I’m going to keep this simple. Because the idea of cloth nappies can be very daunting and confusing – and I want to share some easy instructions for anyone that might be thinking about giving them a try. We’ve actually stopped using cloth nappies now – so whilst I’m still fresh on how we did it – I hope to share some of the ways that we kept it straight forward.
Firstly – people chose to use cloth nappies for many reasons. For me, I wanted to give them a whirl because a) they’re more ecological b) using them reduces land fill c) they look and feel so lovely d) it saves money and e) I just wanted to try everything out as a new parent. It wasn’t until Omi was over 1 that we bought ours, and I was already pregnant with Orion, so I figured I’d get enough use out of them over both children. It was never my intention to fully cloth nappy, and we never did! (big respect to full time cloth nappy parents). I only used them during the daytime and not every day, but mostly when we were around the house. I found that the more I used them, the more I got in to a routine with the cleaning and drying – and I was more likely to use them the following day.
So, what you will need.
1. Disposable Nappy Bags – always handy for any type of nappy, either for binning or sticking in your bag until you get home. My favourite are Naty eco corn-based nappy bags.
2. Cloth Nappy Liners – These are to provide extra bulk for your cloth nappies. Basically to catch more wee! You can stuff them inside your nappy or lay them on top for added thickness. I bought mine second hand on ebay for a big pile of mismatched liners. It doesn’t matter too much as they aren’t seen and most cloth nappies will accommodate any cloth liners. You will also find these for sale on the same websites that sell cloth nappies, and some cloth nappy brands have their own liners that will provide the best fit. You will need twice the amount of liners to nappies.
3. Cloth Nappies – I tried a few brands and my favourite hands down was Bum Genius. I preferred the Free Time version as they have built in liners so that the nappy can be worn without extra stuffing. You can easily add one or two more liners underneath the fitted liner for extra weight. They also have several snap fastenings, so are easily adjustable from birth right up to potty training age. Ideally you should need around 20 nappies per child, though we had 20 between the two boys and it worked out fine with part-time cloth diapering. We purchased ours from thenappylady online, though do check out ebay as there are some great deals on second hand nappies.
4. Disposable Top Liners – You can buy these easily from cloth nappy websites, ebay or amazon. They come in long rolls with perforations for easily ripping off single sheets at a time. They are to lay over the top of the cloth nappy before putting it on to your baby. Essentially it creates a top layer to keep moisture away from baby’s bottom – but most importantly it catches poo and can be easily folded up and thrown down the toilet.
5. Disposable Nappies – Even if you intend to fully cloth nappy, please please have a stash of disposables! They are so handy for being out and about, or for those days where nothing goes to plan. If you want to stay as eco as possible, perhaps try Naty disposable nappies. They are as biodegradable as possible, latex-free, bleach-free, fragrance-free and are hypo-allergenic.
6. Nappy Creams – I always have something to hand for the first signs of any nappy rash or redness. We used Burt’s Bees talc-free powder & nappy ointment and Lansinoh (left over from early breast-feeding days)
7. Wipes – I’m afraid I can’t give any advice on cloth or reusable wipes as we never used them. I love Water Wipes as they’re the purest disposable wipes on the market.
Now, how to prepare a cloth nappy.
1. Open up your cloth nappy. Depending on the brand or style that you have chosen, either stuff the nappy with a cloth liner, or lay the liner inside the nappy.
2. Fold the nappy over to secure the extra liner.
3. Place 1 or 2 sheets of disposable liner on top.
4. Good to go. Some parents like to pre-stuff their nappies for the following day, so that you have a stash ready for the day ahead.
How to change a cloth nappy.
1. What worked best for me was to change the boy’s cloth nappy every 2-3 hours (non-poo) but to keep an eye out (for example if they had drank a bit more water) for any heaviness. Just like disposable nappies, you can give them a squeeze at the front and if they feel full or heavy, they are probably ready for a change.
2. If the nappy is completely wet, remove the top liner and throw that in the bin. The rest of the nappy can be stored away for washing.
3. If the nappy is completely wet and soiled, remove the top liner (and poo) by folding the liner up and around. If your top liners are flushable (most are) and your toilet system can handle it – pop the poo and liner in the toilet and flush it away. The rest of the wet nappy can be stored away for washing.
4. If the nappy is soiled but recently changed (and not wet), you can remove the poo like above, replace with a new top liner and re-fasten the nappy.
5. If the nappy is a complete mess and poo has leaked past the top liner (arghh!) flush the top liner and what poo you can down the toilet and either soak the dirty nappy before washing, or try to shake off any mess into the toilet before soaking or washing. You can also buy nappy sprayer attachments for your bathroom taps, to jet wash off your dirtier nappies pre-wash. This is a worse-case scenario when it comes to cloth nappies, but promise not all changes will be like this!
How to clean your cloth nappies.
I think this is the bit that puts most people off. But it’s really not that bad, as long as you are prepared. Ideally you want a odour-free nappy bin (like this one) by your changing station. That way, you can chuck your nappies in that over the day, and deal with the washing later. You can also buy waterproof liners for nappy bins, that can be thrown in the wash along with the nappies. It’s also handy to have a designated old washing-up bowl or bucket that you keep under the sink, for throwing heavily soiled nappies into (and clothing) for a pre-wash soak. I washed my nappies every 1-3 days, using a non-bio liquid detergent. You can also try mixing about 4 tablespoons of laundry bleach in with your normal nappy wash once a month to help with stains and odours. A 40 degree wash always worked fine for us. Weather permitting, it’s great to dry your cloth nappies on the line as this will help deodorise them. Failing that, we tumble or radiator dried our nappies and cloth liners. Soap nuts are also worth a try if you are interested in a more ecological and natural washing method.
Storing cloth nappies.
We stored all of our cloth nappies, disposable nappies, cloth liners, top liners, wipes, nappy bags and creams together on our changing table. The nappy pail was kept by the washing machine in the utilty room and the extra nappy bucket was stored under the sink. Luckily we had a downstairs toilet for poo disposal – but if you don’t have a toilet close to your changing station – either decide to change your baby closer to the bathroom for soiled nappies or try putting the poop and top liner inside a nappy bag, until you can dispose of it. Also, be aware of rolling babies on top of changing tables, if you are running off to the bathroom during nappy changes!
One of the most important questions raised about using cloth nappies is; does using them actually save families money? With the rising cost of electricity, all the washing and drying can at first seem to offset any actual money saved – not to mention to big initial outlay of money invested in buying your first set of cloth nappies and accessories. I did a bit of research and found this article, which seemed to explain it best – and found that on average, by switching to cloth nappies, you can save your family around £1500 during your child’s early years.
However you chose to use nappies with your baby – the most important thing is that you are happy and comfortable with your decision. Using cloth nappies is a great way to save money and help the environment, but if the extra work is putting pressure on your parenting day – consider giving it a break for a while and perhaps coming back to it when the time is right for you. Or like us, just stop when you’ve had enough!