Nappy rash?

I spent a pleasant afternoon last week with Nicola Broadsmith who runs the Isle of Wight Real Nappy Network. I also learned some pretty mind-boggling stuff about disposable nappies and probably a lot more about them than I had intended. In the last comprehensive council waste survey published ten years ago disposable nappies were the single biggest item in household waste accounting for around 16% of landfilled – weighing an estimated 923 tonnes per year. Just think about that for a moment.

So what is in a disposable nappy? Well it is made out of three parts. The outer as you will know is plastic, while the inner lining is virgin pulp (no recycled paper here thank you – we need to chop down new trees for our babies’ bottoms). And the stuff inside the virgin pulp – the stuff that soaks up the baby’s wee – is sodium polyacrylate, a powder that can absorb 500 times its weight in water. It was also banned for use in tampons  in 1985 because of its link to toxic shock syndrome.

Nicola also told me about some research that showed that the temperature inside a wet nappy – i.e. one where the sodium polyacrylate was busy doing its stuff – was a degree hotter than in a non-wet nappy. And, she added – we would not wear plastic pants – so why do we put them on babies?

So what are the alternatives? The reusable nappies that Nicola showed me were nothing like the terry towelling versions secured with a mammoth safety pin that had instantly sprung to mind. And there were lots to choose from. The Isle of Wight Real Nappy Service offers a rental system for nappies for newborns. And once baby is ready to move on she offers a try before you buy scheme to work out which is the best nappy for you and your baby. For this you get eight to 11 different brands of nappy to try over ten days – and a 60 to 90 minute consultation with Nicola who will tall you everything you need to know.

Nicola is thorough and knowledgeable in the way that she runs the service – and says she won’t leave until the parents are absolutely clear on the products and how they need to be washed.  The cost also stacks up to. By using real nappies rather than disposables you can save upwards of £800 compared with a prestige brand like Pampers – even taking into account washing costs. And if you do get on with your reusables – they will save you even more if you have baby number two.

To find out more about the Isle of Wight Real Nappy Network visit