Natural Parenting

Natural pregnancy, birth, and parenting: healthy, happy and ecological ideas from a mother's personal experience.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cloth nappies

They are cheaper in the long run and can be used for all your children, no risk of chemicals against your babies skin, no risk of the nappy causing heat as it is thought that disposables do, the baby knows when he/she is wet and is therefore aware ready for the no nappy stage, all you need to do is get into the habit early on and it is no more hassle than anything else!

There are pre-fold nappies (I used Cotton Bottoms) which are a tea towel sized piece of double thickness cotton that is folded up within the plastic wrap, this is the only cloth nappy that is loose within the wrap. The cheapest option is the original terry towelling, a simple piece of towelling that dries really easily and can be used with a nappy nippa, a plastic clip instead of the old fashioned pin. Shaped nappies like for example Tots Bots which take longer to dry but fit really nicely and don't seem to leak as easily, easy to use when you are out or if other people are changing the nappy. All these nappies need plastic wraps over the top. There are also All In Ones with have the plastic wrap included in the nappy but they don't last as long apparently. You need most nappies in two or three different sizes.

Most nappies are made with bleached cotton, but some are available in unbleached cotton, hemp, fleece or bamboo which is more absorbent and ecological due to the harvesting methods. Towelling seems to be the most absorbent type of cotton. Fleece nappies don't really seem to work that well to me. Nappies can be fastened with poppers, nippas or Velcro which is the quickest to use but some babies do go through a phase or trying to undo the Velcro and maybe it is not so hardy in the long term.

You need around 25 cloth nappies and around half the amount of plastic wraps. You can use anything from 4 to 10 nappies in 24hrs, you will change a newborn baby a lot more that older babies. The cloth nappies will cost around £200 depending on which ones you buy, and will last all your children until they are out of nappies.

I have been advised by the Suffolk Real Nappy Network that for someone who is new to cloth nappies it is best try some different ones out, and to mix and match to start off with. Motherease wraps seem to be most popular too.

I found that the pre-folds were quite wide and hard between the babies legs which worried me sometimes (although I'm sure I had no need to!) and sometimes meant it was harder for them to move around. I think towelling is softer and more flexible and less bulky between the legs.

You may need to dress your baby in slightly larger clothes when using cloth nappies as they are larger than disposables!

NAPPY ACCESSORIES (all you need are the nappies/wraps and a bucket but the following helps)
Fleece liners for night to wick away the moisture - easy to flick poo off into toilet
Boosters or flannels on top of cloth nappy for nigh time
Fleece wipes/flannel or biodegradable wipes (I just wash Oscar's bum under the tap for as he won't lie down)
Cotton wool for newborns
Rubber gloves to save cracking skin which seems to happen after birth
A bucket with a lid, you might want another small bucket too to separate nappies/wraps wet/dry etc
Tea tree oil or eco friendly nappy sanitiser or bicarb (buy in bulk from chemist or market) or white vinegar (buy in bulk from cheap supermarket) or lemon
A wipe clean nappy bag/sandwich bag or old plastic bags when out
A piece of cloth/towel as a changing mat, or non pvc changing mats are available
Flushable paper liners (these can also be washed and re-used!), only needed once the poo is not liquid anymore if you think you need them as well as fleece liners

WHERE TO PURCHASE NEW AND 2ND HAND NAPPIES - I found Tots Bots for good prices some are Velcro some need a nippa - they have local reps in every area who can show you nappies and give advise - 2nd hand available

NCT nearly new sales
Waitrose and Boots
Find more information in Green Parent or Juno magazine
You can get £30 real nappy money back from your local council
It is cheapest to buy second hand or a bulk deal via the internet

Poo changes with age, newborn is liquid yellow/stains more, and it gets thicker and more smelly when on solid food
Nappies will need washing 2 to 3 times a week
Soak dirty nappies in bucket with tea tree etc for no more than 3 days, scrape poo into toilet after changing, wring out and pour dirty water from bucket into toilet before washing
Wash with natural soap flakes (buy from Waitrose/health food shop/internet) and eco balls (you can buy these cheaply as 're-fills' without the 'ball', just use with a net and plastic bag clip)
Or if you want to use washing powder use Ecover non-bio, and if you really want white nappies you can use Ecover bleach and softener
You can wash nappies at the more ecological temperature of 40 and perhaps at 60 now and again for really bad ones or just to give them a good wash occasionally
The wraps do not need to be washed as often as the nappy
Laundry services are available too!
DRYING: outside on the washing line is best, sun is a natural bleach and whitens the nappies within a few hours, in winter you may need to dry them inside too on a clothes horse, radiator, tumble drier (I have a tumble drier but hardly ever need to use it)

