After nearly three decades of disposable dominance, environmental awareness is increasing the popularity of cloth nappies.
A generation ago, disposable nappy users were a minority.
Many people entering parenthood now would have spent their own babyhood wearing folded bits of terry towelling, held together with huge safety pins and a giant fluffy bum cover.
But in the late '80s, this all started to change. Huggies began manufacturing disposable nappies in Australia, and companies introduced new absorbent materials that meant they became a more viable option for busy parents.
Sold on convenience, by the mid-90s, around half of Australian families were using single-use nappies, and in the decades that followed, cloth nappy users became a rarity.
Today, according to Wollongong City Council, plastic nappies are the biggest single item going into landfill from residential rubbish bins, with 3.75 million disposable nappies used every day in Australia and New Zealand.
And according to sustainability groups, each plastic nappy takes dozens of litres of water to manufacture, is estimated to take at least 150 years to break down and can leach toxins into the environment while it's doing so.
As awareness about climate change and the effects single-use plastics have on the environment increases, there is a strong push to rewind the clock and return to the days where most parents used cloth nappies.
And residents, businesses and councils in the Illawarra are at the forefront of this nappy change.
Bulli mother-of-three Alice Henchion has used cloth nappies with all her children, and for the past five years has run a business called Nappy Lane.
She sells Australian-made brands of cloth nappy, runs a try-before-you-buy nappy library and delivers workshops for those wanting to learn more about the different types of modern cloth nappies.
Ms Henchion is also involved with advocacy group the Australian Nappy Association, which involves many makers and owners of cloth nappies.
"It's interesting to consider that it's actually been a really short period of time where it's become completely normal for people to use disposable nappies," she said.
"When I first started five years ago, the numbers suggested about 10 per cent of families were using cloth nappies.
"Since the whole 'war on waste', and the big push towards how we consume plastic, I think that has catalysed the conversation about nappies.
"We don't have official numbers, but according to surveys from the [nappy association] we think it's more likely 15 to 20 per cent of families using them now."
She said the vast majority of users surveyed said they were using cloth for environmental reasons, with cost saving, baby skin health, or aesthetics cited as other reasons.
However, there are still many barriers to people choosing to use cloth nappies, though they have come a long way since the 1980s-style folds of terry towelling (see fact box).
For instance, while they can be thousands of dollars cheaper in the long run, there is a higher upfront cost.
A full set of cloth nappies (usually around 25-30 for full-time day and night use) can cost between $500 to $1000.
In contrast, according to Wollongong council - which runs a program to encourage more people to consider cloth - disposables cost around $3200 for each child from birth until they are toilet trained.
The reason the council - along with many others across NSW - has recently become interested in encouraging residents to take up cloth nappies is the sheer amount of landfill space and cost disposables take up.
For the past couple of years, a council officer has attended pre-natal classes and mother's groups, providing information and sample nappies.
Through this small $7000-a-year program, the council estimates almost 700,000 nappies have been taken out of landfill in the past 11 months.
Ms Henchion said Wollongong was considered a stand out among local government players trying to reduce disposable nappy use, but said she would like to see more councils offering a rebate to residents who purchase cloth nappies.
"I would say most of my customers are still primarily fairly middle class, and I'm not reaching people who are struggling financially, which I would really like to given the big savings that there could be for these people," Ms Henchion said.
"A rebate really overcomes the barrier of the initial cost, but promoting cloth and making people familiar with it is also really making a difference."
She said another barrier was that the 20 to 30-year gap between mainstream cloth nappy use had left a void of consistent information about how the nappies work.
And while disposable nappies are sold and advertised by multinational companies, many cloth nappy makers are small businesses.
"There's a lack of education and places where you can look and feel cloth nappies, they are not readily available in shops, and there are so many different brands and styles which can be overwhelming for parents," Ms Henchion said.
"There is also so much different information online and there's really big opinions on cleaning methods.
"And of course, there's always lots of questions about poo, and how to deal with that."
Through her workshops at Nappy Lane, Ms Henchion aims to answer these common questions (see panel, above for washing information).
"I always tell people that unfortunately if you've got a baby, you're going to be dealing with poo anyway and you don't get away from it by using disposables," she said.
"And quite often, once you get your fit right, you have less poo leaks - but you might have a few more wee leaks unless you get the fit right."
She said the main difference in using cloth nappies was that "instead of putting your nappy in the bin, you put it in the laundry".
For those who don't want to wash at all - and are willing to forego some of the cost saving associated with cloth nappies - there are also laundry services emerging, including the Illawarra-based Little Eco Baby.
As for choosing what type of cloth nappy works, Ms Henchion advises her clients to choose Australian-made products and consider buying slightly more expensive, higher-quality brands over cheaper products which may wear more quickly.
"If you didn't want to shop around, I would just say go for really good quality nappies - get them, have them and use them," she said.
"But if you wanted to search for the perfect nappy, you could also order sample packs from a few different brands, or get a nappy library, where you can try out 20 different brands.
"Whatever you choose, I think you can get most nappies functional on most babies - you just need the right support.
"For a generation we haven't had people having that community experience of people washing and using cloth, like our parents' generation, so it's sort of like 'you can't be what you can't see'."
- The Australian-led environmental campaign Plastic Free July kicks off from Monday. For details about reducing plastic nappy use and other single-use plastics visit www.plasticfreejuly.org