Us­ing cloth nap­pies helps save the Earth – and your wal­let, too, say these mums who choose not to put their ba­bies in dis­pos­able di­a­pers.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Us­ing cloth nap­pies helps save the Earth – and your wal­let, too, say these mums.

Wan Jia Ling was look­ing through some old pho­to­graphs last year when she came across a pic­ture of her el­dest son that gave her pause.

Her tod­dler, Shi Yi­huan, had ar­ranged about six empty di­a­per boxes in a row to make a “bul­let train”. These high-speed Shinkansen trains are an icon of Ja­pan, where their fam­ily was liv­ing at the time.

Jia Ling and Yi­huan, now 3½ years old, had ac­com­pa­nied her hus­band, Dr Shi Chuang, 30, to Osaka, where he did his post­doc­toral stud­ies from 2014 to last year.

Look­ing at the photo of Yi­huan grin­ning as he “drove” his make-be­lieve train, the 33-year-old house­wife re­alised that she had even more dis­pos­able-di­a­per boxes ly­ing around: “I thought, ‘Do I re­ally use so many di­a­pers?’“

Inuenced by the strong cul­ture of re­cy­cling in Ja­pan, she re­solved to re­duce waste by eschew­ing dis­pos­able di­a­pers in favour of wash­able cloth ones for her sec­ond son, Yi­fan, who was born six months ago.

She has cut down fur­ther on wastage by us­ing cloth wipes in­stead of dis­pos­able wet wipes to clean Yi­fan’s bot­tom when chang­ing his cloth di­a­per.

“I have to do more wash­ing and dry­ing, but it’s about be­ing eco-friendly,” she says.

Be­sides be­ing “green”, ad­vo­cates such as Jia Ling say the ad­di­tional ad­van­tages of us­ing cloth di­a­pers are signicantly lower costs and lower in­ci­dences of di­a­per rash.

Some ven­dors of baby prod­ucts in Sin­ga­pore have seen in­creased sales of cloth di­a­pers, driven by en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious par­ents.

Rita Kusumadi, the founder of Bumwear, which sells cloth di­a­pers and other en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly baby prod­ucts, says sales of cloth di­a­pers have in­creased steadily since she started the brand in 2002.

Sales spiked by 30 per cent be­tween 2015 and last year, she adds, de­clin­ing to give specic gures.

She at­tributes the rise in de­mand to greater aware­ness among Sin­ga­pore par­ents of the green move­ment.

The US-based Real Di­a­per As­so­ci­a­tion, which ad­vo­cates and sup­ports cloth di­a­per­ing, says dis­pos­able di­a­pers make up 50 per cent of house­hold waste in a house with a child in di­a­pers.

Each year, bil­lions of dis­pos­able di­a­pers en­ter landlls where it takes hun­dreds of years for them to de­com­pose, ac­cord­ing to the as­so­ci­a­tion. It es­ti­mates that nearly 90 per cent of ba­bies in the US and Canada use dis­pos­able di­a­pers.

On its web­site, the as­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates that dis­pos­able di­a­pers will cost about US$1,500 (S$2,042) dur­ing the rst two years of a child’s life. This is based on prices in San Francisco, Cal­i­for­nia.

In con­trast, it es­ti­mates that cloth di­a­per­ing a child over two years costs about US$450.

Grow­ing de­mand

In Sin­ga­pore, most par­ents pre­fer dis­pos­able di­a­pers.

Church worker Lynette Lee, 36, who has three-year-old twins – a boy and a girl – and an­other one-year-old son, says she doesn’t want to try us­ing cloth di­a­pers.

“It sounds trou­ble­some. Feed­ing and clean­ing ba­bies are al­ready in­ten­sive work. Where would we have the time to wash cloth di­a­pers?” says Lynette, who em­ploys a do­mes­tic helper.

How­ever, Abby Lye, 44, the founder of Moo Moo Kow, a home-grown brand spe­cial­is­ing in cloth di­a­pers and other di­a­per­ing prod­ucts such as cloth wipes, says she has seen greater de­mand for cloth di­a­pers, in part be­cause par­ents are be­com­ing more re­cep­tive to­wards the “life­style changes” in­volved in car­ing for and wash­ing the fab­rics.

Jia Ling ex­pe­ri­enced ini­tial hic­cups while get­ting used to cloth di­a­pers.

She or­dered pre-loved cloth di­a­pers on­line, which she dis­carded af­ter they ar­rived be­cause they “smelt quite bad”. Laun­dry de­ter­gent residue on the ma­te­rial is one pos­si­ble rea­son for such mal­odor­ous di­a­pers, she adds.

She still uses dis­pos­able di­a­pers when go­ing out with her kids be­cause this means hav­ing “fewer things to carry” on pub­lic trans­port as cloth di­a­pers tend to be bulkier. Also, Yi­fan’s cloth di­a­per once leaked when she was out with him.

The care of cloth di­a­pers in­cludes emp­ty­ing and rins­ing them when they are soiled.

Jia Ling washes the soiled di­a­pers and cloth wipes in the wash­ing ma­chine ev­ery day and dries them in the sun, which bleaches stains and re­moves odours.

She nds it con­ve­nient to take off a cloth di­a­per and place it in a di­a­per bag for laun­der­ing later. “It’s al­most like us­ing a dis­pos­able di­a­per,” Jia Ling says.

Bumwear’s Rita, who is in her 40s and has ve chil­dren – aged be­tween 10 and 20 – says re­us­able di­a­pers these days are a far cry from tra­di­tional cloth di­a­pers made of muslin, which have been used on gen­er­a­tions of young chil­dren in Sin­ga­pore.

“I tried to cloth di­a­per my rst child, but I gave up within two weeks be­cause main­tain­ing the tra­di­tional muslin di­a­pers was difcult at the time. When there was poo, you had a hard time scrub­bing the di­a­per clean,” she says.

Rita says she started Bumwear – orig­i­nally an on­line busi­ness that now has two brick-and-mor­tar stores – be­cause her third child had a per­sis­tent nappy rash as a baby, which cleared up only when she started us­ing mod­ern cloth di­a­pers.

There are many rea­sons for di­a­per rash, in­clud­ing ex­ces­sive mois­ture on the skin, skin sen­si­tiv­ity, chang or chem­i­cal ir­ri­ta­tion.

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