Beginners Guide To Cloth Nappies
An in depth guide in to what cloth nappies are, how you use them and advice on how to wash reusable nappies.
When you think about cloth nappies, it can feel daunting. There are just so many options and decisions to make! How do you know where to start? Well, we're here to help you out.
In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about cloth nappies: what kinds of nappies there are, how they work and how to wash them.
First things first: it's important to understand the basic components that make up a cloth nappy. So let's jump right in!
Cloth nappies can be divided into 5 main categories. The first category is known as all-in-one, or AIO.
These are the kind of nappies that look most like disposable nappies — they have an absorbent inner core and a waterproof outer layer all in one piece. There is no assembly involved; just slip them on your baby and go! The downside of these type of nappies is that they generally take longer to dry because the pieces can't be separated.
Next up is the pocket nappy. These have separate inserts that go in to an opening at the back of the nappy. Once assembled they have all the great benefits of an all-in-one meaning they're easy to use but they're quicker drying because the inserts are separate allowing better airflow. Pockets do require some preparation after washing so you will need to "stuff" them after drying but they still remain the most popular nappy style.
Moving on to all-in-two, or AI2, nappies. Just as it sounds the nappy comes in two parts, a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert that normally snaps in to place before being used. There are more “parts” with this style but it’s a much cheaper and more versatile system overall. The nappy covers can be reused up to 4 times with a fresh insert saving you money and reducing your washing load.
The last two styles are “2 part nappies” either a fitted nappy and wrap or traditional flat nappy and wrap.
For fitted nappies the whole thing is absorbent and really packs a punch! Perfect for over night with a suitable wrap. These tend to be more expensive and slower drying options but as they’re mainly used for night time you only need a few to see you through.
Flats have a bit more variety and come in more absorbent options such as, traditional terry squares or thinner options like cotton birdseye flats. These need a wrap and a fleece liner to keep your baby’s bottom dry. Fleece liners are a stay dry fabric the sit between your baby’s bottom and the material of the nappy - they also help to catch poo!
Flats are by far the cheapest way to use cloth nappies and although they can initially be fiddly they are easily learnt. Our YouTube channel is full of useful tutorials on how to fold and use flat nappies.
Now you have an idea of all the different nappy styles you have probably swayed towards one that will suit your needs. If you haven’t then don’t worry! We’ve helped hundreds of families pick out the right cloth nappy for them and we’ll help you too. Fill in our quick cloth nappy advice questionnaire and you’ll get an in-depth personalised plan to suit you.
Once you get your nappies you’re going to want to jump straight in to using them so let’s go over how to take care of them.
First up... What to do with the poo! This seems like the most daunting part but it’s no big deal. If your baby is exclusively milk fed (breast, formula or combi) then there’s no need to do anything but store and wash - the washing machine takes care of it all. If your baby is weaning and eating solids then you’ll need to do some prep work.
There are many methods to remove poo and they’re all about as glamorous as each other. You can dunk in the toilet, swish and hold under the flush, use a hose or shower head to spray it off or opt for a poo spoon/knife to scrape it off (just be sure to make it obvious it’s for the bathroom and not for eating with). You need to remove the worst of it and anything - how shall I put this... - lumpy? Then it gets stored and wash like normal.
If you’ve opted for velcro waist fastenings then make sure you stick the velcro down on to the laundry tab when you remove a dirty nappy. This stops the velcro catching on laundry in the washing machine which could get in a tangle or cause damage.
Now for the star of the show... The wash routine! Keep this really simple and you’ll be golden. Here’s what you need to do:
- Store dirty nappies for 2-3 days in a large wet bag or basket
- Empty all nappies, wipes and bags in to the machine
- Run a quick wash (30 minutes or so) to remove the worst of the soiling
- Put it on a long cottons wash (about 2 hours) with a full dose of powder detergent
That’s literally it, the washing machine does everything for you. There’s no soaking buckets, scrubbing or boiling - simply choose your setting and press go.
Voilà! You’re all done and ready to reuse.
Fitting your nappy
When it comes time to fit your first cloth nappy you’ll notice a few things are different from disposables. Firstly, rise snaps.
Rise snaps are the poppers or snaps on the front of the nappy that adjust the length. For the smallest setting (around 10lbs) you close them all up so it’s as short as it will go, it stays this way for around 1 year depending on your baby’s size and shape. Once it starts feeling too short you go up a rise and continue to do this until potty training. Unlike disposable nappies you’ll only need 1 set of cloth nappies that simply adjust in size as your baby grows.
Around the waist you will likely find a popper fastening which is the most common option for reusable nappies but there are some velcro (hook & loop) nappies available. It’s a fastening that is easily learnt but the main thing to remember is to keep the tummy loose! It sounds strange but trust me on this one, reusable nappies are designed to have a tummy gap so that it’s super comfortable for them to wear.
Now the last things to remember are to keep the nappy low and in the groin. All this means it that the back of the nappy only sits just above the bum and the leg elastics are more like a pair of underwear so they get tucked in to the “knicker line”. If you’ve used disposable nappies you’re likely used to a very high fitting design but it’s quite the opposite with cloth.
Out and About
What on earth do you do when you’re out and you need to change a cloth nappy? Well, it’s quite simple really… There is a reusable alternative to everything so just like you have disposable nappy sacks we have reusable ones called wet bags.
Wet bags provide a waterproof and mess free place to pop all of your days nappies while you’re out of the house. If little one is weaning then try to remove solids like you would at home or simply roll it up and deal with it when you’re back.
Oh, and no, they don’t smell!
I hope that covers everything on your mind but for an in depth look at everything cloth nappy make sure you check out our YouTube video which will guide you through every step of the way.
Check out our other blogs, videos and social media for guides and advice on all things cloth nappies.
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