“The terry nappy brigade (or washable nappy brigade) like the breast feeding brigade is just another stick to beat new mums with,” said actress and mum of triplets, Jackie Clune on Jeremy Vine’s lunchtime BBC2 radio show, last Thursday (20 Oct 2016.) I’m really sorry that Jackie* (who is currently playing Julius Caesar in an all female cast at the King’s Cross Theatre) feels like this.
For the last 20 years I have been watching parents spend far too much money on disposables and struggle with getting their 3 and 4 year olds out of them. In 2003 I set up a business, Nappy Ever After to help people use washable nappies and find out if they worked for them.
It hasn’t been easy to get the message out there: there has been a virtual media blackout on talking about washable nappies and potty training in an informed way because the disposable nappy companies spend big money on advertising space. Even the BBC doesn’t like to say anything that does not reflect public opinion, even if that ‘public opinion’ has been bought by huge multi-national corporations.
But this nappy news item, despite what Jackie Clune said above, turned out to be different. What was supposed to be a story celebrating the life of Valerie Hunter Gordon, the ‘inventor’ of the “disposable” nappy, became an item about the benefits of the modern washable nappy and the problem of nappy waste in landfill. Hunter Gordon’s daughter even called the programme to correct the view that her mother was the inventor of the modern “disposable” and thus responsible for the nappy waste nightmare. Hunter Gordon’s invention, the Paddi was a bio-degradable pad that sat inside a washable nappy cover – a very different product to the single-use nappy that contains super-absorbent material from polymers known as sodium polyacrylate.
You can hear the Jeremy Vine show nappy item here, fast-forward to 1 hour 9 mins.
For the record, the real nappy industry is a small percentage of parents who have enjoyed reusable nappies and who want to share their knowledge. We give information and sell washable nappies because we have found them better for us, our wallets and most importantly for our children.
*Jackie, you asked on the show, what’s the point of giving up the convenience of disposables when wars are being waged around the world. That thought has occured to me, but sadly, there is nothing I can do to stop the wars. However I can help reduce nappy waste. I can understand that real nappies may not work for you, but please don’t disrespect us with ill-informed cliches: the other London nappy laundry company, Number One for Nappies was started and is still run by a father of twins (black and not middle-class.)
As people who are privileged to live in a land of peace it’s our responsibility to act in ways that work for us. We can also try to increase the demand for single-use nappies that do not contain SAPs and could be composted locally. I talk about this here. That could be the best solution we know about for now, along with better knowledge about potty training as publicised by Kandi Burruss. Humanity is at stake as shown by another theatre company, Complicite in its ground-breaking show, Encounter.
And Jackie Clune, if your triplets are still in nappies I’d be happy to give you a set of gNappies to try out on one of them. Even if you only use washables some of the time you’d be reducing waste and you may even discover that you love them. Actually they can be used with disposable inserts and are not unlike the product invented, so long ago, by Valerie Hunter Gordon.