The author and her children

How a Hamilton mum created a community based on cloth nappies

Cloth nappies are making a resurgence and Hamilton mum Emily Holdaway is doing her best to help families give them a go by starting a pay it forward campaign. 

Whenever the topic of reducing household waste comes up, you can bet one of the first things people suggest is changing from disposable nappies to cloth ones. The ‘why’ is simple: it’s the biggest single change a household with nappy-wearing children can make to reduce their monthly rubbish output – and it saves a packet of cash too. But many people have no idea where or how to start.

Cloth nappies? Oh, it’s too expensive. Too confusing. It seems like so much work. It’s all so… overwhelming.

I get that. It does seem that way. So many options, so many types. So many different prices and different styles. And how do you wash them? How do you put them on? And do they even work? And what about the poo? Do I have to touch poo?!

It’s no wonder people are put off before even giving it a go.

I’ve realised that just blogging about them isn’t really making that much difference. Most of the positive responses are from parents already using cloth nappies; the comments from those yet to try them echo the questions above.

It got me thinking, how can I create change? Cost. Confusion. Apprehension: if I can remove these roadblocks, will people be more open to the idea?

Hey! What if I could offer free nappies?

On Instagram I put the call out: ‘If you have good quality, secondhand cloth nappies sitting around doing nothing, send them to me’. And they did! Boy did they ever, I had boxes of nappies turning up every few days.

Later that week on Facebook, I posted about cloth nappies, throwing out the challenge to anyone willing to give it a try. Nothing massive, no huge life changes. One cloth nappy a day. And, to make it even easier, I’d send them a 2-pack trial, free (just cover $5 postage).

The response was awesome. In the first week I sent out 40 trial packs to parents all over New Zealand!

In fact, the response was so awesome I had to change the way I was doing things, because the time it was taking me to package up and send nappies all over NZ wasn’t sustainable. So I started the Raising Ziggy Cloth Nappy Pay it Forward Facebook group.

Emily’s son

The group is for anyone wanting to start cloth nappies but feeling overwhelmed, and for anyone with spare cloth nappies to find them a new home.

The idea behind the group was to help reduce waste and help make connections. I figured there have to be parents in both categories in the same part of New Zealand, so why not create a way they can connect? It’s also (hopefully) a safe, easy place to ask all of the questions you want without feeling embarrassed. Everyone in the group is either a total beginner or an experienced cloth nappy user happy to share everything they know.

In the first week I received a message from a mum who had invested in enough cloth nappies to use them full time during the day. She said it was something she never would have done without having those first two free nappies to try.

Two months later and the group is at 1000 members with packs sent to over 100 Kiwi families!

The feedback coming in all goes along the same lines:

  • “It wasn’t as hard as I thought!”
  • “I actually really like them.”
  • “I would never have started on my own.”
  • “I can already see a difference in my rubbish bin!”

The cloth nappy of today is a far cry from those our parents used. Funky, colourful, easy to put on, easy to take off. Depending on the brand they retail anywhere from $10 – $40 and there is a huge second-hand market online too, because one of the great things about cloth nappies, is if you have more than one child, you can use the same nappies, saving you even more.

The impact changing to cloth will have both on your pocket and on our planet cannot be understated. The average family will spend roughly $5000 per child on disposable nappies. Per child. And they will throw nearly 6000 nappies into landfill. Those thrown away nappies will still be there, full of poo (which we should actually flush down the toilet before putting the nappies into the rubbish) over 400 years later.

So, if you are thinking about making some changes around the house, why not give modern cloth nappies a go? Take the one a day challenge: one cloth nappy a day. Do that for a year and that’s 365 nappies you’ve not bought or thrown away. Join the group and we’ll help you on your way with a couple of free nappies and all the support you need.

I acknowledge cloth nappies are not for everyone. Not everyone has access to a washing machine. Not everyone has the time to do extra washing, or to hang and stuff nappies. And for some people, life is at capacity as it is, without taking on something that seems so overwhelming.

There is more washing. There will be leaks as you get used to it. There will be a few bumps along the way. So, to make this work you need to come into it wanting to make the change and prepared to do a bit of reading to find the best system for you.

There are avenues to help some situations: WINZ will accept cloth nappy quotes from a range of retailers including Nappy Heaven, Nappy Days, Tweedle Baby & Mum.  NappyMojo offer hire packs. And if you join our Pay it Forward cloth nappy group, then we can help you with free, good quality second hand nappies, plus all the online support you need.

It’s time to make changes to the way we’re living. This is just one way you can do that.

Join the Raising Ziggy cloth nappy group here

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