Babyleo.se is a family run cloth diaper business based in the Stockholm region. As part of my ‘return to cloth‘ I reached out to Babyleo.se to collaborate on some photos as well as gain some insight on the cloth diapering culture here in Sweden. I soon found that the parent duo (Helena & Emir) behind Babyleo.se work full time as astronomers (Helena with cataclysmic variables and Emir with supernovae) & began their cloth diaper business out of passion as well as practicality & ethics.
One late afternoon in August we met for coffee & photos (see some of their adorable family photos here) & to get an overview of their products on offer. After the Q & A below are several photos we captured that evening of their range of products.
Q & A with BabyLeo.se
Annika: So first, how were you introduced to cloth diapering?
Helena: I had followed some video blogs for new moms online and got introduced to modern pocket diapers there. Before, I had the common notion, like many other people, that using cloth diapers was time consuming, difficult, and a bit gross. These videos really got me inspired since the diapers were so cute and it didn’t seem to be as difficult as I had thought. I have always been very concerned about our environment so this was in line with my convictions and I decided I wanted to try. From the video blogs, I had watched many reviews of diapers and many people seem to like the Alva Baby brand since it was a bit cheaper but still held the same great quality as more expensive brands. I had previous experience that you often pay for the brand, and not always quality. So I ordered some diapers from Alva baby online since I couldn’t find the brand here in any of the Nordic countries, and then I told my husband…..
Emir: Yes, I was told only after a several diapers from a few different brands were ordered. I have to be honest, my initial reaction was that we should cancel the orders and forget about this business of using cloth diapers. It seemed messy and I was put-off by the prospect of having to deal with poop. I told Helena: look you are starting off as a new teacher and a new mother, I am doing a difficult PhD, we have a clingy velcro-baby that takes up any of our remaining time… AND we don’t even have a washing machine in our apartment. Why are you adding on more things to do? So I was very negative at first. I basically said go ahead, but you do the washing; I don’t have the time. However, I have to say that using cloth diapers in reality was not very different at all from using regular diapers, just a bit more washing instead of throwing out more smelly trash.
I did notice something though. Helena had of course done her research and ordered a few different recommended brands to test like a true scientist. Still, some of them really did not work well for our son Leo or were of low quality. Because Helena ordered them online (primarily from China) she had waited a few weeks for them to get here and it’s not like we could return the ones that we didn’t like. What is great about cloth diapers is that they are very sustainable and there is a great second hand market out there. Even if a diaper doesn’t work for one baby, it may for another. So we re-sold them locally for very cheap. The mother who got them turned out to be very happy about them and texted to tell us several times.
Annika: What do you personally love about cloth diapering as a parent & also as a cloth diaper business owner?
Helena: The cloth diapers from Alva baby worked great and they even took away the pervasive rashes that Leo had been dealing with. I loved to put on the cute patterns, feel how soft they felt and I felt like I was helping our planet. We had already started to phase out plastics in our home, so this felt like the next thing. Now we needed more diapers and it was again frustrating that we had to order from China and wait for the long delivery. Though at least this time we were certain that we were getting good quality for a good price. It took time for the diapers to get here and we knew we couldn’t economically send anything back in case something was broken. I looked into the Swedish market of diapers and concluded that the material and quality was the same, but that it was much more expensive and also there were no really fun patterns on the Swedish market. Yet, I was very surprised when Emir suddenly over dinner came with the suggestion, “let’s start selling Alva Baby diapers in Sweden – there is clearly at least one eager customer who wants them, and there may be more”. And so it started..
Emir: I must admit that I was motivated by the changes we had been making in our own life to become more environmentally friendly. Seeing this little helpless baby suddenly magnifies the importance of taking care of the environment and of sustainable living; it makes the consequences more real. I’m sure every parent today has had a moment when they see the contrast of quaint green nature next to speeding cars on dirty concrete roads and wonders which of these competing forces will win out by the time their child has grown. What sort of legacy are we leaving behind for our kids? Asking these tough questions doesn’t mean one has to disconnect from modern life, but it is worth considering the trade-offs we make and to choose a sustainable alternative whenever one is easily and affordably available.
Annika: It’s great that you are doing plastic free deliveries. How did you come to this decision and what would your advice be to other businesses seeking to go plastic free with their business?
