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A Smelly Situation

An Aussie Mum's Guide To Eco Friendly Babies: A Smelly Situation

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Smelly Situation

As eco-friendly as I have tried to be, I have only ever used cloth nappies part time.  I bought some Biobaby nappies when Little Man was born, only to find they didn't quite fit.  They sat around for a month and though I ended up using them as much as I could, I didn't have enough to use them ALL the time.

As they were a 0-6 month sizing, he's now very close to growing out of them.  I am building my stash of cloth nappies and I am determined to go full time very soon.  Let's face it, MCN's are EXPENSIVE but they are worth it (financially and environmentally) in the long run.  Plus they are so darn cute!

The biggest hurdle I'm finding is the range.  Not that I can't find something to fit my needs- far from it! There are way too many MCN's to choose from!  The selection is mind boggling so I thought I'd share what I have learned so far.

1. Material
MCN's come in a variety of fabrics, from organic hemp, bamboo, wool and cotton to synthetic cloth like micro-fibre.  You can get a combination of natural and synthetic inners- if your nappy comes with a natural lining and a micro-fibre absorber, you can usually replace this with bamboo or hemp. Natural fabric is important to have against the skin to prevent nappy rash- bamboo is particularly good because of its soft texture and its moisture-wicking  and anti-bacterial properties.  Hemp is another sustainable fabric with great absorbency that is becoming widely seen in MCN's.  Make sure fabrics are unbleached and organic- you certainly don't want chemicals and pesticides against this very sensitive area!

Some nappies are lined with waterproof Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) to stop leaks- this material is petrochemical based, non-biodegradable and heat sensitive.  Wool outers are an alternative to these (if lanolin coated they are waterproof, super absorbent and eco-friendly)

2. Sizing and Styles
My Biobaby nappies and many others come in a 0-6 month size, or 6 month +.  I found this a bit of an issue- they were a little big to use on a new born, and at just 5 months Little Man has pretty much grown out of them.  I now have some one-size nappies- these have clips at various intervals so you can change not only the waist size, but the length.  I know a few people who have used these since birth with success, and they grow quite a way so you should be able to use them right through to toilet training- these would definitely be my preference!

You can also get a selection of colours, and extra features like gussets to prevent poo-splosions, though  have never had a leakage problem with a properly fitted nappy yet.  Some nappies are 'all in one', meaning you don't need a nappy cover and only add extra absorbency as needed..  Others are designed to have a wool or waterproof cover over the top.  Another popular option is 'pocket' nappies, meaning you insert a cloth pad or two into the nappy to absorb the wetness.  You can customise these to suit- many nappies come with two (one longer, one short) so you can add a layer for heavy wetting/night time use.  I would avoid the liners that need to be folded down when bub is smaller- these create a LOT of bulk at the end when you double up.  They are fine from about 6 months though.  You can always buy a few different boosters and liners in various brands, fabrics and sizes to see what fits and works best for you, as these usually sell for $5-10, and usually fit in the majority of branded nappies.

Of course there are the old fashioned square nappies- very cheap, eco-friendly and easy to use once you get the hang of folding (which I never did).  These usually work better with a nappy cover; I believe you can now get covers that hold the towelling in a rectangle shape for easy use :)

Natures Child have a great article on choosing cloth nappies, and the benefits over disposables.

3. Price
MCN's start at about $17 and go up to $40- you can get some really cheap versions from China but I would avoid these.

It's a huge outlay- if I could go back in time I'd buy 1-2 MCN's of various brands each week of my pregnancy, and build up a supply that way.  You can get discounts on bulk buys (usually over $150-$300) but make sure this is the nappy you want!  Soem websites offer deals on 'mixed packs', letting you sample a few different brands.  I really recommend looking at a few brands before settling on one or two.

A really novel idea is EcoCubs Nappy Library, a one month hire service that lets you sample a range of nappies for $25/week.  The hire pack not only comes with the nappies, but wet bags and detergent so you have everything you need to get started!

There is nothing wrong with second hand nappies- they can still be expensive but can also save you a ton of money.  It's a great way to trial brands or build your stash without paying a fortune.  To 'strip wash' pre-loved nappies, run through the washing machine once or twice (continue until any trace of suds is gone) at a hot wash (up to 60 degrees) then line dry- the sunlight will kill any bacteria and gently whiten your whites.  You can also get MCN specific detergents- see below.

4. Extra Bits
I'd really advise that you get either a hose that attaches to the toilet for washing poo nappies, or biodegradable, flushable liners.  I use the liners- you just flush them which means the poo goes straight down the loo.  It's more hygienic and also will protect the nappy if you use any form of bum cream (these can reduce the absorbency of the nappies, and leave oily stains).

Rockin Green is a cloth-nappy-specific detergent.  There are no nasties, but also no oils than will put a film over the cloth and reduce absorbency.  They do a range of yummy scents and also have products like nappy pail deodoriser (these can get a bit stinky as you don't soak cloth nappies, you only dry store until you wash them).  More on this awesome brand soon.

Above all, READ THE DIRECTIONS!  Most cloth nappies are not to be soaked, and you need to use a fairly specific type of detergent to make sure your nappies are as absorbent as possible.  Most nappies need to be washed a couple of times before use for this reason.


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