Cloth nappies | one mother’s personal experience

After my post about environmentally friendly fem-care products, of course next up are nappies. Another rabbit hole! Amazing amounts of non-compostable waste is created by all of our lovely, sweet babies. Looking into eco-friendly disposable nappy brands, or even cloth nappies, is so relevant. One of our readers, Ilja Roomans, a mum of three here in Amsterdam, kindly agreed to share her experiences with cloth nappies. Such an interesting read! I really like how she explains the practicalities of dealing with cloth nappies.

cloth nappies

After the birth of my eldest son in 2005 I instinctively felt I had to breastfeed him as long as I could, and after that it felt natural to feed him biological food. I became more conscious of my ecological footprint. I felt very bad about every nappy I threw in the garbage, even though I only used ecologically friendly nappies. There were so many of them… what a waste!

My daughter was born almost 3 years later, and the thought crossed my mind to look for an alternative to disposable nappies. I knew that cloth nappies existed but I was full of prejudices. I thought that it would be a lot of work and I didn’t even know anyone who had even thought about cloth nappying. With two small kids, my life was very busy, and I started using the ecological friendly disposable nappies again. I found out that even the most ecological friendly nappies are max 60% biodegradable. There was no 100% biodegradable alternative.

And then, when my kids were 7 and 10, I fell pregnant again! This last baby made me even more aware of the environmental problems we face and I decided that even though I can only do a  little, I wanted to live as substainable as I could in the choices I make. I did not want this baby to start his life with a footprint of 22 kilos of garbage per month (!) and I searched for information on cloth nappies again. A whole new world opened up to me and in the beginning it was very confusing. All these types and brands, I had no idea what to choose!

I consulted an advisor of Kaatje Katoen, a Dutch website which is the cloth diaper leader in the Netherlands. Based on that visit I chose a system called Totsbots Peenut. Peenut is an ‘All in One nappy system’ (also called ‘Snap in One’), with wraps made of PUL material (water resistant yet breathable) in which you click a bamboo pad or two. Each nappy consists of one size S and one size M that you can choose, or combine, depending on the age of your baby. In the nights I used Totsbots Bamboozle, which is a double system — a bamboo nappy that you cover with a PUL wrap. It offers the least chance of leakage and is very absorbent.
With a newborn baby the washing is easy. Breastfeeding poo is completely soluble. When they start eating solids this changes, then you use nappy liners that hold the poo and which you just throw away.

When I started, it turned out to be very easy! With 20 double pads, 4 Bamboozles and 8 wraps I have enough products to wash once every 2/3 days. I use a washable baby wipes system called ‘Billies Box’, which works perfectly. I have a bin with a laundry bag for the filthy diapers, and a small bin for the liners. Two laundry bags are handy, so you can use a new one when the other one is being washed. I use a normal 60 degrees program. (An eco program doesn’t work since it uses less water, and with absorbent nappies, you want enough water to rinse them properly.) I use an eco-friendly washing detergent which is recommended to use on nappies.

The pros of cloth nappying include a smaller chance for irritation/rash. Also, babies tend to be potty trained a year younger than with disposable nappies. Unfortunately my baby has a skin that irritates easily if wet, and he got red marks from the elastic. This is the only setback I’ve had to deal with. Changing nappies more often helped reducing the rash, but the marks remained. Then I discovered the Petit Lulu system in which the edges are lined with fleece. For my baby, this worked. So I sold my stash of Peenuts (there is a good second hand market for cloth nappies!) and bought a new stash of Petit Lulu snap in one. My son is almost 2 years old now, and I still use them every day.

Our childcare also uses them. I was surprised to learn that my son is the first baby in cloth diapers there (it’s a green child care in Amsterdam). We simply bring him with 3 extra diapers and a laundry bag.

The advantages of cloth diapers:
– It’s environmental friendly
– It’s cheaper. (My new stash and accessories costed around 500 euro in total; disposables cost around 1300 euro from birth until potty trained.)
– No nasties on your baby’s skin. Many disposables are made using chemicals. Cloth diapers are made of cotton, or bamboo, or microfibre.
– It looks cute! There are so many sweet designs around. It looks so much nicer, especially in summer!
– Children in cloth diapers tend to be potty trained a year earlier.

