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When the Proles were little we used washable nappies instead of disposables.

Most of the time it was not an issue but people fell into three main groups, some would laugh at us for this, some fewer others would get mildly defensive and fewer still would agree and chat about their experiences with cloth nappies.

I don’t really mind to be honest. It’s swings and roundabouts really. I just preferred the idea of washable nappies.
The poo goes into the compost and the old nappies can be washed and re-cycled.
Een the daily soaking and washing could be dealt with in a relatively ecological way, washing with eco-balls and getting a soak recipe from the internet.

Washing nappies is not difficult.

Still.
I have to be honest.

Disposable nappies are just so much easier.
Really, really easy.
I met a Mum who left her child in the same nappy most of the day as long as there was no poo.
‘They come out clean and dry, why would I change them?’ was her question.
Disposable nappies hang around in landfill for fifty years before they decompose.
That is less convenient.

Washable nappies need to be changed regularly.
They are heavy, they smell and the washing machine is on the go all the time.
You need a really big bag to carry them round, into which you need to stuff all the things a twenty first century parent might need as well.

Cloth nappies also make your child’s bum look big, especially if they are of the butter ball variety like Prole1 was.
Huge round baby, his nappy made him look almost spherical.
Cloth nappies are just that much bigger.
So big that modern baby clothes rarely fit them. You need to keep an eye out for the clothing suppliers that will cater for the larger nappy-ist.

Using them is just a mind set.
It is easy and straight forward.
You have to do a wash just about every day and there are some issues around poo that you can’t be too squeamish about, but then as a parent you are genrally shovelling it in one end so you may as well monitor it at the other.
You can become quite an expert too and the changes get quick and slick.
And yes, you feel smug.
Because your child’s poo will not outlive you in a landfill site.

This smugness is tempered by the odd ocasion when you do use a disposable nappy and you realise HOW MUCH EASIER IT IS.

After four years of hauling a bag of washable nappies around Prole1 had achieved moderate control of his functions, as long as you did not tickle him too much (or, for some reason, give him a Slush Puppy) and Prole2 was pretty much accident free during the day and only wearing a nappy at night.

Washable nappies eventually come to the end of their useful life. They become threadbare and a little sad.
If you have ever spent years washing a favourite cuddly toy and mourned it’s slow passing into shapeless, grubby, worn out rag, that is nothing to the terrible punishment carried out on the washable nappy.

I had to make a choice, purchase more washable nappies for what might be the last of the nappy nights with the Proles or save a little cash and go disposable for the last few months.

Washable nappies can be eye wateringly expensive at a first look.
Weighed against disposables the costs come down and I feel they are the better deal.
For what might be a couple of months though, it was a lot of money.

I went for the slightly more expensive bio-degradable disposable nappy.

Bio-degradable disposable nappy.

I imagined the last few months of nappyhood would pass like a dream.

I passed on the disposable nappies to a charity who were actually asking for them (why?) and took delivery of an enormous box of ninety nappies.
These might actually do the trick I thought, perhaps I will never have to order any more.

In fact it took a further three years for Prole2 to be dry through the night.

We also went back to wearing them occasionally during the day for a couple of months.

That is at least one nappy a night for three years.

The compost bin I bought was not up to the job.

I bought another.

And another.

I have four compost bins out there, full to the brim with bio-degradable nappies.

Bio-degradable nappies bio-degrad in seven months.

It says so on the packet.

I have nappies out there from 2010 vintage that are still in one piece.

And before the questions start, yes, I ripped each nappy open in turn (think about that for a second, it takes a certain technique that can only be perfected in situ, you can’t learn this stuff on the streets or from a book) and yes they were layered in with kitchen and garden waste.
The kitchen and garden waste has mulched down nicely.
The biodegradable nappies mock me.

That is not the worst of it though.
They were the wrong kind of bio-degradable nappies.
They were the ones with the silica gel in them.
This is the stuff in most disposable nappies, a dusty powder of crystals that absorb liquid and turn to a soft jelly.

The right kind of bio-degradable nappies do not have this stuff in them.
They eventually compact down in the compost bin and get eaten by worms.

My compost bins would get emptier and emptier as the summer went on.
This year I forked the contents of the bins around, breaking them up a bit and trying to get some air in, then once it had been turned I shovelled it all back in, filling three to the brim and leaving the third one empty for new composting activity.

This was the first time I noticed the amount of gel I had in the bins.
I thought things like:

‘That seems odd’
‘What a lot of that stuff there is’
‘I wonder if worms eat it?’

Naive things like that.

Of course, while we did not have a scorcher of a summer the gel had spent the whole thing inside the compost bins and had to a great degree dried out.

Come the winter and all this rain and I am faced with an incredibly middle class problem.
The gel has swollen up to several times it’s previous size.
Bin number 1, being mostly empty, is fine.
Gel has burst through the door of Bin number 2.
Bin number 3 is dangerously full.
Bin number 4 has lifted off about three inches, like a particularly disastrous attempt to power a rocket with slow moving, gloopy slime. It is at a slight angle and the gel is seeping out all around the base.

I cant get the door shut on Bin number 2. The gel itself has turned really watery but the remains of the un-degraded bio-degradable nappies is holding it in place.
All the other household and garden waste is mixed in to the gel, as it the remains of what I hoped would be Prole2’s contribution to the fecundity of my garden. Most of it is unrecognisable but I still know what it is. What it was. Now it is all a sort of greyish black slime that is making the end of my garden a no go area.

I swear it looks like a low budget 50’s horror in places.

I have tried digging it in but unless you spread it thin and deep it makes the topsoil mushy and slimy in the rain and bubbles up through the grass in the slightest shower.

I am still glad I used cloth nappies though my opinion of bio-degradable has shifted.

Perhaps the should have gone to landfill instead, still, I am fairly certain I can get on top of the problem in the next fifty years.

This, I hope, will bring me back out ahead of the game.

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