A personal opinion: We need to stop the chatter

This is my last Baba+Boo blog. I’m gutted - but life happens, and right now my family needs me. I adore Eve, Baba+Boo and you lovely, lovely lot - but my family has to be my priority. 

This is my last hurrah, my final shout through the megaphone - and so permit me to indulge in sharing my own personal opinion. To be absolutely clear, everything I’m saying here is my own view, not the official line of Baba+Boo. 

The thing is, I’m worried. The progress that’s been made towards making reusables normal is stalling. Why? Because of the very people who should be at the forefront of change.

There’s a very real danger that everything that’s started to make reusables mainstream over the last couple of years has been for nothing. 

So it’s time to get real about ‘real’ nappies.

Let’s get real about ‘real’ nappies

Reusable nappies are not hard. Or, at least, they don’t have to be. 

But go online and you’d be forgiven for thinking you need a PhD in Laundering Techniques to adequately parent your child. 

Online nappy groups are a constant hive of chatter on fit, leaks and problems. Laundry has become something that needs special routines, methods and techniques. There are detergent indexes and groups with thousands of members, dedicated purely to washing nappies.

This is a big deal. It’s stopping reusable nappies from becoming mainstream. 

Think about the message we’re giving. We’re signalling, very loudly, that reusable nappies are really, really hard. 

Look at all these problems that appear to abound - and then consider the amazing myriad of potential reasons for the problems. The message is clear. Reusables are not as good as single use nappies. 

Read through the posts from the incredible, awe-inspiring, strong-minded minority who get past the internet chatter and decide to “take the plunge”. They’re determined to make reusables work - despite being overwhelmed, confused, and daunted. Just take a moment to consider what we’ve created - that choosing to put your baby in a nappy made of cloth has become such a big deal that it’s regularly described with phrases like ‘taking the plunge’.  

And those who get past their fear and confusion? They’re the tip of the iceberg. For every one of those brave souls, how many more have thrown in the towel?

And how many of those who have been put off will tell their friends that they looked into it - but reusables are really hard, and they leak, and so it’s best to stick with single use?

What are we doing? Why on earth are we making them so scary?

No one thinks using a single use nappy on is hard, or daunting. And that has to be the same for reusables. 

When I was looking at this, two things struck me hard. 

1) The overwhelming majority of parents who have problems with their nappies are the ones who use online groups. To be clear, I don’t mean these are people who have a problem, so join a group. I mean, that if you look at a list of customers and compare the ones who have had problems with the ones who haven’t, there is a difference between both the number of problems and they type of problems they have. Why? It’s a bit like googling your medical symptoms. Pre-Google, you were a bit under the weather. Post-Google, your symptoms clearly indicate that you’ve got...well, pretty much every disease ever to afflict humankind.

2) Between 40% and 70% of the advice dished out online is, at best, irrelevant or - far too often - downright wrong. 

Take a moment to think about the implications of that. 

How do we get out of this mess?

I’m a huge advocate of peer support. For years, I embraced the idea of parents giving advice to other parents. But it’s all gone very wrong. And, quite honestly, it needs to change. 

The online advice groups are causing more problems than they are solving. 

If we care about reusables becoming mainstream we all need to step back and think rationally. 

Of course, problems happen. But let’s go back to googling those medical symptoms. If you genuinely need advice, where is the best place to get it? A Facebook group? Or a medical professional?

It’s the same for nappies. Manufacturers and retailers know what they’re talking about. It’s their job to know. They deal with this every day. Go online and you have no filter, no way of knowing whether the well-meaning advice you receive is from someone who’s been using reusables for six weeks (but has read a lot!) or someone who has the dirtiest, stinkiest nappies ever, which leak every two minutes. 

Go online with a simple question about leaks and you’ll probably get 10 or 15 potential reasons which you have to sift through, with no real understanding of which are likely, which are myth, and which are totally irrelevant to your circumstances. 

Ask a specialist and they’ll take it one step at a time, using their vast experience to quickly give you a solution that, nine times out of ten, will solve your problem straight away. Because nappies aren’t hard - if you ask the right person.

I’m not criticising anyone. No one is doing this deliberately. But in our quest to help and support each other, we’ve created a monster - an online myth that reusables are complex, fragile and inferior to their single use counter-parts. 

If we really care, then we have to follow the advice and guidance of the manufacturers, the retailers and the experts. We need to quit the chatter, the detergent indexes, the well-meaning but misguided advice, and the complicated and time consuming routines. 

We need to stop handling our nappies with kid gloves, and start treating them as what they really are - a bit of cloth that you wrap around your baby’s bum.

If just a few of you take this forward - if we can halt this crazy path that’s taking reusables back to a place where the only parents who use them are selfless eco-warriors - then my job here is done.

Thank you x


17 comments

  • Interestingly one of the reasons I have fallen in love with my Baba and Boo nappies is the simplicity of using them, especially when it comes to washing them. Because it was so straightforward when I researched it via the Baba and Boo pages, I thought I must have misunderstood! So I contacted Eve and she reiterated there weren’t strict rules on washing except for a few obvious ones. In her explanation the exact words she used were about trying to make sure the process wasn’t ‘overwhelming’. For me, using this brand of nappies has been so worthwhile and the approach Baba and Boo have is fab. Thank you! PS great article and enjoy your family and whatever else you are doing

    Iris
  • I have never commented on an article before. I’m not really an online person but I have flicked through some groups and sharing spaces like the nappy lady fb page.
    But you have compelled me to do more to advocate for cloth with the people in my life. Real life. I have my own new born kit I give to friends and always ready to help a fellow bubble butt person. But I could do so much more. So thank you for giving me a kick up the bamboo bum!

    Tash
  • So I’ve been using cloth on/off for 3 months
    I defo identify with the article, more so the folly of googling my way to answers. I only use 3 fb pages, 2 Irish, one UK, of which UK has some misinformation. But before I used Irish fb group most conflicting info was/is between manufacturers, retailers and you tubers. I now find best source of info is to search Irish fb group.

    However what I’m mainly wondering is a solution to guide newbies on right path. Re leaving the advice to manufacturers…for example washing. How would that work when you’re washing different brands in same wash? Some brands say 40 degrees, others 60. Other brands recommend their brand of detergent for their nappies. Then there’s retailers saying don’t use bio with cellulose or brightener, or eco egg saying eco egg is fine for nappies.
    Id like a solution for newbies but not sure manufacturers/retailers currently cater for needs of users??

    Currently I think what you really you need to do is talk to someone with few years experience using cloth with more than 1 kid.
    But, if like me, you decide to try just with the Internet as help, then it’s waaay too difficult for someone accustomed to the ease of disposibles, which I think is most people.

    The expectation should be set out from the start that cloth, currently, is more like a journey of discovery then a quick swap with disposibles. The cost savings should be emphasised for the 2nd kid, in Ireland anyway.

    Anonymous
  • Here here!
    And good luck with everything!
    I have enjoyed reading all your blogs and shall miss them!

    Emma Baker
  • Thank you so much for this, I started using cloth just a couple of months ago and have found myself getting caught up in the information and advice overload that are these groups. You make such valid points about it turning something that should be so simple into something that sounds so complicated – I have been feeling like I need a degree in laundering recently!

    This is just what I needed to read to give me the confidence I need to continue on my cloth journey, and to rave about it to others too :)

    Victoria

    Victoria Atkins

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