Ditching the Disposables: An Honest Guide to Cloth Nappies

I couldn’t let Real Nappy Week pass without a blog post dedicated to cloth bums. It was about this time last year (probably Real Nappy Week 2018!) that I began to look into using reusable nappies for H. I’d first considered them when I was pregnant but (wrongly) assumed that I’d struggle as I didn’t have a tumble drier.

For the first 7 months or so of H’s life, she was in disposables. I started off with a well-known brand of nappies, and then made the switch to eco-disposables when she was around three months old. I know there are a lot of mixed views on eco-disposables, but for me the fact that they were plastic-free and didn’t contain any nasty chemicals was a big selling point. I’m not sure what prompted me to look into cloth nappies again a few months later, but I was instantly intrigued (and admittedly taken with all the pretty prints available!).

A year on and H is in reusable nappies the majority of the time (see below for more on this). I was reflecting on this earlier today with Mr Makes and we said that even if we made a conservative estimate that we’d replaced an average of 4 nappies each day with cloth, we’ve saved almost 1500 nappies from heading to landfill so far.

There’s a lot of advice on cloth nappies, and I’m all too aware how daunting it can be when you’re starting out. Below I’m answering some questions I’ve had from friends or through Instagram about cloth, which I hope is useful to anyone considering them.

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Do you exclusively use cloth nappies?

No. We use them almost exclusively during the day, but at night H still wears an eco-disposable. When we first started using cloth, H’s sleep was still quite broken in the night, and with the very warm summer we found that cloth during the night didn’t work for us as it was making her more restless. In hindsight, we perhaps just hadn’t found the right combo.

We do sometimes revert back to eco-disposables in the day if we’re running low, or we are going to be out all day. But, we are trying to get better at this!

Were you and your partner both happy to use cloth, or did one of you need persuading?

I was the one who initially brought up the idea of cloth nappies. Mr Makes was worried about the work involved (at this point he was the main carer for H), and so I respected this. We started using reusable wipes as a sort of trial, and they worked really well for us. After a few weeks, Mr Makes agreed that nappies wouldn’t be much extra work as we could throw them all in the same wash. He changes just as many nappies as I do (if not more!) and loves them just as much as me now (although perhaps doesn’t get as excited about the prints!).

Do you have any problems with leaking?

At the start we had LOADS of leaks. It felt like we were changing H’s trousers at every nappy change. I worried a lot about fit, and spent hours reading up on how to do it perfectly, only to find myself even more confused. In the end, we added extra boosters and worked out how long each nappy brand was likely to last on her. I also relaxed about fit and it actually seemed to improve!

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How often do you need to change a cloth nappy, compared to a disposable?

When H was younger, we were changing our cloth nappies more regularly than disposables (around every two hours, depending on the brand of nappy). Adding boosters helped with this. However, in the last few months we are changing a little less regularly (unless we are dealing with some epic teething wees!). Admittedly, if we are going to be out for a long period of time and won’t have easy access to changing facilities, I do revert back to an eco-disposable.

How do you deal with number twos?

I can promise you that it’s not as bad as you might imagine. We use liners in all of H’s nappies, which means you can normally just shake it off into the loo. Sometimes they require a little more work, but there are lots of tips for this online (rinsing with the shower head over the loo, scraping it off with an old knife etc). The brilliant thing about reusable nappies is that if your little one decides to go straight away in a fresh nappy, you can just take out the old liner, pop a new one in and not waste a whole nappy!

How much washing does it entail? Can you wash nappies with other items?

We do an average of 2-3 nappy washes a week. I wouldn’t advise washing them with other items, although we wash our reusable wipes at the same time. Our washing machine doesn’t smell at all, although I do give it a regular service wash.

In terms of drying, we don’t have a tumble drier. I pop mine on an airer indoors, and leave them in front of a sunny window if possible (cracked open to let the moisture escape!).

Is it a complete faff?

Being completely honest, at the start it feels like it. This is completely normal. It takes a while to get into a routine, and to find what works best for your family. One day though, it will just click. The biggest faff is probably prepping all of the nappies after a wash, but I tend to do this in front of the telly with a cuppa, or delegate it to Mr Makes.

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Where do I begin?

If you’re unsure where to begin, I’d really recommend starting with reusable wipes, they are so much better than disposable wet wipes. Then start to invest in a couple of nappies. Some councils run nappy libraries, you can buy second hand, or just buy individual nappies. I would highly recommend not committing to a single brand unless you’ve tried them out for a good few weeks. H’s stash is a mixture of brands, and they all have different selling points. Don’t be too quick to dismiss brands either. I sold a load of ours because I didn’t think they were absorbent enough, when in hindsight, I hadn’t even tried boosting them.

Swim nappies are also a great entry point into cloth nappies. They are super easy to put on, don’t require any boosting (as all they do is catch the poo) or liners, and can easily be washed.

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Aside from nappies, what else do I need?

  • A nappy bucket or wet bag for storing used nappies. We have a bucket at home, but send in a wet bag to H’s nursery for her dirty nappies that we bring home each day.
  • Liners. These help keep the little one’s bum dry, and makes the removal of poo so much easier. You can get either reusable fleece liners, or disposables.
  • Laundry powder. You don’t need special laundry detergent, but powder is recommended over laundry liquid.

Where do you buy your nappies?

I get them primarily online, directly through retailers but also through online stores such as Babipur. Some brands offer good value trial packs and discounts for repeat orders.

Any other advice?

  • Moving to cloth is a change, and it takes time to get used to. There may be some hiccups, but you’ll get there.
  • It’s not all or nothing, you don’t have to switch exclusively. Find what works for you, and focus on the positives (i.e. the nappies you are NOT sending to landfill, rather than the few you are). It’s also ok to take a break. There have been times when life has been hectic and I’ve forgotten to put on a wash; it’s not the end of the world.
  • Reusable nappies are an expensive outlay, but in the long run they will save you money. There is also resale value to them, if they are in good condition. If you’re worried about the cost, try a nappy library or look on Facebook for cloth nappy selling groups to grab a bargain.

I really hope this post is useful to anyone considering cloth nappies, or who has tried them in the past. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, pop a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer!

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