I thought I would dedicate a little time to my current obsession – nappies. When I first found out we were knocked up I was convinced we were going disposable all the way. What modern mum has time faff about with rinsing washing and hanging cloth nappies was my reasoning. No way was I going to enslave myself to the washing machine like a 1950’s house drone. Well - my husband (bless him) being Scottish had a different opinion, he reasoned that disposable nappies were a big fat waste of money and that we should go with cloth. Words were had and after a bit of sulking on my part and an agreement that he would be the primary nappy washer we decided to go cloth. Sadly the environment was the last thing on my mind but I can still be smug and self satisfied that I am saving on landfill. Part of my theory relied heavily on the propaganda put out by disposable nappy manufacturers that washing cloth nappies has just as much of an environmental footprint as landfill. After a bit of research I find this is not the case at all and have had to jump down off my high horse.
The truth is modern cloth nappies are pretty awesome. For all of those mums who dread soaking scraping and having to touch poo I can happily say with the exception of the odd mishap I do not have to touch the poo. Modern washing machines handle a lot more than they used to which removes the need for scraping and soaking, I literally just biff the nappies in and they come out clean. I have a bag of disposables I use for when I am caught short or for some outings but I barely use them and I can honestly say I have been converted, I prefer cloth over disposables on all fronts. With disposables they are so drying that they suck the moisture right out of the poo turning it into a sticky mass which is very hard to wipe off, whereas with cloth the fibres of the cloth literally grip onto the poo and pull it away from his skin. I have had no nappy disasters with cloth nappies, no poo shooting up the back or out the legs and at night he has never leaked through once. If you have enough nappies as well, washing just isn’t that big a chore, we do a load every day or every second day depending on how productive he has been and I literally toss the contents of the nappy bucket in and after a cold wash hang them out or bang them in the dryer. Nappies also dry really well on heated towel rails or over doors. Bearing in mind we want to keep electricity bills low, the line is still the best place with the added bonus of sunlight acting as a natural bleach and disinfectant. I can also say quite truthfully he has not had a single bout of nappy rash since the day he was born.
There are 3 major kinds of modern cloth nappies and the type you select will depend on what you want out of a nappy.
If you want to be able to put your nappies in the dryer and are looking for a really nice absorbent option then fitted nappies may be the one for you.
Fitted nappies have a cloth nappy that has been made to fit around the bum and do up with poppers or Velcro. The cover is separate so you only need to change the cover every so often but the inners are replaced with every change. Fitted nappies dry quickly as they often open right out and are simple to wash, they have the added benefit of being able to go in the dryer which can be a huge time saver. The covers simply need a quick wash or rinse and dry within minutes as they are made of a waterproof material. The system I use is bamboozle by tots bots and I have the say they are awesome. Bamboo is more absorbent and antibacterial, it is also soft on the skin and easy to clean. Bamboo takes slightly longer to dry because it’s more absorbent but that’s the only flaw that I can find. If you get the popper nappies they last from birth to potty which is great for the budget conscious.
If you are looking for a cheaper option with a lot of flexibility then prefolds may be the one for you.
Prefolds & Pocket Nappies
This is closer to the old school nappy system. The prefolds are similar to fitted nappies but they use a square of cloth folded into three inside a cover. This makes them a great price as the flat cloths are much cheaper and they are by far the quickest to dry. I don’t find they are as absorbent or leak proof as fitted nappies but I have used these quite a lot and they work well with newborns as they are not too bulky. Pocket nappies are a variation of prefolds in that the insert fits in a pocket that is part of the cover, personally I don’t like these as you have to wash the covers with every change meaning you need a lot more nappy bits and pieces but the benefit is that there is a ‘stay dry’ layer between baby’s bum and the absorbent core.
If you’re looking for an option that is as close to the disposable nappy as you can get then an all in one is going to suit you.
All in Ones
These nappies are the outer cover, absorbent core and stay dry layer all in one nappy – hence the name ‘all in one’ They can be very trim fitting and convenient to put on wriggling babies as there is only one step. I have a few all in ones that I use so he can fit outfits he may have grown out of in bulkier nappies or for outings when I want to travel light. All in ones usually cannot be put in the dryer and take a long time to dry comparatively. The flexitot from Tot’s bots is a very popular model because it uses natural fibres close to baby’s bum and has a very trim fit. I found they take a long time to dry and as you can’t use the dryer you may need a lot more than the recommended 15-20 nappies. I would say double that.
Cloth nappies are worth experimenting with because every baby is different and for different times of day or night a selection of nappies might suit. I myself use a variety of fitted, prefolds and all in ones depending on the circumstance but I far and away love the fitted ones most. When trialling cloth nappies remember that their absorbency does not reach maximum until about 10 or 12 washes, so don’t judge them straight away. Also be aware of what clothes you have your precious wee mite in as cloth nappies require a bit more ease in the crotch and bum – as I have a very tall baby I found I needed to be one size ahead of his age bracket.
Cloth nappies with a bit of care will last for 3 or 4 children and with each child the savings get bigger and bigger as there is no outlay of cash. Take care of them and they will take care of baby’s bum. Don’t soak them in harsh chemicals or put covers in the dryer, air dry whenever possible. Avoid buildup by not using greasy creams or talc unless needed and if you are using these things consider getting rewashable liners which are available usually from the same place you would buy nappies, either online or at your local baby store.
Cloth nappies are not cheap initially with some systems costing as much as $600 for a starter set. However in the long run they are much cheaper than disposables and you have a lot less rubbish. Talk to your local council and see if any nappy systems are subsidised.
Another option is to make your own nappies, there are a few NZ websites that offer supplies and patterns to do this. I have been meaning to get around to it myself but have trouble finding time! It might be a great project for you if you’re pregnant and on the final countdown or if you have a handy mother or mother in law you could delegate. A friend of mine used the patterns and the nappy worked really well. For about quarter the cost this is a great option for the budget conscious.
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I can't rave on about cloth nappies enough to be honest - even if you are a firm believer in disposable, give them a try. get one or two and see how they go!