With all of the activity surrounding Real Nappy Week, it has caused me to think back to our “nappy days”, and all of the trauma and expense they produced!

Just a mere 9 years ago, Big Mac and I nervously embarked on an antenatal course in Takapuna, whilst awaiting the arrival of The Little Princess.

Being first time prospective parents, we were of course, going to do everything “properly”. As a result, we listened attentively when our childbirth educator talked about the benefits of cloth nappies, and the terrible environmental damage wrought by disposables.

Traditional Flat Cloth Nappies

Naturally, we got out our cheque book when asked, and duly purchased 2 dozen flat cloth nappies as well as 2 dozen cloth liners. We congratulated ourselves that this was a cost-effective, and environmentally friendly decision. Furthermore, we had been smart enough to buy only the finest Indian cotton nappies, and not the thin Chinese cotton ones we had been warned were far inferior.

The “Little Princess” duly arrived (albeit 5 weeks early in October 1999) and I then had 14 days in hospital with her, whilst the kind midwives and nurses at National Women’s schooled me in the black art of nappy folding.

By the time I took her home, I could fold a mean nappy, and was even adept at the pin-less version. The Little Princess was so tightly wrapped that she could hardly move, but at least I didn’t have to add insult to injury by stabbing her with nappy pins!

Once at home we fell into a routine. Big Mac would go off to work each morning, leaving me to cope with first-time mum anxiety attacks, then he would return home in the evening, eat dinner, kiss the Little Princess, then retire to the laundry for a good 30 minutes of soaking and scrubbing activity.

As a Sensitive New Age Guy (SNAG), he had decided that nappy cleaning was to be his department. Funnily enough, I didn’t fight him for this privilege and instead enjoyed a few quiet moments between feeds.

However….you could tell there was a “but” coming, couldn’t you?!?!?

In with the Disposable Nappies!

After 6 weeks, Ian was getting fed up with soaking, scrubbing, washing and Napisan-ing. His back was aching, he was getting bored, and his hands were getting red and sore. For myself, I was getting fed up with leaks, nappy rash, and messing around with over-naps as well as nappies.

So we had our first Parental Team Meeting, and unanimously agreed that flat cloth nappies were out, and disposables were in!

Big Mac went out immediately to the supermarket, and purchased the cheapest disposable nappies he could find…. and so began our journey of discovery.

As many of you will appreciate, not all disposable nappies are created equal!

We rapidly discovered that the most expensive (Huggies and Treasures) brands gave us the greatest absorbency, fewest leaks, and lowest incidence of nappy rash.

And so we continued for 18 months – until the arrival of the “Mighty Middle” in March 2001.

With two children in nappies, we then needed to re-address the cost issue. In short, it was costing us a fortune, particularly as The Little Princess had moved up into the more expensive toddler sizes.

Bulk Cheap Disposable Nappies

Luckily, another mum introduced us to a phone based delivery service. We were able to phone in our order, and they would deliver a huge cardboard box of nappies to our door within a couple of days. The cost per nappy was greatly reduced, and the quality was similar to our favourite supermarket brands.

With 2 kids at different sizes, we had to order 2 big boxes – but that was OK as we had lots of storage space, and we certainly appreciated the reduction in costs.

When the Mighty Middle was just 9 months old, I had one of those “whoopsee” moments, and discovered that I was pregnant again. “Sam the Man” was due in September 2002, and I was petrified that I would have 3 kids in nappies! We had had absolutely no luck with toilet training the Little Princess, and it wasn’t until ONE MONTH before Sam arrived that Abby suddenly and miraculously became toilet trained all by herself (dry both day and night) within a one week period. She was 2 years and 10 months old – saved in the nick of time!

Modern Cloth Nappies?

So, I hear you ask – “Why didn’t you try modern cloth nappies?!”

And the answer is…. these were not “modern times” as we know them!

A friend loaned us some MCNs to try, but after a week I gave up in disgust.  At that stage the MCNs were very thick and bulky, and dreadfully slow to dry.  You had to hang them outside, then inside, and sometimes in your drying cupboard for days before they dried out!  (And you couldn’t put them in the drier or else they shrunk!).  They were also bulky on your baby, and not good at stopping leaks.

What about the Environment?

I’d have to say that although Big Mac and I had vague feelings of guilt about the environment, it wasn’t enough to put us off disposables!

What did have an effect though was an action taken by the Auckland City Council when we were living in Onehunga.  Previously each household had been allowed to use a large wheelie bin for rubbish, but the regulations changed, and we were all switched over to little wheelie bins.

There was no way we could fit all of our weekly rubbish bags, filled with nappies, into one tiny wheelie bin!

I have fond memories of Ian disappearing down our driveway in the dark late at night, in order to surreptitiously dispose of our rubbish bags in other people’s wheelie bins!!  (Not sure if this is actually an offence, but we both felt horribly guilty!).

In Conclusion…

I think modern day parents are lucky – the new Modern Cloth Nappies are thinner, stylish, highly absorbent, have few leaks, and are much easier to wash and dry.  It gives busy working parents a cost effective alternative to disposables.  I suspect most smart parents nowadays use a combination of MCNs and disposables as suits your lifestyle – giving you the best of both worlds.

And some Comments from Big Mac….

The days of “3 kids under 3” are now just nightmarish recollections – the worst parts of which were the sleep deprivation, sick babies and …thousands of nappies!!

I have no problem with cleaning up vomit, especially my kids’, but I do admit that I took the easy way out with nappies.  Forget scrubbing flat cloth nappies – I could never get them completely clean!  I honestly wish that these latest Modern Cloth Nappies were around “way back then” – less effort, less cost, AND better for the environment.

For more information on Babies and Nappies visit our related articles.

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Kerry Burridge is mum to three great kids and was Kiwi Families founding Editor.

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