At Real Nappies for London we are very excited about our new pilot that will be happening in Camden in 2013. In partnership with Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) we will be running local real nappy groups and supporting parents in using real nappies and sharing knowledge and experience of helping children gain toileting independence. But why is this necessary?

Several years ago there was a survey amongst mothers to ask which modern invention had most improved their lives. The disposable nappy came top. (When I told this to a midwife she was astonished “What about the washing machine?” she exclaimed).

The irony though is that although the modern ‘disposable’ (packed with superabsorbent gel) made less frequent changing possible and reduced laundering it also delayed the age at which children potty-trained. Nowadays parents continue to change nappies until the child is around three and a half meaning we actually spend more time now changing nappies (and money) than we did before this marvellous invention that supposedly liberated us! Parents are also having to change wet beds in the middle of the night for longer and washing lots more sheets and duvets since children are also night training much later.

At RNfL our advice may seem surprising as we want to reduce waste, but it is this; you should change your baby every 3-4 hours (except of course at nights) and immediately if soiled. This means at least 5 nappy changes per day (4 during waking hours plus one for 8 -9 hours while sleeping). It tends to be babies who have had infrequent nappy changes who find it difficult to make the transition to toileting independence. This fits in with recent research into the brain development of the 0-2 year old, a period of rapid brain development showing that if areas of the brain are not stimulated (eg the area for bladder and bowel control through feeling the difference between a clean and dirty nappy or a wet and dry one) that part of the brain shuts down.

Is this happening? Before these ‘miracle’ nappies toddlers tended to have bowel control by one year and bladder control by 18 months. Now children are turning up to school in nappies. Children used to be dry at night by 4. Nowadays night nappies for 7-18 year olds are on sale in supermarkets.

Sadly it’s families on lowest incomes that are stretching out the time a child spends in a nappy – because they can, because the marketing says “stays dry for up to 12 hours” and they take that literally to mean “leave on for 12 hours”. We know this because people tell us. When we suggest real nappies will save them money they tell us they only change their baby 3 times a day. We have even heard of parents restricting fruit and vegetables intake to reduce soiled nappies.

Let us be clear. We’re not blaming parents. It’s not that they can’t be bothered to change nappies and to toilet and night train. It’s that knowledge and strategies that were once circulated by health professionals and amongst parents have disappeared. Parents are struggling with poor information and when they don’t succeed they simply turn back to the products available – disposable nappy pants and night nappies.

We believe nappy changing and toddler-led toileting leads to happier babies, happier children, happier families and less waste that will lead to a healthier planet. If you live in Camden and want to join a local real nappy support group please contact alice@lcrn.org.uk or tel: 020 7324 4709 to find out more.

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