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Why Kaz Cooke's Kid-wrangling is wrong about cloth nappies

Kid-wrangling is a popular book in Australia. I'm sure its lighthearted look at parenting is a pleasant relief from some of the more intense parenting materials out there. In between the amusement, Kaz is attempting to provide real information for parents. Much of it is probably sound and helpful. When it comes to cloth nappies, though, Kaz is just wrong. Before I start on why, I need to state my agreement with Kid-wrangling that cloth nappy advocates shouldn't go around making judgmental statements about those who use disposables. That being said, advocates of disposables need to do their homework before saying anything about cloth.

 I've just put my nappies on the line . . .

and it was way easier than Kaz would have us believe. We've used cloth nappies solely for four and a half months of Elnathan's life so far (excluding our overseas trip and his first two weeks). Disposables have their place, but good cloth nappies are really not that bad.

Kaz's comments are in italics. My responses follow.

They require far more labour.
If you use pocket nappies like Bumgenius it is very quick and easy. When we were in South Africa we used three different types of Huggies nappies, all with the same result: serious poo leaks that required clothing changes every time. Bumgenius have much better containment and reduce work in this way. Personally, I'd rather change a nappy than a whole outfit.

Soaking and washing them is an unpleasant, tedious task
Many modern cloth nappies don't need soaking. You just have to rinse off any poo at the time of changing the nappy, pop the nappy in the bucket, then dump them all in the washing machine when you feel in danger of running out of them.

They need to be washed with very hefty antibacterial chemical washing powders and in very hot water, and if poo stained they need savage bleaching products to look non-skid marked.
Huh? We don't own any of these products, and our nappies look OK. We rarely wash in hot water, either (shock, horror), and our baby's bot looks just fine.

It's hard to cope unless you have a whizzbang washing machine and dryer.
Our washing machine is fantastic (a Fisher & Paykel Intuitive Eco), but we don't own a dryer. We found it easy to get our nappies dry throughout the wettest Tasmanian winter for fifty years.

Cloth nappies are slightly trickier to fasten.
Only if you use traditional cloth squares! Bumgenius and some other pocket nappies are as easy as disposables.

You'll need:

about 30 to 35 nappies
try 20, I'm sure you'll be fine

about 6 - 8 plastic overpants
Yes, if you use nappies that need them. Pocket nappies like the marvelous Bumgenius don't.

Yes, if you use nappies that need them!

Rubber gloves
Why? Baby poo is not scary.

2 big nappy-soaking buckets with close-fitting lids
Try one, it is enough as long as you're not planning to soak your nappies (an unnecessary and annoying process).

bleach and antibacterial soaking powder
What are those things? We don't own them. The sun does the job.

a washing machine with a hot function
Handy but not strictly necessary, as long as you live in a climate where they'll get some sun.

antibacterial washing powder
Huh? We've purchased one box of ecostore powder and it is still going. With Bumgenius you are specifically required to use environmentally friendly detergent that doesn't contain enzymes, etc, and to use it very sparingly. If you don't, you're no longer eligible for the one year guarantee.

lots of clothes-line space and fine weather or a big clothes dryer
Neither are necessary. You can dry them inside if the weather is yuck. This is especially true of traditional cloth nappies, as they are thin cotton squares and dry quickly.

When I read Kaz's comments, I'm not surprised so few people use cloth. If I thought it would be like that, I probably wouldn't either. Kaz argues that using cloth is not necessarily an environmental improvement. If they are used in the way she describes, I agree. What many people forget is that you don't have to do cloth in the traditional way. Hey, it is 2009!

Susan  – (October 29, 2009 at 11:42 PM)  

This post made me laugh. I couldn't agree with you more. Wow, they make it sound like a hyper-specialized practice, just to cloth diaper! Bleach? That's bad for cloth diapers. 30+ diapers?

Father's Grace Ministries  – (October 30, 2009 at 3:51 AM)  

I had a good giggle at Kaz Cooke's comments too!

I use the old style cloth nappies with a snappy clip and plastic pants at home during the day- we are home most days.

While they aren't quite as good leakwise as bumgenius, I find them quite proficient. There's a few blow out stories we weren't laughing about at the time!

I prefer a warm wash, with a cold rinse, and use Homebrand Napisan. It's pretty easy, even with us being on tank water.

My only gripe is finding a brand of plastic pants that don't split down the seam so quickly. We've only ever bought the cheapies, and I think they lasted longer when we had our eldest 7 years ago.
We line dry, unless it's raining, and then we use the dryer.

Susan  – (October 30, 2009 at 12:19 PM)  

Dappies are the best "plastic pants" option. They are quite economical, but well-made and last.

Sherrin  – (October 30, 2009 at 12:49 PM)  

Wow, those Dappies are cheap! We've bought Bummis covers, which are fantastic but much more expensive.

It is great, Claire, that you manage even on tank water. No one can say, then, that you're straining water resources - you're only using what you're able to collect!

Susan  – (November 3, 2009 at 3:15 AM)  

I love Dappis as an economical option, but I do find that wrap covers like Bummis are better. That's why the vast majority of my covers are wrap-style (I can make them myself for $2-2.50 each. But for plastic pants, Dappis are best!

Faith  – (November 3, 2009 at 7:34 AM)'ve never heard of the book but...well, wow. that's all I can say.
I LOVED cloth diapers (we don't call them nappies like you all over there :) ) altho I do confess I never had to take care of them....we chose a wonderful, inexpensive cloth diaper service that featured organic cloth diapers.....I miss those days...well, sort of! They are now 16 and 10. Enjoy EVERY MINUTE with your baby....the days really do go by so fast....
(i also used disposable ones for camping and between ages 12 month and 22 oldest was toilet taught early and my youngest was almost 3 so she used the disposables a bit longer).
Many blessings to you!!

Sherrin  – (November 3, 2009 at 5:26 PM)  

Wow, Susan, you must save a lot of money due to your excellent sewing skills! Well done.

Hello, Faith, we are thoroughly enjoying our little boy and I keep reminding myself that he won't be this chubby, cuddly little baby for ever. All the sweet baby noises etc. - we want to appreciate every one! Thanks for the reminder.

Yvonne  – (February 17, 2010 at 6:54 PM)  

I use cold water wash no problem, poo stains mostly fade/disappear in the sun.

If you can say drying the nappies was ok in the winter we just had then it does certainly prove that point. The key thing is you had a type of nappy and heater set-up that dries well. Some of the fitted cloth nappies i had drying inside in early spring took about 3 days to dry (but that's in winter sunshine inside).

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