The wonderful world of cloth nappies

As it’s cloth nappy week 2012 this week (there seems to be an awareness week for everything these days!), I thought I’d squeeze in a quick post (note: I wrote that before I realisd how much I could go on about it…not such a quick post in the end!) about our experience of cloth nappies. I still don’t have loads of time or energy for blogging at the moment, but hopefully this offering will keep you amused for a while.

Sometimes Andrew enjoys sitting playing with just a nappy on

When I found out I was pregnant with Andrew, there were lots of things to think about, and I have to say nappies were not high on my priority list of thoughts. But I do remember briefly reading about nappies in one of the free magazines I got with the pregnancy bumpf I got at the start. It was there that I saw an advert for cloth nappies. Then a couple of months later, my mum mentioned them, as a colleague of hers at work was considering selling the ones she had used for her girls when they were younger. I said I wouldn’t mind looking at a sample of what she had on offer, so she very kindly let us have a few samples of a couple of different makes and styles.

Again, sitting and playing in a nappy, though this photo was taken in January so it was a bit chilly, hence the cardy

At about the same time, a friend of mine happened to post something on facebook about how much she loved cloth nappies, so that got me curious and I asked her for advice too – she warned me that she could go on for hours about it, so we should go round for dinner one evening when her kids were in bed and she would go through it all with us. Both these experiences were very useful, and I was persuaded by what I saw to have a go at using them. Also, Tom, being Tom, decided that he would have a go at doing a rough estimate of how much money there was to be saved by comparing the price of disposables with the cost of water and electricity for washing cloth. He worked out that on average we would save LOTS by using cloth over the course of a few years (for Andrew and potentially more kids), even taking into account the cost of buying cloth in the first place.

The first time we tried them on – at about a month old: does my bum look big in this?!

However, we still had a couple of reservations, like we live in a small flat with no tumble dryer and so weren’t sure whether cloth nappies would dry very easily/quickly in the winter, and whether we would handle that much washing in the early days of getting used to a new baby. But then my parents said that for our ‘cotton’ wedding anniversary (2 years), which was in the August before Andrew was due in the January, they would buy us a set of cloth (cotton!) nappies. Perfect. In fact Mum got a great deal with her colleague with the second hand ones, so it cost a fraction of the price of a new set, and we were spared the cost altogether. If things didn’t work out with drying etc., I wouldn’t feel as bad as if they/we had shelled out for brand new ones. We also decided that we’d start off with newborn disposables for a few weeks, or as long as it took to get used to life with a newborn, so as not to put too much pressure on ourselves during that time.

A selection of our Motherease set: top left – folded nappy for newborn size; top right – unfolded nappy for bigger bottoms; centre – fleece liners for wetness absorption; left side – small and medium wrap; right side – medium and large wrap (all very funky designs)

I’m so glad that we did what we did, because it turns out that cloth nappies are no trouble for us. We have a set of about 20 Motherease shaped toweling nappies with popper fastening, plus lots of fleece liners for repelling wetness away from his skin, about 15 Motherease popper-in boosters which keep the nappy going longer, organic flushable liners to catch poo so it is quickly and easily removed from the main nappy, and about 5 waterproof wraps of each size (S, M, L) with popper fastenings to go over the top of the toweling – with various funky designs with animals from various ecosystems e.g. rainforest, savannah, pond. These are suitable from birth to toddlerhood, as the front of the towel nappy folds down to create a smaller nappy at first, and then over time you can stop folding it down and use the full nappy size; you just start with a small outer wrap and then progress to bigger ones as baby grows into toddler!

Close up of unfolded nappy – incredibly easy to fasten with poppers, at different positions all the way along to allow for growing bottoms!

