I have wanted to write about our cloth nappy journey for some time now, but I didn't really know the best time to do so. I currently have 1 year old, and a three year old, and they have been in cloth nappies, although I must admit not full time. I am still learning, and am certainly no expert but I thought I could at least impart some wisdom.
Where Did We Start
In all honesty, I'm not sure. All I remember is that when I was pregnant, I said to my husband "should we use cloth nappies?" and he said "yes" without even thinking about it. I can't even remember where I had seen them, or what had made me think of using them. My own mother had used them on me and my sister, but every baby I'd known had been in disposable nappies. I had perhaps gotten the idea in my head, and googled and found that actually they were still a thing.
Then of course there was the actual buying of the nappies. We had no idea what to buy, and at this point I had no idea that there was a whole community of cloth bum loving parents, already out there. I wouldn't discover this till after our baby was born.
Our children have only been cloth bummed part time. Again, we took to Google, and looked for cloth nappy sets. We pretty much went for the first we thing we found, not really knowing what else to go with, or that there were so many other options! I didn't even think about buying them second hand, at the time. Since that initial purpose we've added our to collection either by buying on Ebay or through specific nappy sites, or Eco businesses that stock nappies.
Which nappies do we use?
That first kit we bought was a Bambino Mio Mioduo Starter Set. This set is slightly different now, they've added a really nice storage box, and the print is different, but otherwise they're basically the same. We love this two part system, because we can often use the same outer nappy over the space of a couple changes, so long as it doesn't get soiled. They dry quickly, they are really absorbent and you can use different folds on the nappy to suit different babies. They are easy to add a booster too if need be. This kit was also fantastic for a starter, because it comes with everything you need. The inserts work as birth to potty training nappies, as sort of one size fits all, and you get two sizes for the outer nappies.
We also use Tots Bots Bamboozle Nappies with Peanut and Stretchy Wraps which are lovely, secure nappies, and are very absorbent. They can be used throughout the day and night, they are technically night time nappies. Their prints are really cute as well, and they now have nappies made out of plastic bottles! They don't dry as quick as the Bambino Mio Nappies. You can use them without the booster for more room, or comfort, and adjust the pyoppers on the front so as they grow, and then you move up a size when the time is right. We like Close Parent Pop In nappies, which work as a birth to potty training all in one. They come with two insert/boosters, so you can remove one if needs be, but they are quite thin so we generally keep them both in. You adjust them adjusting the poppers on the front.
These are the nappies we've used steadily since our first born was in them. But we didn't start using them till he was a few months old, because he was quite small, and we hadn't prepared for a small baby, just a new born. Second time round, we were pretty much told we were going to have another small baby, and she was small, although only 1lb smaller, but she stayed smaller for longer. This time I did a bit more research, and bought some nappies that are specically for smaller newborns. We opted for some Close Parent nappies, which were nice and familiar and also second hand; Tots Bots Teeny Fit Nappies which were also second hand, they were good nappies, but the fit wasn't brilliant and one I'd never heard of, Easy Peasy Eco Bimble Nappie for which we bought a couple of Motherease wraps to go with them. Some of the wraps we bought were also second hand. These Bimble nappies were very nice, but a bit harder to use because we had to fasten them with Nappy Nippas. We also tried a couple of homemade muslin nappies, we just folded a muslin cloth round a booster, and it worked fine for an hour or two!
Pros & Cons
A lot of people in the cloth nappy community will say that there aren't any cons to using cloth, but I personally will hold my hand up and say that they aren't completely flawless.
Firstly though, I want to talk about why we love them! Other than the fact that they look adorable, they're also much better for the environment, and they save money. I also really enjoy washing them! I will go into more details about how they save money and how they are better for the environment, below.
Now, the cons. Some of the other reasons that cloth nappies are meant to be better than disposable, are that children are less likely to get nappy rash, they're less likely to cause leaks, and children that wear them potty train faster. Both of our children are blessed with very acidic wee, and that means that if they have their cloth nappies on for longer than a few hours (so overnight for example) they start to get nappy rash. This doesn't happen in disposable nappies. I also find during teething, it gets worse. Where leaks are concerned, find that they are just as likely to leak as a disposable nappy. I don't often boost our reusable nappies with our daughter, and I only used to boost them over night for my son, but they aren't particularly heavy wetters. I would say my daughter is the heavier wetter out of the two. As far as potty training is concerned, let's just say its going slow.
Some other issues we've had that aren't related to the effects of the nappy. We use them part time, for a number of reasons. We don't own enough of them for a start. We both work, and so 4 days of the week our children are looked after by their Grandparents, or are in nursery. Nursery are really happy to have them, but there are times when my son has come home in a strange combination of nappies, that look very uncomfortable and would certainly leak quickly. My own mother has only come round to using them in recent months. So yes, they are wonderful, but for us they aren't practical for full time use.
