Just how much pee and poop a cute little baby can unleash is unbelievable. I discovered it the hard way.
I’d sworn to use cloth nappies with my firstborn, as I absolutely wasn’t going to throw six diapers a day into the dustbin and look the other way while they took 500 years to decompose. Plus those thick, mountainous layers could leave a bad skin rash in the tropical heat of Delhi.
But trying to be eco-friendly almost took my sanity away.
I was cleaning her, changing the soiled bed linen, washing nappies (made of plain cotton cloth), and never getting more than two hours of sleep at a stretch because the little one would start crying at the slightest hint of wetness.
Naturally, when my second kid was born four years ago, I took to disposable diapers like bees to honey.
Nobody had told me about “cloth diapers” then. Yes, things that combine the convenience of a diaper with the environment-friendliness of cloth do exist, but apparently no one thought of making it in a country that has forever tied cloth around the loins of its babies.
No one until Anuradha Rao, that is.
Battling a dilemma similar to mine, the former IBM executive decided to do something about it. A year ago, she founded Bumpadum, a small #startup in Bangalore that makes and supplies adorable printed cloth diapers for children online.
“We are the only cloth diaper company that manufactures in India, though there are a few brands that import from China and sell here,” says Anuradha, mother to a two-and-a-half-year-old girl.
Her firm has sold 1,200 of them since July last year and claims to be growing 20 percent month-on-month. “If you exclude my salary, we are a profitable business,” Anuradha tells Tech in Asia. The startup sells with the help of social media – Amazon, Instagram, and Facebook, besides its own website.
Each Bumpadum diaper costs around US$14.9. But here’s why shelling out that amount on a single diaper isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
The conscientious parent
From the age of 0 to 3, a baby goes through 7,000 diapers on an average. So imagine the load a single diaper-clad baby can put on the earth.
The statistics began to weigh heavily on Anuradha. “I was using disposable diapers for my daughter since her birth in 2014. But the quantity of waste generated hit me as she neared a year.”
She was part of a Facebook group called Cloth Diapering India, but realized that member moms were using imported cloth diapers – either expensive ones from the US or cheaper ones from China.
What do you think she did? Quit her job as managing strategy consultant at IBM and started Bumpadum.
“I had lived in the US earlier, and my husband and I were wondering whether to move back there again after the baby. But I always wanted to do something of my own. We decided to stay put once Bumpadum happened.”
Just as well, because people forget how important it is for mothers to get sound sleep. And a good diaper can really make that happen.
Pampers and Huggies are some of the popular brands in India. But Anuradha says disposable diapers “have been able to penetrate just 2 percent of the market.”
Cloth diapers are also lighter on your wallet, she says. “You will shell out up to US$1,124 on disposable diaper packs for a baby till the age of 3, whereas if you use ours, you spend around US$375 on 25 diapers in all.”
Do cloth diapers really work?
The special padding inside does the trick, but it requires some prepping – the more it is washed, the better the absorption.
“We use micro-fleece and hemp in the padding,” says Anuradha. “Micro-fleece absorbs moisture immediately,” she explains, “but since the quality available in India is not good, we import it from China.” The other important raw material is cotton, which is sourced from India itself.
The diapers come with inserts (extra padding) for additional protection. So you can step out with a baby for three hours in the day or make her wear it for about seven hours at night.
“There’s flexibility with the inserts. You can put in more if your baby pees more than others,” she says.
Here’s another thoughtful feature. Since one size doesn’t fit all, these diapers are adjustable. You can increase or decrease the size around the waist and thighs with the help of buttons stitched onto it.
“We expect each to last about 100 washes,” she says. Not having to discard them, I think, is the whole point.
Now for the crux of the matter – laundry! That is the single biggest reason for parents to move to disposable diapers. But Bumpadum says soiled cloth diapers need only be stored in a dry bucket, and can be washed at convenience in a washing machine.
The real challenge, though, is poop
The real challenge, though, is poop.
Anuradha admits it is “the only con.” You have to knock the solids off completely before you can throw a diaper into a washing machine. But it can be done. If you manage to gain entry to their Facebook page, you will find that many moms are doing it already.
This page, a closed but steadily growing group, has over 1,200 members – and some moms put up the most adorable pictures of babies in Bumpadum diapers that complement the outfit.
“We recently got into the Amazon Launchpad, which helps us get a prominent product display, marketing help, and reach out to global customers.”
Anuradha is hesitant about selling her diapers at a physical store. “It is a niche product that needs explaining,” she replies. “Customers in India might see it in a store and say ‘Rs.1,000 for a diaper – are you out of your mind!’”
Cloth diapers imported from the US cost around US$23.90, while those from China are around US$7.49 to US$12, she says. Bumpadum will cost somewhere in between. “We will probably be able to reduce the price as we scale.”
And this startup doesn’t just do diapers.
I zeroed in on two cheerful-looking ‘wet bags’, which were meant to carry soiled diapers but could tuck in wet swimming costumes as well. By the time I got down to ordering them a day later, one design was already out of stock.
“We stock around 200 items at a time, and add stock every week,” says Anuradha.
For her, there’s another, tougher, task on hand. “Managing Bumpadum with my daughter is the biggest challenge. I put my phone on silent mode when I’m with her, and get on with it!”
Converted from Indian Rupees. Rate: US$1 = INR 66.73.