Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Would you consider giving cloth nappies a go?

(Updated with links and additional info)
My answer to this question, when I was pregnant with Cubling, was a resounding "no".

Look at me now, I love cloth. Used it for 3 years on Cubling and now 4 months in on Snowflake.

I started changing my mind when I saw my sister-in-law use them, and realised it wasn't as difficult, messy etc as I'd thought. I had to see it, and see someone use it, and I'd consider myself to be reasonably environmentally conscious. It means I know how the most normal reaction to the topic of cloth nappies is  - great idea, great you're doing it, but thanks, not for me - because that person was me.

So for anyone not planning to or not yet using cloth nappies, I thought I'd pull together a quick FAQ - questions that I would have asked or that I have been asked.

1. Surely it takes more time using cloth nappies?
Yes, but less than you think. If you get all in ones, it takes the same time to change. I prefer shaped nappy plus wrap, so it's like putting on 2 nappies, a few seconds extra at each change. I put on a wash every 3 days. So 2 extra washes a week - which isn't much in the scheme of the extra washes a baby brings along.

2. Do you need a tumble dryer for cloth nappies?
I never tumble dry anything, so no. Opt for cloth nappies that dry faster if you don't have a drier, such as cotton or polyester. Bamboo is lovely and soft, and environmentally friendlier in its production, but it takes longer to dry. Half of my cloth nappies are bamboo, and I dry them over the radiators which works fine. The bamboo ones don't really dry well on the rack in the Scottish winter. Cotton dries within a day even in wet weather.

3. Surely the nappy bucket stinks?
No it doesn't if you breast feed. After introducing solids, you put a liner between nappy and skin and flush it away in the toilet, so no bad smells either. I can't speak for formula poos as I don't know what they look like. You can occasionally add a few drops of tea tree oil to the bucket to freshen it up.

4. How do you wash the nappies?
I wash them at 60 degrees, but apparently you can do them at 40 too. I do a separate wash for nappies, which is not necessary but I do it anyway. I also add some Napisan to make sure all the germs are definitely gone. Again, it's not necessary. You can add some vinegar or a couple of drops of tea tree oil occasionally into the softener compartment to make them smell fresher (don't use fabric softener on cloth nappies!).

5. Do you need to soak the nappies before you wash them?
No. Simply throw them in the bucket and then transfer them (with gloves) to the washing machine.

6. My nappies have yellow stains from the poo, how do I get them out?
Hang up in sunlight. You may have to wait until the summer if you live in Scotland, but the colour isn't dangerous so don't worry.

7. How many nappies do I need?
15 nappies and 4 wraps is the minimum. I have 25 nappies and 7 wraps and never run out. You can get birth to potty nappies, i.e. one size that lasts throughout, or like me get a nappy that comes in 2 sizes.

8. How much do they cost?
A shaped nappy is about £9 and wraps are a bit more. All in ones may cost £15. That sounds a lot but have a look on forums (Bounty, Babycentre etc) for gently used or even new nappies. I bought a pack of 15 nappies for £75 and they were unused. Cloth nappies also have a resale value.

9. How much money do I save?
Cloth nappies will cost you around £200-£300 all in all, plus the cost of extra washes. They last for 3 years, and another 3 years and if you have a third child, another 3 years.
You can get them cheaper if you trail the forums. Disposables will cost you that in 6 months.

10. Do the nappies last all night?
There are special night nappies that do. I use disposables at night. You know, you can mix! I also didn't use cloth for the first weeks after having Cubling because I felt overwhelmed and not able to deal with cloth - that's fine, you can always start later!

11. Will nurseries/childminders accept them?
Most do. This is a recent and very welcome change. I make a point of asking child care providers if they accept them.

12. What about nappy wash services?
They exist in many places. Basically, they pick up the dirty bucket and deliver clean nappies, magic. The cost of such services is equivalent to using disposables. So you won't have a cash saving, but you're doing even more for the environment as these washes are done in bulk and use less energy/water per nappy (plus you don't have the hassle).

13. What's the best thing about them?
They are so soft and cuddly and I just love it that baby has something so soft against her bum, rather than plastic and absorbant chemicals. It just feels right. Even Spencer bear, Cubling's darling teddy, her baby, now wears cloth.

14. Any tips?
Find someone who uses them and have a look. Join a trial scheme (such as your local real nappy network, or Waste Aware Scotland also runs a trial scheme) to give it a go without committing. Watch someone who uses cloth change a baby, feel the nappy, ask questions. Everyone will be keen to answer!

15. What about when you're out and about?
I know many parents who used cloth who are reluctant to use it when out and about. I'm not sure why. Yes, you have to take the nappy home, but that's the only inconvenience. Just put it in your usual plastic nappy bag (degradable if possible) and Bob's your uncle. I'm often out all day and it's not a problem.

16. Do cloth nappies leak more than disposables?
Not really. I mean, if you have a poo explosion, they will leak, just like disposables. However, I don't change more often than I would with disposables. With urine, disposables hold more but with more I mean you could leave your child for 5-6 hours which is just not nice anyway. You can add cloth liners to make cloth nappies more absorbent and you'll easily get 4 hourly changes out of them. If you use wraps, make sure you have a good wrap that sits well.

17. I'm confused by all the different types and brands. How can I choose the right one?
Again, try out, ask people. Anyone who uses cloth nappies will be delighted to explain and show. Read this guide to cloth nappies. It's not that complicated - the principles are the same. Shaped nappies are easiest, no matter what brand, and then it's between all in ones (more expensive per nappy) or shaped nappy plus wrap. If you're brave you can do terry squares or prefolds which are cheaper. Personally I use Tots Bots because they're made in Glasgow and I like to support local business.

Anything I haven't covered? Just add in the comment box and I'll try and answer.



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