Cloth Nappies – a Q & A

I’ve used cloth nappies for my last three children, and it’s always been something that people have asked about. It’s also something that I’ve noticed becoming more and more mainstream over the last eleven years. There are so many options now, seemingly hundreds of different styles of nappies it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.

I do get a lot of questions asked -Aren’t they a hassle? Don’t they create more work? Why would you bother when disposables are so easy? Don’t they cost a lot of money? But cloth nappies have come a long way since the days of terry squares and safety pins!

Q// Why do you cloth nappy?
Two main reasons – to help the environment and to save money. Every day in the UK alone, almost 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away. With each nappy taking between 200-500 years to breakdown, that’s an awful lot of waste to sit in landfill. Plus disposable nappies are made of super-absorbent chemicals, paper pulp, plastics and adhesives, while real nappies are mostly made of natural fabrics. I know which I’d rather put on my baby’s skin!

Over the two and a half years the average child is in nappies, it’s estimated you would spend around £900 on disposable nappies, and around £400 on cloth nappies {though I’m guessing that’s if you bought brand new for each child}. Cloth nappies will easily do two or more children, increasing the savings even more. You can also purchase second hand to keep the costs down.

Q// Isn’t it a lot more work?
Not really, once you get in the swing of cloth nappying, it’s essentially only an extra load of laundry every couple of days.

Q// What kind of cloth nappies do you use?

Right now for Oren, I’m using a mix of tots bots and little lamb two-parters, and various all in one nappies. I find that the two-parters generally work better for him, though I’ve found the Mama Koala, Alva Baby and Baba + Boo are also really good.

Q// Do you cloth nappy exclusively?
Nope. I usually have my newborn in an eco-disposable for the first week or two. Those first few days you really don’t want to be worrying about running out of nappies if you’ve forgotten to throw them in the wash, so we use a disposable while I recover from the birth and we get settled into some kind of normal. I also use a disposable at night. Iv’e tried so many combinations and nothing I’ve found has ever worked for any of mine to keep them dry all night long. And frankly, sleep is vital – I don’t want it disturbed because of nappy leaks, so I use a disposable that I know will get us through the night. I’d also use eco-disposables when we were traveling or away from home for a few or more days. However, I know many hard-core cloth nappy users who even use cloth whilst camping!

Q// How many cloth nappies do you need?

I have around 30 nappies right now {a mix of size 2’s and birth to potty}, and around 10 wraps. You could totally manage with less, I just seem to keep collecting them!! This gives me enough to wash every other day and wait for them to dry.

Q// Do they leak?
Cloth nappies shouldn’t leak. If they do, it’s usually because they haven’t been put on correctly, or you need to boost them with another liner so they can absorb more liquid. If you’ve bought brand new nappies, they will need pre-washing a few times first to bring them to their full absorbency.

Q// What else will I need?
Nappy Bucket & Bucket Liner
Wet Bag
Coconut Oil
Washable wipes

We usually use a disposable paper liner, placed inside of the cloth nappy, if baby has pooed it can just be thrown away – meaning no scraping poo of the nappy! We also have a load of fleece liners that do need the poo scraping off and washing.

A nappy bucket is essential for holding all those nappies waiting to be washed. We use it with a mesh laundry bag, so on wash day we can simply put the whole bag full in the machine rather than having to pick up dirty nappies one by one.

If we’re just popping out for for the day, then I keep them in cloth nappies. I have a wet bag in my change bag all the time to put soiled nappies in until we get home.

Most nappy rash creams are not recommended for use with cloth nappies. Thankfully, most babies in cloth nappies seem to suffer from less nappy rash than those in disposables. I find that plenty of nappy free time usually keeps baby’s bum happy – if they are looking a little sore I use pure coconut oil.

We also use washable wipes – I have a giant pile of baby sized washcloths that I bought specifically for bottom cleaning. I actually use chamomile tea to wash their bum! I have a spray bottle for ‘botty wash’ and make up a fresh solution each day. Simply make up a mug of chamomile tea, I leave to brew for five minutes, then pour it into my spray bottle and top up with cold water. If they have a sore bottom, I add a drop of tea tree oil and two of lavender essential oil.

Q// How do you wash your nappies?
Wash/spray off any poo that may be on the nappy, then into the nappy bucket until wash day. I put the laundry bag full of nappies into the washing machine. I put them on a 60 degree wash with an extra rinse. I’ve used many different detergents, though to be honest I just usually use the eco-friendly one we use for everything else. Although I love the sounds of this Tots Bots Potion – Palma Violet scented nappies?! I usually line dry my nappies – a good dose of sunshine does wonders for getting rid of stains and keeping them white! However, living where we do means that sometimes I do have to tumble dry them {a large family’s laundry PLUS nappies when you’ve had day after day of rain gets hard to dry inside!}. If they do go in the dryer, I put them on cool and never dry the wraps in there! Oh – and don’t use a fabric conditioner with your nappies – it will affect their absorbency.

If you have never tried cloth but want to, it can be daunting starting out. The Nappy Gurus is a fantastic website, where you can get some excellent advice on cloth nappies as well as browse their shop. They sell a ‘Make a Real Change’ kit, which is a fantastic first introduction to cloth. You get three different styles of nappies so you can find out what works best for you/you bubba, a nappy wet bag and a roll of tots bots nappy liners – all for just £40!

Cloth doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing – even using one or two cloth nappies a day will save so many nappies from going into landfill over the course of your babies nappy days.

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