I was barely eighteen years old when I first stumbled across the idea of cloth nappies. I had recently started working for the local authority of Essex and was based at their county Hall in Chelmsford. One lunchtime I walked through the vast foyer and one of many free standing notice boards caught my eye. It displayed a huge picture of one of the counties landfill sites, with particular focus upon the disposable nappy pile. I’ll be honest, I was horrified!
I couldn’t tell you if I read the statistics, if I did I don’t remember them. Yet to this day I can still recall the image upon that free standing notice board; one of the many mountains of disposable nappies touching the sky across the several waste disposal sites of the UK’s 83 counties!
Buried within my subconscious the idea of reusable nappies re-emerged almost ten years later when I fell pregnant with my first child. Woven into the excitement of expecting my first child was the conscious decision to find out more about cloth nappies with every intention of ‘giving it a go’.
At the time I was fortunate enough to have two people in my life that had previously or were still using cloth nappies. My older sister had opted for cloth over disposables with her third and fourth children with her youngest having only toilet trained approximately 18 months prior to my falling pregnant. In addition to this my very good friend was still, what is affectionately known as, a ‘cloth bum mum’ with her third child, having used reusable nappies with all three of her babies!
Naturally they were my ‘go to’ people and between their words of wisdom and the internet (I’m a bit of a research geek) I readied myself for using cloth nappies with my baby.
Contrary to belief I didn’t spend a vast amount of money in making sure I had everything I needed to exclusively use cloth nappies. My ‘stash’ as it is known, comprised of hand me downs from my friend, pre loved nappies from Freecycle and ebay and two brand new nappies that I had seen whilst browsing cloth nappy related websites and had somehow managed to ‘jump’ into my basket!
One of the valuable pieces of advice I had been given about starting out with reusable nappies was not to buy lots of nappies or nappy kits as the shape or style of the nappy may not suit your little one, resulting in the nappies not being used and you needing to sell them on to recoup the money you spent on them. For this very reason (along with many others) attending a nappy library can be extremely beneficial. Nappy libraries* are located across the country and offer impartial information, advice and the opportunity to borrow some nappies from them, essentially enabling you to ‘try before you buy’.
My starting stash comprised of approx 25 nappies, mainly of the fitted variety. Shaped just like a nappy and fastening with Velcro (or snaps), fitted nappies are made from entirely absorbent fabrics, meaning that the whole nappy will absorb moisture from your little one. Fitted nappies also require a thin, breathable waterproof layer over the top, known as the wrap. The wrap is also shaped like the nappies, fastens with either Velcro or snaps and comes in many different prints and designs.
I also had some pocket nappies (such as the two new ones I purchased) and some All In One nappies. Pocket nappies are also shaped just like a nappy and are named as such due to having a ‘pocket’ on the inside which you can stuff with various boosters to suit the absorbency needs of your little one. Unlike a fitted nappy they do not require a separate waterproof layer as this is sewn into the nappy itself. Pocket nappies also come in a variety of fabrics and designs.
All in one nappies are aptly named as they are one complete nappy that is used with no need for adding boosters or waterproof covers/wraps. This type of nappy is also available in a variation of fabrics and designs.
Within my stash I also had a wet nappy bag for containing wet/soiled nappies whilst out and about and a nappy bucket for containing all used nappies until I was ready to wash them.
Having researched how to store used nappies prior to washing I opted to ‘dry pail’ my nappies, meaning that they did not need soaking in chemicals or sanitising solutions (contrary to cloth nappy habits of the past). but instead would be placed in a dry, sealed nappy bin until it was time to wash them. When looking around for what could be used as a suitable nappy bin I decided to purchase a 60 litre roll top kitchen bin from Argos for the bargain price of £7..! Over two years later and having had 2 babies in cloth nappies at one point, the bargain £7 nappy bin is still proving up to the task!
With all of the above in place all I needed was my baby! When he arrived I used cloth nappies from birth.
Whilst I was pregnant some people had suggested that maybe I should wait until my baby was a few weeks old before starting with cloth nappies, so to adjust a little to becoming a Mum. Whilst I did consider this to be a perfectly valid viewpoint I was personally very keen to start using cloth nappies, plus I found than an extra 2 washing loads a week was no real hardship amid the washing frenzy that a new baby brings about, regardless of using cloth.
I can honestly say that there are no fancy rituals required when washing cloth nappies. The days of soaking, sanitising and boiling nappies are long gone! To wash our nappies I simply pop a load of used nappies into the machine, wash at 40 degrees and then either indoor air, line or tumble dry.
Modern day washing machines, even the cheaper brand machines, are manufactured to be extremely economical with both water and electricity consumption, so the cost of washing your nappies a couple of times a week is minimal too. I mostly did my nappy washes overnight (and still do), popping the used nappies in the machine before I go up to bed and unloading the freshly washed and perfectly clean nappies when I come down in the morning.
Overall my experience as a first time Mum using cloth nappies was very positive. Spawning a passion that continues to fuel my wahm business and drives me to support other parents into giving cloth their consideration too! After all, the financial savings and environmental impact are fantastic considering the only ‘norm’ I changed was choosing to wash my babies nappies rather than throw them away, just as I do with their clothing!
About the author
Emma is the Norwich based Work at Home Mum (WAHM) behind Wriggles & Giggles.
Established in September 2012, Wriggles and Giggles specialises in adorable cloth nappies, accessories and other hand made necessities for both Mum & Baby.