I do feel guilty for our disposable use, however we are quite a green household, and at the end of the day, it's great to be Eco-Conscious but in the instances where either the nappies are causing nappy rash and so we have to switch to an alternative, or they are being left in the care of someone else, and they aren't confident in using them, we have to provide an alternative. We could buy more, to cover the wash days, and every so often I do add an extra one to the stash but even if we had the extra, there would still be days where the disposable is the answer for us. Not that I have to justify that to anyone, but myself of course.
These cons are just from our own experience, and are not listed here to put anyone off, I just want to give an honest review.
We've taken our wash routine primarily from The Nappy Lady (an absolutely fantastic resource) I'll talk about it step by step -
If the nappy is soiled, either rinse it (newborn poo is water soluble) or scrape it into the loo, if they have started weaning. Some people hold it into the loo while it's flushing, some get hoses installed onto their toilets to help rinse them. Everyone has their own way. If it's a wet nappy, you don't need to rinse it but you can. Pop them into a dry bucket, and close the lid. It's easier to separate all of the parts of the nappy as you go, but I often forget and find myself having to do it as they are going into the washing machine. It's also a good idea to fold over any Velcro tabs.
On wash day, pop them all in the machine (I often add CSPs, or cloth face wipes, little bits like that) Don't overfill the machine, it should be no fuller than 3/4. Pop it on for a rinse or a quick cycle, not a pre-wash.
Next, pop them for a 40/60 degree wash, with detergent. It's best to use powder over liquid and don't use fabric softener. The amount of powder used should equal the size of the washing load. You don't need to add any sort of nappy sanitizer, that's up to you. We just pop a scoop of Violets in with ours, and every so often I buy a proper sanitizer and that goes in.
Once that cycle is finished, they will need rinsing again, usually twice, but the goal is to make sure all of the soap suds have gone. Our machine has the option to add a rinse onto the end of the main cycle, so I always do that, and then I do one more rinse after. This is always enough for our routine.
It's best to dry the nappies on the line, but this isn't always possible, of course. If line drying isn't possible, there are other options. Many people dry them on clothes horses, maidens, or air dryers. For us, we use a tumble dryer, which is often frowned upon in the nappy community. I don't tumble dry the PUL just the actual cloth parts. We always dry on low. We haven't seen this cause any damage to our nappies, but I think the general reasoning behind not doing it is that the heat can damage them.
The Facts and Figures
I've sourced the above facts from Baba and Boo but there are loads of really good resources out there with information about cloth nappies, and why they are better.
The main things to focus on really, is that disposable nappies are made from wood pulp and plastic, and just that fact alone makes them incredibly damaging to make. Around 7 million trees are cut down a year to make disposable nappies, and one cup of crude oil is used to make one nappy. The water waste that is created from making a disposable nappy is hard to deal with than the dirty water created from washing a reusable nappy, and will often contain chlorine and dioxins. Once they've been manufactured, packaged, and shipped to stores, they then can also take up to 550 years to breakdown, and in that time they release harmful chemicals into the air, not just from the plastic, but from the waste inside of the nappy, which just sits in the landfill releasing methane. The amount of water used wash a reusable nappy is less than the amount of water needed to manufacturer a disposable nappy.
A really important thing to consider as well, is that the compostable and biodegradable alternatives won't break down in a landfill, it's not the correct environment so if they appeal more to you, it's important to make sure you dispose of them correctly.
I am working on how much we've saved by using cloth nappies, but because we've had a variation of brand new nappies, and second hand nappies, it's a little difficult. It is something I'm going to work out though, and once I've done so I'll update this blog!
We love our cloth nappies. They look adorable, they're environmental, and they're long lasting. The fact that we have some second hand ones that will have done more than just our two babies, is fantastic, and if we have any more children, we won't have buy any more.
One final thing I'd like to say is that this post isn't about shaming people who choose to disposable nappies, we ourselves use disposable nappies where we need to. Instead it's just to share our experiences with them. Even just one cloth nappy a day makes a difference, If you aren't wanting to go full time with cloth nappies, or even if you don't want to at all, there are some other options that you can consider -
Wet bags instead of nappy bags
When disposing of a nappy, scrape waste into the toilet first
Ensure compostable and biodegradable nappies are disposed of correctly
Avoid Sangeic Bins, and instead use a nappy bag for 2-3 nappies before throwing away
They aren't for everyone, and there are lots of ways outside of nappies make environmental changes, small, easy swaps that save money and the Earth at the same time.