Like most new mums I had an endless supply of nappies. Hundreds of the things which were either stored away in cupboards ready to be used or clogging up the bin. I will admit that it never really crossed my mind to look at cloth alternatives. Yes, I thought all the patterns out there were super cute but I was a Pampers girl. It seems the rest of the team were the same so when reader, Cecily, got in touch to share her experience of cloth nappies I jumped at the chance. Just because the team haven’t used them doesn’t mean we can’t see the benefits and we are all about sharing all the options with you. So I’ll hand over to Cecily to tell you all.
I knew from early in my pregnancy (and possibly even before that..!) that I wanted to use cloth nappies for two main reasons. First because I struggled to get my head around the environmental impact of using disposables and second because I felt that cloth would be a gentler option for my baby’s skin. Luckily when I broached the subject with my husband, he didn’t need persuading. Our decision to use cloth nappies definitely led to some raised eyebrows among our friends and family. We heard horror stories about nappy rash and exclamations about the amount of work we would create for ourselves. Thankfully, I’m quite (very?) stubborn and was confident in our decision, so we ploughed on ahead anyway and I’m so glad that we did. We’re now the proud parents of a cloth-bummed 4 month old, so I thought it might be helpful to share our experiences so far. People seem to be put off cloth nappies for a number of reasons. There’s a perception that it’s enormously complicated and a lot of work. Then there’s a wealth of information out there on the internet and this can be overwhelming. I hope that, rather than adding to the ‘noise, I can show that this doesn’t have to be the case!
The Basics – Picking a Cloth Nappy
If you were ask your parents about cloth, they will probably tell you about terry towels and complicated folding and nappy pins. These are still an option, but they are by no means the only one. We actually have a stack of old terries that my parents used for me(!) but I never got the hang of the folding and so I mostly use them to protect the floor when we do a bit of nappy free time. When I first started looking at what was out there, I found the choice pretty overwhelming and the jargon is insanely confusing – pockets, all-in-ones, liners, inserts, all-in-twos, wraps… I suspect it’s enough to send a lot of confused parents running for the disposable nappy aisle at the supermarket. So, the first thing I’d say is to try not to get too hung up on it all. A cloth nappy basically has three parts – the outer part which is waterproof and keeps everything contained, the absorbent bit in the middle and a liner on the inside which helps to wick moisture away from the skin and contain any poo. These three elements can come combined in all sorts of ways depending on the brand and the style of the nappy. An all-in-one nappy is a bit like a washable disposable nappy, whereas other styles have the three elements separately, or in various combinations. There are pros and cons to different styles such as ease of use, drying time, containment, ability to make more or less absorbent and so on.
I started out by looking online at what was out there and then I filled out the questionnaire on the Nappy Lady’s site. I’d highly recommend doing this as it’s a great way to get a personalised recommendation as a starting point. As we’re currently living overseas where there’s not such a great choice available, we ended up buying the nappies while I was pregnant and on a trip home to the UK. The style we chose is a cotton shaped nappy with a separate waterproof wrap and fits a baby until around 9 months. We got just enough to get by with washing every day. Once the baby arrived and we started using them full time, we were pretty happy with our choice with only one exception – they are quite bulky. It hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a thing. Often it really doesn’t matter, but it can be a bit of a pain under some clothes. As we hadn’t bought loads, we then got a visiting friend to bring us out a few more in a different style which are more slimline and are designed as a one-size-fits-all. With hindsight, and if we had been living somewhere with a better choice of styles, I wouldn’t have worried so much about getting a full set in one brand and style. As we get closer to outgrowing the sized ones in our stash, we’ll most likely end up with a few more different styles.
Using Cloth Day-to-Day
When my husband and I discussed using cloth, we agreed that we wouldn’t rule out using disposables sometimes. I was keen to keep our disposable use to a minimum though and so although we went to the hospital with a pack of newborn nappies, I’d also packed quite a few cloth ones too. As it turned out, our baby girl was a tiny 5lb 13oz and the cloth nappies swamped her, so we ended up using mostly disposables for the first few weeks and slowly weaned ourselves on to cloth full time. I did try using folded muslins or terries a few times in the early days, but I really struggled with getting a good fit (clearly origami is not my thing!) and nobody wants a leaky nappy. Lots of people swear by these for newborns though. We do still use disposables now and then. We usually have a small pack on hand just in case and we use them when travelling so we don’t arrive somewhere with a load of dirty nappies, or when we’re staying somewhere without washing facilities.
I’ve found that quite a lot of people are really curious about how using cloth actually works. Again, I don’t think it’s very complicated or really that much extra work. We don’t have a huge stash of nappies so we usually wash them every day. Next to our bathroom sink we keep a plastic bowl and a bucket with a mesh bag inside. Each time we do a nappy change, we give it a quick rinse, wring it out and put it in the bucket. For a poo, the liner catches the worst of it, so we rinse it out in a plastic bowl and empty the water down the loo and again, we put the wrung out nappy and liner in the bucket. As our baby hasn’t started solids yet, it’s pretty inoffensive, but you can also get disposable liners if you prefer. It really only takes about an extra minute at nappy changes at the most. When we’re out and about, we have a waterproof nappy bag to put the dirty nappies in and we deal with them when we get home. Every morning, we empty the bucket into the washing machine and run it and either line dry or tumble dry the nappies. If there’s any staining, hanging them outside works wonders – the sun acts as a natural bleach, even on a cloudy day!
There has been one other unexpected benefit of using cloth for us – we’ve had almost no poosplosions. Maybe we’ve lucked out with a non-explosive baby, but it seems that our nappies are pretty bomb-proof!
One other thing I should mention is that we also use washable wipes. We bought a kit from Cheeky Wipes and it’s quite possibly our best pre-baby purchase. The kit makes it super easy to use the wipes at home or out and about, and I love knowing exactly what we’re using on our baby’s skin. They’re really effective too – we rarely need more than one wipe for a nappy change. Even if you decide to use disposable nappies, I’d highly recommend them.
I’m definitely no expert, but if you’re thinking about cloth, I’d highly recommend it. I’d say don’t be afraid to start gradually. Pick a style you want to try and get one or two to begin with. You can increase your stash as you go. It’s better to use some disposables at first while you work out what works for you, rather than buying a full set and then finding out they’re not quite right. There is a big preloved market for cloth nappies too, so that’s an option if you want to keep costs down and reassuring to know if you end up with something that doesn’t work for you. There are also cloth nappy libraries where you can rent out different styles to try.
I hope that’s helped to demystify cloth nappies, rather than add to the confusion. Feel free to ask my any questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to try and help out!
Image by Little Beanies.