Wednesday 10 July 2019

Cloth Nappies: Newborn - 8 weeks

When we were preparing for Eden's arrival, I knew that I wanted to use reusable nappies but was unsure where to start or how soon we could begin to use them. Things have come a long way since the days of terry cloth (though of course this is still a viable option!) - there are all kinds of reusable nappies on the market now - and for a beginner it's a complete minefield knowing where to start. When Eden is older, she might wonder why I felt inclined to talk about her nappies on the internet, but the answer is simply because I think cloth nappies are great and I'd like to encourage to anybody wondering whether to try it themselves. Prior to giving birth, when I was researching other people's experiences I found that many people started cloth nappying when their baby is a little older and there were fewer resources about starting from newborn so this post is an overview about how it's worked out for us and why I'm glad we've chosen this method.

Why cloth?
There are many benefits to cloth nappies - for us, the environmental impact of disposables was the biggest incentive to use reusables. I hated the thought of creating so much plastic waste - in the UK about 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away every single day. They take hundreds of years to degrade in landfill and have a big environmental impact through their manufacture, chemicals required to make them, and transport. Cloth nappies use more natural materials, avoiding fragrances and unnecessary chemicals/gels that can be found in disposable nappies. There can also be a substantial financial saving from using a cloth system, even when factoring in laundering costs - although this method requires far more of an initial outlay (as you buy a bulk of nappies at once, rather than staggered over time as you would with disposables) the savings are particularly notable if you buy second hand (seriously, there's a huge second hand market for reusables) and afterwards you can either keep the nappies which will save heaps more should you plan to have more children, or sell them on.

What system to choose?
A friend had told me about a website called the Nappy Lady which offers a free advice questionnaire to try and help find the right nappy system for your individual circumstance. The questionnaire covers all kinds of things: whether you plan to start from newborn, whether they'll be breast or formula fed, how tall you are, whether you own a tumble dryer, whether the baby will be in childcare - all kinds of factors to help determine what might be the most suitable system. For example, whilst I liked the idea of using bamboo nappies, they are one of the slowest drying materials rendering them impractical for me as I don't own a tumble dryer. I was also advised other helpful things I wouldn't have thought about including washable breast pads and vest extenders (cloth bums tend to be bulkier and these have been useful to avoid stretching Eden's babygros!) I filled this in and was advised two different options, after which I did a little more research before settling and making a purchase.

I would like to note that I'd really advise waiting until your baby arrives before buying a whole set of nappies - buy one or two first just to check that your baby gets on with the type of nappy. Should you plan to use it, the advice questionnaire will be more accurate if your baby is already born too, as many things cannot be predicted! The system we opted for requires two different sizes and I bought the entire first half of the system so that I could wash it in advance and have it all ready before Eden was even born. The feeling of nesting clearly can cause some irrational decisions! I was really lucky that we ended up loving the system we opted for and that the nappies fit her shape well! New nappies need to be washed a couple of times before use to improve their absorbency - this is why it's important to buy one or two to try first rather than buying a whole system's worth, just in case you don't get on with them and then cannot return them as they've been washed! You could also use a nappy library where you can try different types before committing with a purchase yourself, and there are rental and laundering services if you just want to dip your toe in the water or are squeamish about using your own machine - everybody's circumstances and preferences are different.

We opted for a two part system as although we need to buy different sizes over time, financially it works out around the same (I found that many of the birth to potty all-in-one style nappies are more expensive than two part systems, however the all-in-one nappies can take longer to dry which is a big factor for us as we have limited drying facilities!) It also means that we are spreading the cost over time as to begin with we only needed the smaller size nappies and wraps. I will write a separate post on exactly the type of nappies we're using and why we like them.

