Choosing and Using Cloth Nappies

When we had T a few years ago, we were keen to use cloth nappies. While we did a lot of research before she was born, we decided to hold off buying anything until after she was born, and just wait for the dust to settle before we committed ourselves to the extra washing! Initially, the main reason we had been keen to use cloth was because of the financial saving (more on that later), but after we saw for ourselves how many nappies a baby actually needs and all the extra waste we were sending to landfill, that actually became the main reason for us and any financial saving was a lovely bonus!

We will be using our cloth nappies with our little one who is due to arrive in just a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d answer a few potential questions that someone considering cloth nappies might have…
Cloth nappies hanging on a washing line outside
We’ve been getting our cloth nappies washed and dried ready for our new arrival!

Choosing The Right Cloth Nappy

There are a number of things to consider when you are choosing cloth nappies. Price is obviously a key concern for many of us, but in addition to that some of the things you might want to think about are the ease of use; your washing and drying facilities; and the kind of fabric you’d prefer.
There are also a variety of types; shaped nappies, pocket nappies, all-in-ones or terry squares – all have their pros and cons (find out more here).
Image of open nappy
This is the shaped nappy which we use. Each nappy comes with a bamboo booster and a fleece liner. The coloured wrap provides the waterproof layer. Image courtesy of Little Lambs.
Based on our needs, we were torn between TotsBots Bamboozles and Little Lambs bamboo nappies, which are both shaped nappies and have a separate nappy and outer wrap. We ordered a trial pack from TotsBots which included a Bamboozle Size 2 (which they recommend as a birth-potty nappy, suitable from around 8lb), an Easyfit and a Teenyfit for smaller babies. We found the Easyfit tended to leak but the Bamboozle was good, although our daughter is quite slim so they didn’t fit her at 8lb as advertised. We also borrowed some Little Lambs from some family who were using them, and we found them very good.
We had a look at both brands’ birth to potty kits, and in the end we decided to go with Little Lambs, as they represented better value for money. Both were a similar price, but with Little Lambs, we got 20 nappies in both their Size 1 and 2 whereas TotsBots only give you size 2 – fine if you have a bigger baby, but not so good for our little one to begin with!
Price put aside, there’s not much in it in term of performance – once T grew into it, we used the Bamboozle we had alongside our Little Lambs, and it worked just as well. You can get some advice about the right kind of nappy for you (as well as a tonne of other useful information) from The Nappy Lady.

The Cost of Cloth Nappies

I’m not going to lie, using cloth nappies can have an expensive initial outlay! Currently, the cost of a ‘Birth to Potty Kit‘  from Little Lambs is £300 – this includes all the nappies you should need, as well as a laundry bag and a nappy bucket for dirty nappies. However, you can reduce the cost by buying secondhand, and some councils offer incentive schemes in the form of cash back or vouchers (find out more here). Little Lambs do now offer a ‘money back guarantee‘ on some of their kits, so if you find that you don’t get on with them in the first six weeks, you can return them for a full refund.
Image showing contents of birth to potty kit.
Little Lambs birth to potty kit. Image courtesy of Little Lambs.
Of course, even if you buy brand new, cloth nappies can still represent a financial saving. A fairly conservative estimate is that if you used five disposables a day, for two and a half years, at a cost of £0.06 per nappy, you would be lookin at spending over £270. Factor in the fact that to begin with, it will be more like ten nappies a day, and of course the inevitable poo explosions within minutes of a nappy change, and you’re looking at spending at least as much as you would on cloth nappies. Of course, with cloth you also add in the cost of laundering your nappies, but now we are using the nappies for our second child, we won’t be spending anything on our nappies other than the cost of laundering them. So a clear saving!
You can also purchase cloth wipes, rather than using disposable wipes. We didn’t do this, but this time around we are considering using Cheeky Wipes cloth wipes, which I’ve read great things about. These can be washed along with your nappies, so there’s not really any extra washing to worry about. We have some of their wipes for hands and faces which we still use every day and I’d really recommend them.

Washing and Drying Cloth Nappies

Definitely not my favourite thing about cloth nappies, but not as bad as you might think! You do not have to soak cloth nappies – we just put them in a lidded bucket (which contained the smell) and do a wash every other day. I breastfed, and since breastmilk poos are water-soluble, they just wash away in the machine. Once she moved on to solids, it is fairly easy to shake the poo into the loo before sticking the nappy in the bucket (I have heard that you are supposed to get rid of poo this way even if you do use disposables, but I don’t know anyone that does!) You can buy disposable liners, which may be preferable, although these need to be bagged and binned, so are less eco-friendly and another cost to add (albeit small).
To wash, you can use normal detergent, although powder is considered the best option because it doesn’t cause a ‘build up’ on the nappies – whereas sometimes capsules, liquids or gels can which will cause a leak. It’s also recommended that you use a half dose of powder, again to avoid build up, which can decrease absorbency and cause leaks. If you do find your nappies aren’t performing well, you can always try a strip wash, which should get rid of any build up! We use The Nappy Lady’s instructions which you can find here.
We found that the nappies we used took between 24-36 hours to air dry. At the rate we were using them, this gave us plenty of time and the only reason we ran out is if I had washed the nappies later than intended! You can tumble dry nappies, but this can reduce their longevity. As much as possible, we hang them outside to dry as the sunlight helps remove stains. Obviously when the weather gets colder or wetter, they will need to come indoors. Drying time is dependent on the type of nappy you buy, so if this is a key factor for you, do your research!

Out and About

For nappy changes on the go, cloth nappies are bulkier than disposables, and of course you can’t just bin the dirty ones! However, I found you simply buy ‘wet bags’ to keep the dirty nappies in until you get home, and then they can be added to the bucket along with the rest! We used drawstring wet bags from Little Lambs which did the job, although we found the drawstring a bit of a pain as it often got stuck and took some time to close! This time around we plan to buy some zipped wet bags – but this is the only thing we will need to buy new.
We found cloth nappies really straightforward. Of course the extra washing and drying takes a bit more time than using disposables, but the actual changing isn’t affected much at all, really. We noticed that in comparison to friends with children of a similar age, the cloth nappies tended to have better containment (far fewer poo explosions and zero instances of vests having to be cut off!) and it was also very rare for T to have any nappy rash. I also liked that we knew there were no harsh chemicals near her skin. If you’ve got a little one on the way, I’d definitely recommend them!

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