Why our family converted to cloth nappies

The majority of babies born in NSW in 2015 were in Sydney's west and south-west.
The majority of babies born in NSW in 2015 were in Sydney's west and south-west. Photo: Keith Miller

OPINION: Having two babies means twice the love and giggles - yes we're having finally giggles in our house - they're the best! But it also means twice the poos and wees.

The average baby has his or her nappy changed about 6000 times in the first 2.5 years which means that my twins will use about 12,000 nappies. That's a lot of bum wiping!

As every parent knows only too well, nappies aren't cheap. Even if you buy them on special or online it's still a whole lot of dosh you spend in the first years. And it's a whole lot of rubbish, too.

The average full nappy weighs around 200 grams, so if we stuck with disposables we would produce a staggering 2.4 tonne pile of rubbish. That's almost the weight of an Asian elephant made entirely out of dirty nappies.

According to "The Nappy Lady" Kate Meads council figures indicate that disposable nappies make up 11 to 14 per cent of domestic waste.

Disposables also have a big environmental impact through the manufacturing, transport and chemicals they require. Over 130 kg of wood, 20 kg of petroleum products and 4 kg of chlorine are used to produce disposable nappies for one baby per year.

We want to raise our children with an awareness to care for the world we're living in and don't want to produce more waste than necessary. I can still count the things we have bought new on one (maybe two) hands. Most clothes are hand-me-downs or from sales, and the big items like cots or the buggy we bought off Trade Me.

When I was pregnant I went to a Waste Free Parenting workshop by the Nappy Lady. She's great and makes using cloth nappies sound super easy and a no brainer, so I really wanted to give them a go. But when my girls were born at 34 weeks we had other things on our minds than cloth nappies.

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Back then, even newborn disposables were massive on their tiny frames and when we tried on the smallest cloth nappy we had, they were twice the size of their wee heads and their skinny chicken legs were way too small to fill out the holes.

Then, to be honest, we forgot for a while. We were just too busy looking after our babies that we got used to lugging home big packs of disposable nappies which we went through in record time.

About a month ago, we realised what we were doing and thought it was time to give reusables another go. And thankfully the nappies that we have finally fit now.

Life with two babies can be full on and we all want to avoid any extra work wherever possible. So although I really wanted to use cloth nappies I was a bit worried it would all be a bit too much.

I thought that washing them would be so much work. Well, we happen to own a machine that does the washing for us. When we take off a dirty nappy I put it into a bucket of water. Then in the afternoon I pop the dirty nappies into the machine, let them run through the rinse cycle, add the mountains of bibs, onesies and the odd T-shirt or socks from us big people and wash them all together. When their daddy comes home from work he hangs them up. Takes 10 minutes a day. Yes, we have to wash every day, but we have to wash every day anyway, and it has become part of our daily routine and doesn't seem too much of a hassle.

But I do get that the whole cloth nappy thing can seem a bit daunting. Do you really want to invest in fancy nappies if you're not sure that you'll stick with them? In the last five years so many different brands and models have popped up that it seems almost impossible to chose. 

There are pre-folds, snap-ins, pocket, all-in-ones and fitted nappies, and all have their advantages. What I took home from the Nappy Lady's workshop is that there isn't one style that is the best, but different people have different preferences. She recommends to buy a couple of different ones and see how you go.

We went with a big bunch of pre-loved cheap pocket nappies for $25 from Trade Me and it turns out they work really well for us, so we bought some more.

The girls were first a bit skeptical, and the first nap with the big bulky nappies on was a bit disrupted, but now they're used to them. Hardly any leaks, no nappy rash, no complaints. I'm still surprised how easy it is.

Overnight, and when we go out, we still stick to expensive disposables. I don't want to risk anything that might tamper with their precious sleep and it's all about making things as easy for us as possible.

Apart from making you feel like a super smug do-gooder, cloth nappies do save you a whole heap of money. How much exactly depends on a lot of factors but it's up to $4000 per child. Saving $8000 in the first 2.5 years of their lives makes a big difference.

- This is an edited version of Jule Scherer's blog post which first appeared on Stuff NZ. Follow Jule's journey through the highs and lows of a twin pregnancy and motherhood on Facebook and Twitter.