It was by the sixth month of my baby boy’s life that I picked up the leaflet on “Real Nappies (Diapers)” I’d been handed when I was pregnant and went through it with a fine tooth comb.
It made promises that I would save fortunes using cloth nappies versus disposables – approximately £500/$812 by the time my son was out of his nappies. This seemed like a no-brainer once I had weighed up all the pros and cons of reusable or “real” nappies. (Image: Zany Zebra Designs.)
So to a newbie user what are the pros and cons to consider?
Washing the nappies/diapers.
(Image: Three Yellow Star Fish.)
All modern cloth nappies will need to be pre-washed to increase absorbency. As a Cloth Mama I would suggest pre-washing all nappies three times (this can vary depending on which nappy brand you choose as I have found with different materials and brands they didn’t need to be washed as much as three times.)
As well as pre-washing nappies you will need to have a strong stomach to deal with poop in nappies – once a baby has soiled a nappy you will need to shake the contents of the nappy into the toilet and flush. On top of this you will need to wipe down the booster pad inside the nappy and if you’re using them – the washable liner as well. If you’re using a disposable liner then it would be smart to invest in liners that are biodegradable and therefore can be flushed down with the usual waste.
You’ll have to factor in drying times when washing with different cloth materials. With bamboo nappies they generally take about 2-3 days to dry when on a drying rack (and can’t be put straight onto the radiator as they scorch, which creates little holes in the nappy.) Microfibre or fleece dries up very well and if placed on a radiator can dry within 1-2 hours. I haven’t owned a drier in the whole time I have been married or had my baby and haven’t found we need one. They are a waste of resources and money!
Having a plentiful supply.
It can be difficult to judge how many nappies you will need in your cloth supply and of course lots of different companies will recommend having inordinate amounts. In reality if you do a wash every two to three days you can get away with a decent supply of around 25 nappies and 6 “wraps” (the outer shell that covers the inside) for a newborn and around 20 nappies for a baby of four months plus.
Again, this depends on the individual baby as all newborns and babies are different! I was told more often than I’d like to hear that my baby would be like a ticking poop bomb – ready to explode at every hour of the day. In reality this wasn’t the case at all, although he did require lots of changes as he hated being wet – and this is more so the case for clothed new born’s as it’s reported that babies in cloth feel the moisture quicker than being in a disposable.
It Won’t Cost the Earth.
(Image: Three Yellow Star Fish.)
When I used disposables I found that my domestic waste was phenomenally different compared to using cloth. We just didn’t have as much waste! We’d have fewer trips outside with the rubbish/trash on a daily basis and our home smelled sweeter without the added waste hanging around somewhere in the house. On top of the domestic waste decrease I considered the impact on landfill – all of the nappies I wasn’t using wouldn’t be clogging up a landfill site somewhere.
They can be used for other children.
Depending on the brand you opt for, cloth nappies can be used for a second – or even third and fourth – child. The outer shell or “wrap” may not be as hard-wearing as it generally goes through more usage than the inside (the nappy section) but can easily be replaced. Buy the non-biological detergent – even if you are using it solely for washing nappies. This will be less hard wearing on the materials and will increase their life span. If at all possible (and if you have the stamina required) you can hand wash the wraps and nappies to prolong their lifespan. Wraps are easily hand washed as they are waterproof and don’t absorb any urine, but can get hit by poop.
Disposables contain many chemicals, in particular they contain Sodium Polyacrylate. This is the chemical put into nappies to make them absorbent. I have now spotted a few times that my son has little “crystals” on his body after being in a disposable and it’s the leaked Sodium Polyacrylate crystals on his skin. TriButylTin – otherwise known as TBT has also been found in disposable nappies and is “considered as toxic chemicals which have negative effects on human and environment.” (source: TBT). A little bit of research into the brand you decide to buy from will be essential. Opt for non-bleached and friendly cottons and chemicals where possible as these materials will sit right next to your baby’s skin.
Bearing all these snippets in mind, what will you need once you decide to use reusable nappies?
These are especially brilliant as modern nappies/diapers don’t need to be soaked in buckets before they are washed. If you are using cloth full time then you will want to have a wetbag (like this one by Snuggy Baby) you can take out with you. This looks like a diaper/nappy bag on the outside but inside will have a waterproof lining. They can also be multi-purpose for wet clothes/swim and gym gear. For my own personal use I have two wet bags for inside the house. These are just small sized laundry bags that hang on the back of a door handle and will dry speedily – so I’ve only ever ended up using one!
Somewhere to wash your nappies/diapers.
An automatic washing machine is the ideal grounds for washing nappies/diapers. (Image by Slight Clutter.) I know of people who hand wash all their cloth nappies/diapers but this is a drain on energy and time and might put many people off using cloth. Once you have emptied out a nappy that is soiled you simply stick it into a wet bag where it will be stored before it goes into the washing machine – picture yourself scrubbing and soaking over night these same nappies/diapers and ask yourself if that would be a possible task.
Somewhere to keep nappies (out of reach from grabby little hands.)
Once your baby becomes mobile they also want to reach for everything – and “play” with nappies/diapers, especially so if these nappies/diapers feature velcro tabs. Or perhaps you have a “helpful” older sibling. I put my nappies on top of any high surface – but more specifically I have allocated a space on top of our dresser drawer for them. This way I always know where they are and if we’re running low on our clean supply.
A Good Supply.
Depending on when you start with cloth (e.g newborn) this will reflect on how much you will need in your supply. Starting with 25 nappies/diapers and 6 wraps for a newborn should be adequate enough supply wise, depending on when you wash your nappies and allowing for drying time. An older baby will probably only need 16 nappies/diapers and 5 or 6 wraps – again, consider the washing and drying times.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree has antibacterial properties and a dash of tea tree into the wetbag will keep your nappies/diapers smelling fresh as well as sanitising it to some extent.
Once you have these things in order you’re good to go!