Cloth nappies today are easy, funky and fashionable, with a range of styles for every baby and family. So very different from the cloth nappies of our parents’ and grandparents’ time, making the switch to cloth nappies can households thousands of dollars per baby.
But, many find the whole thing a bit daunting. The options can seem overwhelming, the lingo unfamiliar. Where do you start? How do you start? What do you buy?
Here are my Top 10 Tips and Tricks (and discount codes) to help you in your cloth nappy journey.
Top Tip #1: Learn the Basics
As a general rule of thumb, a nappy is made up of two main parts; The absorbent bit that catches the mimi and kaka, and the waterproof bit that keeps it contained. How these two bits fit together is what gives the nappy its style name.
Nappies come in three sizes. Newborn, One Size, and Extra Large. Newborn and Extra Large are used at either end of nappying. One size generally fits from about 3 months until 3 years (give or take) and is what the bulk of your collection will be.
Night nappies are a specific super absorbent nappy (more on those later).
Nappies fasten with velcro or domes. Velcro is faster to put on, but catches all the fluff in the universe and needs cleaning. Domes take a bit longer to do up, but generally stay put.
At the bottom of this post is a glossary of terms to get you familiar with the lingo. But, at the end of the day remember, regardless of the type/brand/style this is how you cloth nappy.
You put it on, they crap, you take it off and you wash it.
Repeat until they can use a toilet.
Top Tip #2: Shop smarter
Many parents want everything ready and waiting before baby arrives, but the trap here is you don’t yet know what nappy type is going to work best for you and your baby, or what size baby you’ll have. There’s no point buying a heap of tiny nappies if your baby is born 9lb with delicious thighs.
Depending on the baby, they can be out of newborn nappies in just a few weeks, whereas the OSFM generally fit for 2 years (if not longer!) so they’re the best place to invest. One suggestion is to start with a newborn hire kit to get a feel for the style and brand of nappy you like, before investing in your collection and invest in the nappies your baby will use for the longest time.
Tip within a tip: Buy ones you think look choice, you are more likely to reach for them and use them!
Top Tip #3: Shop around
There is a common misconception that modern cloth nappies are expensive, but there is a huge range in price, and many brands available for under $20.
Take advantage of discounts! Sign up to mailing lists, Join VIP groups, support groups, and use the code ‘OFFICIALLYEM’ with Bear & Moo, Tuti, Fluffy Ducks and Chirpy Cheeks for discounts of up to 10%.
Have a look in the second hand shops. People often donate them to second hand shops who are unsure of the true value and sell them nice and cheap. Recently I found a good brand of nappy, with inserts, for $4 each at my local Salvation Army store. Be sure to check the waterproof lining for any rips before buying.
You can also find second hand nappies on Trademe and in local buy sell groups.
Tip within a tip: Always give second hand nappies a good clean:
You can do it my easy way: Fill a bath with hot water, add a few scoops of Persil, a few shakes of nappisan, add nappies, swish, leave till water is cold. Bang through the wash with a capful of canestan (no detergent). Hang to dry.
Or follow advice from the pros.
Top Tip #4: Absorbency is everything
As your baby grows, and the size of their bladder increases, having a highly absorbent nappy can be the difference between continuing with cloth, or going back to disposables. Many parents hit trouble at around 10 months old, when all of a sudden things start to leak, especially if they’ve purchased nappies that only come with 1 microfiber insert.
When buying new nappies, sometimes you can upgrade the insert when you buy it, rather than change it further down the track. If you already have nappies, it’s just a matter of upgrading the insert you are using, or adding a second one.
Top Tip #5: Get that Fit
Leakage is one of the most common problems that puts people off cloth nappies. If it’s not an absorbency issue, then it’s a fit issue.
The biggest thing to remember is to ‘scrunch’ the nappy together as you bring it between baby’s thighs, and make sure the nappy tucks nicely into the thigh crease (as per the photo).
If you are using a cover/prefold system, make sure all of the absorbency is inside the waterproof cover and not sticking outside the nappy.
Not too tight. A gape at the front is okay (aim the hose down), and if any red marks don’t fade within a few minutes, the nappy is too tight, try a looser setting.
Top Tip #6: We’ve washing machines in 2019
Top Tip #7: Think of the savings (& the planet)
On average you will change 6000 nappies in the first 2 and a half years. That is a LOT of nappies. Disposable nappies cost between .40c – .80c per nappy, depending on the brand. Over 2.5 years, you will spend between $2400 – $4800 on nappies.
Top Tip #8: Why stop at Nappies?
Save even more money and switch to cloth wipes too. We estimate savings of around $300 a year by using cloth wipes instead of shop bought disposable wipes. Plus, cloth wipes are gentle on babies skin. Often babies using cloth wipes get much less nappy rash as a lot of babies are sensitive to the solution used on disposable wipes.
