Hilary Vick says the Department of Health (DH) needs to stand up to commercial interests and give parents fair access to information about alternatives to disposable nappies 

I’m very disappointed about the reply (see it at the end of this post) I’ve received from the DH.  I wanted to find out the possibility of sending information about reusable nappies to mothers in a particular London borough with their Maternity Exemption Certificates.  All expectant mothers receive this within a few weeks of registering their pregnancy with their GP.  It seems to me an ideal way to inform expectant mothers about reusable nappies.

By the way, you may be scratching your head as to why a local initiative like this needs approval from the DH.  I agree, this is ridiculous, especially as it’s the local authority that covers the cost of nappy waste and children arriving at school in nappies – but that’s how it is, I’ve checked. 

I admit I expected a negative response.  I expected them to say it couldn’t be done.  I didn’t expect the reason to be that people are informed enough already about real nappies by the DH via the Choices website.  It’s so ridiculous.  If you’re talking about giving parents choice about alternatives to disposable nappies it’s a nonsense.  

Not only do disposables take up huge space on the shelves in the supermarket, but supermarkets discount the product aggressively to lure sleep-deprived customers to their stores.  What’s more Pampers can afford to give free samples in the Bounty packs given out by midwives throughout pregnancy and sponsor the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).  In addition most maternity units tell women to bring disposable nappies with them.  The other thing that normalizes disposables is that collection & disposal of nappy waste from households is completely free.  What’s more  if you put in the words ‘nappies’ or even ‘reusable nappies’ into a web search, Pampers comes up top.  Indeed if you put in a search for ‘potty training’ Pampers comes up top frequently too.  

Where is the nappy page of the Choices website when you search for ‘nappies’ on the internet? If NHS Choices was a company looking for business and its income/survival depended on getting found they would be dead and gone. In fact I’ve just done a search.  The ‘Which’ guide to nappies came up on the 6th page.  I gave up my search for the nappies page of the Choices website after page 11 when I found this story in the Daily Mail:

PS  I don’t blame parents.  I blame the nappy companies that irresponsibly misinform parents about how and when to potty train because of the financial benefits for them.  I  believe in the free market and minimum state intervention but I think this is a case when even Adam Smith would say the state needs to reign in the greed of the free market.  But is the state itself now reliant on the income it gets from tax on nappy waste?  What a mess we’ve got ourselves into since a weak government caved into the demands of the disposable nappy industry and allowed it to frame the nappy debate in May 2005 “No nappy system is better environmentally.  It’s up to parents to choose the nappy that best suits their lifestyle.”

Here’s our potty training advice.  It has been approved by a leading pediatric continence adviser, June Rogers MBE, BA, MSc, RN, RSCN

The Department of Health believes that new parents should be aware of the choice between disposable and washable (reusable) nappies.  However, there are no plans to provide information about washable nappies with the maternity exemption certificate.
The Department regards the choice between disposable and washable nappies as a matter of parental preference.  Information about nappies, including washable nappies, is available on the NHS Choices website and can be accessed by clicking on the following link:
This link includes information about the difference between the disposable and washable nappies and includes an indicative cost breakdown for both.  In addition, the page includes a link to ‘Go Real’, the advisory site for washable nappies ( http://www.goreal.org.uk ), which contains a comprehensive guide to the benefits of using washable nappies.

I hope this reply is helpful. 

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