Isabel Webster, a Sky News presenter and mum, has been taking part in Sky Ocean Rescue’s plastic-free challenge - and has fallen for her Baba+Boo reusables (who can blame her...)
One thing we noticed from the reactions to Isabel’s journey is the myths and pre-conceptions that still surround cloth nappies. So here’s our guide to the reality of cloth, as told by mums and dads (and with a little bit of science thrown in too). A huge thank you to all the parents on the Baba+Boo Facebook Hang-Out who took the time to share their experiences of using cloth nappies.
Myth 1: “Baby stays wet so they get more nappy rash with cloth nappies”
Mum Emma pointed us to a research study by Bristol University that indicated that the type of nappy isn’t a factor in nappy rash, while Mum Penny knew of research that found that fleece liners keep baby drier than a leading disposable brand. Our mums weren’t having any of it either:
“The biggest reason we went for cloth this time was big brother's terrible rash. Little brother has gotten away so much easier”. Anna
“My eldest hasn't had nappy rash since we switched to cloth two years ago”. Steph
Myth 2: “Isn’t the detergent and water used to wash them also really bad for the environment?”
When it comes to water usage, reusables perform better than disposables. Disposables are made of plastics and wood pulp. The manufacturing processes for these use a lot of water - producing enough disposable nappies to last you from birth until potty training will use more water than you will use by washing nappies.
And it’s not just about the amount of water. The waste water from washing nappies is relatively harmless - especially if you use an environmentally gentle washing powder. The waste water from the pulp and plastics industries contains heavy metals, solvents and dioxins that are pollutants and toxins.
Myth 3: “They leak more than disposables”
This one caused uproar among our cloth-using parents - and the consensus is that cloth nappies are far better at containing poo. With cloth, the ‘up-the-back’ becomes a thing of the past (more about these later…). There was some discussion about leaks caused by not putting them on properly, and also about reducing the absorbency by washing them incorrectly (eg using too much powder), but overall parents were clear:
“HELL NO! The only poo leaks I've ever had with four babies have been in disposables!” Amy S
“My daughter was a disposable baby and forever had up-the-back poos. My son is a cloth baby and never had an up-the-back.” Lucy
"Nope! Has only happened once in 19 months with my girl. And that was due to poor fitting.” Amy M
“I had less leaks than in disposables.” G
Myth 4: Do reusable nappies stink?
They absolutely don’t. Keep them in a bucket with a lid, or a waterproof closed bag, and you’ll be fine until wash day. We can’t say much more than that!
“I keep my reusables in a bag in the utility room, which gets full sun and has the boiler in it. No smells from there. The disposables bin that we keep in the downstairs loo with no heater - that needs emptying every day otherwise we know about it!” Jane
“Disposable nappies stink more than cloth!” Kate
“No, but disposables in a dustbin for two weeks do!” Joanne
Myth 5: “We’re worried that it will be stress, mess, extra work.”
For this one, we went straight to the parents:
“Less stress as won't run out of nappies. Less mess as no leaking up the back. No extra work as the time spent stuffing our pocket nappies we would have spent doing extra nappy shopping in the supermarket.” Steph
“I probably only do an extra two loads of washing each week. The time this takes is probably the equivalent of taking the rubbish bin out every day.” Victoria
“Both me and my husband work full-time; we have time for cloth. I do two washes a week. Takes all of two minutes to put a wash on and maybe 10 minutes to hang them up! And like everyone said you don't run out of nappies!” Joanne
Myth 6: “Once you take into account the cost of washing them, they cost more.”
This isn’t even one of those “Well, it depends on how you look at it…” or “Well, it’s close, but…” questions.
We did a detailed article on the cost of cloth versus the cost of disposables. We were really kind to disposables and really harsh on reusables. Every recent analysis of this is clear: using cloth will save you money. A lot of it.
Myth 7: “I don’t want to get my washing machine full of poo”
Sometimes, we just need a bit of science to make us feel better! The good people at Which did an investigation which showed that the key to killing bugs is a good laundry detergent. Really, your machine won’t be full of poo! Or, as parent Fiona points out: “Dump poo down the loo and rinse. Easy!”
Whether or not you use reusables, when you’ve got a little one then washing poo is just something you have to do - remember those up-the-back-poos? Plus, being a parent changes you. Washing poo will worry you far less than bananas or weetabix. Honestly.