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Don't poo-poo washable nappies
by Asa Butcher
2008-05-22 08:15:51
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While taking a break from this on-going Ovi saga currently unfolding in the Finnish press, I stumbled across an article that highlights a recent guide that encourages parents to switch from disposable nappies (diapers to our American readers) to reusable ones. The reason the story caught my wandering eye was due to their use in our household and my own initial reluctance to, well, go hippy!

When my wife first suggested opting for washable nappies, as they are called in our home, I was filled with dread. I imagined our home filled with racks and racks of drying muslin cloth, complicated tie-string systems to hold the nappy on and an increased danger of urinary infections to our daughter. Admittedly it did take us a while to find the right nappy for us, like it usually does for most parents, but once we did I was forced to retract every negative word levelled at washable/reusable nappies.

However, which came first, washable or disposable? It is bizarre to think that washables are still considered the "alternative" choice when they're actually the original choice, even though washables are becoming increasingly popular.

In the beginning we opted for a brand sweetly called Fuzzi Bunz that are offered in a range of 15 colours, including aqua, yellow, bubblegum and Ovi orange, plus, every now and then, a new print version comes out, with pictures of bugs, trains, flowers, etc. We purchased a large selection of the mid-size (M) in a variety of different colours, including the irresistible orange, and began our washable nappy journey. We ordered many because you use many and we didn't want to wash them daily, but the difference is that you use them over and over and over, so if your baby poos seconds after changing you just wash it and get another, instead of throwing it away and digging out another disposable.

We have heard many excuses as to why parents haven't used washable nappies, such as can't be bothered to wash them, yet it is the washing machine doing the washing. How can you be bothered to carry packages and packages of nappies from the shop then and what about the worry of those nappies running out? The best one is when people that haven't even tried them tell how their the boyfriend of their cousin's friend's wife said they're so much work and that's why they wouldn't try them themselves or recommend them to anyone.

The initial financial outlay may be hefty, but it is actually an investment. With disposables you are throwing your money in the bin, but with washables you can actually re-sell them once you have finished. Don't believe me? Well, we used Fuzzi Bunz for more than a year, sold them and made a profit! Yes, we actually made money on nappies. Or if you have many kids they can all use the same nappies and not one single nappy needs to be bought anymore for your newborns!

Eventually our daughter grew too big for the medium Fuzzi Bunz, so my wife began to research other brands instead of moving onto size larger Fuzzis. She found one called bumGenius! and these are even better in a way. Why? Well, with Fuzzi Bunz you have to keep buying new ones as the child grows - although for many kids getting two different sizes is enough - but with bumGenius! you can use the same nappy from birth to the very end. How about that! It is also an easy pocket nappy just like Fuzzi Bunz. Our daughter currently has about 25 nappies in the wardrobe and they are, to put it mildly, fantastic.

To use a pocket nappy, you take a nappy and cotton muslin (or e.g. hemp, bamboo, microfiber or a piece of an old towel even, if you really want to save money) insert, which you then slide inside the nappy. The nappy is then secured with Velcro and the job is done. If you want to use it as a night nappy then you can add some inserts or use different materials with differing absorption rates. You need to be careful about the washing detergent used because some can block the pores in the nappy and ruin them, so do a little further research before doing your first load of laundry.

Washable nappies obviously mean a little more laundry, but with the money you save not buying disposables you easily make up the difference. In fact, we bought a new washing machine with the money saved from buying Libero or Pampers multi-packs. Don't forget that washable nappies are also environmentally friendly, a big plus in this day and age when you consider that one child's nappy years creates approximately 1500 kilos of waste, which doesn't include the production and transportation costs to the environment.

Take a leap of faith and give them a try before you mock them. There are loads of different types of nappies, not just these pocket nappies. There's even the A-I-O (all-in-one) nappy which is just like a disposable, no fiddling with inserts at all and there's many different priced nappies suitable for every wallet. There are some really good brands on the market and using them is incredibly simple, plus you can actually make a profit on the things! They are colourful, fun and easy-to-wash, so open your mind, just as I did, and slap a washable nappy on your child. Very soon it becomes a daily routine that you don't even pay attention to and you wouldn't want to go back.

Thanks to my wife Päivi for all of her input. Here are a few more tips from her:

* They can be very pretty and, if you want to be vain, you can even choose a colour to match clothes. They look really nice under a dress for example, since they look more like a piece of clothing than a nappy.

* Washables are a healthier choice for a child, usually also a better choice for allergic and asthmatic children, plus children with sensitive skin as there's no chemicals, glues and super-dooper-extra-absorbent nasty things that disposables have. Just smell the disposables! They breathe better, especially nappies made of natural materials. This was the #1 reason for me to get washables, and then came the saving money aspect. They are just so much more pleasant in many ways.

