cloth nappies

The Gateway Drug

It was the nappies that started it all: my descent into willow-weaving. A lot of people in the cloth nappy world (and yes, it is a ‘world’!) have noted the ‘Blue Planet effect’, crediting David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II with prompting many people to take up cloth nappies. Now, I don’t own a TV (probably an early clue of my willow-weaving tendencies, huh…), so have never seen the series. The initial decision wasn’t even a conscious one – when the Scottish Historian (my husband) and I started planning a family, I think we had a conversation along the lines of “we’ll be using cloth nappies, right?” and “yes, of course”. It was probably the least controversial parenting decision ever. (Far more heated discussions occurred over the number of middle names the Little Weaver would have). I don’t know why but I’d always assumed this was something I’d do – perhaps because my mum often talked about using Terry towelling nappies on me and my brothers.

However, it could all have ended there, with nothing to write about on this blog, if using cloth nappies had been as plain and simple as it had been when I was born: terry-towels fastened with a nappy pin and, as my Mum puts it, ‘a plastic bag over the top’. Instead, when I started to research I discovered the complexity of that aforementioned ‘world’ of reusable nappies.

The first thing that drew my attention was the variety of ‘systems’ you could choose to use: pocket nappies stuffed with boosters, all-in-ones that basically function like disposables, all-in-twos (huh? was my first reaction), and, yes, the trusty old terry-and-cover combination. Sad as it sounds, this appealed to me immensely. I’m a researcher by trade and training, but my love of research goes beyond historical documents. One of the best indoor aspects of outdoor pursuits, as far as I’m concerned, is the selection of new equipment: mulling over brands, materials, and reviews for that new rucksack or pair of boots. When I bought my first car, I spent hours reading about different makes and models before deciding on one, searching for used sales of that specific car, and then buying it. I am now on my second iteration of the same model car, and I suspect it will take a similarly intense burst of research to persuade me towards any different model in the future. I like taking the time to choose and then finding something which works. So put simply, nappies piqued my sense of functional geekery.

Something else – which talk of ‘systems’ and ‘all-in-twos’ above might have advertised – which struck me is that cloth nappies come with their own vocabulary. Once again this struck a chord with pre-baby pursuits: ‘stroke side easy’ is a phrase which efficiently communicates something very specific to a rower, but is at least somewhat obscure to the uninitiated.

Of course, vocabularies or languages are nothing without a community to speak them, and in a time in which using cloth nappies is the exception to the norm (rather than the other way round as it was a few decades ago – and hopefully will be again), doing so offers you membership to the ‘club’ of other people making the same decision. The virtual community of cloth-nappy users is a pretty amazing thing: the group I engage with most is ‘The Nappy Lady Pregnancy, Baby & Parenting Group’ on Facebook. A common opening for a post is ‘NNR’ (not-nappy-related), with parents seeking and receiving advice on all areas of life.

Cloth nappies are also simply a lot more aesthetically pleasing than they were in my mum’s days of ‘plastic bag’ covers. Changing dirty nappies is a fact of life as a parent of a baby: you may as well have something nice to look at whilst doing it. (I refer you to the image at the header of this post, of a set of newborn nappies from Baba+Boo). It sounds trivial, but it adds genuine pleasure to my day to have lovely constellations, or adorable sloths, to choose between when returning to the changing table yet again.

So: the potential for geekery, the availability of a parenting community and, yes, aesthetics all contributed to my not just choosing to use cloth nappies, but becoming truly enthusiastic about them. And on that note, you must excuse me, as another trip to the changing mat calls…

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