Washable wipes – homemade and upcycled

The fluffy epilogue that I wrote after Real/Cloth Nappy Week this year talked about my realisation that washable wipes were a very simple concept and that I could make some myself rather than buy the branded or even WAHM-made ones (WAHM = work at home mum). I do like to support WAHMs where possible, but in this case I’m being my very own WAHM and saving myself the cost of buying washable wipes even from them.

Although these took me very little time to make, the process taught me that I would actually find it very hard to be a WAHM myself at this stage when the boys are still so young, because I found I could only grab the odd five or ten minutes here and there between doing things with them, for them and around the flat. I don’t know how WAHMs do it! At least all the blogging I do is when I’m sitting down feeding or have a sleeping baby on me and can’t do other stuff anyway. And at least the wipes were simple enough that I could flit in and out of doing them easily.

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The fabrics I used were all old items of baby stuff that we no longer use for various reasons. We had a baby towel that was free with one of the supermarket parenting clubs (I think) but it’s only for newborns and both our boys grew out of it in about a month. I also found a fleece throw that we hadn’t used much and some old clothes (in cotton jersey fabric) that were either very worn out or had stains on one bit of them but the rest was fine. So I’ve done a bit of ‘upcycling’ (as seems to be one of the latest buzz words) in making these wipes.

The first batch I made with half the towel had this towel fabric on one side and half fleece half jersey on the other. I made them fairly big at 13x20cm. Now that we’re using them I would say that we could get away with them being a bit smaller than this as they clean up poo so easily, so the next batch I make will be a bit smaller. I’d seen washable wipes online made in two different ways: (1) two pieces of fabric overlocked together, or (2) two pieces of fabric sewn right sides together then pulled through back on itself and top stitched around the outside to seal the hole left in order to pull it outside in. I experimented with both methods, and found that the second one worked better with these fabrics on my machine – I don’t have a proper overlocker so was just using that stitch on my sewing machine and cutting off the excess fabric, but it was hard to make a neat straight edge, and although it still functions as a wipe perfectly well, it doesn’t look as nice (or ‘professional’ in Tom’s words) as the outside-in-method ones.

Here’s a tutorial with photos showing how I made these wipes (using the second method described above)…..

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1) Cut out the fabrics  – for a 13x20cm wipe you’ll need to cut 15x22cm of towel, and then fleece and jersey to cover roughly half each of the area of the towel, plus 1cm overlap where the fleece and jersey are sewn together. Here the photo shows the fabrics folded up in sets of towel, fleece and jersey all cut and ready to pin.

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2) Sew the fleece and jersey together down the one side that will be in the middle of the wipe – put right sides together and sew using a plain straight stitch along this one side, 1cm from the edge. When you’re done, open it out flat.

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3) Place the jersey and fleece piece right side down on the towel. (In the picture – this was the corner of the towel so I trimmed the jersey fabric to fit the curve of the corner here). Pin at right angles to the edge of the fabric every few centimetres along all four edges.

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4) Sew at 1cm from the edge all the way along three of the edges and about 2/3 of the way along the fourth edge to leave a hole where you can pull the fabric through from the outside inwards. Please excuse this photo – it DOES NOT show right sides together as it should – this was the one wipe that I overlocked instead and I must have taken a picture of this by mistake! Make sure when sewing the two pieces of fabric together that you can’t see the print of the jersey – if you’re just using towel and plain fleece, it wouldn’t matter anyway as there aren’t ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides.

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5) Remove the pins and then pull the fabric through the hole to turn it outside in and reveal the pattern on the jersey. Fold the edges of fabric sticking out at the hole (as seen on the top left corner here) inwards, following the fold of the rest of the seam.

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6) Top stitch (using a plain straight stitch on the machine) along the length of the hole and continuing along all four edges of the wipe, at about 2mm in from the edge, to give it a nice finish. Here the picture shows the finished wipe on the right, along with the overlocked one on the left for comparison.

Now to make some more, as well as some wet bags… whenever I find the time!

Pregnancy diary: week 33 – hospital bag and home birth kit

As I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I thought it was about time that I at least started thinking about packing my hospital bag. Although I hope I don’t go into labour for at least another month, it can’t harm to have things organised well in advance of when the time comes. Tom has been asking me for a couple of weeks when I’m going to pack my hospital bag, I think because last time I did get it packed around this many weeks of pregnancy, because we were going to my parents’ house for Christmas and I wanted to have it with me, just in case. (Of course it came all the way with us and all the way back completely untouched, but better to be prepared than not.) And I guess Tom knows that he’d only have to do it if I went into labour and it wasn’t already done, and I suppose that thought terrifies him slightly!

Stripy bump!

I know I’ve already given birth once, but when I sat down and thought about what I needed to prepare for this second birth, my mind went almost blank. I say ‘almost’, because I had a few patches of inspiration, like nappies for baby and drinks for me and Tom – funny what stuck in my mind from last time and what didn’t. What I do remember quite vividly from last time is having quite an enormous bag for what turned out to be a short stay, and most of the contents went unused; I remember Tom dragging it through the hospital corridors on the way in and out, whilst I carried just myself and a baby, either inside my bump (in) or in a car seat (out). Not that I regret taking most of that stuff – we might well have needed it if things had gone less smoothly and we were in hospital for much longer than we were. But I can’t honestly remember what most of that ‘stuff’ was! So I thought I’d better look up some hospital bag checklists for inspiration, and maybe that would bring back some of my memory of packing the bag last time.

