Believe it or not, disposable nappies are made from wood and plastic! The main body of nappies are made from pastics and are held together with glue. The clever part of a nappy is the absorbent pad which is made from a mix of wood pulp and 'super absorbent polymers'. The absorbent part is a chemical called Polyacrylate and is capable of absorbing 30 times its own weight of liquid. When Polyacrylate crystals absorb wetness, they expand into a gel which is how they manage to keep our baby's wetness in. Incidentally, this same material is used to create artifical snow and is sometimes added to soil to increase water absorption, particularly in the cultivation of potted plants.
Some nappies are made specifically for girls or boys and these are slightly more absorbent at the points that tend to get wettest - for boys this is at the front while for girls, this is towards the middle and back.
Disposable nappies have long been criticised for being environmentally unfriendly. These days they do break down in landfill but the process is still extremely slow but at least Polyacrylate prevents content from leaching from landfill sites which is one of the dangers of other disposed chemical products. The other point about the environmental impact of dispoable nappies is the amount of energy that they consume during manufacture and transport to market - far higher than for reusable equivalents.
The sun has arrived at last, but hurry, it may not last long! On a hot day, with beating sunshine, it's so important to keep the children covered up and protected from the sun. Here are 10 important things to remember on a scorching day:-
- Cover up with sun cream before going into the sun
- Remember waterproof nappies for little ones looking forward to a dip in the sea or a paddling pool
- Reapply suncream throughout the day, especially after emerging from water
- Wear a sun hat; sun glasses are more cosmetic but they're cute too
- Wear UV SPF protective clothing, wear clothes in water if you're really exposed to the sun
- Drink lots and keep hydrated - water is best
- Keep in the shade whenever possible
- Beware of biting or stinging insects, if insects are a pest where you are, use a natural repellant
- To help with hydration, eat lots of fruit, especially high water content tropical fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, melon and mango
- Eat lots of ice-cream!
We have long been warned of the environmental impact of disposable nappies - indeed the statistics are quite frightening: 8 million nappies enter landfill in the UK every day, they take up to 500 years to break down, and the quantity of raw materials and energy required to make them are staggering. However, government research in 2008 found that the overall environmental impact of manufacturing and washing reusable cloth nappies may actually be worse than for disposable nappies.
One of the concerns of disposable nappies in landfill is for the amount of methane that they release as a result of the excrement inside. This is a moot point as the same quantity of methane will still be released from reusable nappies, just not from a single landfill site.
There is far less energy used in the production of reusable cloth nappies when compared to the much more artificial disposable nappies, but this can easily be outweighed by the additional energy required to launder cloth nappies over their useful life cycle. Indeed, the environmental impact of using reusable cloth nappies can be twice as damaging as disposables if certain measures aren't taken. If you want to be a true eco-warrior then use reusable cloth nappies, but also make sure that you:-
- Wash them at a lower temperature (60 degrees is adequate rather than a 90 degree wash)
- Use an energy efficient (ideally A+ rated) washing machine
- Avoid tumble drying the nappies, line dry them whenever possible
- Use them for siblings and not just one child
- Wash them alongside other garments on fuller loads, don't just run a wash for a few nappies alone
Despite nappy brands spending millions of pounds on branding and advertising, it seems that parents are instead trying to get their toddlers on the potty earlier to avoid the huge expense of buying nappies! There are big ones, small ones, pink ones, ones that pull up, ones that practically light up, but instead of keeping toddlers in nappies, parents instead are attempting to train their little ones earlier so they don't need the nappies and night nappies and wipes and all the paraphernalia that comes with a baby wearing nappies!
A generation ago, when training pants were the new trendy thing for toddlers to wear, sales, obviously shot up! Toddlers wore nappies for longer. In America, sales of training pants went down by 10% despite birth rate going up by 3%.
It is estimated that babies go through some 2,000 nappies in their first year and some 3,000 wipes! Double that for twins! So, no wonder parents are opting for the more natural approach ie. teaching the children to go to the toilet!
In China things are done very differently. Nappies and training pants are not really available. Instead, children have an open seem in their pants to help them manage going to the toilet when they are first starting. Some babies are potty trained at six months... hard to believe but apparently true! Once they can walk, they are trained to squat and go to the toilet when ever they need it!
It's a much cheaper option... but in the western culture, perhaps a little unusual!
Nappy rash is common, affecting up to one third of babies, making the skin sore and irritated, sometimes covering the skin in tiny pink or red spots which may be raised raised and very painful. The reason nappy rash occurs, is that the baby's skin is in a constantly warm and airless nappy, and comes in contact with urine or faeces.
Nappy rash is most common in babies aged between nine and twelve months old. The important thing is to assess how serious the nappy rash is and to care for it and treat it accordingly.
If the skin is simply a little red and sore-looking...
- This can be treated with careful and gentle cleaning and the use of a barrier cream. Have a chat to your health visitor or pharmasist for advice. Zinc cream, zink oxide and petroleum jelly are suitable.
- Leave the nappy off as long a possible - let your baby have a kick around on an absorbent towel or mat.
- Avoid using soaps or shop-bought wipes. Simply use water and cotton wool.
- Dab dry after a bath or wash, don't rub.
- Change the nappy frequently.
- Don't use talc as it can irritate the skin.
- Try using a different brand or type of nappy - they are not all the same.
If the nappy rash is more painful and your baby is uncomfortable...
Firstly, make sure you follow the guidelines above to ensure you have a good routine when it comes to changing a nappy and cleaning the nappy area. If the nappy rash is more severe it will upset your baby and your doctor will prescribe something that will help.
- Corticosteroids reduce inflamation and help with itching and redness.
- Hydrocortisone creams may be applied once a day and can clear up he problem very quickly. It can be used for seven days only.
- Anticandidal medicines treat fungal infection and come in various forms. These have to be used for at least seven days after the rash has cleared to ensure effective treatment.
Keep an eye on progress and if in any doubt, go ot your GP or health visitor.
If you're expecting your first baby, you probably don't know what to expect - here are some of the essentials that you'll need as soon as your baby is born!
- Car seat: this is the single most important item because unless you live next to the hospital or are having a home birth, you won't be able to bring your baby home without a car seat. Safety equipment is best bought new because you don't know the history of second hand items. Make sure that the seat is properly fitted and that you are familiar with how to insert and release your baby's seat prior to the birth.
- Diapers/nappies: Whether you decide to use disposable or cloth nappies, you'll need a plentiful supply as soon as your baby is home. A changing mat is useful but not essential as you can use towels to begin with.
- Crib or cot: you'll want a bed for your baby as soon as he or she comes home. It's a good idea for babies to sleep in your bedroom for the first few months but not in your bed because there's a high risk that you might accidentally smother your baby. Have a crib, moses basket or cot ready.
- Clothes: a plentiful supply of clothes is needed. You should have clothing ready with you in the hospital - vests, babygrows or onesies, cardigans, socks and mittens will give you a choice of clothing and layers. Hospitals usually recommend a hat to keep the head warm.
- Bottle and formula: Even if you are intending to breastfeed it is a good idea to have a suitable bottle and formula ready just in case there are problems that prevent you from being able to feed your baby at any time during the first few weeks.
Don't panic if you get home and suddenly realise that there's something you have forgotten to stock in advance. You'll probably be able to get hold of most essential equipment or clothes from your nearest supermarket, even if it means asking friends or family to run an errand for you!