A quick guide to cloth nappies


Every time I go to get Forrest weighed (which I did today*) I always get comments about his cloth nappies. I get asked how much extra work it is? does it really work out cheaper? isn’t it gross? etc etc. Long before we had Forrest, we had planned to use cloth. If the landfill issue wasn’t enough on it’s own, the affordability of cloth nappies seemed a bit of a no-brainer. In the four months which we have been using them, we have almost broken even and obviously will be using them for quite some time to come.  There are so many different ways to go about cloth nappies and it all comes down to your personal preferences and routine but with that mind, here are a few of my answers to the most common questions I get asked.
How expensive is it and how many do you need?

This all depends on the brand you choose, the amount you need and how much you are prepared to spend. I looked into getting a second hand stash initially. There are some great bargains out there on ebay, preloved and some cloth nappy suppliers even have second hand sections of their websites. However,  I  decided to buy them new in the hope that I can use them again for future baby wolves. If I have more children, I imagine that I might have to replace a couple but all in all it cost me under £300 for a stash of 22. It might seem like a lot but it really is a mere drop in the ocean compare to what I would have spent on disposables over the next couple of years. 

I have just had to add a couple more as  Forrest is going through them quite quickly of late and I prefer to wash them every couple of days. I think it is perfectly possible to get away with 20-22 but 24 just gives you a little bit more flexibility. All the nappies are one-size fits all and should take him through to potty training although I read that they do come quite big on newborns so you might want to take that into account.

What kind of nappies do you use?

We only use bumGenius 4.0 nappies. I know that many people like to try out a few brands and have a several in their stash to rotate. I decided that I would prefer to know and master one system alone. I did a lot of research before Forrest was born and these had great reviews and were used by other mums I know. I initially bought two and tested them out for a couple of weeks to see if they were a good fit.  I then purchased a whole stash during Real Nappy Week where there were some incredible discounts. If you are planning on trying cloth nappies and can wait until April 2014, I strongly recommend waiting until this week to buy!

Snaps or velcro?

I tried out both types as I liked the idea of the velcro but was concerned about how durable they would be after multiple washes. In the end,  I didn’t get on well with the velcro; I found them more challenging to wash and the tabs kept snaring the outside shells. As I planned these nappies to be a long term investment, I decided the poppers would have more life in them, even though they take longer to do up and are difficult to master when trying to do a midnight change in the dark! After 4 months, I can almost do it blind so I can tell you from experience that it does get easier! 

When did you start using cloth nappies?

I waited until Forrest was 8 weeks old and big enough to fit into the 4.0 nappies. As I said above, this style is one-size fits all but like many I found them to be way to big for him as a newborn. BumGenius do make newborn nappies but I didn’t really have the budget for these and I decided having a newborn was enough to contend with, without having to deal with cloth nappies on top. Now I am more experienced in using cloth and know how easy it is, I might be tempted to try out the newborn size next time round. 

How do you wash your nappies?

I have pretty much stuck to the bumGenius guidelines from day one, in the hope that it will preserve the life of these nappies for as long as possible. I do a cold wash, followed by a hot wash at 60C and then an extra rinse.  I don’t have a tumble drier but you can dry the inserts in one and line dry the shells. I do both on a standard drying rack although if you do have a garden, drying them in the sun helps bleaching out any stains.  I find that all my nappies will be dry indoors in about 12 hours, so I wash them every two days (having between 10-12 clean ones always in circulation)

BumGenius recommend using 1/2 cup of bleach once a month to remove stains and help with odour control. I have yet to have a problem with smells but plan to start bleaching them this month to make sure there is no bacteria buildup. I have been experimenting with different detergents and have yet to find one that I love. There is a useful list of nappy friendly detergents here but many of them are unfortunately difficult or expensive to get in the UK. I have just received a package of FuzziBunz cloth nappy detergent and have quite high hopes for it so maybe I’ll do an update when I have tested it out.