Our experience
Though many nappies say they are suitable from birth to potty, realistically it's unlikely that these won't still swamp a brand new baby. For the first couple of weeks we used disposables (we bought Eco by Naty which are bio, vegan and fragrance free) because she simply wasn't big enough to fill the reusable nappies even with all fastenings at their tightest.* Fortunately, we'd agreed in advance to give ourselves a little time to adjust to being new parents before trying the cloth nappies anyway (after my Caesarean we also felt it was good not to give ourselves extra loads of washing too soon, as that would create extra lifting, bending and carrying during my recovery. Besides, using cloth immediately from birth wouldn't be feasible while we were still in hospital.) We first tried Eden in a cloth nappy when she was 10 days old but she was so tiny the leg holes weren't tight enough and the contents slid straight out the side! We tried again a week later and that's when our journey began (fascinating how much they grow and gain weight in such short periods of time!) Immediately we noticed a reduction in rashes and redness on Eden's skin, and after a little trial and error when fitting the nappies onto her (mostly to do with not fastening the leg holes securely enough) we experienced a huge reduction in leaks.
*You can buy extra small cloth nappies, but we felt the use we'd get out of them wouldn't be financially viable for us considering how quickly she'd grow out of them - plus as first time parents we had a lot else to get used to during those very early days! I would consider using cloth from birth if we had another baby in the future but I'd certainly buy extra small sizes second hand to save costs - particularly as it's impossible to know how big your baby will be so of course some newborns might fit a birth-to-potty nappy and be too big for the extra small size!

Washing and drying
I guess this is the bit that puts people off the most but seriously, when you have a baby you're dealing with nappies and poo anyway so it really doesn't phase me! The way the washing works is simple: the used nappies are put straight into* a nappy bucket with a lid which contains any smells. When the bucket is near full (usually after 24-36 hours but as a newborn her patterns are always changing) I take the nappies down to the washing machine and put them in, making sure the laundry tabs on the nappies are fastened. Using a little laundry cleanser (I prefer Method laundry liquid but many advise using powder) I then put on a rinse wash followed by a long cotton wash and they come out good as new ready to be dried and put away. This is enough to make them clean up beautifully, quick and easy as that.
*This currently works as Eden is exclusively breast fed and breast milk poo is water soluble. When she moves onto solids, or should a baby use formula, we would use a liner to catch any poo and dispose of the poo down the toilet before putting the nappies in the machine. You can get both disposable and reusable liners - see below.

Wipes and "accessories"
Anybody that watched the recent War on Plastic documentary was probably shocked to learn that disposable wipes of all kinds can be made of up to 85% plastic. When you consider the sheer amount of wipes that you could use in one nappy change alone it's shocking to realise the amount of plastic waste that could be created from a single nappy change. I would therefore hugely recommend using washable wipes - we bought ours from The Nappy Lady and they're fantastic as they have terry cotton on one side (great for poo) and fleece on the other which is softer for wet nappies and a "final" wipe. They are far more efficient than disposable wipes at cleaning up - it's like using a flannel compared to a baby wipe, there's no comparison as to which will clean more effectively. I keep ours in an old tupperware container filled with water and a little essential oil on the changing table and refresh the wipes daily. I chuck our used wipes in the nappy bucket and wash them together with the nappies. They wash beautifully, and as a one-time purchase the savings are huge.

There aren't many "accessories" you actually need when it comes to cloth nappies (or, um, babies in general - it's amazing how much stuff is out there for sale vs. what you actually use) but a nappy bucket is an essential. I bought ours from Bambino Mio as part of their nappy changing accessory pack - this came with the bucket, 2 laundry bags to line it so you can chuck your nappies straight in the machine, 160 biodegradable nappy liners, 2 packs of biodegradable cotton baby wipes, and a large tub of their Miofresh laundry cleanser which is good for getting any buildup or smells out of nappies. In retrospect I only needed the bucket and the cleanser but the wipes are handy for out-the-house nappy changing, and the liners would be useful for many types of nappy, however the nappy type we've purchased comes with a reusable fleece liner in each nappy. I actually wouldn't recommend using laundry bags in the machine as I find the nappies wash more effectively when they are tossed around in the machine.

I hope that this post, although long, has been helpful to anybody curious about how cloth nappies work! I will post a separate review of the types of nappies we've tried and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below or check out the Nappy Lady website as it's a fantastic resource!

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