I was the person least likely to opt for reusable nappies. Yet I did. Why? The answer is easy. It wasn’t because I was especially environmentally conscious, or because we were on a money saving mission. It was ultimately because Squeak appeared to have particularly powerful bowels and I was left flabbergasted by his exploding poos. Every item of clothing was sodden and I’d need multiple changes whenever we went out. Fed up with the amount of laundry, I’d ask for advice from more experienced mothers. They’d laugh and say “Ahh that’s just how it is! You’ll need to get used to that!”.
No! I’d think. There has to be a better way! After all, what is the point of nappies if they don’t actually contain the contents? I might as well not bother and just accept the material of his clothes taking the hit….hang on. Material…material nappies??
My sister was using cloth nappies and was delighted when I began asking questions. So delighted she went out and bought a load of different types second hand so I could try them all out. My previous investigations had come to a halt because it all seemed so terrifyingly complicated (no pun intended) and I couldn’t understand the difference between a liner and a booster and why the disposable liner as well? What crazy hell is this?
To cut a long story slightly less long, I opted for the mother of all reusable nappies. Terry squares. And did you know they are as cheap as actual chips? I bought 10 in the softest, snuggly bamboo for £30. I found the majority of prefabricated nappies better than disposables, but I still experienced more disasters than I thought necessary. The beauty of terries is that each nappy is individually tailored to the shape of your baby’s bottom and thighs. I initially thought this was a very daunting task. I’m no good at arts and crafts! I can barely cook! But it took only a couple of goes until I was a pro and could whip one up in seconds. And let me be clear – they were absolutely bomb proof.
To answer my earlier bafflement – boosters are for absorbency, liners are to keep bottoms dry and disposable liners are for more solid poos which can be easily tossed in the toilet. I used the origami fold for the inbuilt booster when Squeak was little, and the Gaynor’s fold to cope with his expansion when he was around three months and needed something bigger. Here are some great instructions. I found the key was to leave enough room around the bottom for poo obliteration, and to roll the fabric gently around the thighs for total containment. I started off with only a liner, increasing to one or two boosters with a liner as he got older. Thumbs UP for hemp boosters. Thumbs UP for cutting your own liners out of a fleece blanket for mere pennies.
My favourite wraps were Motherease Airflow which coped nicely with extremely cute, chubby, squashy thighs, and I found four in each size was the perfect amount. They usually only needed washing after an especially explosive poo situation as although they prevented leakage they were still soiled themselves.
My perfect system:
- 10 bamboo terry squares
- 5 cotton terry squares
- 10 cotton boosters
- 5 hemp boosters
- 15 liners
- 4 wraps
- 5 nappy nippas
(If this all sounds good you might as well opt for resusable wipes and an airtight nappy bin too).
There was certainly a lot more washing of nappies, but this easily balanced out the monumental washing of clothes I was previously faced with.
As I hung them up on the line I’d find myself thinking of my grandmother. I’d wonder how she coped with nine children, her first born when she was only fifteen. When she began hanging her nappies out to dry, I’d have been preparing for my GCSEs, cosy in my parents’ house being fed and clothed for years to come. She didn’t have a washing machine. I wondered what her nappy stash looked like, whether she had favourite combinations or whether she was too shattered to care.
Did she ever think her daughter’s daughter would have the option to simply throw nappies in the bin? That she might choose not to, educated, unmarried, and equal, thinking of her grandmother with children at her feet and endless housework stretching ahead. That her simple, difficult life would provide inspiration and the solitary task of washing, folding and drying nappies would forge a link with a world she never knew.