Do they leak?
In the beginning, like every new parent, I have had my fair share of blowouts and leaks but I don’t think any more so than using disposables  We went though about a week of getting near constant leaks and I couldn’t fathom why. In the end, I think Forrest was going through a growth spurt and I hadn’t quite adjusted the nappies quite right to fit him. I did a strip wash to be certain (removing any detergent build up) and by the end of that week, the problems had righted itself. I find that by using double inserts, Forrest can go through the whole night in one nappy and leaks are very rare.

Are they a lot more work?

I find the process incredibly easy and I am so used to my washing, drying and stuffing system that it has become second nature. Babies generate so much washing anyway that I don’t mind the extra load.

Do you use cloth wipes?

We do use cloth wipes and have found them to be really successful. We purchased a kit which comes with everything you need, plus some handy travel bags for when you are out and about. I really like the fact that the wipes only use water and essential oils on Forrest’s skin and the really are much more effective at cleaning than disposable wipes. I just bung the dirty ones in the wash with the nappies so it does not generate any extra cleaning.

What do you do when you are away from home?

As much as I love cloth nappies, I choose not to be a slave to it. Sometimes disposables are  more convenient. If I know that I am going to be away from home for a few days and don’t have access to a washing machine, I use Naty nappies and wipes. However, day to day when I am going out, I only use cloth and we don’t keep a supply of disposables in the house. I just take 3-4 nappies, cloth wipes and a wet bag out with me. It really is very simple.

Is it gross?

I don’t think so. No more so than disposable nappies. Yes, a top-loading washing machine would limit the amount of handling but as long as you have a good clean system that works for you, it’s pretty straightforward.

What will you actually need: the gear

1. Nappies! You can buy them all over the place and from some lovely independent retailers who often do excellent deals. I have mainly ordered from here and here . Shop around for the best price and deals.

2. Extra liners. I uses these hemp ones from Little Weed overnight to boost the nappies’ absorbancy.

3. A bucket. I use a dry-pail system so I simply toss the dirty nappies in to a bin with a waterproof liner. I really wanted this one from Labour and Wait but it would have blown my budget out of the water so instead I settled for this one which is still prettier than plastic but cheaper than enamel.

4. A waterproof nappy pail liner. I have two as one is always in the bin and one is always in the wash. I have this one from bumGenius which is massive, practical but nothing special or exciting (but hey, it sits in a bin and holds dirty nappies so it does the job perfectly). My other one is new and from Fuzzibunz. It is actually for hanging on the back of the door but  I just stick it in the bin. I can imagine it is handy for travelling though and it has quite a smart zip at the bottom which would be excellent if you have a top loading washing machine- which I don’t. I’ll let you know if it turns out to be a life changing purchase. 

5. A changing station. As there are quite a lot of components to cloth nappies, it makes sense to have them all together if you can. We don’t have a proper station as such but instead use a mat on top of our dresser. Although now Forrest can roll, he will be graduating to the floor asap. I use the two top drawers to store the nappies, inserts, creams and wipes. All his clothes live underneath and the nappy bin sits next to the dresser. As we live in a 1-bed flat all of this currently is set up in our bedroom and has worked really well for us. 

6. CJ’s butter. This stuff is really good and cleans up all sorts of rashes. It smells lovely, is great for new skin and is one of the few rash creams that is cloth nappy safe. I really like that it comes in a stick version which saves your hands getting all greasy. It’s not cheap but our 0.75oz stick is still going strong 4 months in.

7. A really good drying rack or a lovely garden. 

Finally, if you are planning on giving cloth nappies a whirl, just remember they are a little bulky so you might find you have to size up on your babies clothes. I hope that helped answer a few questions and if you have any more, feel free to ping them my way.

*19lb 6oz, 95th percentile = one giant baby

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  • honest diapers

    I tried many many different diapers before I decided on these. I like them because (1) they are the only ones out of all the others that I tried that held everything in and were super-absorbant for nighttime and (2) fit my big baby better than their same size competitors. If you have a large baby, these fit well. My baby also used to poop right out of other diapers and these actually contain it!

    • Hanna

      I only ever tried out a couple of other brands but I am glad I tested them first to check the fit as I have also read that skinny babies can have leaking problems. I totally agree with you that they are great for overnight!

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