There's always been a need for nappies and there always will be. But nappies weren't always fabric or plastic, of course. They were once made of animal skins and leaves. Now I’m certainly not suggesting any of us start using animal skins or leaves and if I ever do, please lock me up and throw away the key! I found the journey of reusable cloth nappies and plastic diapers very interesting and thought you might too. Let’s take a look at how modern cloth nappies have evolved from the age of terry toweling and safety pins.
Back to Basics
Cloth nappies were actually first mass produced by an American lady named Maria Allen in 1887. By the late 1800s, babies were wearing their own type of nappy. It was a square made of linen, cotton flannel or stockinet, and held in place with a few safety pins. When WWII started, women took the men's place in factories. They were working long hours without much time at home to hand wash all of their nappies. Therefore, a nappy service was implemented where people would deliver you fresh nappies already folded and pick up your dirty ones. In 1950, a nappy that was pre-folded and sewn together was sold to the masses. That same year, a nappy without any pins and using snaps was sold as the first fitted cloth nappy.
The first disposable nappy was made from unbleached creped cellulose tissue, in the early 1940s in Sweden. Fast forward to 1946 when the first waterproof cover came to life. A lady named Marion Donovan was tired of her wet sheets. She made a cover sewn from her shower curtain. She then cut out a section and created a nappy with her sewing machine. She added snaps, wrapped those snaps around the nappy, and a new type of nappy was born. The disposable nappy spread like wildfire in the 1960s, and became commonplace throughout the world.
This trend remained strong for about two decades until people started to worry about environmental issues, when we realized that billions of disposable nappies are ending up in landfill and remain there long after our children have grown up. However, many people still used disposable nappies, but cloth nappies were emerging from the ashes. Many big names started to join the disposable nappy market. It actually wasn't until the 1980s that the design features of tape that holds on the nappy and super-absorber gel hit the scene. Disposable nappies are fast and easy for many people but at what cost? We don’t know, as we won’t be around long enough to know, but our grandchildren’s children will unfortunately be the ones to find out.
Why the Modern Parent is switching to Cloth Nappies?
Though disposable nappies are a billion-dollar industry, cloth nappies have made a huge boom in recent decades and aren't going anywhere soon. Many parents are switching to cloth nappies as they dislike the lack of sustainability and the effect on our environment due to disposable nappies, as they are usually made from a combination of paper, pulp, polyethylene plastic, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. Australians throw out two billion diapers each year. The US Environmental Protection Agency reports that the bacteria from fecal matter in disposable nappies then goes into our environment. Making sense that many parents are switching to reusable cloth nappies due to these reasons.
Fabrics Used for Reusable Diaper Covers
PUL: PUL nappy covers, or polyurethane laminate covers, like the ones here at Be Bliss Baby Cloth Nappies are one of the most popular diaper covers available. These are waterproof and easy to clean. PUL nappy covers can also be wiped between washing.
Nylon: Nylon is affordable, durable, waterproof, and breathable. It dries quickly, but must be hung to dry.
Fleece: Fleece is lightweight and breathable for the cooler months. It's also durable for many wears. However, many people dislike fleece because it wicks moisture into a baby's clothing.
Wool: This is the most expensive choice of diaper cover. It's natural, can hold water, keeps away bacteria, and is very breathable. However, some people don't like the work it takes to care for wool diaper covers when it comes to washing them.
The Most Popular Styles
There are so many different diaper styles out there I would need to cover that in a separate BLOG! But basically there are All-in-Ones, prefolds, shaped or sized nappies, pocket nappies, all with varies ways to fasten and secure. During our own journey we found the pocket nappy with the outer PUL cover and insert pocket to work best for our little ones, and suggest that if one style cloth nappy doesn’t work for you that you don’t give up and revert to disposables. Rather take a deep breath and try a different style. You might also find that a different style works better for nights than the style your baby wears during the day. This is all part of the journey and is well worth it once you do find the right style.
Things to Know
Once you find the right style cloth nappy that works best for you and you get down your wash routine, you're good to go. Furthermore, you can save thousands of dollars each year per child if you use reusable cloth nappies. Never mind reducing your child's potential exposure to chemical components in disposable nappies.
In the end each parent makes their own choice when it comes to what kind of nappy they use. I’m just grateful we no longer need to use leaves and animal skin to cover our babies bum!
Thanks for taking the time to read this!