How To Switch To Cloth Nappies (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Almost 800million disposable nappies end up in Australian landfills a year. But, there is an alternative – says Amy Molloy.

"You won't last a week!" This was the standard reaction I'd get whenever I told people, during the third trimester of my pregnancy, that we planned to use cloth nappies instead of disposals. The naysayers were often baby boomers – including my mother – who remember the days of folded cloth, bleach buckets and safety pins. Luckily, as I discovered, the world of MCN (modern cloth nappies) has come a long way since then. So, why aren't more parents using them? Almost 800 million disposable nappies end up in Australian landfills annually and the plastics in disposable nappies can take 200 to 500 years to break down. Want to reduce your baby's footprint but don't know how to begin? Here's my foolproof cloth nappy system that even time-poor Mamas can master.

Start Small. I've heard stories from parents who tried cloth nappies on their newborn baby, sprung a leak and decided never to try again. The problem is standard cloth nappies are generally too big for tiny babies which is why some brands offer a range just for newborns. It might seem a waste buying a newborn size, only to upgrade, but we opted for the Close Pop-in Starter Pack and my daughter still fits them at five months old. Don't feel pressure to start from day one. When she was born even the newborn nappies were too big for her at first so we made the switch from disposables when she was three weeks old.

Two is Better than One. When buying cloth nappies you can opt for an all-in-one product or a two-in-one 'snap in' system (an outer nappy with a bamboo 'sanitary towel' that clips inside it). Although the all-in-one nappy might seem simpler I recommend the two piece for one main reason – it saves on washing! Unless my baby has a blowout I can usually just change the insert rather than the entire nappy. How many nappies do you need? Every baby is different, but we have six outer nappies and twenty inserts on rotation. This means I only have to wash them at the end of every second day and they air dry overnight.

Keep it Clean. You can buy a contraption called a Little Squirt that attaches to your toilet and allows you to wash excess from the inserts before putting them into your nappy pail. But when I showed my husband the price ($89!) he went to Bunnings, bought a shower head attachment and made his own. It turns out he's not the first crafty parent to have that idea. I would, however, recommend investing in a good nappy pail. We have theUbbi pail. It cost more than our pram but traps odours like a nuclear bunker. If I ever get a whiff I put a washable breast pad in the bottom (another eco mama must-have!) with a few drops of Tea Tree oil on it.

Find a Compromise. You have a baby – now is not the time to aim for perfection. Instead find a way to make your cloth nappy system work for you. In my experience, cloth nappies are more inclined to leak when saturated, so when we're hiking or on long car journeys I'll use a disposable. But, I opt for Thankyou: Baby because 100% of the profits go to support child and maternal health programs for families in need (they've also just brought out a cloth nappy range). Another option is Eco Originals which are 80% biodegradable. I aim to be 90% cloth which works for me.

Be the Change. Like anything in life, using cloth nappies can be a chore if you see it as such. Instead, I personally take an odd sense of pride and enjoyment in the process. There's something deeply satisfying about seeing a line of clean nappies drying in the wind (and thepatterns!). I've also been able to inspire four mums in my social group to make the switch too. There are even education packs you can download for childcare centres. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me. The truth is cloth nappies are more complex than throwing a nappy into your red bin. But, for me it's the norm – why don't you make it yours?

Amy Molloy is a journalist, author and ghost-writer. Her latest book, Diary of a Digital Nomad: How to Run Away with your Responsibilities is available on Amazon and iBooks. Tweet Amy @amy_molloy

[Images: Shutterstock and Bambino Mio]

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