Cloth diapers are an age-old tradition in our country. For centuries Indian mothers and grandmothers have been relying on cloth in the form of old saris and such as reusable, safe fabrics for newborn babies. In focusing on the internal safety of a newborn baby we almost always consider diapers as an important part. And the diapering journey for a newborn always begins with pieces of soft pure cotton materials from our own wardrobe, washed several hundred times to remove them of all chemicals, and then made into simple cloth diapers. This has been our tradition that we have carried forward from generations. But traditions take time and the commitment of effort, both of which are in short supply in our busy world today. With the advent of the nuclear family set up and the internet, traditions morphed into more modern, efficient and convenient solutions to daily chores. And this is how was born the idea of Modern Cloth Diapers, Modern Cloth Diapers as they are fondly called.
MCDs have become a new rage in the market for mothers looking for ‘eco-friendly’ natural diapering. With a well thought out fabric in polyesters and cotton blends, and a unique design that seemed to provide full coverage, these seemed a tab better than the regular ‘langots’ we were used to in our grandmother’s times. For moms fed up with issues of rashes due to chemicals in disposable diapers, these were supposed to be a welcome break.
When I had my firstborn in the US, I remember Modern Cloth Diapers being my go-to choice. In the US we had several cute prints and brands to for selection, and I settled for Fuzzibunz as I liked their nifty sizing tape. I believed MCDs were the right product for India, which is why when I moved back to India in 2011 with a sprightly 8-month-old,I started Bumchum Diapers, at that time, Indias only brand of Modern Cloth Diapers. The sales for BumChum grew rapidly over the next two years with the help of big eCommerce portals lapping up new brands. And I had generated a new interest in moms looking for an alternative to disposables.
Whilst business grew in leaps and bounds, I was not happy with the enthusiasm I received from Indian moms. Very often moms would buy one and never come back for another. These diapers being extremely cute-on-the-tush, often moms would buy them for cuteness more than functionality. Overall these weren’t a go-to choice for diapering. These were the ‘give a break’ item, and I found mothers deflecting to commercial disposables after trying these. Initially only for night time and going out, eventually for the day time daily diapering as well.
These diapers itself was not as modern as it claimed to be.
Not so Modern
The word Modern is almost always synonymous with convenience – which is the biggest feature we value in our busy world today. With less time and more exposure – we need things to be easy to do. But Modern Cloth Diapers were not easy – they were cumbersome and needed a lot of learning.
Here are a few things I learned from selling and using Bumchum Diapers that were not working for mothers.
The fit for MCDs was where the real issues began. The one-size-fit-all, types and formats made it hard to choose what would be right for your baby.And just when you think you have mastered that, your baby would grow out of the size and you would be pushed to the internet to figure out where the leaks or the red marks are coming from.
Leaks being a very important feature in any diaper, and this was a big issue with Modern Cloth Diapers. The challenge was not only in figuring out , but if you did figure out the leak-proof size setting on your MCD, there would be a new challenges of washing, as the diaper started to build up soaps from hard water. Besides the general issues with hard water leading to the salts and the soap build up. These was the quality of hard water in most part of India that made it harder.
MCDs are the opposite of modern. Because nothing defines obsolesce more than piles of laundry, they generate daily. You need 8-10 MCDs to make it work throughout the day and with the sheer exhaustion of laundry along with the constant parade of didis and akkas in and out of our lives, it would often become harder to keep the love for MCDs along with all the other things that came with caring for a small baby.
Another issue mothers face with MCDs is that of complexity. Caring for MCDs wasn’t as easy as washing and storing. Often times one would be required to read up and learn about hard water, vinegar soaks, boiling, “stripping” and every possible degree one could get on MCDs. Besides the carbon footprint these generate all the washing, airing, folding, stripping, resizing and then cleaning up the occasional leaks – leads a mother towards a lost battle with sanity.
5. Impact on the Environment
MCDs were also touted as a greener and a more convenient alternative to a commercial disposable. But even that wasn’t true– with all the washing, drying and detergents and energy consumed in making the fabric (which is often times imported) and the amount of greenhouse gases they generated was as high or higher than some of the commercial disposables. Anything that is convenient shouldn’t compromise on the impact it has on the environment. Because if it does, it’s not truly convenient in the long term.
These diapers weren’t cheap. They were a one-size-fit -all so priced accordingly. However you need atleast 8-10 to make them work. So the initial investment was high, urging you to commit to the system, whether it worked for you or not. Apart from the different types like All in One, Fitted, Pockets…one had to pick one of each to see what worked and then invest in the lot. Which meant an initial trial expense that wasn’t factored into.
Anyone with a baby knows that the weight of the paraphernalia we carry for the baby sometimes is thrice that of the baby itself! With all the tucks, snacks, socks, toys, cloths and things – one needed to carry these bulky cloth diapers taking room for that extra jar of snack. And only when you get out of the house do you realize that carrying cloth diapers is the easiest part! The changing, storing and carrying back on soiled diapers is another story initself.
Overall – not easy and as modern as they were touted to be
When MCDs don’t work and you are determined to raise your baby with the ‘healthy’ and committed to doing your bit for the environment, what choices do you have?
There is a choice to turn to biodegradable diapers. These are believed to be a healthier option, and would be the answer to your guilt by encouraging green diapering. However, over time I learnt that not only was the process of bio-degrading waste in India not properly understood, but our primitive waste management system also did not allow for the need to separate organic and inorganic waste. This aside from the fact that moms weren’t comfortable adding human waste to their kitchen waste while composting.
