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If you are an eco-friendly type with a baby on the way, or maybe even a parent with a newfound love of the environment, then you might want to think about cloth nappies.
There are lots of eco-friendly baby products on the market. But cloth nappies or reusable nappies, are one of my favourites.
In this post, I’m going to give you everything you need to take the plunge and give these nappies a try. They are not half as bad as you think they are. Promise! They might even save you some money too.
What are cloth nappies?
Cloth nappies are reusable nappies. You buy a set of these nappies made from various fabrics and wash them after they are used rather than throwing them away.
The concept has been around for millennia and disposable nappies are a relatively recent development entering the baby market in the 60s.
People are now waking up to the idea that it takes 500 years for nappies to decompose and they aren’t a sustainable option.
Therefore, cloth nappies are making a comeback. But they are much better than they used to be. As are our washing machines.
Why should you choose to use cloth nappies?
There are two main benefits as far as I can see: eco-friendly and save you money. Both are pretty much the reasons why I started this blog.
Newborns can get through as many as 12 nappies in a day. Sometimes more if you are a clueless parent like we were when our eldest was born.
Even toddlers can get through a few a day and all those nappies get sent to landfill, along with the plastic nappy bag and the handful of wipes.
Making this switch then clearly has a massive environmental impact. You can reduce those numbers entirely to a handful of reusable which can likely be recycled anyway.
From a money-saving perspective, the costs are low. I talk about this more in a later section but it is simple maths.
You will have to pay out for some reusables now, but after that the costs are minimal. Just the cost of using your washing machine. Think about how much disposable nappies cost and the savings could be huge.
What are your options?
When it comes to choosing the right nappy you need to consider the sizing system and the style. You will be able to get different styles in different sizing systems so I will explain both.
You have two choices here:
- Birth to potty. These are nappies that grow with your child. You can adjust them as they grow, but you’ll be able to use the same nappies all the way through. They can be more economical but getting the fit right can be difficult.
- Sized. These are nappies that are designed to fit a certain age or size of child. You will need to buy new ones as they grow out of them. But you might get a better fit in the short term.
Styles of cloth nappies
Unlike disposable nappies, there are lots of different styles of cloth nappies. There are some that are like disposable and then there are more traditional fold and pin options.
It might take some experimentation to discover what suits you and your child best, but here is a rundown of your options:
- All-in-ones. These cloth nappies are the most like disposable nappies. They include everything you need altogether. They are the easiest to use but also the most expensive.
- All-in-twos. These are similar to all-in-ones but the inner section can be removed. It is attached with fasteners. This can make them easier to clean and the outer section can be reused again before it is washed.
- Pockets. These are similar to the above options but contain a pocket between the liner and the outer cover for inserting your absorbent layer. They are cheap and can be boosted with extra layers if you have a heavy-wetter.
- Covers. Not a nappy on their own and must be combined with one of the three options below. These come in a range of styles too, which go from simple elastic and Velcro system to pull-up pants.
- Fitted. These nappies are placed on your child in a way that resembles disposable nappies. Typically, they are fastened with Velcro. They will require a waterproof cover.
- Pre-fold. Flat squares of fabric with a thicker section in the middle. They need to be folded and fastened on to your baby. Generally, a cheap option but can be a hassle to fold.
- Flats. Like pre-fold but without the thicker section, meaning that they must be folded to create this thickness and absorption. Considered the cheapest option.
Do I need different sizes for different babies?
If you opted for sized nappies, then yes. You will need to buy new nappies as your child grows. There are only about three sizes however, so you won’t have to upgrade them regularly.
To avoid this, you could opt for birth to potty nappies instead. You can use these for all ages. I had a two-year-old and a newborn in these at the same time.
How do you clean them?
Cleaning cloth nappies is easier than most people think. They can be washed in your washing machine with your normal detergent.
Different manufacturers recommend you clean their nappies in certain ways, so check the instructions to be sure. But generally, most can be cleaned in the same way.
Remove any solids immediately by tipping them in the toilet. A simple shake will suffice and there’s no need for any special scraping equipment.