* Under a washable nappy the temperature of boys' testicles don't get too high, which can be the case with disposables - can possibly be bad for the quality of sperm.

* Child may get potty-trained sooner than with disposables as with washables a child may recognise the need to pee/poo easier.

* When at the rubbish dump it takes hundreds of years for disposables to degrade and they produce methane gas that contributes to global warming. Let's not forget that disposables are usually thrown away inside another plastic bag.

* To save lots of money you can even make nappies yourself! Woollen nappy pants are very popular and they are easy to knit yourself and cost nearly nothing.

* Probably the cheapest choice is a muslin nappy. When to that you add a flannel insert and a cover to keep the moisture in, the cost over two years comes to about €120 at the lowest. Pocket nappies, A-I-O's, etc., will obviously cost more, but are also easier to use. It's about what you want from the nappies so write down your criteria first.

* Two years of disposables will set you back about €770 (six nappies a day). You can also buy second-hand nappies to save money. No, they are not disgusting and dirty; most nappies are washed in 60C or even 90C. How much money do you get for a used disposable nappy? For some though, washables become almost like a hobby, you get so hooked on them you want to buy lots of new great looking nappies all the time. Then you pay lots too, but then again, you can always sell them again.

* A child uses about 5,000 disposables in his nappy time (in about 30 months).

* At least start using a few washables a day, (those few can be washed with your other laundry) even that helps the environment. If you still want to use disposables only, you can at least opt for ones called eco-disposables which are mostly/partly made of natural materials, like corn.

* Information about washable nappies, database of nappies, sellers and washing detergents, DIY-help, experiences with nappies, downloadable guidebooks and brochures and a popular forum:
In English: http://www.twinkleontheweb.co.uk/
In Finnish: http://www.kestovaippainfo.fi

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Päivi2008-05-22 08:20:03
More info:

Even 50% of a child family´s waste can be disposable nappies. Disposables have become the biggest single household waste. Just alone in the capitol area (pääkaupunkiseutu) there´s about 5200 tons of nappy waste a year.

Manufacturing disposables uses more natural resources than a washable. Research: they take more than three times the material input when manufactured compared to a washable nappy chosen for the research. And then a child uses 5000 disposables during the nappy time compared to a few tens of washables (which again can be given to your next child, but your next child would again use 5000 disposables if you wanna go that route. Mad!). Disposables also “cause” more work as they have to be handled at the tip.

Tony2008-05-22 11:21:27
Did you use any disposable nappies? In what situations and why?

Alexandra Pereira2008-05-22 12:16:20
That's a wise advice from you both! I always thought that when having a child I would use washable too, they have so many advantages. It's not just the money you save, before everything it is the environment and the health of the baby, and it's also about not falling in marketing campaigns of disposables... besides washables were used traditionally and keep being used with great advantages.

Eva2008-05-22 15:54:37
This came in very handy, a good friend of mine just had a baby last week and she is really interested in trying these. I sent her a link to this article :)

Your local tax and revenu2008-05-23 12:55:07
"Yes, we actually made money on nappies."

Please don't forget to write that in your yearly income statement.

Dimitrios2008-05-23 13:06:02
Washable nappies are not necessarily environmentally friendly. You must somehow compare the savings on waste with the amount of water, electricity and detergent that you spend on washing. The answer is not obvious.

Note that there are also environmentally friendly brands of disposables, using biodegradable materials, renewable resources etc. E.g. moltex (I dont know if they are available in Finnland)

Päivi2008-05-23 22:38:34
Water, electricity and detergent have been taken into account and washable nappies are still more environmentally friendly. (You obviously can/should opt for washing full loads, use environmentally friendly detergent, have a machine that doesn´t consume too much electricity and avoid the use of a tumble dryer etc.)

If they weren´t, I´m sure The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (www.sll.fi), Finland’s environmental administration (www.ymparisto.fi) and YTV Waste Management (www.ytv.fi) wouldn´t highly recommend them.

In 2003 The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation wrote on their tax reform proposal that they wanted tax on disposables and they still have it on their website so I´m sure they still think the same:

Here´s a good calculation on how much natural resources washables vs disposables use:
The difference is big.
(Will be happy to translate)

Päivi2008-05-23 22:55:30
Tony, disposables have been the choice when travelling and there just hasn´t been a chance to pack them with us as we couldn´t have carried so much on the train or then on a holiday where you don´t stay at one place that has a washing machine the whole time. That has been rare though, we have carried our pocket nappies around Finland and to UK without a problem :)

But even we have "slipped" a bit and used a disposable for nights for a while now, somehow thinking it may be more comfortable for a "big girl" toddler than a thick washable. But I´ve been thinking even though it´s only 1 per day that makes 30 a month, that´s many in a year and many euros as well :( Time to try a washable for the night me thinks!

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