Making The Switch : Starting out with cloth nappies

We were quite unusual really, in our cloth nappy journey. We didn't make the switch until my little one was nearly 18 months but haven't really looked back. What took us so long? Well, I don't really know! I suppose disposables, with a newborn, always seemed like the easy option and I suppose in terms of convenience in those early days, they were and you could just bag up that explosive nappy and off it went in the bin never to be seen again! As the months rolled on though, we became more and more dissatisfied with disposables on every level. The fit never quite seemed good enough, the plastic tabs always seemed scratchy on the skin and the chemicals in them always bothered me. Nappy rash seemed particularly fierce and we seemed to be forever buying nappies! And then there was the ever increasingly full and very stinky wheelie bin full to the brim! That's all before you consider the impact on the environment. With all this mounting, I began to read up about cloth nappies - how much poo did you actually have to handle, how many did you need to buy and how often would the washer be on?

I saw that actually, though it wasn't a mainstream choice, it was manageable and people were very passionate about cloth nappies! I couldn't understand the fervour initially but here I am, converted and writing a bit about it.

I learned the mind blowing fact that the first disposable nappy ever created still hasn't decomposed and sits somewhere in landfill, taking around 500 years to begin to biodegrade. That's just staggering. Considering in the newborn days, we could use up to 10 a day... once you start to work those numbers out, its pretty unbearable. I mean, I didn't want to get all judgemental and shaming on myself or others, but just gradually, I began to wonder whether we ought to consider cloth nappies.

The cost element is a bit crazy, admittedly. Cloth nappies aren't cheap. Its definitely more cost effective if you can use them from early on. But I still think we will get a good amount of use out of ours. There's also lots of people who sell their pre-loved cloth nappies on, which makes it even more affordable. You could even ask a friend who uses cloth nappies to trial one of theirs.

If you are considering making the switch, I would say its never too late and have found the following things useful:

  • Do research. There are a lot of cloth nappy systems, styles and brands out there and it can seem a bit overwhelming. Some people swear by one type and others are committed to another. Research is so important - take different approaches - use websites to see what's available, but also social media is a great way to see how other people make it work and what routines they use. I think social media was probably my biggest source of information.

  • Contact Brands. As my little one was approaching 18 months, I wanted to make sure the nappies would fit. I tried some brands you can buy on the high street and they didn't fit well at all even though they were marketed as birth to potty. I wanted to be sure of actual size. Some of the online brands do sized nappies so you can be a bit clearer about fit.

  • Speak with your childcare provider. We were so fortunate that our childminder is a huge advocate of cloth nappies, used them on her own children and is confident with them. I even asked her advice on the fit and absorbency in the early days of fully switching. I think most childcare providers should be ok with cloth nappies, as long as they are confident in the process you use and are able to replicate it.

  • Buy Gradually. It's totally ok to buy gradually. I think one of the main things that puts people off beginning with cloth is seeing people with huge collections of cloth nappies and thinking the cost is just not manageable. I totally get that. We started by buying a "sample pack" of a couple of brands. We then replaced the first disposable nappy of the day with the cloth nappy. As that worked, we added to our collection each month or whenever we could. Even one nappy a day saves 365 going to landfill each year and even that is huge. You're one person, think what a collective effort could do!

  • Work out a routine. In terms of how many you need to buy, I think that largely depends on the routine you adopt. We do a wash of nappies most evening if its convenient. This means that we can keep on top of the drying time but also means we can keep the amount we need to a minimum. Some people do a wash every 2-3 days I believe but its just whatever works for you Finally, enjoy the feeling that you are doing your bit to save the planet!

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