Helena: Having this business has been great fun and we haven’t got tired of it even though we are increasing our sales every month. We have chosen to be as plastic free as we can and in our latest orders from Alva Baby, they have helped us in this endeavour and removed the individual packing of diapers and inlays. We will continue pushing on plastic free deliveries and are so happy that we managed to convince such a large company as Alva Baby. We believe that if customers verbalize that there is something they don’t want, the companies want to try to make it happen. In this way we can make a difference, one picky customer at the time. We are selling bamboo inlays and washcloths in our store, because it is a natural fabric that is fairly sustainable and cheap compared to other materials. It holds liquid really well and comes out very soft. In the future, we are planning on expanding our selection of natural materials.
Annika: What about the fairly common perception that cloth diapering is so much work with the cleaning etc? With my first child cleaning was one of our big concerns and we settled on doing primarily cloth because we also had a fantastic cloth diaper cleaning service in our area. Now as we prepare to return to cloth with our daughter I will be doing the cleaning. What tips can you offer parents who are have no experience cleaning cloth diapers?
Helena: When it comes to caring for cloth diapers in your home, all that is needed is a washing machine. We noted that running a few more machines per weeks really wasn’t a big deal. Especially since we then didn’t have to remember whether or not we had diapers available at home, or had to take out so much trash every day. The amount of trash dramatically decreased when we started cloth diapering. We wash our diapers in 60 degrees with an extra rinse and a cold pre-wash. They always come out nice and clean. If there are stains, they tend to go away after a few additional washes. We dry them in a drying cabinet or out in the air when the weather permits. We recommend our customers to store the diapers in a diaper-bag and then wash every 2-3 days. Doing this means you don’t have to have a big stash of cloth diapers and the dirty diapers wont start smelling. Natural fibers like Bamboo take a little longer time to dry, but it’s not a big difference.
Annika: You noted early on in our exchange that you and your husband “thought that cloth diapers in Sweden were expensive and wanted to bringer cheaper, but still great quality diapers to Sweden.” Why do you think that cloth diapers are expensive here (as compared to elsewhere) and how can we help to continue to bust a prevalent myth that cloth diapering is more expensive?
Emir: I think it’s important to point out that even some of the most expensive cloth diapers on the market are still more affordable than the cheapest disposable diapers over the diapering life of a baby. Even the cheapest disposable diapers are going to cost 350kr/mo or more (when ordered online in monthly packages over the internet) and wet-wipes will be another 100kr/mo on top of that. That’s approximately 5500kr/year though most parents pay significantly more than that when they shop at their local store. The average baby in Sweden uses disposable diapers until the age of 3! But even if your child does better than average you are still looking at spending between 10-15,000 kr to diaper a baby. In comparison, cloth diapers are an up-front investment for you wallet, your child, and the environment. Our “All-you-need” pack containing all you need for diapering while washing every 2-3 days costs 2500 kr. Though especially when we were looking for diapers, at most other retailers you would pay 5000kr or more for an equivalent stash. That can be a big scary number when you have already spent money on preparing for a baby, cutting back on work-hours, etc. That is why we started BabyLeo and keep our prices as low as possible to lower the barrier and incentivize more parents to use cloth diapers. In the end, using cloth diapers will save you a minimum of 10,000 kr on a single child, and even more for each sibling. It turns out that the cost of washing is relatively low, especially in Sweden, and washing clothes is a sustainable endeavour.
Helena: Think about it like this. By using cloth diapers we can afford a 1 week family vacation to a sunny place like Turkey or Canary Islands. In fact, we took the money we saved and used it for just that this summer. We packed our cloth diapers for the trip as well and washed them at the hotel. We got to bond as a family and take some fun action pictures for our Instagram (@babyleo.se).
Annika: Your son Leo is the namesake and a large part of inspiration of your company (correct?). In this sense it really was a personal but also very global decision (waste issues, sustainability) that led you to found babyleo.se right?
Helena&Emir: Leo is indeed the reason why we started the company, and therefore surely the inspiration. We are thinking about both Leo’s and his generation’s future. Cloth diapering is a simple and affordable way in which we can make a difference. Every cloth diaper saves between 500-1000 one time diapers per child. It has been an inspiration to keep track of this number as BabyLeo grows. We are really grateful to all the parents who have joined with us on this journey!
5 layer Bamboo Inlays
Made from Charcoal Bamboo
Great for night use
Bamboo 4 layer inlays
A top choice for sustainability
Lasts a long time on own (without a booster insert)