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Handmade (WAHM) Nappies versus China Made Modern Cloth Nappies

A very common question that is commonly asked in the cloth community is “What is the difference between handmade (Australian Made/Work At Home Maker/Work At Home Mum/ WAHM) nappies and nappies made in China? Why are WAHM nappies more expensive?” There is a number of differences between WAHM nappies and made in China, including:

  • How are the nappies produced
  • Where the materials are sourced
  • The type of inserts included
  • Manufacturing costs

Nappies that are made in China can be broken down into two categories:

  1. China Cheapies (CC) which are non ethically produced nappies
  2. Ethically produced nappies – workers are paid a liveable wage.

In this discussion I will be focusing on the first category only, the CC nappies.

WAHM nappies, Handmade nappies, australian cloth nappies, mcns, whay are WAHM nappies so expensive?

How are the nappies are produced?

WAHM nappies are commonly made by one person or a very small collection of people working together. This set up means that a nappy is made from start to finish with a commitment to the quality of the item. 

In contrast, CC Nappies are produced in a factory setting and just for clarification they are still a handmade nappy by the factory workers, no nappy is made purely by machines. In the factory setting, the nappies are produce by a production line of different people doing different tasks without having to follow through with the rest of the production and therefore having no vested interest in the overall final product. The CC factories may also not be paying a living wage so they can churn out the cheapest possible product.

WAHM behind the scenes, WAHM nappies, australian made nappies

Source of Materials

A WAHM nappy business often sources majority of the material used for the construction of a nappy from a collection of other small Australian businesses. This means that when you buy from a WAHM you are also helping to support up to 6 other small Australian businesses. This also means that the costs of materials are more expensive because the supplies aren’t purchased in large bulk orders.  A WAHM will generally seek out high quality material which also has an impact of the costs but it enables a high quality product to be made.

In a factory setting, they either have the ability to produce the materials they require themselves or they can do very large bulk orders which brings their costs down. In CC nappies the quality of the materials is often of the lower quality standard to help ensure the costs are kept to a minimal, you can get batches which are fine and other batches that will break down quickly since the quality control is not present.

Australian made nappies

Insert Types

CC nappies are commonly sold with one (sometimes two) microfiber insert. Bamboo Charcoal are Microfiber inserts with a layer of Bamboo Charcoal Fleece on the outside. Microfiber inserts are prone to compression leaks and it is very common for children to out wet them as they get older. The other type of insert that is often supplied with a CC nappy is a 4 or 5 layer 280gsm bamboo terry insert. All of these inserts approximately measure 13cm wide by 33 cm long. If you have CC nappies and are having issues with absorbency there are ways to boost the nappy, you can wrap the inserts with a 100% cotton towel (also known as elly towels) or you could purchased higher quality inserts.

WAHM inserts come in many shapes and forms but they are generally made from 2 layers of 400-500gsm bamboo with a stay dry layer. Some of the most common insert shapes are:

  • Trifolds
  • Anchors or Long Anchors
  • Snake
  • Boosters

The actual shape and lengths will vary from each WAHM business but the concept is the same, a WAHM tries to aim for 6-8 layers of 400-500gsm (that is 2400-4000gsm) within the wet zone area, maybe more depending on how your fold the inserts.

Manufacturing Costs

The wholesale, or rebrand, cost of a CC nappy landed to your door is between $5 to $6 AUD. This pricing does change depending on how many you ordered but also what the exchange rate is, since it is charged in US dollars. This price is also based upon the nappy coming with either one microfleece or a 4 layer 250gsm bamboo insert, if two inserts are supplied with the nappy the costs will be a $1-3 more.

WAHM nappies have a much higher manufacturing costs and I will break down what it costs me in raw materials to produce a Prince and Cub Stellar nappy. These nappies also include both a long anchor insert plus a booster insert. The booster insert by itself is similar size to the insert supplied in a CC nappy. Please note these prices are based upon pre-covid19 prices, some costs have increased due to currency crashing or increased freight costs but my database may not have been updated if I haven’t purchased them since the price increases.

  1. PUL outside layer $6.02, if Minky with hidden layer of PUL $8.29
  2. Suede cloth inner $2.31
  3. Bamboo Terry for Anchor + booster $6.38
  4. Velour Topper for Anchor + booster $2.71
  5. Snaps $1.05
  6. Elastics $1.50
  7. Threads, labels $0.88
  8. Sewing needles, machine maintenance, electricity $3.00

Total raw material costs for a PUL nappy is $23.85 and a Minky Nappy is $26.12. These prices do not include any artwork prices. If it is an exclusive design the price of artwork can vary from $0.5 to $5 a nappy.

The labour costs haven’t been included above because I wanted to discuss them separately. According to fair work the current minimal working wage in Australia is now $19.84 (and no one should work for free right??). Due to my nappies being a double pocket design they do take longer to make in comparison to an AI2 nappy, since I not only have more parts to cut out but I also need to hem those nappy inner parts. This results in every nappy taking 1.5 hours to 2 hours to complete from start to finish. Based upon the previously stated minimum wage, the labour costs for each nappy is $29.76 to $39.68.

So the total nappy costs for a Prince and Cub Maximus is actually anywhere between $53.61 to $65.80 but this isn’t what is actually charged and those prices also don’t have any profit for the business included, for a business to grow it needs to produce a profit. A business should aim for a minimum 30% profit margin, 50% is generally what a business should be aiming for. Based upon the 30% profit, the nappies at an RRP of $70 to $85, but no one would want to pay that!

You can see from this break down in price where the cost of a WAHM nappy comes from and I hope this has been very informative to anyone who has been wondering why a WAHM nappy has a higher costs in comparison to a CC nappy. There is no parallel between the materials and workmanship when comparing a CC to a WAHM which is a big reason why I changed to making my own nappies.

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