Adventures in cloth – Day 1
Today we made the switch from disposable nappies to cloth. Jack is 19 months old but until recently I thought cloth nappies were still the terry towelling terrors from my childhood. Now there are many different types to suit many different situations. I purchased a preloved set of onelife two part nappies (and one totsbots wrap) from a friend of mine to try with Jack as we want to go with cloth for baby number 2.
Let me explain what I have learnt about cloth nappies to those newbies like me.
They can be made from natural materials which are naturally anti-bacterial, breathable and kind to sensitive skin but take longer to dry or synthetic materials which dry very quickly and keep baby’s bottom feeling dry. Using both types is usually recommended.
- Cotton is a natural fibre which offers high levels of absorbency however the drying time is quite lengthy. Organic cotton is a little more absorbent than non-organic cotton as there are no chemicals used in the growing process.
- Bamboo fibre is one of the most absorbent nappy materials available and is recommended for heavy wetters and night time use. Bamboo grows very quickly without the need for pesticides and chemicals and is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, breathable,hypoallergenic and very very absorbent. It does however take a long time to dry compared to synthetic materials.
- Microfibre is a man-made polyester fabric which dries fast after it’s been washed and is also very absorbent. Microfibre is very popular and is typically used for nappy inserts. Microfibre shouldn’t sit next to baby’s skin as it can cause irritation. A top layer or fleece layer is incorporated into nappies that use microfiber inserts and some inserts have a skin friendly layer on one side. Minky is a form of polyester microfibre which is a lot softer to the touch and looks quite fluffy. Minky can be used for the absorbent layer of a nappy as well as for the outer.
- Fleece is a soft man made polyester fabric which is often used as a barrier between microfiber inserts and the baby’s skin. Fleece is non-absorbent and so it keeps your baby’s bottom feeling dry to the touch. Fleece is commonly used in pocket nappies and integrated into all-in-one nappies.
- PUL (Polyurethane laminate) is usually used in the waterproof layer of a nappy to keep the liquid in. PUL is breathable and thin and free from PVC.
- Wool can be knitted into the shape of a nappy wrap and worn over an absorbent nappy. This provides a natural waterproof barrier and will need to be lanolized (soaking it in a solution to help waterproof the wool).
- Hemp is a natural fibre that is very absorbent, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and great for sensitive skin. It takes in moisture more slowly than other materials so another material in the nappy is often required.
- Aplix Velcro or Hook and Loop are super easy to use and provide a great fit. Older babies can easily undo these so watch out! Over time Velcro can get less sticky but will last a long time if looked after. Most nappies have a laundry tap to stick the Velcro to when washing.
- Poppers or Snaps are a good strong hold that toddlers can’t undo so easily. They are long lasting and durable but a little more fiddly to fasten and less adjustability than Velcro. One-size nappies usually use poppers on the front to adjust the size.
My set are two part nappies (also known as fitted) which consist of a shaped absorbent nappy, a booster that attaches to the nappy using poppers to keep it in place and a waterproof outer called a wrap. I also have a liner on top of the booster to catch any poo and keep nappy cream off the cloth (this can affect absorbency), these can be washable, disposable or flushable. Two part nappies are better for newborns with explosive poo and heavy wetters like Jack as they have more layers to catch everything and the inner and outer layers have different escape points so hold the contents better. They are however bulky and a bit of a pain to get normal trousers over. They can also take a while to dry and you will need to purchase several different sizes.
I also have a pocket nappy, where an insert fits inside the waterproof outer via a pocket and fits like a disposable using poppers or velcro to adjust the size. These allow you to add as many inserts as you need while still getting a snug fit, however mine leaks from the supposedly waterproof outer so while I like the fit I am yet to be impressed by this type. Pocket nappies are very quick drying but have the same potential as a disposable for poop escape.
All in one (AIO) nappies are like a disposable where there are no boosters or wraps to worry about. Most nurseries and childminders are happy to use AIO nappies as they are as easy to use as a disposable, it is best to check first though. However AIO nappies only offer a light to medium absorbency without the option to add boosters and take longer to dry than other types.
