Sunday, 12 April 2009

Cloth nap unionist

Some days it feels like parental choices only make life harder. Public or private schooling, breastfeeding or formula-fed, natural birth or caesarean, immunized or not, and now disposables or cloth. All of these options have their adherents, and a few in each camp aren’t afraid to be pushy, rude or even nasty about why their view ought to prevail for us all.

Cloth seemed like the obvious choice for us, before Wriggly arrived. We’re stereotypical urban white liberals, who like to think our individual efforts to recycle, compost and use public transport can make a difference. Surely we wouldn’t be the kind of people who would willfully choose to sully Clean Green New Zealand by contributing tonnes of disposable nappies to landfill?

Well, as with many of these choices, the answer is both yes and no. A harmonious blend* if you will.

A newborn baby is a demanding beast and frankly there’s enough laundry already without adding nappy inners, outers and overnight booster pads to the load. Especially if you’re parenting alone, you’ve had a caesearean and shouldn’t lift anything remotely heavy, you’ve got other kids to look after, breastfeeding and sleep deprivation are exhausting you, your partner is working long hours, or you simply can’t afford the outlay. There are many good reasons why parents would choose the convenience of disposable, and some of these apply to my little family.

One of the pro-cloth arguments that annoys me is the money-saving theory. Yes on the face of it cloth nappies could save you money, a lot of money, over the course of the several years your baby will wear them. But the outlay required is rather extreme and thus beyond the reach of many. Cloth nappies can cost $20 each. And that’s without the additional laundry costs, and putting a monetary value on the time of the person doing all that washing. I’ve worked out that I’ll need to use each cloth nappy around 80 times for it to be cheaper than disposables, and even with a booster pad they may not be absorbent enough for Wriggly overnight. I don’t think we did break even on the cloth nappies we used along with disposables when Wriggly was smaller, especially given how long the suckers take to dry after laundering. Round and round and round they went in the dryer in the persistently wet winter we had in Auckland last year.

But I do want to get our boy back in cloth if possible. We’re hoping to get a bit of a cash injection soon and I’d like to put this towards kitting him out in the appropriate outers and inners and covers and whatnot. Like so many of the green initatives we are encouraged to take up, my family can do this because we (will, hopefully,) have the readies. Otherwise we’d be continuing to spend more, and make more rubbish, with disposables, because it’s far easier to spend $2000 over 2 years than $400 in one day.

* Or dialectical materialism if you prefer.


Anna said...

I've always felt bad about using disposables, and probably deserve to feel bad! I made a half-hearted attempt in my daughter's first few weeks of life, but she had very bad thrush so we moved to disposables, and never moved back.

I justified this to myself (half-arsedly) by telling myself that nappy creators have a responsibility to make their product more green (and they have over the last twenty years or so, but because disposables are now used in much greater volumes, they'll no doubt be causing more damage than ever). We found that, with two people working, cloth nappies made life very difficult and ate into the little leisure time we had, and we decided to trade off our sanity against the environment. :-(

muerk said...

Just do whatever it takes to get you through the day. Parenting is hard, hard yakka and if people want you to use cloth nappies tell 'em the time of day that they can come over and soak, rinse, wash and dry them.

I actually used old fashioned cloth for the first six moths of my first boy, but then his wees just got to much and disposables held way more and meant the cot stayed dry.

Since I had four boys in five years, I never went back to cloth. I never had the time too.

hungrymama said...

I did old fashioned cloth nappies with my first but only in the daytime and at home because I didn't trust them not to leak.

With my second I used modern cloth. I was lucky to have some loaners from a friend for the first six months so was able to build my stash up slowly. The thing that made it easy was I discovered about "dry-pailing" so I didn't need to soak them and I bunged the nappies in with other stuff (either whites or towels usually) so it only really added up to about an extra load a week. #2 tended to get a rash within about an hour of wearing a disposable nappy but was mostly fine in cloth so we had little choice but to make it work. It can be a big outlay at first though and it can be really hard figuring it all out so, while I am a bit of a nappy-nerd, it's not something I make a big deal out of.

homepaddock said...

I've often wondered if the campaign against disposables has more to do with the fact that it's still probably women who handle more of the nappy changing than men than any real difference in the environmental impact.

Does anyone worry about the impact of disposable razoers?

Cloth nappies are expensive upfront and I found they became too thin with repeated washing to be used for more than one child.

But I used them for my children at home and disposables when we went out. But my third child had a brain disorder and once he got past about 18 months, like Murek, I found that disposables were able to contain more.

Do what suits you and your babies and make an effort to look after the environment in other ways which don't threaten your sanity.

Someone in Christchurch started composting disposables which would lessen the problem of adding to landfills.

Anna said...

I saw a news item on the Chch composting initiative on TV - I've been waiting and hoping that it would become available nationally. Does anyone know if that's happened?

Nikki said...

Anna - nope. The website states that they will get the service up and running by early 2009. Unfortunately the 'our services' section of the website is still a big fat empty.

Homepaddock - disposable razors distress me. As do tampons, pads, incontinence products, disposable breastpads etc etc.

I'm a cloth nappy advocate (a little zealous some might say) but I'd like to think I don't judge those that use disposables. Who I do judge is disposable nappy companies and the way they market their products. They aren't quite in the same vein as formula companies but just their motivation creeps me out. $$$$$$

Martha Craig said...

I've used a mix of nappies with my three kids. I don't tend to think about the money saving side of it, because that would make me feel guilty when I use disposables, and I don't like guilt. I do love cloth because there is something extremely ick about a rubbish bin full of pooey nappies, and with each child the cloth nappies have become easier to use.

Also, money wise, I've never found them to cost much more than a few dollars each after you resell them on Trademe.

Moz said...

What is the alternative to disposable razors?

I can only think of two - grow facial hair (and scissor trim) or the appropriately-named "cut throat razor". For someone like me who has slightly dodgy fine motor control it's hard enough to avoid cutting myself with a multiblade razor that has wires and guards to keep my face in place. I expect that a straight razor would be close to a single-use product for me. Having a beard isn't really an option, I don't have enough facial hair and the social downside of it would get to me anyway.

So, hints'n'tips?

Anna said...

Fair point, Moz - human beings do have to use stuff. And cloth nappies aren't environmentally neutral either - they may be better than disposables, but they still need to be washed, etc. I follow Home Paddock's way of thinking on this - be environmentally friendly in the best way you can, but make the compromises needed to preserve your sanity.

moz said...

Anna, there's also the "natural" system of just letting them roll round naked and poo where they will. Allegedly they quickly learn not to poo in the wrong place.

I haven't actually met anyone with a baby who's done that, but I've met a few who believe that it's the best way. Your call... :)

Nikki said...

Moz - I think you'll find the modern term is 'Elimination Communication'

I think the basic tenet is why nappy train in the first place? Because that's what we are essentially doing... teaching them to soil nappies and then re-teaching to go in the toilet. It's quite bizarre.