One of the first websites that came up on a google search was a Mumsnet guide to packing your hospital bag. As I read through it, I thought it looked promising and was also quite comical in places with comments from various mums, rather than just a dry list of things. Here are the things that they suggest, with my comments as to whether or not I’ve packed them.

  • An old nightdress to give birth in – I’ve found a couple that I packed for giving birth to Andrew, but as I was in the pool for most of it until the very end, I didn’t have any clothes on at all! At the time I had a few seconds worth of a strange feeling that I was naked in front of two people I had only just met (the midwife and midwifery assistant), but then came another contraction and I jumped into the pool, after which I didn’t give another thought to the fact that I had no clothes on. I’ve packed one nightdress again, just in case I don’t end up in a pool for some reason (I hope not, but you never know).
  • Nightdress to wear in hospital – One of my best maternity wear bargains has been a simple nightdress with poppers down the front at the top – it cost me about £5 in the sale and I’ve worn it since Andrew was born, as it allows easy access for feeding at night (I also have other pyjamas, so I don’t just wear that nightie all the time and can wash it!!) I’m taking that again, though I was so hot last time in the hospital overnight that I just lay with no nightie on under a thin bed sheet.
  • Clothes to go home in (me and the baby) – My mum is bringing over all our newborn baby clothes next week, as they’ve been stored in their loft since Andrew grew out of them. So I’ll add some babygros, vests and cardies to the bag when they arrive. My joggers, a t-shirt and a jumper are in; I’m sure these were what I wore for a few weeks after Andrew was born as they were the most comfortable thing, especially the joggers as I had a 2nd degree tear which was quite painful and I needed something loose and comfortable on by lower body.
  • Bodysuits and babygros (five of each – just in case) – Hmmm, not sure five of each is really necessary? I’ve gone for 3, because if we did need to stay in for longer, I know that Tom or my parents could always bring us in more clean stuff and take dirty ones away. It’s not like we live miles away from the hospital and would have no visitors!
  • Baby blanket – This is an interesting one. Last time we were given plenty of blankets to swaddle Andrew in at the Birth Centre. Also, from what I now know about breastfeeding, I’m going to make sure we have much more skin to skin contact in the early hours and days, rather than what happened to Andrew – he fed well straight after birth, but once he’d finished and I was getting cleaned up (after about 2 hours of skin to skin), the midwives layered him up with clothes and swaddled him, and he stayed like that all night until the next morning because he sept so soundly. This time I’m going to keep baby close to my skin until we go home, to maximise the help it will give to my milk coming in. Of course I can put a blanket over baby whilst we’re skin to skin, but I don’t think we need lots of layers like last time.
  • Maternity towels – Check. I still have some left from last time, and will get some more for coming home to.
  • Loads of pairs of ‘old’ knickers – I did this last time (rather than buying paper knickers) and it worked out well. This time I have quite a few old pairs that really could do with being thrown out once they’ve been used for maternity purposes!
  • Toiletries – Toothbrush and toothpaste were essential last time, as I was very sick after the synotocin injection and really needed to brush my teeth after that. I also washed my hair and had a good shower a while after the birth, so I have the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel to do that again. A hairbrush was also useful, and I keep one in my handbag all the time anyway.
  • Nappies, wipes, nappy sacks – I can’t believe how tiny the newborn nappies are! I bought some last week, and went straight for size 2, because the weight range said 3-6kg, and given that Andrew was 3.5kg at birth, it’s unlikely that we’ll have a baby much below that this time, unless he/she comes very early, in which case we’d need the premature baby nappies anyway. Of course the wipes and sacks are what we have in anyway for Andrew, so they’re all in.
  • Camera – Yes this sounds obvious. We took it for Andrew, but I wasn’t really up for having lots of shots literally straight after birth, it’s not really our style. We just wanted it to be a moment for the three of us to enjoy, and besides, I really didn’t want photos of me having just given birth. The first pictures we have of Andrew were a few hours after birth once he was swaddled and asleep. Then we have loads from the first few days when we were back home and our family were visiting – they took loads of him and us.
  • Your birth plan and hospital notes – Good point, I need to write a birth plan! Well, last time I wrote something resembling a ‘plan’, but given that birth can so often not go according to how you imagined it would, I wrote at the top that is was less of a ‘plan’ but rather a general list of things I was hoping for and not hoping for. Even though last time things did turn out smoothly and how I was hoping, I do intend to write something similar this time, and this will need to include an option for home birth if things go even faster than last time.
  • A list of phone numbers – All in the mobile, both mine and Tom’s. Last time Tom phoned both sets of parents straight away, and they started passing the news around family. He was allowed to phone from inside the Birth Centre on a mobile, which we were’t necessarily expecting. We then put an announcement on Facebook the day after – that seems to be by far the easiest way of reaching lots of friends in one go, and they all like to see pictures with the announcement anyway.
  • Change for the car park – Last time we got a reduced flat rate for the two occasions that Tom parked the car at the maternity hospital: once for the birth itself and once the day after to come and collect us to go home. So it was handy to have change available for this (I think it was a couple of pounds each time).
  • Towel – For me to use after a shower after the birth. I’ve got an old one that we don’t mind getting a bit red. I’m trying to think whether last time I was provided a hospital towel for after the birth, but I can’t be sure, so I’m taking one just in case, or in case they’ve changed the policy of giving out towels.
  • Plastic bag to take dirty stuff home in – This is a good tip from a mum on the Mumsnet webpage.
  • Food and drink – Last time I remember taking quite a few snacks and drinks in, like bottles of water, cartons of juice, flapjacks and cereal bars. I didn’t actually eat/drink any of them in labour, because it all happened so fast and not long after I’d eaten dinner (I like to think that the hot curry I’d eaten made my waters break and push me into proper labour!), and the midwife gave me a bottle of ice cold energy drink, which is all I consumed before the birth. Then in the first hour after the birth, we were brought drinks and snacks (juice, tea, toast) by the midwives – not that I had much of that either, because I was sick so many times from the synotocin injection, and Tom had most of it! By the time the sickness and nausea caused by the injection wore off, it was about 4am, and I finally tucked into some of my snacks and drinks. This time I’ve packed similar things to eat and drink; I’m just wondering how much of it I’ll consume this time…. Better to have it than not though.
  • A water spray – Last time I took some water in an old hair product bottle with one of those spray tops on, as I’d heard it would be refreshing when I got all hot and sweaty. But again, because it happened quickly, and I was in the birth pool for the hardest part of labour, I didn’t actually use it. I plan to take one again, in case I labour for longer or for some reason don’t get a pool. I’ve just got to find another bottle as I must have thrown away the one from before.
That’s the main things on the list from the Mumsnet webpage. There are also a few other suggestions that might be relevant to some mums, but I’ve decided that most of them are not for me. One thing, though, that I hand’t thought of is a present that the baby can give to Andrew when he first meets his new brother or sister. I’ll have a think about this; the first thing that springs to mind is a t-shirt that says ‘I’m a big brother’ or something like that.