With the exorbitant pricing of these leading to a smaller audience converting to biodegradable, one was forced to look for alternatives within cloth itself.
Bumchum Biodegradable Bio Soakers
As a mother who has cloth diapered two kids and started Indias first brand of MCDs, I learnt one thing – that mothers in India were looking for a cloth diaper that is convenient, manufactured locally with indigenous fabrics and one that is secure without compromising on fit, absorbency, and comfort.
I found the solution to address these was lying in Hybrid Cloth Diapers! I discovered that Hybrid Cloth Diapers would atleast begin to address some of the issues moms faced. These were a step towards the idea to reduce trash, increase reuse AND keeping the convenience of disposables.
What’s a Hybrid Diaper
Hybrid Cloth Diapers are simply cloth shell covers with disposable or reusable inserts. The cover, which can be of different materials, is like the underwear, while the absorbent pad or the “insert”, washable or disposable, is the actual diaper. These diapers sit on the spectrum between a disposable and a cloth diaper, hence the word “hybrid”.
Hybrid Cloth Diapers are easier and more convenient as sometimes the cloth covers are designed in a 2-part system that helps separate the “cloth” from the “diaper” making it as close to a disposable (yet it isn’t completely). The fabric of the cloth covers are sometimes lightweight and cotton with or without a PUL coating which allows the fabric to have a lot of ‘give’ making it comfortable and airier than any other regular cloth diaper. The Hybrid Cloth Diapers have ‘pouches’ that hold the reusable or disposable inserts. These pouches are fully waterproof and unlike plastic, they not ‘crack’ over several hundreds of washes. Hybrid Cloth Diapers seemed carefully designed with a focus on ‘safety’ and comfort.
Affordable and Convenient
Hybrid Diapers are also affordable. With a more convenient cover + pouch + insert system, one doesn’t need to buy a large stash. You can buy 1 or 2 covers and use it till the point where your baby has moved to a larger size. Also, as these are sized diapers so they provide a better fit. The cloth cover doesn’t touch the baby hence it can be reused several times in the same day without washing. Also, only the part that touches the baby, the disposable inserts, is as chemical-free as possible, which leads to reduced pediatrician visits and more time for baby love.
The shell covers are simple and most hybrid Diapers have the choice of being able to use a disposable and reusable homemade diaper pads. Several brands sell disposables in large packs with offer for subscription helping moms save big money while also committing to healthy diapering
Healthy and Rash Free
So, Hybrid diaper covers take care of my need for affordable and convenience, the disposable inserts take care of the ‘healthy’. Some brands of Hybrid Cloth Diapers such as Grovia and Gdiapers have a biodegradable version of disposable inserts, however those were imported and therefore costly. Also, these are not as green as they add to the carbon footprint with the transport over longer distances. Bdiapers brand of Indian Hybrid Cloth Diapers has disposable inserts that are dioxin, bleach, phthalates, dye and fragrance free. The inserts use plant-based materials for absorbency and the SAP content being limited reduces the exposure to chemicals and the chances of the baby developing an allergy or a rash. The inserts do use plastic to make them leak proof, hence are not biodegradable
Fit and Comfort
Hybrid diaper covers are sized diapers hence provide a more leak-proof comfortable fit on the baby. These have soft leg elastics which do not cause red marks on the babies gentle skin. With minimum exposure to disposables and a trimmer fit with cotton fabrics, these are generally considered more comfortable than other MCDs.
Eco friendly and Convenient
Hybrid Cloth Diapers are greener alternatives to cloth diapers as they lead to proper waste disposal. The covers do not need to be washed daily reducing water consumption as well as releasing lesser additives in our groundwater. The best part of Hybrid Cloth Diapers that the cloth is insulated from the baby’s waste. Since it doesn’t touch the baby, it is easy for you to use the same cover through-out the day with a regular change of inserts (3-4 hours pls) or the pouch. The disposable or reusable inserts allow for solids to be tossed in the toilet bowl, hence ensuring proper waste disposal. The disposable inserts then can be wrapped in newspaper and disposed of as non-biodegradable separated waste (as one would with a sanitary napkin). This is healthier, as solid waste needs proper disposal so it doesn’t mix with our groundwater making our babies sick. Soiled diapers shouldn’t be left in regular trash which is often consumed by stray animals (milk giving cows and dogs). Because we are also responsible for their health and wellbeing.
Fun to carry and Travel
Hybrid Cloth Diapers are easy to carry. As the inserts are less bulky. Also, there is the convenience of using any washable or disposable insert reducing the need to carry washable while in transit. A lot of Hybrid Cloth Diapers come with matching T-shirts to complete the look. This makes the diaper as a part of the clothing, versus just an accessory and thereby easy to use and change. Since the cloth part of the diaper doesn’t get soiled, these are easy to carry back as they don’t get wet. The pouch that does get wet can be wiped clean or washed and it dries in minutes. This is how Hybrid Cloth Diapers are great for traveling.
With all these conveniences in mind, Hybrid Cloth Diapers became my go-to choice for my 2nd baby born in India. I started with the covers easily available in India and kept improvising on these to make them more convenient and easier. With my second baby as my g guinea pig I launched Bdiapers, Indias first truly Hybrid Diaper cover with chemical-free disposable inserts. If you would like to give these a shot, please do visit our Bdiapers, Hopscotch, Amazon & Firscry Stores