Jesus was right - natural nappies are the only solution

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The Independent Online
It Is about 2,000 years since baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. But it seems the ancient tradition has an enduring message for today's babies who are being fitted out in similarly natural clothes.

Manufacturers and distributors of organic baby clothes are reporting an increase of interest from a public whose awareness of natural products has been heightened by information on organic food.

Organic clothes in general ranging from nappies and all-in-one sleeping suits for babies, to adult tracksuits, underwear, bed linen and duvet covers are proving popular both for new parents and people with sensitive skins. "It just feels nice on the skin," says Glenn Kositzki-Metzner of Schmidt Natural Clothing in Forest Row, Sussex. "There is no artificial coating and it just feels comfortable."

Three main organic and natural products are on the market in the UK: cotton, wool and skin. Organic cotton is grown in Turkey, India, Egypt and Peru without the use of pesticides and is hand-picked rather than obtained by the use of defoliants. Wool, commonly used in natural nappies and natural felted slippers is not treated with chemicals after it has been sheared. Similarly, natural silk, which is produced almost exclusively in China, is obtained by using natural products to break down the skinworm's cocoon, rather than preservatives.

The benefits, according to the organic clothing industry are numerous. Natural and organic cotton is less likely to cause skin irritation like eczema; the companies generally pay the workers who pick the cotton and manufacture the goods a better rate; and the clothes, particularly reusable natural nappies, help reduce pollution of the environment.

"Some 85 per cent of all nappies used are disposable. Used nappies account for something like 10 per cent of the waste at landfill sites in Britain," says Mr Kositzki-Metzner. "That is a ridiculous figure. The waste from them ultimately dissolves into the water supply and local councils have become extremely anxious.

"Reusable nappies are better for the environment but also better for babies. Natural and organic nappies use cotton and wool and allow more air to circulate within them. That helps prevent nappy rash and doesn't aggravate skin conditions."

One couple committed to organic clothing for their baby is Ian and Colleen Young, of Cookham Dean, Berkshire. Their four-month-old son, Joshua, has been kitted out with organic nappies and clothes since he was born. "We bought Joshua into the world and feel we should do our bit to help it and him," said Colleen. "We paid about pounds 200 for the natural reusable nappies and that's all we'll have to spend on them. On average people spend around pounds 1,100 on disposable nappies over their baby's first two and a half years."

"It comes down to comfort for Joshua and for his skin," said her husband Ian. "It can be a bit much putting used nappies in the washing machine but we do intend to have more children so the nappies can stay in the airing cupboard until the next one. We're not exactly eco-warriors but we are concerned about the environment. We don't know if these clothes make a difference but we do know that Joshua has had no problems with his skin while other babies from our ante-natal classes have."

Organic clothes, because they are more labour intensive, do however cost more. An organic T-shirt would cost 25 per cent more than a T-shirt from a high street store.

Even so, as Mr Kositzki-Metzner says: "There is a social consequence. You are either helping people or exploiting them. When you look at the tiny amount of money you spend on traditional clothes which finds its way back to the original farmworker it is disgraceful. At least with an organic product the people who made the garment are being paid properly. The dangers of pesticides are well documented and people picking natural crops are not being exposed to them.

"This is a market that is growing and growing. People are becoming more aware of the exposure of their bodies to various influences and concerned about what they may be doing to them and their babies."