When I gave birth to my daughter nearly five years ago, apparently the Eco-warrior In me was born too. Now I wish I was one of those mothers who did tons of reading up during pregnancy so I could be armed and ready when the baby came – but I am not. So although one of the early decisions I made was to not rely on disposable diapers if I could help it, it was a decision based more on hope and good faith rather than practical ideas. Thankfully, the inherent wisdom of mothers and the World Wide Web came to my rescue.
For the first couple of months, my mother and I made large squares of my father’s old dhotis (or ‘veshti’), which we folded into triangles and fashioned the simplest nappy with a fold and a knot. We had loads of those – and the best parts of it? They were so soft from years of the dhotis being washed and worn, and super-easy to wash and dry. It was also little cumbersome though, because each time she peed, we would need to change the nappy as well as the sheet she was lying on. We managed with these nappies until my little infant became a little bigger and the home-made nappies just wouldn’t do. By then, I had stumbled upon the magical world of Modern Cloth Diapers.
What are Modern Cloth Diapers? These are essentially thick, absorbent diapers made from fabric (natural, synthetic or a combination) with a waterproof outer layer so the wetness doesn’t seep out. These can typically hold multiple pees, for upto 2-3 hours. If they’re soiled with poop, they need to be changed immediately, of course. The washing might seem like a huge task, but it’s not. If it’s just pee, they can be rinsed off and then washed, by hand or in a washing machine. If they are soiled with poop, the poop is knocked off into the toilet bowl with the help of a bidet or hand-spray and then rinsed, and then can be washed by machine or hand.
But why bother with all that, when you can buy, use and throw out disposables? Here are four reasons to choose cloth diapers over disposable diapers –
- Chemical cocktails: Disposable diapers are filled with a bunch of chemicals like Dioxins, a known carcinogenic and Sodium Polyacrylate, the super-absorbent gel-like crystals which is known to cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. When I found these crystals on my infant’s skin when we used a disposable diaper, I didn’t know what it was, but I was pretty sure these couldn’t be good for her. Babies’ skins are incredibly sensitive, so why would we intentionally put harmful chemical stuff so close to them?
- Terrible for our planet: Most of the commercially available Disposable diapers are not bio-degradable. They contain nearly 90% plastic and that only breaks down into tiny bits of microplastic. This means that once the diaper is used and thrown out, it will most likely lie in a landfill, slowly breaking down into microplastic over a period of 500-600 years.
- Easy on the wallet: If a baby is in diapers for at least 3 years and requires about 5-10 diapers a day, we’re looking at nearly 8000 diapers per baby, and that’s on the conservative side. Given the cost of disposable diapers, you can do the math on what that will amount to. A modern cloth diaper ranges from Rs 800-1200, and if your diaper stash has 15-20 cloth diapers, you’re saving significantly!
- One size for three years: These diapers seem to magically grow with your child! I’m kidding, but whoever came up with this idea is a genius – most of the modern cloth diapers are designed with snaps/buttons so that they can fit a baby from three months to three years – and this is no exaggeration! And when my daughter was toilet-trained, and didn’t need the diapers anymore, I’ve even used the old diapers as swim diapers when she was 3.5 years old. Talk about value for money.
In the next part of this series, we’ll explore the types of cloth diapers. Pocket diapers, all-in-ones, flat diapers, what are those? Stay tuned.