That’s the question that was fired at me (Hilary Vick) on Radio 4’s You and Yours last Thursday. My response was that it’s because disposable nappies are promoted in the hospitals via free samples and vouchers in the Bounty pack, via the National Childbirth Trust (the sponsorship money from P&G helps the NCT’s work but surely association with the respected NCT charity brings P&G more sales of Pampers) and they are so visible and easily available in the supermarkets. This makes disposable nappies ‘normal nappies’ and most of us like to follow the norm, especially when we’re feeling insecure because we’ve just had a life-transforming experience; like having a baby!

Under these circumstances the surprising thing is that so many parents use real nappies, right? And I’ve asked lots of you why you do it. And usually it’s because it makes you feel good. You love the fact that you’re not sending all that nappy waste to landfill. And you also tell me you do so much washing when you have a baby that washing nappies doesn’t feel like a big deal.

And that’s an important point. As two of the Swansea mums on You and Yours said, even the offer of a £100 incentive doesn’t get them over the thing that really puts them off; washing dirty nappies. Indeed, research by Go Real (the national real nappy campaign), funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programe (WRAP) said fear of the ‘mess’ of washing nappies is the main barrier to people opting for real nappies.

But is washing nappies messy? It’s true babies poo a lot in the first few weeks (if you can call that mustard coloured curdled milk poo. It doesn’t even smell unpleasant, it just has a sort of sweet yeasty smell.) But within a few weeks many babies only poo once a day or less. That means most nappies are only damp. But how can we could get that message across?

As many of you know, 10 years ago I set up a nappy laundry service in London. Most people sign up because they are afraid of the washing or don’t have the space to dry nappies. What happens is that about 50% of the people who sign up to use the laundry service find out – from their own experience – that after baby is weaned (about 6 months) there are only about 5 nappies a day and most of them are only damp. So they stop using the laundry service and wash them at home.

So let’s get these messages out this Real Nappy Week:
1 most nappies are merely damp
2 using real nappies makes you feel good
3 you’re not a disposable nappy parent; you just wanted everything to settle down before you got started on real nappies, right?

And by the way, wet nappies do not cause nappy rash, as said by one mum who contacted You and Yours. If your baby gets nappy rash when using cotton nappies you need to find out the real cause.

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