Keeping baby’s bum green
Georgina Guedes does cloth nappies with her first baby. Some are impressed, others think she’s insane.
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“Disposable nappies are the third most prevalent item in landfills, so I think that as new parents, we have a responsibility to minimise that.”

The three other mothers-to-be in the room stare at me agog. I mentally play back that last sentence, and cringe a little. I sound like one of those tree-hugging earth mother types – when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I suspect the other ladies have come to this presentation about the benefits of cloth nappies for different reasons. I’m sure that environmental sensibilities are involved as well, but cost savings are a big driver for one, and I think the other two are just curious.

Whatever the rationale behind it, whenever I tell people that I’m going with cloth nappies instead of disposables, I’m met with outright disbelief from the general population to smug disparagement from the already-mothers. But disposable nappies are only a recent invention, and people have been managing with their cloth counterparts for as long as babies have had bums.

The fact that we are filling the planet with plastic crap catchers should be something that we are all concerned about. Lots of people say that being a new parent is a stressful enough endeavour without introducing five extra loads of laundry per week and bins full of sodden nappies into our lives, but in my tree-hugger evangelical way, I feel that that’s exactly when we should be trying to do our best – when it isn’t easy.

I try to remember to take reusable bags to the shops – with some success. My husband and I manage to remember to turn the geyser off most days – and are planning on installing a timer sometime soon. We recycle our rubbish. We try to buy locally (and have noted that Israeli tomatoes from Woolies are actually grown in South Africa). In general, we try to be conscientious consumers.

Having a baby is a selfish thing to do. We are satisfying our urge to procreate on an already overpopulated planet, so this generation of breeders should be doing our best to minimise the impact that our children have from the first day that they get here.

And so we’ve decided to go with cloth nappies. I know that I’m in for a bit of a chore. The Mother Nature option that we’ve gone for come with biodegradable liners into which the poo can be folded and flushed and which can be washed and reused a couple of times if a wee is all that’s been caught.

They have plastic outers that can be washed, so that the baby doesn’t wet through to her clothes – although I am told that this is optimistic at best. And they’re made locally out of a soft, fluffy bamboo-cotton mix, which appeals to my notion of what babies’ bums should be shrouded in.

They come with a ready-folded insert, so at least, as new parents grappling with sleep patterns and breastfeeding, we don’t have to learn the knack of another new set of nappy folding tricks, and they supposedly fit from birth to potty training – so the upfront investment of R3 000 should see us through around two years of our daughter’s bodily functions.

Of course, the proof of the nappy will be in the using, and although we are determined to make this work, we might have to eat our words – and not our diapers – in a few months time.

“What are the first two most common items in landfills?” one of the ladies asked me.

I had to confess, caught-out-at-being-an-only-partially-informed know-it-all that I had no idea.


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