Our Low Waste Parenting Journey: Cloth Nappies and Wipes
in Sustainability on Cloth Nappies, Plastic Free
It wasn't until I became a Mum that I realised just how much waste a little person can create. I predicted there would be lots of nappies, plastic toys and food-throwing, yet a few months into parenthood I really started to notice just how unsustainable bringing up a small child can be. There was something about the piles of dirty nappies we took out to the bin everyday and masses of unneccessary plastic in toyshops which really started to bother me. I decided I wanted to change our parenting lifestyle. Once I started looking at ways in which we could reduce our household waste, it actually became quite addictive. My parenting low-waste tendencies started to creep into other areas of our life, such as searching for plastic free veg at the supermarket and reducing the number of shampoo bottles sat in the shower.
We've only been living a low waste lifestyle for a few months and it's still very much an ongoing process, I'm learning new ways to reduce our impact everyday. I wanted to share our journey so far, the changes we've made, those that have been 'why-oh-why-have-we-not-done-this-before' easy and those we are still finding challenging. I mainly just want to say to anyone starting out in their parenthood and/or reduced waste journey - there are alternative options out there for most things and even the smallest of changes can make a difference. Here I will describe some of the low waste changes we've made in the baby change department, mainly cloth nappies and reusable wipes.
Disposable nappies are one of the worst culprits for creating large amounts of waste, in fact they are the largest single-item household contributor to landfill. Each child can go through approximately 4000-5000 nappies before they are toilet trained and with each nappy taking about 500 years to decompose, this is a pretty serious issue! It always felt weird to me to be collecting literal piles of poop in a bin instead of flushing it down the toilet. Despite all of this, when Roscoe was born we barely knew anyone else with kids, never mind parents using cloth nappies. Whenever I brought the issue up with others, quite often all I got back were negative comments about how expensive or disgusting it could be. Like many other aspects of parenting, I don't know why other people feel the need to give their unsolicited advice, especially those that don't even have kids! As a first time parent there were so many things people gave me their unwanted opinion on, from baby names to feeding to nappies to co-sleeping. One year in and I feel I have the confidence to either ignore them or tell them to stop, but as new parents with a newborn who had no idea what we were doing (I've since learnt no-one has any idea), it's very easy to doubt yourself and think you're making all the wrong choices. I digress, the point is that in those first few months the thought of using cloth nappies just felt like a huge hurdle on top of all the anxiety and stress we were already experiencing as new parents. Since then I spent months researching the use of cloth nappies and connecting with people online, I found a number of websites, blogs, videos and communities all dedicated to low waste parenting and I finally realised that switching to cloth nappies could be done with relatively little extra effort. In the end it's turned out to quite possibly be my favourite change we've made so far during our zero waste parenting journey.
After scrolling through what felt like dozens of cloth nappy brand websites, I decided to order a couple of Bambino Miosolo nappies and see how we got on, I was soon ordering a few more. These nappies are an all-in-one design (as against a two-piece containing both nappy and nappy cover) and are one size, meaning they fit from newborn right up to potty training. One key thing to note is that they may not fit small newborns, but should fit all babies from just a few weeks old. They are also extremely easy to use, the super absorbable insert can just be pulled out before washing, they dry really quickly, even when hung up inside, and the insert can be inserted back in seconds, ready to be used again. I store dirty nappies either in a nappy bucket with some water or sometimes just chuck them straight in the washing machine. To make things easier we use liners when out and about to ease getting rid of any solids and boosters during the night for extra absorbancy. At the moment we have enough nappies to cycle through 3-4 days, quite often I will do a wash in the evening on the 3rd day, hang them up before I get in bed and wake up to find them dry the next morning. They are also ridiculously cute and during these summer months Roscoe quite often just stays in a nappy all day, who needs clothes when your nappy is so stylish? Despite my love of Bambino miosolos, there are loads of other cloth nappy brands out there so it's worth experimenting until you find one you love. Some local councils run reusable nappy incentive schemes to new parents, with some offering trial packs worth up to £50, unfortunately I did not know about this when Roscoe was born. If nothing else, I really want to help get this information out there!
Alongside changing to cloth nappies, we've also changed to reusable wipes. Wet wipes can be just as damaging to the environment as disposable nappies and I think last year was a huge wake-up call for everyone when London became the infamous owner of one of the largest fatbergs ever found, unfortunately wet wipes were one of the major contributors of this. Not only can they cause major drain blockages but they have the ability to damage eco-systems wherever they end up. For me, switching to cloth wipes was even easier than that for the nappies in terms of ease. We use Cheeky wipes which are so soft on baby's skin, I use them for bums, faces and sticky hands, and stick them straight in the washing machine after use. They feel wonderfully soft and I've noticed how nappy rash has been pretty much non-existent since we've been using them. I'm really regretting not using them sooner.
Zero waste changing when out and about
It's all very well and good adopting a low waste parenting lifestyle routine when at home, but what happens when you're out of the house away from your beloved washing machine? Be that a nip to the market, going on holiday or even travelling full time for a few months? In terms of day trips, I use a wetbag which has sections both for clean wipes and dirty nappies/wipes. I always wet the wipes before leaving, wring them out to leave them slightly damp and chuck them in the clean section with a couple of drops of essential oil. For any solid changes when out, the flushable liner (with most of the poop hopefully) goes straight down the toilet (as it should in my opinion) and if the nappy is heavily stained I might give it a rinse under a nearby tap, otherwise I'll just put it straight in the dirty section of the bag (with essential oil again to banish any bad smells). Once home, I take the dirty nappies and wipes out of the bag and put them either in the nappy bin or straight in the washing machine. I will also wash the wetbag with the next nappy load. The wetbag I have can fit around 5-6 dirty nappies in so obviously if away for a long day or weekend I would need to store some of them elsewhere. So far we have not used reusables for longer than a day trip, which brings me to my last paragraph.
As a family we travel a lot, Roscoe has been to 8 different countries at 16 months old, yet so far all our trips have been for a duration of 2 weeks or under so we've just used disposables. I am working on changing this habit though. We will be leaving the UK to travel full time for over 3 months in September this year and I would love to create as little waste as possible whilst on the go. I have no doubt this will be our greatest challenge yet in our low waste parenting journey but I am determined to give it a go. I will be documenting how we get on using instagram @sustainablyenchanted and hopefully be writing the occasional blog post too. If you're interested, please do follow along. Similarly, my inbox is always open at email@example.com if you have any questions or just fancy a chat. Let's keep this cloth nappy conversation going!
Thanks for reading,