Credits to my little model for doing justice to our nappies. Looking at the photo above, I realised that we actually only had one of all these nappies when Rawrie was born – the Little Lamb bamboo nappy peeking out on his right hand side. The rest were accumulated over a loooong period of time, as I did more and more Googles (or nowadays, Ecosias) into the best kind of nappies for my boy’s size and length. I am definitely no expert, but I am a fan of cloth nappies, and I do have an idea of what I would have wanted someone to say to me as a new/expectant parent. Soooo hopefully at least one parent will read this post and get at least one good tip from it. I would absolutely love to be hit up with questions or concerns if you have any!
Do your research, parent-to-parent
I’m gonna keep saying this a thousand times because it’s true – there are SO MANY cloth nappy manufacturers. I would buy all of their nappies in a heartbeat – every brand looks amazing. However, if you were a parent starting out your research, I wouldn’t start out with the websites. There are just too many. Each one provides an essay on why each nappy will be perfect for your baby. I found it too overwhelming.
When I say ‘parent to parent’, I mean ask parents. Aka the actual people who use the nappies. They can recommend their favourites, and give their own tips and tricks. There are multiple ways you can do this. Join a Facebook group, preferably a local one. Search for your local nappy library and find out if they host any nappy demos, I cannot recommend demos enough. You get a little mini-lecture on the different types of nappies, you can pick a bunch to try on your little one (for free. FREE!), and you do it with other mums where you can share your concerns with people who have experienced the best and the worst at some point in their cloth journey.
Don’t fully stock up BEFORE baby arrives
As I have previously said, the 21st-century world of cloth nappies is so huge and complex. While this is paramount for making cloth more mainstream, I think it also poses the risk of overwhelming parents. It’s more likely that a parent will see a particular brand of nappy, try it on their child and, if they don’t get on with it, assume that every other nappy brand will have the same result. It seems to me that certain brands of disposable nappies are marketed towards babies of different shapes and sizes. It’s totally the same with cloth.
To use myself as an example, I planned to use cloth on Rawrie when I was pregnant, having watched a few videos of mums on YouTube. My friends from choir very kindly gifted me some second-hand Terry squares and Little Lamb pocket nappies that they had used. I also picked some random wraps and inserts at my first Nappy Give and Take (hosted by Real Nappies for London – an amazing organisation). When Rawrie was born, he was a large baby with long, skinny legs (he still is!) that didn’t work with Terry squares. We also had a couple of Bamboozle Stretchies, which I had read were one of the most absorbent, leak-proof nappies and a bookie’s favourite with thousands of parents. I always felt so disappointed using sposies on my baby more than half the time, because he would just leak through the legs after about half an hour.
Buuuut I slowly realised that we just needed to do our research and take our time. It took pretty much five months to find the perfect nappies that worked for us – Bambino Mio’s all-in-one Miosolos were the first nappies that fit Rawrie perfectly, and I’ve been able to confidently use them on days out. It also took five months to realise that I needed to wash my nappies at 60 degrees rather than 30! As soon as I put our nappies through a “strip-wash” (washing at 60 three times to get rid of a build-up of urine), our Bamboozles worked so much better with a flat nappy wrap (ours we fished out of a pile at another Give and Take this year).
Do try days out in cloth
Whenever you’re ready and confident enough, once you’ve tried it you’ll be less worried about it. The parents I’ve talked to are always stumped on the idea of having wet and dirty nappies in their bag. The simple answer, which applies to any wet and dirty clothes too – wet bags! One or two wet bags in your changing bag is all you need to store the dirty nappies once they’re done with their shift. My favourite is the Bambino Mio wet bag, which clips and folds in a way that cancels out any smell, so your bag will not stick at all. Of course, you will need to take a certain number of cloth nappies depending on how old your little one is – do check out the section ‘How often to change nappies’ in the little nappy guide that I wrote for Pedrick’s.
I went about eight months taking a mix of cloth and disposable, or I at least had one emergency disposable nappy in my bag which, due to various inevitable disasters, I had to use a few times. Now we have stopped buying disposables altogether, but it’s not a bad idea to have one emergency nappy in the stash. It was just as much a hurdle as the first time I physically took Rawrie out on my own for a day, but like literally everything else in parenting, practice makes perfect. So give it a go.
Don’t tumble dry… all the time
The tumble dryer is both my friend and my enemy in this case. It isn’t recommended to use a tumble dryer with cloth nappies, because it can damage them and reduce their life. If you are using the tumble dryer, always use a low setting for nappies. It completely depends on your situation. We live in a one-bed flat which is not really blessed with a lot of space for air-drying all our washing. We do line-dry our nappies after a wash, but we also found that all our nappies made of bamboo were more scratchy because we live in a very bad hard water area, discovered through Aqua Cure’s hard water map. If our night nappies go into the tumble dryer with our clothes for about 20-40 minutes, they are so much softer and feel much better on Rawrie. I feel a guilt pang doing it, but for us it’s kind of necessary. You’ll work out your own priorities too
Do strip back on laundry products
Caring for your cloth nappies is definitely not expensive and you don’t need special products to do it. I will always rave about our current care system – our Eco-Egg (which we also use on everything else we wash, so it’s a one-stop-shop), a few drops of lemon essential oil and 1-2 scoops of Bio D Nappy Fresh, together they have worked on the most devastating poo stains that sat in our nappy bag during a day (tmi, but it’s true). But honestly, a scoop of non-bio powder works just as well (always non-bio, not bio). That’s all your really need. Adding fabric conditioner and bleach is a big no-no, they will damage your nappies, so you don’t have to keep topping these up as you’re doing more laundry. Cloth nappies really are economical in all aspects.
Don’t beat yourself up
Branching off the previous ‘Don’t’, don’t over-worry. I can guarantee that every cloth nappy parent you meet did not master the world of cloth overnight. Their beautiful smart-bottomed children are likely to have leaked and pooed and tore off their nappy’s Velcro fasteners for ages. They probably still were when you met them that time! Take things slow, work out your own comfort zone. Even using one cloth nappy a day is really significant – 365 nappies a year won’t have been sent to landfill. You’re still making a good dent.
Parenting is hard, guys. This is one area of parenting that, like buggies and burping and teething and toys, is an area where there’s just a mountain of information, instructions, advice and hacks, and every parent has a different story to tell. Trust yourself, you will be able to take all the information you’re given and have your own cloth journey, with your own hacks that you found along the way. Then you can pass them on to someone else. Circle of Life, cloth nappy version. Yaaay.