The real deal
Thinking about using cloth nappies? This is what you need to know.
Here at Peas & Love we stock two main sorts; all-in-ones and fitted nappies. Fitted nappies (like the bitti boos and Littlelamb bamboo) are a modern version of the old terries and plastic pants (without the need for safety pins, which nobody uses any more). They don’t contain a waterproof inner layer, so they need a wrap (like our Brookiellens or Littlelambs) on top in order to keep the wetness in if you don’t want your baby to end up with a soggy ‘gro. The fitted and wrap combo may give your baby a bigger bum, but it tends to be the most reliable if your offspring is capable of peeing for England.
All-in-ones are basically a cloth version of disposables – you don’t have to faff around with them, you just stick (well, attach with poppers) them on your baby and off you go. For that reason, they’re totally great for nurseries and childminders – but because all the absorbent material is sewn into the nappy, they can take a while to dry.
Pocket nappies are a stay-dry outer shell (usually PUL or minky) with a microfleece inner which forms a pocket into which you insert the absorbent material. Most pockets come with an insert (our Littlelamb pockets do) but some don’t. The wee soaks through the fleece into the insert, but as fleece is stay-dry, your baby remains comfortable. Pockets come apart in the wash, so dry more quickly than all-in-ones, but you do have to reassemble them afterwards. On the other hand, you can make them as absorbent as you like by adding boosters to the pocket, which means they can be good for heavy wetters (all-in-ones tend to work best for light and medium wetters).
The bitti tuttos are a sort of all-in-one hybrid – OK then, an all-in-two – because you can swap out the absorbent inner layer with a clean one once it’s been soiled (unless it’s soaked right through to the nappy shell, in which case you’ll have to change the whole thing). This means you can get away with buying less of them! They’re also birth to potty nappies, featuring a popper system down the front which you can adjust to get a good fit on your baby from about 3kg to 22 kg. There are quite a few other birth to potty brands out there, but these give the trimmest fit (in our opinion at least) and all ittis wash and wear really well.
It’s a good idea with any cloth nappy to have some kind of liner between your baby’s bum and the nappy itself, so that poo doesn’t stain the nappy. You can use fleece liners, which are stay-dry so the wee soaks through into the nappy without making your baby’s skin feel damp, but you’ll have to flick the poo into the loo (easier and less disgusting than it sounds – and the breastfed runny stuff can go straight into the washing machine. It won’t hurt it, honest!).
Your other option is disposable liners, which have an advantage in that they can be chucked straight down the loo BUT be sure first that your plumbing is up to the job. Victorian plumbing can’t always cope with an influx of disposable liners (or wipes for that matter), which can lead to blockages. You have been warned!
You’ll probably need about 20 nappies to get you started. You may find you need to wash every day at first – newborns wee and poo a LOT – but this will drop down to every other day as your child gets older. If you can’t afford 20 nappies straight away, just buy as and when you can afford and gradually build up your stash – even using the occasional cloth nappy is better for the environment than not at all. There’s also a buoyant market in second-hand or freecycled nappies, if you don’t mind pre-‘loved’ cloth against your baby’s bum! Cloth Nappy Tree is worth checking out for that.
Invest in a bucket with a lid or a big waterproof bag with a zip to store dirty nappies in between washes. There’s no need to soak them, but when wash time rolls round, do a cold rinse first (otherwise the hot water ‘fixes’ the smell of ammonia) then do a warm wash (no higher than 60 degrees, 40 degrees is usually fine) on a long setting. Use half your normal amount of detergent and absolutely no softener (as this affects absorbency). Your nappies will get more absorbent as you use them; in fact, they’ll need a few washes to become properly absorbent. Lots of parents give up at the first hurdle when their nappies don’t seem to be doing their job properly, but give them a couple of pre-washes and change more regularly at first and you’ll be fine.
You can tumble-dry your nappies if you wish, although line-drying is the greenest way of doing it – and has the added advantage that sunshine, even the rubbish British sort, is excellent at bleaching out stains!
You may find that after a few months of use, your nappies suddenly start leaking. This is probably due to a build-up of detergent and you’ll need to ‘strip’ your nappies to get rid of it. Do your usual cold rinse, then instead of detergent, add a generous squirt of washing-up liquid to the drawer. Wash as usual, adding extra rinses at the end of the cycle until all the bubbles are gone.
And that’s about it. If you’re still not quite convinced, read a bit more about the environmental benefits (and cute factor) here. OK, it sounds a lot more complicated than using disposables, but all it really amounts to is sticking an extra load in the washing machine then hanging it out to dry, which isn’t that much of a hassle. And it’s fun! It really is! Not in a drinking cocktails, hanging out with at the club sense, but in an ‘oooh isn’t my baby’s bum stylish?’ way. Enjoy!