In those days when we were growing up, the only option our moms had for our soiled behinds was cloth nappies. You know –those white square nappies that used to be folded into a triangle then pinned on our hips with a humongous scary binnie (safety pin). I know that since then, cloth diapers have metamorphosed into more comfortable ones that are well padded and even look like fitting underwear -though I know many moms in Kenya today still use the original cloth nappies of them days.
Despite this advancement, disposable diapers seem to be the order of the day and are the preferred option for many moms that I know of. I don’t actually know anyone who uses cloth nappies as such. Myself, I use them occasionally on Kitty here and there, but certainly not regularly. Why do I use disposable diapers? Purely because of the convenience. Period.
So it was interesting to come across one mom the other day, who swears by cloth nappies. Her name is Nthenya, and she is mother to a 2 year old daughter, and is expecting her second born in November this year. This is what she shared:
MT: Tell me about your preference for cloth nappies.
Nthenya: Environmentally, disposable diapers are not fully bio-degradable. The chemicals they put in them are meant to absorb moisture, keep the nappy from falling apart and stop things getting too stinky. But they are not safe. In Europe, parents have access to disposables that don’t contain any chemicals and are fully bio-degradable -you can actually put them in your compost pit and in a year or so, there will be very little trace of it. It is largely for this reason that I use cloth nappies.
By the way, nappies with poop can’t be composted as there is a risk of spreading disease. Only wet ones can be composted and the nappy has to be a brand that says it can be put in the garden compost (though not the ordinary compost pit we learnt about in agriculture lessons).
I think it will be a long time before we see these kinds of disposables in our markets and which will not cost half our monthly salary! I hope though that this will soon happen in Kenya.
MT: Is there any particular regimen you follow in washing cloth nappies?
Nthenya: Even though cloth nappies are a pain to wash and they can stink up the house especially if the taps are dry, I still prefer them. On days when water is scarce, I keep them soaked in tea tree and lavender solution in a bucket with a lid until water returns (I also do this when I find myself busy and don’t have the immediate time to wash them).
After they are well soaked, I wash them in hot water, avoiding detergents and bleach because those too can cause damage to a baby’s bottom or cause the fabric to age too fast. I then dry them in the sun to kill off any nasties that were not killed by the tea tree oil, as well as to remove poo stains. This way I’m sure of what’s going on my baby’s bottom.
Nthenya: Yes I have and this is occasionally when we have serious water issues. When I use them, I make sure I change baby every hour or so and coat the bottom in a thick layer of nappy cream or coconut oil. Disposables are wonderfully convenient but until the time when we can buy the good environmentally-friendly disposables locally, I will stick to cloth nappies.
So those are Nthenya’s reasons for why she uses cloth nappies. Who else uses cloth nappies like her, and what are your reasons?