Air your babies bum outside in the sun is the best thing you can do
Change the nappy often and straight after pooing
Poo and wee together are worse
Use the fleece liner more often
Rinse your babies bum under the tap after each change
Wash the nappies at 60
Wash your baby in chamomile and lavender/tea tree oil
You could use the occasional disposable nappy to dry out the skin
Chamomila homeopathic remedy and chamomile tea help with the discomfort and apparently neutralise the acidic urine from teething
Teething and some foods can affect nappy rash
There are natural non-petroleum creams available, calendula cream is brilliant and very gentle, zinc and castor oil cream is natural and very cheap from somewhere like boots (it can be used as sun block too)

70% biodegradable Nature Babycare nappies are available in Waitrose and other shops - German Moltex 100% biodegradable compostable nappies, slightly more expensive
These nappies can be composted, we have tried composting them in a small bin in our garden and they seem to gradually be going down but there are only a few, a wormery is more efficient if you use a lot

WEBLINKS - they offer real nappies to try for £5

Click on comment below from my friend Clare for some more first hand detailed advice on cloth nappies: -


At 4:03 PM, Anonymous clare said...

Best for newborn: muslin, folded into 'newborn fold' with a soft wrap on top, secured by 'nappy nippa' (ingenious little piece of slightly stretchy rubber with little 'teeth' which hold the nappy securely from three points. I'd recommend these very highly for anyone using muslins or terry nappies.)

2-3 months: muslin + booster (cut up old hand towels better than commercially available boosters, as the commercial ones are too big for smaller babies in my experience). Changed to 'pleat fold'. Also recommend biodegradable paper liner at this age. Some of these liners can actually be washed and reused when they only have wee on. When they have poo on, just flush them down the loo. They are quick to degrade - suitable for cesspits, too, if you're not on main drainage.

3-6 months: Rosmary graduated to terries, secured with a nappy nippa and prefolds, both with a wrap. (I like the MotherEase Rikki wrap best of all as it can be washed at 40 or 60 without losing any waterproof quality, and offers the best fit, doesn't seem to rub, etc.) Also, as the poo becomes more solid, I highly recommend fleece liners. You can make your own - any old fleece will do (from haberdashers, or even an old fleece jumper, etc - but not the really bobbly sort!) Fleece wicks the moisture away from the skin, keeping it much dryer. Most poo flicks off easily, too.

6 months +:
all in ones: good fit, easy to use on wriggly babies - but take a really long time to dry and you end up doing more washing (as washing each time, wrap and all). Not recommended if you don't want to use a dryer.
shaped nappy + wrap: easy to use, will dry on a summer's day without a dryer quite easily. Wraps will last several nappy changes. better fit on some babies than terries or prefolds.
prefold + wrap: quick drying, hard wearing, cheap (especially second hand). Easy to use, too.
terries/muslins: get more awkward at this stage. Too bulky on crawling/walking babies.

Night time:
Babies wee a LOT at night so build up a super-size nappy with extra boosters/bits of old towel etc to get them through the night (this only really applies after, say, 9-12 months.) A fleece liner is a must at night time, as it wicks the moisture away from the skin so effectively. Some people like to use fleece or wool wraps at night, too, so the moisture wicks away into the atmosphere. (This doesn't work on older babies 18 months + as they don't move so much in their sleep.) Bamboo nappies (Bamboozle) are more absorbent, so may be more suitable for longer periods, too.

Brands: - there are so many to choose from it's impossible to make the right decision. There are many nappy initiatives around the country, which do 'trial packs' where you can hire a selection of different sorts of nappies to see which ones suit you. (Ask your local authority or check the internet.) A great alternative to this is to buy/borrow second hand - as many different types as possible. Then you can really pick the ones that suit the shape of your baby - and they really are all so different! I tried loads from e-bay then stuck with the ones that worked for me (which were any old prefolds, brand doesn't seem to matter with them, plus a few MotherEase shaped nappies, plus MotherEase Rikki wraps). It's definitely worth trying out lots of different wraps, as well as nappies, as they vary a LOT.

