Why urban Indian parents need to rediscover cloth diapers

Anuradha Rao
Jan 4, 2017 · 6 min read

When my daughter was born two and a half years ago, it was a foregone conclusion that I would be using disposable diapers for her. “What other kind are there?” you would hear me say. There was no way I would give up the convenience and no-leak performance of disposable diapers to use langots/traditional Indian triangular cloth pieces. Weren’t babies more comfortable in a Pampers/Huggies? I mean, which modern mom used cloth diapers anyway? Right?

Fast forward a few months, I was astonished at the amount of diaper waste one tiny baby generated. Trash can after trash can was filled with stinking diapers day after day. With garbage segregation in place in Bangalore, I was very conscious of the landfill waste that was being generated in my home. I hoped that my neighbours didn’t see the bags full of diapers I was sending out every single day! In a city like Bangalore, with hundreds (thousands?) of babies being born every day, could you imagine the number of dirty diapers being generated? What about the whole of India?

Surely, there’s gotta be a better way than this?

And that’s when I got to know about modern cloth diapers. I heard that they were quite unlike the humble Indian langot. They were supposed to be as easy to use as disposable diapers, offering the same dry feeling to the baby and were leak-proof. They were also supposed to be cost-saving, highly comfortable and a cute addition to the baby’s outfits, apart from being eco-friendly of course! Most important fact — they could be washed in washing machines and laundry did not have to be gross!

What was this mythical utopian modern cloth diaper? Did it really exist?

Most definitely yes! I went down the rabbit hole of research into modern cloth diapers. And what I found convinced me to switch completely over to cloth diapers for my daughter when she was one year old. And it did not stop there. One year later, I founded the first modern cloth diaper manufacturing company in India — Bumpadum Cloth Diapers.

Most modern cloth diapers will have a stay-dry fabric touching your baby’s skin. Stay-dry fabric stays dry even when wet, because it absorbs all fluids quickly, not allowing any wetness to remain on the baby.

Each modern cloth diaper can be reused over 100 times. When adding up disposable diaper usage over the first 3 years of a baby’s life, which is the typical diaper usage period, you end up spending 70,000–80,000 rupees and sending 1500 kgs of toxic waste to landfills. Modern cloth diaper usage over the same period can cost as little as 15,000–25,000 rupees depending on how well you maintain them. Yes, the initial cost of modern cloth diapers seems high, but you recover the costs well within a year of using them.

Modern cloth diapers are one-size-fits-all. This means that the same diaper can be used for your baby starting 3 months all the way upto 3 years. The diaper grows along with your baby through the clever use of snaps, which allows you to choose size settings such as extra-small, small, medium and large in the same diaper.

My biggest motivation to use cloth diapers was the eco-friendly aspect. Even considering the water and electricity used for laundry, isn’t it better to use resources that can be recycled/potentially sourced from green energy than fill up land with toxic waste that doesn’t degrade even after 500 years?
I know many parents who choose cloth diapers because they find that cloth is better for their baby’s sensitive skin. Some others use them purely for saving money. On the other hand, moms are known to buy them because they are far better looking than boring white disposable diapers and come in the cutest prints possible. Some may even use them because it’s cool to adopt something new.

Whatever your reasoning is, give cloth diapers a chance. Once you learn the basics, you will find it to be a breeze, even the laundry. Just try once.

Read on to learn more about this amazing parenting choice that your children will thank you for!

Modern cloth diapers come in many varieties. Most modern cloth diapers will have two parts — the waterproof part which prevents leaks and holds the mess inside; and the absorptive part which does the actual absorption of urine. Based on how these two parts are stitched together/constructed, modern cloth diapers can be categorised into different types:

1) All-in-one (AIO) diapers: These diapers are most similar to disposable diapers in ease of use and stay-dry feel. Just pick up a clean diaper and put it on the baby. Both the waterproof and absorptive layers are stitched or snapped together. Most suited for babies who pee very frequently, are active crawling/walking/running, for going outside the home and for overnight usage as AIOs offer the best leak-proof performance.

2) Pocket diapers: These diapers separate out the waterproof and absorptive layers. There is a waterproof part which has a ‘pocket’ or small opening, into which the absorptive layers (called insert) needs to be stuffed into. Once this is done, the entire unit goes on the baby. There is an additional job of stuffing the pocket with these kind of diapers, but it offers the advantage of stuffing however many inserts you want, depending on how much absorbency you want. Staying at home and/or your baby pees less? Just use a pocket diaper with a single insert. Going out and/or baby pees a little more? Use two inserts instead of one. However the disadvantage of pocket diapers is that the inserts tend to bunch up sometimes, causing leaks. Best suited for babies who are not very active yet and cannot walk/run around.

3) Fitted diapers: These diapers are structured like an AIO diaper, but with no waterproofing. They are considered a breathable option especially suited for babies with sensitive skin and are prone to rashes.

4) Flats/Prefolds with diaper cover: These resemble traditional Indian langots or cloth nappies, but have an additional waterproof cover which can be added on top.

Wash care:

Modern cloth diapers will need to be changed every 2–4 hours depending on how often and how much your baby pees. However, they need to be changed immediately on poop. Once used, rinse the diaper in cold water and leave it hanging on the side of a bucket. For poopy diapers, knock all the solids into the toilet before rinsing, using the health faucet/hand sprayer to remove the sticky parts (Sorry, TMI). Collect all the diapers used in 1–2 days and wash it in the washing machine. Any detergent without softeners/additives/fragrances can be used.

Which brand to buy:

There are several brands available in India, most of them imported/manufactured in China. Bumpadum is a home-grown brand offering international quality.
Always trust reviews from other moms. There are many China brands which are cheap but don’t offer great performance, with leaks and bad fit. Join the Facebook group Bumpadum Circle to learn more about the different types of diapers and how to use them from other parents who use cloth diapers.

Where to buy:

www.amazon.in — search for cloth diapers. This will also show traditional cloth nappies, but just scroll until you see images of modern cloth diapers.

www.bumpadum.com

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