There are a lot of myths associated with using cloth nappies. Cloth isn’t yet mainstream, it seems only a
handful of parents use it (although I feel the number is growing!) and there is a lack of information. The
information we can find quite often lacks some sort of structure and is frankly confusing and
contradictory! I’m the eternal optimist, I believe cloth nappies will eventually be the norm. After all, our
planet is begging for it! In my venture to help as many parents as possible, I’ve decided to list the most
common myths I hear when I comment that Baby S uses cloth. I will also share with you what I typically
1. Say what? You have to wash nappies? That’s such hard work!
This is the one I hear most often. Obviously, if they’re cloth nappies then yes, they do have to be
washed. Does it imply having more work? Yes. Is it hard work? No, not at all. When it comes to changing
the nappy, simply remove the inserts (or not, depending on the type you use) and put them in a pail or
wetbag, ready for wash day. And that’s it! We’re not talking here about taking your nappies over to a
communal wash basin and wash them by hand. Those days are long gone and nowadays we have great
washing machines that do all the hard work for us (you may prefer to handwash and if that’s the case,
you do you!). All you need do is put the wetbags, unzipped, inside the washing machine (they get
washed along with the nappies) and start your wash cycle. We’d have to do laundry anyway, so it’s
really about setting up a new routine, which is quickly ingrained. Place in the pail/wetbag – load the
machine – wash – dry – set up. I, for one, love putting the inserts inside the nappies and then putting
them all on display. It’s a zen moment for me. This is a routine that adapts to us and not the other way
round. Plus, once you complete the pre-wash it’s perfectly ok to add other laundry to the nappies.
2. What do you do with the poo? Do you touch poo?
This one is often linked to the first myth. I think that those who don’t cloth believe we spend our whole
lives elbow-deep in poo. It’s not true! In all fairness, from the moment we have a child, poo becomes a
constant subject. Has he or she pooed? How often? Was it hard? Soft? And “touching” poo applies as
much to those who cloth as to those who use disposables. If your baby is being exclusively breastfed
then you do nothing with the poo. Yes, that’s right. Nothing. When changing the nappy, simple put it in
your pail or wetbag, ready for washing. The machine will handle the rest (we’ll discuss the wash routine
in another post). This is because this poo is hydrosoluble and so the machine will dissolve it
automatically. For a baby on formula you can use a bio liner, a thin sheet of bamboo cellulose whose job
is to hold the poo. Just flush it down the toilet. You may also use reusable liners, which are washed
along with the nappies. Some parents choose to rinse the nappies and if you, just make sure you
squeeze the excess water before putting it in the pail or wetbag.
And what about when the baby is on solids? Well, the answer is the same! You may use a biodegradable
or resuable liner. Or nothing at all, just thrown the poo in the toilet. The nappies are supposed to adjust
to us and not the other way round. You know those explosive poos that happen with disposables= They
don’t happen with cloth nappies because of the elastics and double gussets in some, which hold it all in.
The elastics at the back keep the poo from rising up to the baby’s neck…
3. They’re too expensive
Reusable nappies, as the name implies are to be reused time and time again so we can’t compare the
price of one cloth nappy with one disposable. However, in the long run, they are far cheaper than going
down the disposable route. The table below is for Portuguese prices, but it won’t differ too much in
other countries, after all, we live in a global market:
The amounts were based on the average number of nappies a baby will use from birth to potty. Usually
this is until they are about 2 and a half, about 60 nappies per week. At the start we use more, but as
they grow the number goes down, which is why this will always be an average. So, 60 nappies x 52
weeks x 2.5 years =7,800 nappies per year. The average price of €0.30 per nappy was calculating taking
the price of high-end nappies (bought in bulk) and supermarket own nappies, also bought in bulk. I
added the two and divided in half. It does not factor in discounts, but even if it did, the difference is so
huge that it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference. To this we need to add the cost of
accessories also – pail (any will do, really), wetbags and liners. The important thing to note is you don’t
have to buy it all at once, you can build up your stock gradually.
4. They are difficult and fiddly to use
When we speak of cloth, there may be a tendency to think of the muslin cloths of times gone by,
secured with a safety pin and made waterproof via some plastic pants that are hard as nails. Modern
cloth nappies are completely different and we’ve come a long way. These muslin or terry cloths are still
around and many people choose to use them for being cheaper and a more natural system. Yet there is
a huge array of systems now that are easy to use, such as pocket nappies, All-in-One’s, All-in-Two’s,
fitteds or contour nappies plus wool or PUL covers and wraps, there’s loads to choose from. I’ll give you
the example of pocket nappies, as per the image below. Simple, isn’t it?
5. It’s all or nothing, I don’t have any leeway.
There’s always the possibility of introducing cloth into your routine little by little. I don’t engage in
fundamentalism, the idea of all or nothing. If the situation doesn’t allow it, then it’s perfectly ok to use
disposables and cloth nappies alternatively. Every disposable you don’t use makes a difference. You can
use diposables until you’re comfortable with using cloth exclusively, until your stock is complete, when
travelling… (I was dying to have a full stock and used disposables too). You may also choose to not cloth
a newborn, as this a time that implies many new routines (or lack thereof) and you may not want to add
anything else to it. And it’s ok!
6. Cloth is for hyppies/crunchy mums /environmentalists/aliens … (choose the adjective that best describes it)
This is one of my favourites. I love the face people pull when I tell them I cloth my baby. Because I don’t
“look” like a hippie, a crunchy mum, whatever (if one can “look” like anything, which implies judgement,
but never mind). Quite the opposite. Those who know me know I look perfectly girl-next-door and
apparently, I should look differently. The fact I’m concerned with the environment doesn’t make me an
extremist and perhaps it’s time we changed that mindset, which still prevails in our society. I recycle, I
use cloth bags for my fruit and veg at the store, my toothbrush is biodegradable, I ride to work and I
drive an EV. Yet sometimes I still use leather handbags, leather shoes (increasingly less and I won’t buy
new products but I’ll hardly throw away what I already own), I take planes and all sorts of things that
wouldn’t fit in with the idea of being a crunchy mum.
7. There are too many leaks
When faced with this I often ask the person “and what about disposables? Haven’t you ever had any
leaks” “Oh, yes, I have”. Then why the double standard, just because it’s still somewhat unknown? Just
to make it clear, there aren’t more leaks when using cloth that when using disposables, quite the
opposite. Have I had any leaks? Yes, urine. Either because the nappies weren’t well fitted (lack of
experience) or because I left them too long and the insert was suited, or because my baby started to eat
solids, drink water and started to pee more … I can identify each and every count and it’s less than the
fingrers in one hand. As for disposables, when I used them… let’s not go down that road. You know
those explosive poos where it goes from your baby’s heels up to his neck and we have to carry 3
changes in our bag? Never happened with cloth. That’s right, never! Because of the elastics on the bag
and double gussets I mentioned earlier on. I once had a change for weeks in my bag, so much so that it
no longer fit Baby S.
I hope that this rundown of the myths will help you make the choice between cloth or disposables. Each
baby is unique, each family is unique and we’re entitled to make the choices of what’s best for us. To do
so, we need information rather than myths or misconceptions. Is there any other myth you can think of?