My advice to people who would like to start would be to start renting nappies first. Every child is different, everything depends on your baby’s posture, how much he or she wees, your personal preferences. You can rent a combination of nappies for a month, and then decide which system suits you best.

Thank you Ilja! This was super interesting to read.

Do you have any experience with cloth nappies? Would you try them?

xxx Esther


Comments (11)

February 8, 2018

Also for my third kid (maybe by the third one we finally get our act together?) I used cloth diapers, Gdipaers actually. In addition to all the great points in this post I supported a local consignment shop by bringing in the clothes my baby outgrew and using the credit to buy Gdiapers. Fantastically sustainable and cheap!

gilly porter
February 8, 2018

Third time round for me too!! Wish I had used them for all 3
babies. I LOVED the cloth nappies (you would never hear somebody saying that about disposable nappies!!) They are
so cute on a baby, work brilliantly and are so much cheaper. The figures are shocking 8 MILLION nappies thrown away EVERY DAY in the UK alone.

February 8, 2018

I used them for both of my girls – loved them – and had no problems getting the nursery to use them. I would recommend finding a specialist nappy seller – for instance online – the one I used had a questionnaire so she could help you find the best match depending on your priorities (eg cost, quick drying, natural fibres, ease of use) – there are many different types and bound to be one to fit. There’s a bit more to learn but it’s really not that hard, and the washing was manageable even when I went back to work. It’s not like it’s a tricky wash where you have to do lots of sorting and folding – you just throw it all in. Washable wipes are another massive saver and actually easier to use once you’re using cloth nappies – everything goes in the machine, rather than separating stuff for the bin.

February 8, 2018

We love cloth diapers. For anyone in the US, I very much recommend DiaperKind. They’re based in Brooklyn, a fantastic woman-owned company, and they make it all as easy as can be. They have a service that picks up dirty diapers and delivers clean ones once a week in NY and NJ. We don’t use that service (wash and dry at home every 2-3 days), but absolutely love them as a store and info resource.

February 9, 2018

I love cloth diapers. It feels good to know that we are helping the environment. Once you find your system, you do not want to abandon them anymore.

February 9, 2018

We’ve been using cloth diapers for our baby (our first!) since she was born — ten months ago. We live in San Francisco and use a washing/delivery service, so our cloth diapers function like disposables for us. We experienced disposables for the first time while traveling over the holidays and were surprised to discover that we didn’t like them! Their function of drawing out the moisture to the diaper caused all of our baby’s poops to stick to her skin like a dry paste, which made clean-up with a squirmy baby so frustrating! I’m so glad to be caring for the environment by using cloth diapers, though it’s also lovely just to feel the soft cotton on my baby’s skin.

February 10, 2018

And for a really sustainable approach, look into Elimination Communication (EC) which can be done part time in combination with diapers. It was so civilized for both my babies and had them out of diapers way earlier because they were never trained to go in a diaper as the default.

March 17, 2018

In this context, I’d like to make aware of the following: I also felt that we create too much waste when throwing away that many nappies. With my second child, on day 1 I started putting her on a little pot (Asia pot), and later on the toilet, too – after waking up and after every meal. Result: significant reduction of the number of nappies used, only pee in the nappy, no creames necessary for the skin under the nappy. Makes everyday life much easier, saves lots of money (less washing of dirty Baby clothes, too), and makes travelling easier! I also find it respectful towards the child not to have her sit in her shit. I assume that our mothers and grandmothers did it this way anyway, because they wanted to wash as few nappies as possible.

March 19, 2018

I agree with Anna. We should also take into consideration that 80% of the babys in the world grow up well without (plastic!!) nappies, only 20% in the western countries wear them since the 1970s – who might be wrong?

Catherine Reeves
April 14, 2020

Hello there,
I have recently moved to Amsterdam and expecting twins! Would love to be able to use cloth nappies on them, however, I don’t want to invest in a load of nappies that then don’t work with the twins. In the article its mentioned renting them, where is this possible in Amsterdam, I know of places in UK but yet to find anywhere here. Any help very much appreciated! x

Esther in Amsterdam
April 20, 2020

Hi Catherine, Welcome to Amsterdam! And congrats on your pregnancy — twins! How exciting :). For nappy renting — just search for ‘wasbare luiers huren’ and you will find a couple of great options. Good luck!
Esther xxx

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