Early in 2010 I was heavily pregnant with my first child and looking forward to using the gorgeous Modern Cloth Nappies my partner and I had ordered several months ago from Baby Beehinds. I think I had bored all of my staff with my irrational nappy love, so was extremely delighted when I heard the question “Can I bring cloth nappies to your centre?” Finally, someone else who shared my passion for cloth! In the six years I had been at the service we had not once had a request for cloth nappies and until they were on my personal radar I had not really thought about it. After happily agreeing to have our first cloth bottomed toddler at the service I began to think more and more about it. Why hadn’t we had cloth nappies before? Was it because no-one uses cloth anymore or was it because we don’t encourage the option of cloth nappies in our promotional material? Was there any real reason why we didn’t promote the use of cloth nappies?
For weeks after, I couldn’t stop thinking about cloth nappies and their use in child care services. I spoke to several other Directors and also to friends who use cloth nappies and found that many services did not have cloth nappies as an option. I wondered what the reasons were for this. The Fourth Edition of Staying Healthy in Child Care gives recommendations for how services use cloth nappies if families wish to provide them and it makes it sound like a pretty unpleasant or difficult option, stating: If a parent provides cloth nappies for theirchild’s use, ensure the parent also provides‘plastic pants’ to help prevent faeces, andtherefore germs, from leaking. Wearingclothing over plastic pants also reducesthe number of germs from the bowel beingtransferred to surfaces in the centre. It is a good idea for the nappy and theplastic pants to be covered with clothingat all times. Parents need to be aware thatcloth nappies with urine and/or faeces will not be rinsed or washed at the centre. Theyare to be placed into a plastic bag andlaundered at home.I have now been using modern cloth nappies on my own child since March 2010, without “plastic pants” and am yet to have a “leak” as mentioned in Staying Healthy in Child Care. I think the statement of the NHMRC is outdated and primarily relates to traditional terry cloth squares which are no longer the only cloth nappy option available. This statement also encourages the belief that cloth nappies are somehow less hygienic than their disposable counterparts, a belief that was disproven in an American study in the 1990s that focused on the difference in hygiene in child care environments using cloth and disposable nappies. The results showed that the type of nappy used made no difference and that hygiene levels came down to the hygiene practices of carers.
So with those things in mind, again I wondered, why not? In 2006 our service devised an Environmental Plan and began making changes to ensure we left a lighter footprint on the earth. As I look back now, more than 5 years on, I am amazed that none of us really thought about nappies. However, there is no point dwelling on possible missed opportunities – it is time for action!
We added the following to our Nappy Change Policy:
· Families were to provide 4+ cloth nappies/day for their child (labelled with their name)
· Families were to provide a labelled storage bag (usually known as a wet bag)
· Staff would put soiled nappies straight into the wet bag at nappy change time
· The wet bag would be kept in the child locked cupboard where the nappy bin (for disposables) was kept
· Families were to collect their wet bag at the end of the day and were responsible for laundering
We then made sure that families were aware of their nappying options by adding it to our information booklet that families receive when enquiring about care, and also included it in our monthly newsletter. We felt it was important that families know they have choices at our service. As a cloth nappy user myself, I now understand that it is a lifestyle choice and one that is made very consciously. I know that if I was told I couldn’t send my child to child care in cloth nappies, I would not send him to that service - that is how important it is to me!
While cloth nappies may not be for everyone, I feel it is important that we respect the choices made by families and incorporate them into our services where possible. And just think – there will be fewer nappies in your garbage bin at the end of the day! For services that are already “Cloth-Friendly” I encourage you to visit the Australian Nappy Network website and enter your details into their cloth friendly child care survey, an initiative designed to keep a register for families looking for cloth friendly care.
At a time when many families are focussing on the environmental effects when making purchases, I feel it is an opportune time for child care services to embrace nappy choices and support families who wish to join the cloth nappy revolution!
Providing inspirational professional development opportunities for Early Childhood Educators