Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Mums sold on modern cloth nappies

Cost, environmental issues and updated design driving parents back to reusables.

Hamilton mother Jennifer Stone is a fan of cloth nappies for 8-month-old daughter Natalie. Photo / Greg Bowker
Hamilton mother Jennifer Stone is a fan of cloth nappies for 8-month-old daughter Natalie. Photo / Greg Bowker

Cloth nappies are making a comeback - but not the bulky bleached-white cloths of the 1970s that required safety pins and perfect folds.

Modern cloth nappies fit as snugly as disposables and feature velcro, domes and other easy openings.

Unlike disposables, they can be washed, and advocates say they save parents thousands of dollars and spare the environment from waste that isn't biodegradable.

Cloth nappy educator Kate Meads is contracted by 30 district councils to explain the advantages of the reusables to expectant parents, in an effort to cut down on domestic waste.

In Auckland alone, 14 per cent of domestic waste is nappies and sanitary products.

In a survey of 1300 Australian parents last year, around one in five said they used cloth nappies.

The survey of 18- to 40-year-old parents found eco-friendly and cost consciousness reasons for the move to reusable diapers.

Mrs Meads said the popularity of cloth nappies had also risen here in the past five years, and she believed as many as 30 per cent of New Zealand parents were using them.

"Obviously they save families quite a lot of money. Secondly there's a lot more environmental awareness because when you have a baby, your waste output increases significantly.

Mums could expect to pay between $500 and $700 for a set of up to 12 top-line cloth nappies, but Mrs Meads said disposables could cost between $3000 and $5000 for a child up to the age of 2 or 3.

Opponents argue the environmental benefits are debatable because of the extra energy consumption used to wash cloth nappies.

It is argued that washing cloth nappies is costly and time consuming and that they leak, but Mrs Meads said it was no more onerous than regular washing and any nappy could leak if it wasn't fitted properly.

There were even flushable liners and a nappy sprayer that washes the contents of the dirty nappy down the toilet, to make life easier.

She recommended parents buy a few trial kits of different brands - there are hundreds - to find which kind suits their baby best.

She previously used cloth nappies at home and disposables when "out and about or on holiday".

Nappy Days general manager Karyn Cray, who sells and supplies reusables, agreed the number of parents using cloth nappies had increased and said demand for the nappies continues to grow.

"There's a lot more people using them than ever before. It's just increasing all the time."

BabyCity Hamilton store manager Lorraine Piercy said more parents were buying modern cloth nappies than before and more were aware of the cost and environmental benefits.

Auckland Council said reusables were helping to cut down the amount of waste going to landfills and it supported hospitals in the region to use cloth nappies in maternity units.

Mrs Meads yesterday began a series of workshops around the country as part of Cloth Nappy Week.

Much to like about 'cute' alternative

Jennifer Stone used cloth nappies for her 3-year-old son Jacob and is using them on her 8-month-old daughter Natalie.

The Hamilton 31-year-old followed her sister, who used them with her two older children, and says she prefers them for a variety of reasons.

"It's great in so many ways. It's more cost effective and you don't use as many rubbish bags. I definitely do like that they're reusable. You're not filling up landfills with disposable nappies."

She doesn't use cloth nappies overnight because her children developed nappy rashes, but during the day she uses the reusables.

Mrs Stone said as long as the nappies weren't on for too long - more than three hours - they didn't leak and it wasn't much extra work to wash them.

"I just like them ... It's a lot cuter to see a little girl running round with a fluffy nappy on under her dress than a disposable."

- NZ Herald

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