Getting started with cloth nappies

I am a full-on cloth nappy convert. I love them.

They are greener (no landfill!), which makes them a very worthy choice. More superficially, they are also extremely colourful and cute – so much lovelier than disposables. They are also supposed to aid potty-training as they feel less dry than disposable nappies. 

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It also works out far, far cheaper to use reusable nappies, although there is an upfront cost. A new nappy from a trusted brand will cost you between £10-20, but if you choose one-size nappies they should last from birth to potty. There is also a thriving second hand nappy community on ebay. If you are buying for your first child, bear in mind that you will be able to reuse for any subsequent children (and then probably sell the lot once you’re done). Because many nappy brands do gorgeous prints and bright colours, they would also be a nice present to ask for from friends and relatives who ask you for gift suggestions.

To get started, you will need: nappies, liners, reusable wipes, and wet bags.

Nappies

Before I started ‘cloth-bumming’, I had an image of cloth nappies as the traditional terry cloths which needed to be tied around a wriggly baby, but although those are still an option, I far prefer the more “modern” style of all in one or two in one cloth nappies, which can be popped on to your baby just like a disposable. However some parents swear by the more traditional style as these provide more protection against leaks. There are many different styles and brands of nappies – some which are fully reusable, and some which use disposable inserts; some of which are one-size (our preference), some of which are sized.

As we didn’t know which nappies we would prefer, we bought a combination of different brands and styles.

Some are fastened with velcro (we have some Bambino Miosolo and Totsbots Easyfit). These make it very easy to get the fit right, but I suspect they won’t last as long and we plan to reuse these nappies for any future children. These are also true all in ones, with the absorbent insert attached to the outer nappy, and I’ve found these take a bit longer to dry.

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We also have some which are fastened with poppers (we have used Charlie Banana, Smartipants and Fuzzibunz). These all have removable inserts which come out during the wash, which means they dry faster, but you need to put the insert back in before the nappy can be worn. Many of these have adjustable elastic as well as poppers so that you can get a snug fit, but you will need to practice a bit to get a perfect fit. I feel like these have got a long life ahead of them as poppers don’t wear out.

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To start off we bought a “best sellers bundle” from Fill Your Pants (a brilliant website for all things reusable) and a couple of nappies from ebay, then took it from there. We have 16 nappies, which so far is enough as we wash them every night, and probably use around seven each day. If you wanted to wash less frequently, you will need more nappies.

A word about night-time: You can certainly use reusable nappies at night, and some brands will offer specific nappies designed for night-time use. We’re currently still using disposables at night as we still have a lot of them, and they keep Frida very dry, which is helpful as we no longer change her nappy at night. When these run out we will switch to reusable night-time nappies so that we are 100 per cent reusable.

A word about clothing: Cloth nappies are bulkier, so make for bigger baby bums. This means you may need to go up a size for your baby’s clothes. Some brands such as Frugi are cut for cloth, and others like H&M do mid-sizes like 4-6 months. You can also buy vest extenders so that your baby can wear their regular sized vests.

Liners

You can buy two kinds of liner – flushable or biodegradable paper liners, and fleecy or material cloth liners. We use Little Lamb fleecy liners at the moment which we love – they are so soft on Frida’s bottom, and are moisture wicking so they leave her feeling a bit drier. She still does inoffensive, wet baby poos though, so when she starts weaning we will probably add a paper liner to the nappy to catch any solids. Then all we need to do is flush it away!

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It’s vital to use a liner if you’re going to use a cream or oil on your baby’s bottom, as this will prevent the cream from clogging up the nappy over time.

Wipes

As soon as we started using reusable nappies it became obvious that switching to reusable wipes was a no-brainer. If you’re already doing regular nappy washes, washing the wipes doesn’t provide any extra work, and it means never having to buy wipes again (we were using Water Wipes which are bloody expensive) as well as not having to throw anything into landfill.

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We bought a set of bamboo wipes from Cheeky Wipes, which came with a box to store them in, a mini wet bag for use outside, and some lavender and chamomile essential oil. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I love love love these wipes! They are like small flannels, so clean brilliantly well. They smell good, are actually effective, and I love not throwing anything away after each change.