Wipes work perfectly with cloth nappies. Just biff them in the wash and hang them out on the line together. When heading out and about, wet a handful of wipes under the tap and put them in a wetbag. Then, put the used nappy and wipe in a second wetbag until you get home, or, invest in a wetbag with two pockets!
You can buy cloth wipes from any of the cloth nappy brands (use the discount codes!), use old face towels or you can make you own by cutting up an old towel or other absorbent material.
Top Tip #9: Embrace the poo
Yes there will be poo – but you know what, newborn poo is water soluble and surprisingly inoffensive. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to deal with. An old dish brush in the laundry tub makes the perfect poo scrubber. Or, you can get a sprayer and attach it to your toilet cistern to easily spray the poo off and down the toilet.
Eventually, quite a few months after they start solids, their poo gets to a consistency where it just rolls off the nappy into the toilet! There is a bit of an adjustment phase, which is . . . fun . . . but push through, because at the other end of it, little poo patties await.
Top Tip #10: Just do it!
You don’t have to jump straight into full time cloth nappies, ease yourself into it and use more as you become more comfortable with them. Take time to get into a rhythm and routine and don’t get discouraged if there are a few leaks and accidents to start with. If you need support, join our PIF Nappy group:
Just one a day saves 365 nappies a year from landfill. Every nappy counts!
Glossary of Terms.
A helpful list of some of the most common cloth nappy terminology.
MCN – Modern Cloth Nappy, a general term that includes pretty much everything other than the familiar cotton red stripe flat.
OSFM – One Size Fits Most, an adjustable nappy that fits most babies from around 6 weeks to potty training. They typically use snaps on the front of the nappy to adjust the size, and some also have adjustable leg elastics.
OSFA – One Size Fits All, a more confident version of OSFM.
AIO: All in One. A nappy that has the absorbent layer built in and permanently attached to the waterproof shell. Often very simple to use, although they tend to take longer to dry.
SIO, SI2: Snap in 1, Snap in 2. These options have a shell that uses domes (or ‘snaps’) to clip the insert in place. The insert goes against baby’s skin. SIO or SI2 refers to how the inserts are connected.
Pocket Nappies. This is the most common MCN style. It is a waterproof cover with soft non-absorbent lining with a pocket opening, usually at the back. The absorbent insert sits inside the pocket, between the outer shell and the inner lining.
Insert: The absorbency you stuff inside a pocket of snap in one nappy. Can be made from range of fibres.
Liners: A rectange of fabric laid in the nappy to protect from staining and make poo handling easier. Can be washable or disposable. Liners are NEVER to be flushed, regardless of what the packet says.
Booster: A flash way of saying ‘if it’s leaking, boost it and add another insert’.
Cover/shell: A waterproof outer that you pair with a natural fibre absorbency.
Bifold: this is an insert that you fold in half before putting in the nappy. This gives you a nice thick absorbent layer while still being relatively fast-drying when you hang it out. Bifolds and trifolds often use a mixture of materials, eg bamboo on one side, microfiber on the other. The more layers it has when open, the longer it will take to dry.
Trifold: like a bifold,but you fold into thirds.
Flat: this is a large, single-layer insert that you fold to suit, typically made of cotton, flannel or bamboo muslin. It is very fast drying and often highly absorbent as you fold into many layers to fit into the nappy. They can be bulky depending on the size and material, although bamboo muslin is quite trim. Flats can be used origami-style, which can be useful if your baby is a poonami-meister, or simply folded into a rectangle and stuffed into a pocket nappy.
PUL: (Polyurethane laminate): A difficult way of saying – that waterproof layer used in on the outside of nappies, plus used for wetbags.
MF (Microfibre): This is probably the most common absorbency used, and the cheapest. It is a fast absorbing fabric, but, it doesn’t hold a large amount. Microfiber can cause irritation and cannot be directly on babies skin, always stuff into the pocket.
Bamboo/hemp/cotton: Natural fibres, with a much better absorbency. These are able to hold more liquid. They do need extra ‘preparing’ – it’s a good idea to soak them before use, and even throw them in the wash a few times. They do feel wet, they don’t wick away moisture, use in the pocket and not directly on bubs skin.
Night nappies are a special nappy with much more absorbency than a day time nappy, designed to hold a nights worth of urine. The common night nappy is a full bamboo/hemp/cotton fibre nappy with sewn in absorbency and a waterproof cover. Some brands, make special Night Time inserts that go into their pocket nappies, so you can mix and match the insert. Fluffy Ducks and Tuti ‘can’ also be used as night nappies.
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