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Being shocked by the number of trash each child starts its life just because of single-use diapers, Anna-Giulia Cescon has made a big swap in her life and decided to use cloth nappies. Read now her story.

The truth is I didn’t question disposable nappies until my first son was nearly a year old. 

When I was pregnant and jumping into some freaks mum on social media talking about cloth nappies my first reaction was “Yech”, usually followed by these doubtful thoughts:

  1. “I can’t imagine having also nappies to wash, our laundry basket is already always full…”
  2. “Seriously? Washing poo nappies with other clothes?!”
  3. “Well, they must be not really hygienic for the baby…”
  4. “How about the energy, water and detergent consumption?”
  5. “They are not really cheap though…”

Then I had T. and I realised the huge amount of waste (i.e. poo and pee) such a tiny cute thing was producing. But let’s do some numbers…

A baby needs roughly 8 nappies a day in his first six months of life, going down to 4 (to be positive) after he/she starts to eat solid foods, and this goes on until he/she masters the toilets, which in our European culture often happens when kids are around 2.5-3 years old. 

So 8 nappies/day * 30 days/month * 6 months + 4 nappies/day * 30 days/month * 24 months = 4,320 nappies between birth and toilet training, per child

 – and guess what? They go straight to landfill, where they take up to 500 years to “decompose”. That’s a lot for our Planet.

When T. was nearly 1 year old, and I was (kind of) out of the overwhelming spinning cycle that is mothering a newborn, I started questioned our nappy choice.

After passing long nights reading and trying to navigate the world of cloth nappies, here is what I learnt in relation to the doubts I had:

1. The maintenance of the nappies

Depending on how many cloth nappies you have, you can make one dedicated load at 60° every 2 or 3 days, which means 2 extra loads per week. It’s actually quicker than any other laundry loads because you just empty the nappy bin in the washing machine, without the need of sorting dark/white/coloured cloths as you (probably) do with regular loads. And no, as long as you buy a decent nappy bin, there won’t be any smell in the house: we used to live in a flat with a blind bathroom, so I can guarantee this.

2. The mixed laundry with other items

You don’t have to wash nappies with shirts, but you can do it if you want to. A simple tactic would be the following: do a quick cold pre-wash cycle with only nappies, then add other white clothes. I often added towels that are ok with 60° washing cycle and add a little bit of per-carbonate as a natural sanitizer.

3. The safety and comfort for the baby

Cloth nappies have organic natural fibre (cotton, hemp, bamboo) that comes in contact with the skin and an outside shield of PUL which made them breathable yet waterproof. This means that, even in the warmest summer, your kid’s skin will never get as hot as when trapped in plastic disposable nappies. On the contrary, disposable nappies are mainly made of plastic, and they have several chemicals (read petrolatum) in them in order to provide high absorbency and the dry-feeling on the baby skin; this doesn’t feel really healthy, isn’t it? Ah, by the way, the same applies to disposable period pads… 

4. The energy and water consumption

Yes, if you consider only the consumer water and energy consumption, cloth diapers require more resources; detergent won’t be highly affected because you will need half a regular dosage otherwise it won’t be completely washed away and “wax” the fibres, with consequently a reduced absorbency power. But let’s look at the production process: it takes nearly 10 times more water to produce disposable nappies than the water needs to wash them (over 2.5 years).

5. The price

A set of 25 cloth nappies will cost around between 250-400 € (depending on the type), but you can buy them second-hand, they can be used for siblings if you have more than one child and even sold to other parents so the actual cost can definitely go down. The average cost for disposable nappies is 0.15€/nappy so the equivalent of 648€ per 2.5 years. It’s also worth checking if government incentives and financial support for buying them.

Once I was convinced about the need to move to cloth nappies, here came the hardest part: which model and which design should I buy?!? 

There are several starter kits available to hire or buy, which are a great way to get started (in Italy they are called “Pannolinoteche”, in the rest of Europe you can just look for “cloth nappies hire”). 

My personal suggestion is to buy one per nappy type/brand in order to understand what you like the most and what better fits your child. I personally loved the old-style “Ciripà” for newborns up to 6 months (really not expensive and dry extremely quickly), while pockets or hybrid nappies were my best choice when my kids began to roll over move a lot during nappy changes. Facebook’s communities are really useful and support in navigating the cloth nappies world.

As a parent, I’m really trying hard to be a good role model and ancestor for my children and generations after them and let them with a huge amount of dirty nappies filling the Hearth isn’t really in line with this objective, I guess.

Hope you find this interesting and helpful!

With passion,

AG

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Italian woman based in Edinburgh (UK). Curious mind, eco-warrior, active Black ally in the making, respectful parent. Hobbies: plants, pottery and painting. Learning in progress: knitting, sourdough bread, white supremacy history... Doing her best to raise two conscious boys (but let's talk about this in 10 years time). Her husband would also describe her as hardheaded and passionate (To which she kind of agrees)

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