Cheeky Wipes suggest that you keep the wipes wet in their box, but I didn’t really like the idea of soaking all of the wipes and leaving them sitting wet and soggy, so we keep them dry, and wet them in the sink before each nappy change. This has the advantage of nice warm water for Frida’s bottom! I put a few drops of essential oil in with the dry wipes which makes them smell amazing as well. When we go out we simply wet a few wipes, wring them out so they are damp, and pop them in the mini wet bag to take with us. We wash them with the nappies which saves time and energy, then wait for them to be dry and pop them in the box again.

I bought a set of 25 wipes with an additional 10 wipes, but actually I could have not bothered with the extra ten wipes as one wipe is enough for a wee, and two wipes is fine for poos (as opposed to the 7-10 disposable wipes I used to use for a big poo), and we do a load of laundry every night.

When Frida starts weaning I will definitely be buying another set for hands and faces, as I adore them.

Wet bags

You can use a nappy bin to put used nappies in, but we far prefer using a wet bag. We bought a Smart Pail for use indoors, and a Smart Tote for use outside (this is just a smaller version of the pail). These are bags which you can hang, lined with waterproof material. They keep the smell of nappies out, and because you tip everything into the washing machine, bag included, you don’t need to worry about cleaning a bin every day, or handling soiled nappies.

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Washing your nappies and wipes

Washing nappies is much less hassle than I had expected. Everything dirty (wipes, nappies, liners) goes into the wet bag, then at the end of the day I chuck the whole thing into a washing machine. I do the wash at 40 degrees with an extra rinse, and use half the regular amount of non-bio washing powder. Everything comes out clean, and depending on what time I go to bed I either hang the nappies that night or first thing the following morning.

It’s best not to use washing liquid or fabric softener as these can clog up nappies over time, leaving them less absorbent. There is loads of advice online on how to wash nappies so I won’t go into more detail here.

Creams

We have always used a barrier cream on Frida, and so far we’ve avoided any nappy rash. We use Waitrose Bottom Butter, which is a blend of olive oil, vanilla and chamomile. I cannot praise this stuff enough – it’s cheap, lasts ages, is gentle, and smells absolutely delicious. Since using cloth nappies we use it very sparingly and always with a liner.

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We also use Waitrose Coconut Oil on Frida’s body once a day, and again, it comes highly recommended – it smells amazing and is gentle and moisturising on her skin.

Out and about

Before using cloth nappies I was sceptical about how easy it would be to do when out and about. However, it’s really no more fuss than using disposables. Pack a few nappies and liners and a travel-size wet bag; wet some wipes, wring them out and pop them in a mini-wet bag so they are ready to use (you could take dry wipes and a bottle of water). And you’re done! Just put all the dirty wipes and nappies in the wet bag and then tip it all into the washing machine with the rest of your nappies at the end of the day.

The only inconvenience is that they take up a bit more space, but we use a backpack (a Kanken Big) as a changing bag so it’s not a problem for us.

Nappy-free time

Reusable nappies do end up a bit damper than disposables, so we make sure to give Frida plenty of nappy free time every day which she seems to really enjoy.

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Getting your partner on board

Before we started using cloth, S was not keen on the idea. He thought it would create huge amounts of extra work and that we could be using that time doing other things (like sleeping). However, from day one he has been an absolute convert, and now sings the praises of not having to throw out a bin full of nappies and wipes every day. I know some fellow mums who want to use cloth but can’t convince their partners, but there are so many advantages – it’s much cheaper, greener, healthier for your baby (as no chemicals on their bottoms), and cuter too.

We decided to wait until Frida was three months old before starting to use the nappies, for a few reasons – newborns wee and poo a lot, so it would have meant a lot of laundry at a time when we wanted to focus our energy on getting to know our new baby. We also wanted to use one-size nappies, which would have been too big on a newborn (especially Frida as she was a very skinny 6lb 7oz when she was born). Instead we used Beaming Baby eco disposable nappies which I really liked. I think we were right to wait, but next time I will probably only wait a couple of months as I feel we could have started sooner.