A look at cloth diapers from down under

My Story: Cloth Diapers

contributed by Caroline

My kids are out of nappies (as we call them here in Australia) now. I just read your article, and thought I'd give some extra feedback if it's helpful.

I have an almost three-year-old and a five-year-old. We used disposables for the first five weeks with the first baby and about the first three days for the second (whilst in hospital) and one holiday for a week when we didn't have easy access to a laundry. Other than that, it's been cloth all the way.

My reasons were environmental as well as money. When I had my first child, my husband was on a fairly low wage, and of course, I wasn't working, so money was very tight. I also had the objection to filling up landfills, which was a big motivator.

I saw your comment about soaking nappies. I never soaked. I dry pailed. A good bucket with a lid keeps any smells in. I had two buckets, one for wet and one for soiled nappies. The wet nappies were just put in the bucket with the lid on. With the soiled, I used to tip the poo into the loo and then put the nappy in the bucket. I'd wash every second or third day, and before washing, I would put a bit of water in and rinse those soiled nappies and then tip the dirty water down the toilet. Then the wet and rinsed, soiled nappies would be put in the machine together with a cold wash, a quarter of the normal detergent, and no bleach. I line dried most of the year (gotta love Sydney weather!).

I didn't just use standard flat nappies. I bought prefolds from the US, and bought and made my own fitted nappies with Velcro. So I daresay I spent a bit more on my two children than you did with your five, but even so, I think I spent around $1000 AU for the two of them. Compared to $30 AU a week for four years on disposables, which would have been approximately $6000 AU. So even spending $1000 AU upfront saved me $5000 AU ($7000 US)!

I did a cost calculation on washing after so many people had said to me, "Oh, but you spend so much on power and water running the machine to wash that you may as well buy disposables." It worked out to under $1 per week. This would, of course, increase if the drier was used more, but even so, this has to be cheaper than plastic nappies.

The other cost saving that made a massive difference was wipes. I overlocked (serged) about 30 double-pieces of cotton flannel, and they made great wipes when wet with a little water. I couldn't justify buying the packets of wipes. Plus, when I did start out with the disposable wipes, I found I'd need five to six of them, but with a cloth wipe, I could do the same job with one to two wipes. They just got washed with the nappies. So $5 AU for the flannel and an hour with mum's overlocker (serger) compared to how many packets of wipes?

The other advantage, which I put down at least partly to using cloth nappies, is the fact that my sons were both out of nappies so much earlier than their friends. My first child was out of day and night nappies (and reliably dry day and night) by two and four months. It took him another two months to get used too doing poos on the toilet. He'd ask for a nappy to do a poo for a while. The second child was out of day nappies by two and three months. He was in night nappies for around another two months, and we had a wet bed most nights for a few weeks. Then he just worked it out by two and six months. Compare this to children starting school at five years old still wearing nappies at night! I just don't think I could cope with that.

While I'm not going to have any more kids, and haven't had to change a nappy in almost six months now, I am still passionate about getting the message of cloth nappies out there.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@stretcher.com

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