Modern Day Cloth Nappies – Your Questions Answered!

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Social media can be a wonderful thing, so wonderful in fact that this is where I met the lovely Innes. When I was pregnant, I stumbled across modern day cloth nappies Innes’s Instagrampage. It was Innes who helped get me started with cloth nappies and she has been my go to trusty source of knowledge ever sense. She is a seasoned expert having two little ones in cloth nappies and I thought there was no one better person to invite over to my blog to help answer all your cloth nappy Q&As. So, let’s get started…

Pim Pam nappy, Image by Innes Vautier

From Innes...

Getting started with cloth nappies can be daunting, but once you get going it’s often a lot less scary than it seems! To help you on the way, Meg has asked me to answer some of your most common questions. If you’d like more help, you can head over to my blog where I’ve got plenty more blog posts on cloth nappies. I also always recommend getting some personalised help. The best way is to see if you have a local nappy library, or you can contact one of the many retailers that offer personalised advice. My favourite is The Nappy Gurus (probably because I am one of their nappy gurus!)


1.     How many nappies do you need for full time?


Most modern cloth nappies are ‘one size’ or ‘birth-to-potty’, which means that you can generally use the same nappy from around 3.5-16 kg. You’ll need around 20 daytime nappies for full-time use, if you’re washing every other day. You can choose to have fewer nappies and just wash more frequently. In addition, you may need a few special nighttime nappies (more on that later!). Generally, having 4 night nappies is a good idea because they’re slower drying. 


If you’re planning to use cloth nappies from birth, you may need a set of newborn nappies, especially if little one is on the small side and is unlikely to fit one size nappies from birth. For the first couple of months babies need changing much more frequently, so 25-30 is a good number if you want to be sure of not running out. You also won’t need special night nappies for newborns - more on that below!


2.         What do you do at night?


Newborn babies poop through the night (lovely!) until they’re at least 2 months old, so until that stops you can use the same nappies at night as you use in the day. Once baby is sleeping longer stretches, it’s a good idea to use a super absorbent nighttime nappy that will last the full twelve hours. 


Using cloth at nighttime takes a bit of trial and error, so generally it’s a good idea to get daytime sorted before you think about nights. Some people even choose to continue using disposables at night, which is a totally valid option!


Once you’re ready to tackle nights, most people use a fitted nappy, which is essentially an absorbent piece of material in the shape of a nappy, with a waterproof cover over the top. This is the most absorbent kind of nappy so is very reliable for lasting the whole night.


Other people use their daytime nappies at night but add more absorbency, though this option only tends to work for babies that are lighter wetters. Some nappies (known as all-in-twos) have the ability to switch out the normal absorbent insert for a more absorbent nighttime version. Other nappies can be made more absorbent by adding extra layers of material, known as boosters.


3.        Can you use nappy creams with your nappies?


Yes you can, although you’ll need to use a nappy liner for lots of them. This is because creams can coat the fibres of the nappy and affect their absorbency. Some creams are safe directly against the nappy. My favourite cloth-safe option is the Weleda Calendula Cream, but coconut oil is also fine and is lovely and natural.


*hey it’s Meg jumping in here* - Pure Beginnings and Oh Lief are available in South Africa and are cloth nappy safe


4.         What do you do with dirty nappies?


Used nappies can be stored in either a large waterproof bag, known as a wet bag, or in a bucket lined with a mesh bag. Before babies are weaned, all their dirty nappies can go straight into the bag or bucket. However once babies start eating solid food, you need to remove poop from the nappies before they go into the bucket. 


Using nappy liners can be really helpful for this. Disposable liners can simply be lifted out of the nappy along with any poop, and binned. With fleece liners, you simply shake the liner over the toilet so any solids fall in, or hold the liner under the toilet flush so that the clean water gives them a good rinse.


When your nappy’s been rinsed, pop it into your bucket or bag to await wash day. There’s no need to soak or boil nappies as your mum or grandma might have done!


5.         Do the dirty nappies smell?

It’s important to leave your bag or bucket open a bit so that the nappies don’t smell. It sounds counterintuitive, but using an airtight bucket will make them smell because they won’t have any airflow. Leave your storage open and you shouldn’t have any issues with smells. In fact, lots of people have said to me that this is one thing they love about cloth - no more stinky nappy bins!

6.          How do you wash them?


When it comes to wash day, you take either your wet bag or the mesh bag from inside your bucket, empty it into the machine and add the bag itself.

You will need to put your nappies through two washes - pre-wash and main wash. 

Pre-wash: Empty your nappy bucket or bag into the machine and put it on a 30-60 minute wash cycle at 40°C (warm), with half a dose of detergent as specified on the packet. Don’t confuse this with the pre-wash setting on your machine - it needs to be an actual cycle.

Main wash: Before you put this wash on, make sure that your machine is ⅔ to ¾ full by adding small pieces of clothing, hand towels and tea towels. Just make sure that the things you add are white or light coloured, to avoid colour run. Then put your machine on its longest cycle (at least 2 hours long) at either 40°C or 60°C (warm or hot), with a full dose of detergent as specified on the packet.

Pim Pam Cloth Nappy, Image by Innes Vautier

7.         How often do you need to wash them?


It’s a good idea not to leave your nappies too long between washes. Most people wash every 2-3 days. Regularly leaving them dirty for longer than 3 days can damage them.


8.          What’s the best detergent to use?


Most detergents will work fine, though eco-friendly or all-natural detergents sadly tend not to have enough cleaning power to work properly on nappies. Go for a good mainstream detergent and you shouldn’t have any trouble. Just make sure it doesn't contain any fabric softener as this will affect the absorbency of your nappies. 


9.         How do you avoid blowouts?


One of the best things about cloth nappies is that they are incredible at containing leaks. When I used disposables when my first baby was born, we’d get blowouts pretty much weekly. With my second, who’s been in cloth from birth, I’ve never yet had a poo leak! The experience is the same for the vast majority of cloth nappy users. Because cloth nappies have proper elastics that fit nice and snug on baby’s back and legs, there’s no room for leaks. If you’re particularly concerned about leaks, then going for a nappy with a double gusset is best. Double gussets have two rows of elastic, so there’s two lines of defence against the dreaded poonami.


10.       How do you cope with it all?


I have two little ones and I’d say that using cloth nappies is far from the hardest thing I do as a mum! Although there’s a bit of a learning curve, it very quickly becomes second nature. Getting help at the start from blogs or friends, or an advice service like I suggested is really vital to help support you through the early weeks. But once you’re past that, it’s just habit. Having a baby brings more washing anyway, so you’ll find you get into a rhythm of doing regular washes. Doing the nappies just becomes another one of those!

The biggest thing for me is that a little extra work is worth it for the sake of the environment and my children’s future. You will get through so many nappies before a child is potty trained, which can be such a huge burden on the planet. Switching to cloth is really rewarding and so worthwhile. I really hope it’s something that you love as much as I do!

It's Meg again here, I hope that has helped you. If you have any questions please pop them below! And if you aren’t already following Innes head over to Instagram and give her a follow. You’re going to love her!



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