What kind of nappies to use is just one of the many parenting choices we are faced with, recently cloth nappies are making a bit of a come back as people discover some of the benefits. I used cloth nappies for my first baby seven years ago and this pregnancy I knew I wanted to explore cloth again. As we thought we were only having one child we had passed on all our baby things, so this meant starting again, although it meant more expense financially, I have had a great time exploring some of the styles and nappies available, I think cloth is slightly addictive!
So what are the benefits of cloth nappies?
The most obvious benefit is for the environment, the average child will get through 4000-6000 nappies in their life time and disposables take an average of 500 years to decompose in landfill, quite a scary statistic. With many councils in the UK cutting back on rubbish collections to fortnightly for many people space in the bin is at a premium, adding nappies their waste means extra smelly and full bins.
The second benefit is that cloth nappies are made from super soft and safe materials on babies skin, using cloth means you can avoid some of the chemicals in disposables including absorbent gels and petrochemicals. There is some evidence to suggest that for some children using cloth nappies can help to reduce nappy rash too.
The average cost of nappies for a child in their lifetime is quite a scary figure, I have seen £800 widely quoted but this will depend very much on the brand of nappies you use and at what age your child is potty trained. The joy of Cloth nappies is that they can be used for more than one child and if in good condition tend to have a good resale value too, in fact there is a booming second hand market. Cloth can save £100's of pounds, especially if you are a savvy shopper and you use them for more than one child. Some councils offer discount schemes and incentives too, worth checking to see if that is the case in your area before buying.
Using cloth nappies can lead to earlier potty training in some children, the rationale behind this is that disposables contain super absorbent gels, meaning that the child doesn't notice they are wet. With real nappies the sensations are different and therefore a child becomes more aware of what is happening with his/her body and when they need to be changed.
Cloth nappies look great! When you compare cloth nappies to disposables, nothing looks cuter than a fluffy bottomed baby. There are such great prints and styles available and importantly cloth nappies take around the same time to change as a disposable. I do believe there is such a thing as cloth nappy addiction, I am forever browsing prints and styles to add to my stash.
What types cloth nappies are right for me?
When deciding to try out cloth nappies many people make the mistake of buying lot's of nappies before baby is even born, only to find the fit or style isn't quite right for them. Personally I think those first few weeks new parents have enough to get their head around, so I would recommend waiting until baby is a few weeks old and then exploring the best options for them. Lot's of areas have a nappy library service where you can borrow a variety of styles to test on your baby, also some independent retailers will be able to advise you on the systems available. These are some of the options, not an extensive list but will give you the basics:
All in one nappies, are the closest to a disposable, they are very convenient and easy to use, especially if you are new to cloth. All in one nappies can be slightly more expensive than other types of nappies and you need to have enough in your stash to allow for drying time. AIO nappies come in a variety of fabrics that will affect their performance and drying time but they are generally quite versatile because you can boost them if needed and are slim fitting. Most AIO nappies are Birth to potty with the inclusion of poppers (snaps) that allow you to adjust the nappy to fit your baby but they also come in different sizes.
Pocket nappies, similar to all in ones except the nappy comes with a separate insert that needs to be stuffed or attached to the waterproof wrap cover. These are a little more fiddly than all in ones, but it also means they are quicker to dry as you take them apart and can boost them as needed with different inserts to suit the needs of your baby at different stages.
Two part fitted nappies, consist of a basic shaped nappy and a separate waterproof cover. This type of nappy can be a little bulky and take a while to dry depending on the fabric chosen but is also very absorbent and ideal for night time and means you can use the waterproof wrap several times before needing to wash it. These generally come in two sizes for a better fit. You can also get a similar system that uses terry squares and a waterproof cover.
What will I need to get started?
Whichever system you choose there are some basic accessories that are useful to have. A nappy bucket with a lid, preferably one that clips shut to contain any smells. A couple of netted bags that can be inserted in to the bucket and means that you can just pop the whole bag in the wash with no need to handle the nappies. Nappy liners, either fleece or flushable for catching the worst of the poop. A wet bag for transporting the wet nappies when you are out and about and finally your chosen nappies. How many depends on how often you want to have to wash them, the kind you have and if you are using them full or part time (remember it doesn't have to be all or nothing, many people use them at home and use disposables when out and about or on holidays). An average number to go for seems to be 20-30 nappies for full time use.
For the first few weeks of Baby Green's life we used more eco-friendly disposables (See my change bag essentials post), partly because I wanted to give myself time to recover from birth before adding any extra washing and partly because I wanted to use birth to potty nappies which can be a little bit big on a newborn, most recommend a starting weight of 8 to 10 lbs. I had bought a few nappies whilst pregnant of brands that I wanted to try so I started with around 10 nappies when Baby Green was 10 weeks old. This was more than enough to start using cloth part time, Baby Green isn't a heavy wetter so I change her nappy every three hours approximately during the day, more or less after every feed. I have added another six nappies to my stash, so I have more than enough to use nappies in the day time and use disposables at night and if we go out for the entire day purely because I need to get a new change bag to accommodate cloth nappies as the one I have currently is rather small. My total investment so far is around £200, this has included the 16 all in one, birth to potty nappies (bought new), a starter set with a bucket, two mesh bags and six packets of flushable liners. I also have a couple of roomy wet bags which can be used not just for nappies but are also great for use when swimming or for storing dirty clothes when children are older.
So are cloth nappies more work?
I would say yes, but only very minimally! In fact for me the benefits certainly outweigh a small amount of extra effort. I pop a nappy wash on every other day at the moment, that also includes washable wipes which I will cover in another post. To make things more environmentally friendly I wash at 40 degrees (unless heavily soiled) and I line dry, outside if possible but often inside as the British weather rarely co-operates. You don't need to soak the nappies, just pop them in the bucket and if soiled the flushable liner takes care of the worst part so it really is no more messy than a disposable as you flush the poo down the toilet. It takes around fives minutes to then re-stuff the nappies ready for use next time, I do this job sat on the floor whilst chatting and singing to Baby Green. Over the next few weeks I am hoping to progress to full time cloth use, but it will only mean a few extra nappies to wash and dry, so that really is it in terms of effort.
My current nappy stash consists of a mixture of brands: Bambino Mio Miosolos, Tots Bots Easyfit V4's, Tickletots, Pop-In New Generation V2 and Milovia. My most used are currently the Bambino Mio Miosolos and the Tots Bots nappies and it is likely I will adding more Bambino Mio to the stash because I love, love, love the prints and Tots Bots too as they have now released a new nappy called the Easyfit Star which is said to be even better than the V4's. I also intend to buy some two part nappies, as I have heard that they can be great for night time. If you are interested in specific nappy reviews or comparisons, feel free to leave a request in the comments!
Do you love cloth nappies? Are you thinking about using them for your next baby? I would love to hear from you.
For more information see the Go Real Nappy information website