Terry towelling nappies (flat or prefolds) still exist and require the patience to learn how to fold them in several different ways depending on if your child is male or female, explosive pooper or heavy wetter. You will also need a waterproof wrap and nappi nippas (the modern equivalent to the safety pin), they are however quick drying, the cheapest option and very versatile but not convenient.
You can also buy reusable wipes, these are used the same as disposable wipes but once used are stored in a container until wash day and popped in the wash with your cloth nappies. Once out the wash they don’t need drying, just popping in a clean container with a special solution usually containing tea tree (favoured for its antibacterial properties).
There are lots of creams and sprays which work well with cloth nappies, I have been using metanium nappy rash ointment for a while with disposable nappies and it works well in cloth as long as I use a liner. I have found I haven’t needed to use the cream as much today, whether that is coincidence or not we will have to wait and see.
Changing cloth nappies is no more of a task than changing a disposable, you just need to know what you are doing. My nappies are a two part system so when Jack needs changing I just undo the wrap and give it a rinse unless its dirty. The absorbent core is undone but left under him while I wipe him clean using the liner and nappy to get the worse off and wipes if needed. If the nappy is wet then I rest it on the wrap while putting a fresh nappy on Jack, then flush the liner and take the booster off the nappy so all parts are separate and pop it in the washing machine. If the nappy is dirty I hold the nappy and booster firmly in the toilet while it flushes to remove the poop, you can also use the shower but I don’t like the idea of bathing where I clean nappies. You can use a bucket to store used nappies in but I just pop mine straight in the machine ready to be washed.
Its more economical to wash your nappies every other day, if you have enough to last that long. You can also wash your nappies with other clothes just pop them on a cold rinse first to remove any nasties you don’t want mixing with your clothes. Make sure any velcro tabs or hooks are folded in and don’t use fabric softener as this affects absorbency. Stain remover isn’t necessary and can be harmful against babies skin, if your nappies have stains putting them on the line in the sun will get rid of them and kill any left over bacteria.
You can buy lots of different cloth nappy detergents but any good non bio washing powder or gel works fine. You only need 1/2 or even 1/3 the regular amount of detergent to wash nappies as a build up can stop the nappies from working as well as they should causing leaks. Some biological detergents contain an enzyme called ‘cellulase’ which can have a degrading effect on cellulose fibres like bamboo and cotton and this can be particularly severe if combined with the levels of heat used when tumble drying should any remain.
If you buy your nappies new you will need to wash them 3 times or more to get the required absorbency. It is recommended that when using preloved nappies or new nappies you have been using for 4 or 5 months (or longer) to do a strip wash. A strip wash is a way of clearing your nappies and boosters of built up grime and detergent which affect how much the nappy can hold. To strip wash you can either hang your nappies out in the rain then do a normal wash or by putting half the normal amount of detergent in the drawer then washing your nappies on 60° wash (40° if using bamboo), once the wash has finished pop it on a rinse cycle until you can no longer see soap suds. Wraps and wool outers don’t need to be strip washed.
Cloth nappies can be dried just like any other washing. Line drying is best as the fibres of the nappy dry without extreme heat and the sun will get rid of stains and freshen the nappy. You can tumble dry them on a low heat but this can shorten the life of your nappies and is expensive. Tumble drying them for 10 minutes before popping on the line helps to fluff them up and soften the fibres. You can also dry nappies on the radiator but you should use an airer or hang the nappies above the radiator to prevent any natural fibres from scotching, waterproof wraps and outers also should not come in contact with the radiator as this can damage there waterproofing abilities.
I’m yet to take Jack out in cloth but if you choose to you can buy a wet bag to store used nappies in. After chatting to my friend who introduced me to cloth and sold me the preloved set, it seems easier to use disposables while out and they take up less room in the changing bag.
So far I’m impressed with the cloth nappies but it is a little annoying having to change Jack sooner, but that is simply because I’m used to the gel in disposables holding more liquid (when it feels like it). Jack is heavy wetter and the disposables just cant cope and he leaks at least 4 times a day. So far we’ve had one leak in cloth but I think that may have been my fault for not adjusting right and leaving a gap.
Onelife nappies have been discontinued and the company is now run by Bambino Mio.
Look out for Real nappy week 28th April – 4th May 2014.