t until six months that we finally succeeded. Someone on a cloth nappy forum suggested using a slimmer pocket nappy, and bingo! We had success.
For a while.
Six weeks ago, we ran into problems. Again, we were getting the mega-wees, and the mega-leaks. I was changing The Baby’s nappy, and often, her entire outfit, on an hourly basis. We were getting through eight, 10, even more nappies a day. I’d tried boosting, double boosting, triple boosting, but nothing was helping.
I went back to the cloth nappy forum, and several people suggested trying Little Lambs – fitted bamboo nappies with wraps, which at the time were on special offer that made them a bargain. I ordered 20, and they have totalled rekindled my love of fluff. Now I can leave The Baby in the same nappy for four hours without worrying about leaks – and they are so, so soft and cuddly.
So, given our ups and downs, why have I stuck with cloth? Clearly, I’m not an earth mother; nor am I a cloth-fanatic with a nappy stash bigger than her own wardrobe. Well, the main reason is that I am convinced that wearing cloth makes potty training easier – and that alone gets my vote. Then there’s the fact that I’m saving money. I got a £60 grant from the council towards my nappies, and even factoring in washing and tumble drying, there’s no way I’m spending the weekly £8-£10 I’d blow on disposables on laundering my fluff.
Even though I’m not obsessed with colours and patterns, I think a cloth nappy looks better poking out of the bottom of a little dress than a disposable does. And – this is a big one – they smell better, too. I defy anyone to sniff my daughter’s nappy and tell me it smells (unless she’s just done a poo, of course), whereas disposables have that horrible ammonia smell as soon as a drop of wee escapes. I love seeing The Baby’s nappies drying on the line, I love the fact that my kitchen bin doesn’t smell of poo, and, of course, a small part of me loves that I’m not adding to the landfill crisis.
So there we have it. I’m not using cloth as a fashion statement. I’m not using it because I’m a tree-hugging hippy. I’m not 100 per cent committed; The Baby wears disposables at night, and if we’re out and about. But I’m a middle-of-the-road, ordinary mum who uses fluff because it suits me and my baby. If I’m helping to save the planet, so much the better – but don’t call me Earth Mom, okay?