Hospital bag almost ready - just got babygros and vests for baby to go in. Oh and I've actually packed it all in the bag, it's not just spread all over our bed still 😉
Having prepared all this for going to hospital, there is still the possibility that I could end up having a home birth. My latest thought on this is the same as when I last wrote about it on the blog. I’d like to plan for giving birth in the Rosie Birth Centre, but if baby comes faster than Andrew did, I may decide that staying at home is the better option, because although we don’t live far from the hospital, I’d rather stay at home and give birth rather than risk giving birth in the car. I will have to see how things progress on the day/night itself, and make a decision based on my previous experience and what I feel is happening this time. This means that we need to have some things prepared at home as well. My midwife gave me a leaflet on home birth at my last appointment, so I’ve copied out here the list given in the leaflet.
  • Good torch with new batteries or extension lead.
  • New box of tissues.
  • Plastic sheeting approximately 2 square metres, preferably bubble wrap (padded and non-slip).
  • Old sheet or large old towel to cover plastic sheeting.
  • Two bowls and a bucket.
  • Soap and hand towel for the midwife.
  • Large old towels including one in which to wrap the newborn baby.
  • Work surface in the room chosen for the birth.
  • A set of baby clothes, including hat, and nappy in a warm place.
  • Birth paperwork provided by the midwife.
  • Bag packed for you and baby in case of transfer to the hospital.
Well, the one thing I can say I definitely have on this list is the last one! Of course we have things like a hand towel and soap out in the bathroom anyway, and the baby clothes can easily be got out of the hospital bag if needed. The other things need some more action before the day/night itself. Some are easy enough, like getting our torch out and making sure we have new batteries, and buying a new box of tissues. The harder things are the plastic sheeting, which we don’t have at all (and I have no idea where to get such a thing), and finding enough old towels and sheets. The only work surface we have is the kitchen – it would have to be the table because the other bits of work surface aren’t big enough to fit a baby on. You see, this is one of the reasons why I wouldn’t plan a home birth – our flat it just not very big to have all this stuff around our ordinary furniture without getting blood and gore all over everything!
So at the end of week 33 I’m feeling more organised in terms of preparation for the birth. I’m also happy that our wrap for me to wear baby in for the first months has just arrived, literally in the past hour! It had been out of stock for a while, but I’m so glad that we now have it. I feel like things are gradually coming together more and more. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so that will be the main thing to write about; I hope to discuss my latest blood test results with her. As I haven’t heard much from the doctor (other than they’d like to test me again in a month’s time for the platelets), I’m assuming that things can’t be that bad, but it will be good to chat with the midwife about this. And I’m sure I’ll be sitting down to write week 34’s post before I know it – time is really flying now!
Thought we'd better have a shot from the front - after all, I do love my bump! This top was a nice birthday present 🙂

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!