Things I’ve learned from using cloth nappies

*This post contains gifted items from The Nappy Den.* You can use the code MELSDEN10 for 10% off everything at The Nappy Den


It’s important to start this long post with a disclaimer of sorts. I’m not preaching, this is not designed to make you feel bad if you aren’t making the changes that I’ve made. I’m here to offer an alternative, if that is something you’re interested in, and show you that you don’t have to be scared of switching it up. And if you don’t want to take the alternative, that’s absolutely fine. We’re all just doing our best and parenting our kids exactly how we see fit. Because THAT is what matters.


A couple of months ago, Lorna from The Nappy Den asked me if I would be interested in making the switch to cloth, and become an ambassador for her business.


The idea of cloth was TERRIFYING. Even though the benefits are so strong, I couldn’t shake the cons- because to be honest, there are a few.


PROS OF REUSABLE NAPPIES

  • Environmentally friendly- even using one cloth a day would have an impact on how many nappies end up in landfill

  • Kinder to baby’s skin, with no chemicals and natural, soft materials

  • Cute prints

  • Saves money in the long run- especially if you have more than one child, as they can be reused on multiple kids

  • When you’re done, they sell on at great prices, so you can recoup some of that

  • Potty training down the line could be easier, since they can feel the wetness


CONS OF REUSABLE NAPPIES

  • Bulky- even the most slimline may not fit over certain outfits

  • Extra work with the addition of washing and drying-energy bill higher with long hot washes

  • There is some trial and error involved, with fit especially

  • Initial cost is steep

  • They are not quite as convenient, especially when away from home

  • More frequent changes, as they can feel the wetness


I couldn’t shake the idea of the landfill argument. Our bins are collected on a rotation here- one week for general rubbish, the next for recycling, and so on, so our green bin is collected every 14 days. With the addition of nappies since having River, this had become almost impossible to live with- just adding newborn nappies to the load meant that after day 8 or 9, we were fighting for space. And then I started thinking how many children in our street were in nappies, or our town, or the whole of the UK. That’s a lot of waste. And it’s all going into landfill. I want my son and his whole generation to grow up without the threat of the environment looming over them the way it does us. I want to start making changes for his future, and setting an example that he can follow. And this seemed like a good place to start.


So, with some trepidation, I said yes and received a little bundle to get me going. The bundle contained a mix of styles and brands, a wet bag, and washing instructions.



After a rocky start, we’re now 2 and a half months into our cloth journey- so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned from the experience, from the point of view of a complete novice. If you’re looking to make the switch from ‘sposie to cloth, it can be really daunting to know where to start- so from one beginner to another...


THINGS I‘VE LEARNED SINCE SWITCHING TO CLOTH

1. You’re not going to get it right first time The very first nappy I put on River leaked after 1 hour, right onto my jeans. And I was so fucked off about it. We had gone from a disposable that had just seen him 12 hours overnight- like, it’s so heavy in the morning that I truly believe if I fired it out of a cannon, I could kill someone- and now, one puny hour and it was coming out of the sides? Annoying. But like with anything, practise makes perfect.

2. You gotta wash lots before first use One of the coolest things about going cloth, is that the nappies actually get more absorbent over time. The more you wash them, the more they’ll hold- so it’s important that you give them a few nice long wash cycles before first use. I give my nappies and inserts 3 washes before using them!

3. Fit is very important It’s the holy grail of cloth. With the right fit, you shouldn’t encounter problems with leaking. Below you’ll find a helpful picture guide from Lorna at The Nappy Den, which shows how to do it. And if it seems tough, don’t be put off, I promise you it will get easier over time- remember, even that first disposable probably seemed like you were defusing a bomb. I am such a one for wanting to throw in the towel if I’m not instantly brilliant at something, but I just needed to get used to it because really, practise makes perfect.


4. Find what works for your lifestyle

Every household, baby, routine is different. Some people will be able to cloth 24/7, others may not be able to manage that. For example, we are a family without a car, so leaving the house is already on a limited kit, and I simply don’t have the space to take out clean nappies, and somewhere to store the dirty ones if we’re out for the whole day. I started off just using cloth if we were in our home, then extended that to include if we were out of the house for up to 4 hours- taking one nappy and a wetbag is manageable, so I’d keep him in cloth. However, long outings, overnight, and holidays, we’re in disposables. If we drove, I’d be happier clothing for longer periods of time on the go, as I’d have more space for essentials, and if I take a trip to somewhere with a washing facility, I’ll happily cloth there. But a weekend in a caravan and days spent at the beach is likely going to be a ‘sposie weekend. But there is no hard and fast rule that says you have to do one or the other- much like with breastmilk or formula, baby led weaning or purees, cry it out or attachment parenting; hell, anything. You just do what works for YOU. And there is nothing to say that you can’t switch this up down the line.