Pros and cons: I've tried to convert a lot of people to washable nappies - but the truth of the matter is that disposable nappies are easier. No getting away from that, and convenience is all that matters to some people - sigh. BUT I've had some success by pointing out that washables are also very easy to use. Very easy indeed. I guess there's an extra 10 minutes per day spent on washables over disposables - a small price to pay for all the advantages. Obviously, minimizing what we send to landfill is a main reason for choosing washable nappies - but the ecological argument doesn't end there... There's the ecological cost of manufacturing and distributing the nappies in the first place, too. Other advantages:
cost - especially if you buy second hand - you'll save hundreds of pounds, more for each extra child... see below for typical start up costs.
easier potty training (babies are more aware of what's in their natural nappies)
natural fabric next to bottom - no chemicals or plastics, so maintaining natural moisture of baby's skin and negating worry about effects of long-term use of some chemicals next to baby's genitalia
less shopping hassle - you don't need to worry about running out and always stocking up nappy supplies
no smell your home won't smell of poo, unlike homes with disposable nappies hanging around them, because baby poo is flushed down the toilet, just like ours!
Recently, some reports have suggested that washables are just as unfriendly to the environment as disposables. This is rubbish. The report was based on buying brand new nappies for every baby and washing nappies every day at 60 degrees and then tumble drying. In reality, people using natural nappies just don't do this.

Where to buy your nappies: There are an increasing number of natural nappy agents working around the country and there's bound to be one in your area. Look on the internet. Some baby shops are getting wise, too. Even Mothercare stocks some brands, as does John Lewis (Waitrose). Second hand nappies are often available through local parenting networks, too. And there's always e-bay
I love it!

How to wash: I don't find any need to wash at 60degrees 40 does the job just fine. Every now and then I give the nappies a blast at 60 just in case it does them some good, though! If you rinse/soak in the sink after each nappy change, you won't need to soak nappies in a bucket just put them in an empty bucket ready wrung out with a few drops of lavender oil in the bucket. Then, when it's time to wash, you can rinse and spin nappies in the machine first, adding the rest of your normal washing (clothes etc) after this little freshening. Your clothes will not suffer in any way from this, and it's much more convenient and more environmentally friendly than having separate nappy washes. I dry everything on the line, or on a horse inside in winter. Prefolds, terries, muslins dry easily but shaped nappies will take longer. N.B. don't put bamboo nappies on the radiator it destroys the fibres somehow, reducing absorbancy.

How many? newborn uses 8-10 per day, gradually reducing to 5-6 by the time the baby is 6 months. Most people I've spoken to do a wash every second or third day. 18-24 muslins and same number of terries/small prefolds should cover it for the early days. The more wraps the better, in a way. I got by with 3 for a long time but 4 - 6 is the most usually recommended amount. I've got 8 now which makes life much easier. For an older baby, 20-30 prefolds/shaped nappies plus 5 or 6 wraps will be enough.

Start-up cost? if you buy brand new, a typical birth to potty pack of nappies & wraps costs around the £220 mark, on average. With the extras (bucket, few packs of paper liners, fleece liners, nappy nippas) add an extra £20-£40. Muslins and terries are very cheap typically about 50p-£1 each. If you go second hand, who knows what bargains you might find! It's not uncommon to get a bundle of 6 or 7 nappies for 99p on e-bay! I bought all my nappies second hand, plus new bucket etc and spend just over £50 on the lot. (I then got £25 back from the local government, who reimburse natural nappy costs to encourage people to keep stinky, bulky nappies out of the landfill. There are a lot of similar schemes across the country.)

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Isil S. said...

happy to meet a like minded person.
We are expecting our first baby on Jan. so I read much about these issues nowadays. Vaccination is also a subject I was considering though i did not that it is not compulsory here in UK.

At 9:30 PM, Blogger Amandochka said...

Hi I just found your blog - very informative thanks! I currently work in a day nursery and a few of the babies wear cloth nappies - some are much better than others both for ease of use and on the baby's bottom!!

It was good to read more about that from a parent who uses them!

At 4:54 AM, Anonymous honest diaper reviews said...

Best value goes to honest diapers. They sure beat everything else, including expensive diapers, even with coupon. Think about the hassle of collecting coupons and the funny looking of store checker, and getting only a jumbo or mega that lasts 2 weeks if you are lucky.


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