New dad and civil servant, Alex Hilton, lives in Brixton with his wife, Katie and three month old daughter, Clemency. Here are Alex’s five reasons why his baby wears real (reusable, cloth, washable) nappies:

1. Lower environmental impact

Katie and I both work in the Sustainability sector and have been trying to minimise our household waste for years, so throwing 50+ nappies into landfill every week was never a viable option.

Naysayers will tell you the increased water and energy usage to clean cloth nappies outweighs the saving in waste – a tonne of nappies on average per child is quite an epic pile of waste! We dry-pail our nappies and every two or three days simply do one pre-rinse followed by a longer, warmer cycle to wash all our nappies, which then air dry. Any bad stains simply get a bit more time in the sun which naturally bleaches them (I didn’t believe the power of the sun could be such an effective cleaner!

2. Better for baby’s health

Women work so hard throughout their pregnancies to ensure their babies aren’t exposed to harmful chemicals, yet as soon as they are born we dress them in disposables with ‘feel-dry’ technology and a little blue line to show how much they have weed. This is only possible with the inclusion of nasty chemicals like sodium polyacrylate (as well as an fluid absorber it’s also used as a fire retardant gel!). Nappies are also typically made of chlorine-bleached materials to make them look more sanitary, a process that produces carcinogenic dioxins and VOCs.

So not only are the chemicals in disposables more likely to give your baby nappy rash and other allergic reactions, they’ve also been linked to a higher prevalence of asthma and problems with immune, endocrine and digestive systems (sources: EPA, WHO and Archives of Environmental Health, 1999).

3. Saves money

We’ll spend a total of £50 on all of Clemmie’s nappies: we bought a reusable wipe kit from Cheeky Wipes (and reusable wipes are another ‘innovation’ that I’m more impressed with than I thought I’d be); we traded our £40 real nappy voucher from Lambeth Council for a stack of large muslins, some ‘nappy nippas’ and hundreds of ‘disposable’ paper liners (which we wash and reuse countless times before disposing of); and we’ve been handed down a few dozen PUL covers and shaped bamboo nappies which we’ll use when Clemmie’s bigger. But even if we’d had to buy these ourselves people sell large bundles on eBay for around £100.

In contrast you’ll typically spend £10 a week on disposables and wet wipes which would amount to £1,300 assuming your baby is potty trained at two and a half. Estimates of the cost of washing come to about £30 per year for the additional loads, insignificant in the mix.

Of course we intend to reuse our stash for a second child, bringing our expected saving to at least £2,500 (potentially a very nice holiday fund!)

4. More flexible

If we need a nappy to last longer (say, at nighttime, or because we’re going to be out and about for quite a few hours) we simply ‘boost’ the cloth with an extra bamboo pad or two, which we couldn’t do with disposables. This works a treat and keeps us all happier, knowing that we won’t be caught short!

5. Earlier Potty training

In great swathes of the developing world babies are dry by their first birthday, and the majority of cloth-bottomed kids in Western Europe & America are still out of nappies by two. This is because they don’t sit against all those feel-dry chemicals so understand at a younger age how their body works & why they feel soiled.

All in all, I’m a convert to real nappies. I love the simplicity and flexibility, the reduced chemicals and most of all the additional money in our budget for other more fun things.


Guest blog post for Real Nappy Week 2018

Alex Hilton, April 2018

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