You can store dirty nappies in a nappy bucket or a bin with a lid until you are ready to clean. I recommend you wash your dirty nappies every two to three days to avoid excessive smells and staining.
Pop them in your washing machine on a normal cycle at 30-40◦. You can use your standard detergent and do not use fabric softener as this can damage the fabrics.
Every once in awhile, you might want to do a longer wash on a higher temperature. This is also recommended if your child has been ill too. But for normal use, this is not necessary.
Most brands to not encourage tumble drying of their nappies. The best place for them is outside on the washing line but an airer will do just fine.
If you must tumble dry them, then do so on a low temperature. This is unlikely to do any damage as the heat is the damaging part.
Stains can naturally be a problem. The best way to deal with this is to dry them outside. The sunlight will bleach the stains out. You can do this even if the weather isn’t great too. Just peg them up and leave them for a few days. They don’t mind a bit of rain.
What are boosters?
Boosters are an extra layer of absorbency that you can use as your child get older, overnight or if they are heavy-wetters.
Pocket nappies will use boosters anyway, but you can double up or even triple up on these as needed.
If you are finding that you need to use these all the time, particularly for a young child, then it may be better to look at other nappies. It could be that your current nappies are a poor fit or just lacking the right absorbency.
Do I need disposable liners?
The idea with liners is that they allow moisture to pass through whilst keeping the area next to your baby’s skin dry. All-in-ones and pockets will likely have the liners sewn into the nappy already.
For some nappies, you will have to buy your liners separately. Personally, I recommend reusable liners as they can be washed and used again with the rest of the nappy.
Some people are drawn to the idea of disposable liner because they think that they can lift the liner out and flush the solids down the toilet. But these liners aren’t flushable, even if they say they are.
Therefore, if you can’t flush them, then I see little benefit to using them. But you may find that they suit you and your child.
What about wipes?
If you are reusing your nappies then you may as well get reusable wipes. This will make the whole process easy as you can chuck them all in the wash together.
You can either buy them or make your own from old T-shirts and towels, but basically all you need are squares of fabric. They can then be wetted when needed.
I used Cheeky Wipes, who also sell kits for clean and dirty wipes. For first-timers, these are great and make the whole process easy.
How much do cloth nappies cost?
This is a difficult question to answer as there are different nappies at different price points. You could spend £50 or £500 on a set.
All-in-ones and birth to potty nappies are going to be more expensive. Some of these can cost over £20 for one nappy.
Flats or prefolds are the cheapest options and you could easily get enough for one child for under £100 including covers and wipes.
It is worth having a mix of nappies in your kit for different occasions. All-in-ones are great for when for childcare or when being looked after by grandparents. But you could use the flats at home.
If you average this out and say it costs you £200 for a set, then we can compare that to the cost of disposables. If you buy a packet of nappies a week, at £5 a time) then over a year you’ll have spent about £250. That means you’ve saved money in year one.
But if you consider that the average child is in nappies until they are 2.5 years old, then that’s £625 on nappies compared to £200 on reusables.
Obviously, there are some cleaning costs that I haven’t factored in here, but you can see that you will save money. Plus, these costs don’t consider the fact that you can use them again for siblings. If you do this, then you benefit from further savings.
Another way to keep the cost down is to look out for secondhand nappies. Many people buy nappies to try different styles and fits but decide they are not for them. They then sell these on and they’ve had little to no use.
How to make the switch to cloth nappies
The best time to start using cloth nappies is as soon as your child is born. This way you’ll never know anything different.
However, if you’ve started with disposables and now want to switch to cloth then you have two options:
- Just go for it. Buy a set of cloth nappies. Wait until you run out of disposables (or donate them to someone else) and then get them straight into action.
- A phased approach. Use cloth nappies once or twice a day as you build up your stash. Saves the huge one-off expense.
What is holding you back from switching to cloth nappies?
Is there anything else you need to know? What else could I say to convince you? There are lots of reported benefits to using cloth nappies for both the planet and your baby. You’ll love them, I promise!
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.