Andrew likes wearing them, and although they are more bulky than disposables (which he wears overnight and occasionally if necessary), it doesn’t seem to have stopped him moving around. He was quite an early walker, cruising from about 9 months and walking confidently a week after his first birthday. I remember reading in the free magazine I mentioned above (which shall remain nameless) that one of the ‘cons’ of cloth nappies was that they were ‘less comfortable’ for baby than disposables. I thought ‘How can they claim that?! Did they do a survey and ask a load of babies/toddlers whether they preferred the comfort of cloth or disposable?! I think not…’ As far as I can tell, Andrew has no complaints. For me, I like the soft and pure feel of the cloth next to his skin, compared to the seemingly soft but full of chemicals disposables. He has only had a mild nappy rash once, and his skin is lovely and smooth still on his bottom.

Close up of folded nappy – an inner line of poppers turns into the outside when folded over – clever 😉

It does annoy me slightly that he grows out of trousers around the bottom more quickly than tops, and dungarees just never seem to fit right these days, but I see that as the fault of clothes manufacturers rather than the cloth nappies – it seems it’s a disposable nappy world when it comes to toddler clothes. I’ve learnt to buy (or mention to people who like to buy him clothes that it’s best to buy) stretchy bottoms like joggers or stretchy jeans. Unfortunately dungarees just don’t seem to fit him these days, though they weren’t too bad up until a year old. He’s not exactly fat either, but he’s got a more muscly bum now he’s walking than when he was a baby of course. On my never-ending to-do list is ‘write to toddler clothes companies saying that I’d like to see designs suitable for cloth nappy wearers’ – maybe one day I’ll get around to it. I’d also love to have the time to make some clothes for him myself, as that would be the perfect fit. Anyway enough about clothes. He looks so cute toddling round in with his padded bum (great when he was learning to walk – extra cushioning for inevitable mishaps!) and the designs on the wraps are so cute too.

Nice and cushioned – this was taken at about the time he started pulling himself up, and it was good to know he had a nice padded bum to fall down on (though of course he’s sitting on a soft bed here, but you get the point)

Of course there is more washing than if we were to use disposables, but now we’re in a routine, we hardly notice the extra time spent on nappies. I say ‘we’, because I am fortunate to have a husband who helps a lot with the housework, especially now I’m back at work (well, he always did do lots, particularly when I was working all hours to finish my PhD!) Our routine is as follows: Tom empties the nappy pails (usually once every 2-3 days now), puts them in the washing machine, and turns it on or puts in on timer depending on when I will be around to do the next bit; once they’re washed, I do the hanging out to dry and putting back in the nappy stacker to use again. In fact the extra time spent on this seems like nothing compared to how often we’d have to buy disposables if we used them all the time. As we live in Cambridge, most of our trips to the supermarket we do on foot or bike; it would take many more trips if we had to pick up big bulky packs of nappies every time. We are also very lucky that our childminder is fine about handling cloth nappies. We send Andrew there with a couple of clean ones, and he comes back with a couple of wet/dirty ones in nappy sacks that we then empty into our pail at the end of the day.

Flushable liners – they come on a big roll, and are easily torn off one at a time using the perforations you see here. They are thin and feel like fabric (as opposed to paper – hence the photo against the light to show they’re see-through), but very strong when wet so they don’t disintegrate, though still degrade once flushed away. This makes it very easy to get rid of poo!

I know that cloth nappies are not for everyone – it must depend on so many different practicalities of everyday life. We have been very lucky with various things (like the gift of nappies, our routine suits washing over shopping, our childminder supports us). But I hope that by sharing our experiences, it might encourage others to just have a think about whether they could give them a go. Plus I’ve done my bit for raising awareness this week. I’d be interested to read other mummy bloggers’ experiences of cloth nappies (good or bad), so why not post a link down there with the comments if you’ve written something on this. I’ve also just entered a competition on the cloth nappy info website to win some more cloth nappies with some very cool designs – Jubilee inspired 😉 So who knows, I might be adding a few more to our collection soon. Happy cloth nappy week! 🙂

New bright orange wrap – a recent photo I took trying to capture the wrap and the fact that Andrew was having great fun waving a union jack around – neither came out very well because he kept running towards me!