A Green and Thrifty New Year’s Resolution: Real Nappies

I have just become a father for the first time.  For the past fortnight I have been reveling in the excitement of parenthood and counting my many blessings.  It’s a cliche, but it truly has been the most magical time of my life.

Including the nappies.

Switching our baby onto real nappies has given me a way to make the dirty part of fatherhood cleaner, economical and maybe just a little bit fun.  It’s our new year’s resolution to stick to real nappies and I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain why.

Before looking into real nappies, I was under the impression that they would involve toweling squares and safety pins.  It didn’t look easy, but determined to reduce our waste and resource use, we were willing to give the toweling a try.

It was only a couple of hours with the Nappy Geek that showed that my preconceptions about real nappies were badly out-of-date.

The real nappies of the 21st Century come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs.  Extensive thought, product development and design work have gone into these innovative products.   They are shamelessly designed to appeal to the consumer – the parents – by making life as simple as possible (imitating the disposable shape) while sporting designs to play on every cute kiddy theme from nursery rhymes to super heroes.    With hindsight it now seems obvious that nappy design should have advanced – it’s a long time since men could only choose between shades of grey Y-fronts!

Good design is a bonus.  It was the environmental benefit of using real nappies that sparked my interest.  Overall an Environment Agency life cycle analysis found that if laundered in full loads at 60C or less and not tumble-dried, a child using real nappies for the first 2.5 years will have a 40% lower carbon footprint than one using disposable nappies.  Disposables also generate vast quantities of landfill, estimated by Veolia to be 8 million nappies a day, or 3% of our total landfill waste, in the UK.

There are also powerful economic arguments against disposables.  Real nappies will save parents at least £500 on the first child (depending on brand of nappies), with greater savings if used for subsequent children.  That’s a solid contribution to the first holiday kitty.  It’s also worth considering where that money goes.  The upfront cash you spend on real nappies will usually go to small manufacturers and designers, rather than to vast supermarkets or multinationals like Pampers owner P&G.  Another economic consideration is the potential reduction to council tax that would be achievable if we could cut landfill by 3% (unlikely that council tax will ever come down, but theoretically disposables account for a tax charge we all pay to cover costs of councils disposing of the nappies in landfill).

Advocates  of real nappies also point to earlier potty training and a more effective crash mats for unsteady toddlers as later advantages.

But for me there are two other crunch arguments for real nappies.  Firstly as a new dad I am trying to make our baby’s early life as safe and healthy as possible.  Her every murmur is fretted over.  She travels in a cocoon of blankets.   Baby-friendly cosmetics are diluted to the point where they are as potent as skimmed milk before they meet her snowflake soft skin.

Following that thinking through to her clothing, breathable natural fibres make sense.

Secondly real nappies are heart-warmingly cute.  Yes, it’s deeply subjective, and we all think that our children are cute, but do we all think that the nappies they wear are adorable as well?

Elsa 'Wiggo' Meredith wears Tulip Rump-a-rooz.

Elsa ‘Wiggo’ Meredith wears Tulip Rump-a-rooz.

Time will tell if the laundry will pose a problem as our little angel’s alimentary canal starts moving through the gears.  For now real nappies are fun and economical and give us peace of mind on the effects of plastic on her young skin.

While the heating is pumping and the lights burn dusk till dawn to illuminate our nocturnal feeds, real nappies are an great way to reduce the impact of our new baby on her world.

They also add an interest level to nappy changing that I never believed was possible.

Whether you have a new-born or a bigger bundle, is this new year the time to put the fun back into nappy changing and try an alternative to the waste and expense of disposable nappies?

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