Ahh the ignorant bliss of the idealistic pre-child family! When your offspring arrives, you’ll be the kind of family that crafts from dawn to dusk, goes for endless long walks and never binges on CBeebies on a rainy day. Clothes will be ironed, meals will contain 5 vegetables, and noses will never be snotty…
One of the slightly less naive ideals I held myself up to when I was pregnant with my son was that we would 100% use cloth nappies, all the time every day and night. After all, my mum had used them for me and my brother 30 years ago and she didn’t even have a washing machine! Technology and design must have moved on so much since then that surely cloth would be a fail-safe option? So why wasn’t it a more mainstream choice?
Needless to say, like a lot of parenting, cloth nappying was a learning curve. We made mistakes (I bought nappies I didn’t actually like!), there were bumps along the road (leaks…) and we all learnt the art of compromise. But it was after I ditched the all-or-nothing approach that cloth really came into its own and became part of every day life. My son’s fluffy bum was never happier.
So here are my top 10 ways to make cloth nappies work for anyone, and – spoiler! – just like parenting it’s all about the art of patience and compromise…
1. Try Before You Buy
Man, I really wish I’d done this! I’d read the reviews, I’d researched the options, but it turns out there’s absolutely no substitute for actually trialing a nappy in real life. I ended up forking out nearly £200 on a very dull two-parter birth-to-potty system which I just didn’t get on with… Knowing what I know now, I’d head along to my local nappy library, or take advantage of a free (!) mixed bag of new nappies from my local council, or just buy one nappy at a time rather than a full set. Hindsight…
2. You Don’t Have To Start Straight Away
Life with a newborn is an adjustment enough without adding in cloth nappying. Again, something I learnt the hard way! We’re expecting no.2 any day and although I am 100% planning to cloth nappy this one, I certainly won’t be pressuring myself to start immediately. Convenience is king in those early days. Give yourself a head start, and plan to use cloth from about 6 weeks.
3. You Don’t Have To Use Them Overnight
I’m a member of a number of cloth nappy Facebook groups (I am that cool) and a common gripe is trying to find a nappy that will last the night as well as a disposable. My simple solution here is not to bother (sorry purists!). I figure the 7 disposables we get through in a week is my nod to convenience and sanity-saving!
4. You Don’t Have To Use Them Out & About
We cloth nappy Monday-Friday, but on Saturdays and Sundays when trips out are more likely, we frequently resort to the convenience of disposables. Neither me nor my husband wants to chug extra load around when we’re already encumbered by my son’s various trains and his endless supply of raisins. Also, the thought of carrying a pooey nappy round the zoo just doesn’t appeal!
5. Try All-In-Ones (AIOs)
These are the absolute pinnacle of cloth nappy technology. The older generation used to folding up a cloth square will marvel at their ingenuity. Basically a fitted waterproof outer, with absorbent layer/s sewn in and a moisture-wicking layer closest to baby’s skin – they remove all need for multiple washes and really do make life easier. It wasn’t until I discovered the AIO in the form of a Bambino Mio (available in Boots and most major supermarkets) that I properly fell in love with cloth, and my latest discovery of Bambooty Real Nappies fully converted me. You just chuck the lot in the wash and then dry. So simple – I love them!
6. Invest In Some Liners
Not an obvious investment at the outset, but liners can really alter your experience of cloth. Pre-weaning, you may find that you don’t need a liner with breastfed poo as it’s supposedly water soluble (debatable in our case!), but if not, the disposable liners tend to be biodegradable and can just go in the bin (probably not best to flush them as they can clog up your pipes!); post-weaning, a fleece liner will blow your mind – wicking the moisture away from solids so they just fall off into the loo, and providing a great opportunity to talk to sprog about potty training as you show them where poo goes when they’re grown up enough.
7. Get The Right Boosters
Up until your tot is about a year old, you should be okay with most of the basic nappy brands sold as-is but there will soon come a time when a “booster” is required to up your absorbency. Some nappies are more absorbent than others and it’s the same for boosters. Bamboo or hemp are credited as being the most absorbent, so it’s worth shopping around for the ones that have the highest concentration of those fabrics rather than anything lesser like microfibre. (as an aside I had my fingers burnt by a “super absorbent” charcoal booster which turned out to be super bulky and mostly microfibre – avoid avoid avoid!)
8. Use Your Tumble Drier
When reading up on cloth nappies initially, I came across the advice again and again that you should never tumble dry your nappies. It’ll wreck their waterproof outers, melt fibre inners and generally ruin your stash. What they neglect to mention is that many of the nappy brands actually say that tumbling is okay at low temperatures, and that nappies come out beautifully soft and fluffy from the tumbler. Living in a tiny terraced house with radiators as our only other option, using the tumbler has been a time-saving, sanity-saving compromise that’s worked for us! And my nappies have survived tumble after tumble. So be kind to yourself!
9. Go Pattern Mad!
Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a bit of a pattern addict. I love nothing more than clothing my son in the cheeriest, brightest prints and disposables are SO BORING in comparison with the range and variety of beautiful patterns you get with cloth. Hunting out exciting patterns is one of the great joys of cloth, and real nappy enthusiasts regularly post stash shots on Facebook to much admiration from other fans. I can guarantee you’ve never felt like posting a picture of your Pampers or Mamia stash online!
10. Look Out For Discounts and Freebies
Most councils run cloth nappy schemes where they’ll either provide you with a starter stash of free nappies, or give you money off a cloth nappy order. In my local area you can either get £100 of free nappies or £50 off an order – just incredible when you think about it. If you’re new to cloth I would 100% recommend getting the freebies in – they’re likely to be from the big brands like Bambino Mio or Tots Bots so will probably be great. And as this week is Real Nappy Week there are further deals available from the main cloth nappying retailers like The Nappy Lady, Fill Your Pants, Babipur, and Lizzie’s Real Nappies.
So what better time to give cloth a go? Even if you only buy one nappy and use it once a week, you’ll be saving a disposable from going into landfill. And surely that’s a good thing!