5. Wash cycle

Ok, so MY wash cycle is as follows. I use fairy non bio powder, do a 30 min 40 degree pre-wash rinse cycle with no detergent, followed by a 60 degree 2 and a half hour wash, and then hang everything out to dry.  I say MY so emphatically because everyone has their own routine, machine, detergent preferences, and some people can be VERY precious about it. I’ve found this works for us, and it’s simple to follow. Lorna has also included this handy quick guide to washing nappies underneath- thanks girl!

Washing Info

Most brands supply their own washing guides, however it's best to keep it as simple as you can if you have a mix of different brands.




Quick Guide to Washing:

- Knock solids off the nappy into the toilet and store in a nappy pail or hanging pail until wash day. 

- Empty the pail into the washing machine and rinse the nappies with no powder (approx 20 - 30 min) this will remove the contents.

- Add the recommended dose of powder to your load and set on the longest full wash your machine has (approx 2-3hours) at 40 or 60 degrees.

- Line dry for best results, or low tumble dry for none PUL fabric

Top Tips

- Make sure your washing machine is about 3/4 full to enable a good wash, if you don't have that many nappies to fill to 3/4 pad your wash out with small items like baby grows, muslins, wipes etc.

- Don't use fabric softener this can coat the natural fibres and make them less absorbent.

- Use powder not liquid for best wash results.

- Do not place nappies on direct heat like radiators

- New nappies, especially natural fibres (bamboo, hemp) require several pre- washes to get them up to full absorbency, if they don't receive several pre- washes you will need to boost to avoid leaks!

6. There are a lot of opinions on the internet The cloth community is very helpful, but my GOD is it a loud community. There are lots of Facebook groups that are really great if you’re starting out, or you need a problem troubleshooting- but just be aware that it is a LOT. Everyone believes their way, or their wash routine, or their choice of brand is the best way, and it can be hard to cut through the opinions to get to the facts. That being said, it’s great that the community exists because you really do not have to go very far to find help or advice.

7. You’re doing your bit and that’s important, no matter how much or little you do Even trading one disposable nappy a day for cloth makes a difference, that’s a fact. Don’t feel bad if you can’t commit full time, or if after 6 weeks you change your mind, or anything else for that matter. One less disposable means one less disposable in landfill. And the same goes for wipes- we've not made the switch yet, but for home use, that should save us money and waste, as they can be thrown in with the nappy wash.




8.  Get a good selection to get you started off

Whether you're clothing from birth, or you're arriving to the party a little later, make sure you've got a good little selection. If you're planning to have your baby in reusables full time, you're going to need to consider how many nappies you'll get through in a day, how often you're planning on doing a wash, and how long things take to dry in your house (more on this later). I have a rotation of 16 nappies, and we use them around 80% of our awake time. I wash around every 36-48 hours, and try and time it so they can dry during the day in the sun rather than on the clothes horse overnight, inside. I've also got a good variety of brands, styles, and types- this way I can make sure River's got the right nappy on for his needs at that time. In the winter, I'll probably have to add more nappies to my stash to account for how long they'll take to dry inside, but your own circumstances are worth considering here.


If you’re worried about investing, only to change your mind down the line, The Nappy Den offers hire kits, to try out a range of styles, brands, and prints for 6 weeks.



9. There are lots of different types of nappy to consider

If you're starting out from a place of total bewilderment like I did, you're best off finding a nappy that is as close to what you're used to as possible- looking at All in Ones, All in Two's or pockets. I've come to favour pockets, because I can fit one nappy to many needs. The shell (the patterned waterproof layer) is fleece lined (this sits against babies bum and wicks away any moisture), and between these two layers is a pocket, where you stuff inserts in, depending on what needs you're meeting. If River is going to have a nap (and I'm hoping it's going to be a long one) I'm looking for something absorbent- so I'll use a hemp booster, and a microfiber insert on top of that. However if he's going in his jumperoo, something that boosted would mean his legs aren't likely to touch the floor, so I'll just use one microfiber insert. I'll be aware though, that with the addition of compression and the fact that while microfiber is fast absorbing, it doesn't absorb as *much* as hemp or bamboo- so that nappy will need changing sooner.


Still with me? Surely you'd just use hemp all the time right? Wrong. It takes fucking AGES to dry, and if there isn't any sun to help, in my house it can take a good couple of days to feel ready to put back into rotation. So again, you fit the process to your family lifestyle.


10. The poo isn't as bad as you think

I always give a poo nappy a quick blast in the sink or the bath before bunging it in with the rest waiting to be washed, and it really isn't that bad. They're always well contained in reusables (provided you've perfected the fit), and exclusively breastfed poo is water soluble, so it's an easy clean up. No more messy than actually changing the nappy in the first place (you should have seen the poo my sister and I dealt with on our recent holiday, and there was no nappy involved there at ALL)




But I think the biggest thing of all is that is becomes addictive. Trying new brands, boosters, or designs, working out how to build the perfectly boosted nappy set up for your baby, organising your stash. And then you‘ll find yourself looking at other alternatives, like cloth wipes, CSP, packaging-free and natural ingredient beauty products. And before you know it, you’re making a real difference.


You can use the code MELSDEN10 for 10% off everything at The Nappy Den



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