Years before I even started thinking about having kids I knew for sure that I was going to only do cloth nappies.
Yup, I was that naive!
Oh the irony… My first born only started wearing cloth nappies well past his first birthday! I had the best intentions, but life and first-time momhood got in the way. Quite honestly, my mind was also so boggled by all the options that I was just too overwhelmed to even try them out.
Thankfully I had an amazing mom friend doing cloth full time with her firstborn, and she gave me the push and encouragement to just take the leap and try them out. Since then I’ve never looked back, and saved a fortune and spared a fairly large chunk of a landfill somewhere along the way.
So if you’re a first-time mom, or even a third-time mom and tempted to give cloth nappies a go then here’s what I wish I knew from the start:
- It’s not an all or nothing process
Even if you just start off with only one or two cloth nappies to play around with and test it out before you make a big investment. They’re great for that inevitable late-afternoon poo 30 minutes before bath time when I used to cringe putting on a disposable for such a short space of time. Then build your stash up from there once you know what works for you. Even now that I consider myself a full-time cloth Mom, I still resort to the odd disposable while travelling or when they’re in the midst of those dreadful teething-induced poonamis! The nappies can sit in the drawer for as long as you need and then when you’re feeling on top of things again you can go back to cloth.
- Great! But what on earth do I start with?
Pockets, All-in-one’s, All-in-two’s, Snap-in-one’s, Trifolds, Prefolds, Flatfolds, Kitefolds, Hybrids, hemp, bamboo, microfibre… I feel dizzy! But it’s super simple once you get your head around the terms.
Check out the South African Cloth Nappy Users website for everything you need to know about cloth nappies and all the different types of cloth nappies to help familiarize yourself with all the nifty lingo. But in all honesty I started with pockets and AIO’s (all-in-one’s) and I was so happy with them that I’ve never even bothered with anything else!
I was still so unsure even after all that I read that I contacted Biddykins hoping they would be able to just put together a starter pack to help me get the ball rolling. Boy oh boy, did that ball become a boulder! Stacey was so helpful and supportive and really made my transition over to the cloth side a seamless move. It’s no wonder that they’ve been voted South Africa’s favourite cloth nappy brand multiple times!
How to get started
If you’re just starting out wait until you’re little one is about 3 months old or over 4kgs before you start using the one-size-fits-most (OSFM) sized nappies. These are a great investment as they will last your little one from around 3 months right up until potty training usually, and can be used on multiple children if well taken care of.
If you choose to go with pockets (which is what I started with) there are 3 kinds of absorbent inserts that you can stuff inside the pocket depending on your absorbency needs. Ranging from least absorbent to most absorbent:
In the early months when their wee is less volume then microfibre + bamboo is sufficient. But as the volume increases you would need to move over to a bamboo + hemp insert combination. I didn’t even bother with microfibre and started straight off at 3 months old with a bamboo and hemp combination. But microfibre does have a place if your baby is a forceful wetter, and the wee needs something to absorb it quickly (microfibre) and then a hemp insert to be able to retain the moisture between nappy changes.
You can definitely have a bash at newborn cloth nappies, but personally I didn’t want to invest in a nappy that I was only going to be able to use for a few months, and let’s face it, those first few months are tough enough. So my compromise for all those disposables in the first few months was to then go full-time cloth geek after that. Night nappies are also fantastic, but I also waited until my littlies stopped pooing in the middle of the night. But if your stamina is better than mine then go for it. Don’t forget the gorgeous summery prints of the reusable swimming nappies! SO much cuter than swim-friendly disposables. Now nearly four years of momming up a storm I have built up my treasured stash to a full time system including pockets, AIO’s and night nappies and confidently started straight out of hospital with my little lady with some preloved newborn cloth nappies. Once you find your feet there’s no looking back.
You would need to do a nappy change every 2-3 hours depending on your baby’s output and insert absorbency. I even went a step further and invested in some reusable cloth wipes and just used those with some warm water for changing the wet nappies. Saving the biodegradable shop-bought wipes for poo nappies. Saving even more on having to buy wet wipes for just wee nappies and reducing what I was having to throw away. You can even make your own if you’re at all sewing orientated. Just cut up an old cotton receiving blanket or old towels into squares and overlock the edges. The ones that I had made are still going strong, almost 3 years later and I use them for EVERYTHING! Snotty noses, wiping sticky fingers – you name it, they come in handy in so many situations!
Now I can see you’ve been itching to ask about poo nappies the whole time… Sure this is probably where disposables have the upper hand, but with a few precautionary steps it’s no big deal dealing with poo nappies either. This is how I do it:
- Thankfully both my kids are fairly predictable about when they poo, or at the very least I just used a biodegradable liner on top of the pocket closest to their bum, and this makes clean up a real breeze. All you do is roll up the liner containing the poo and either dispose of it in the bin, or if it’s biodegradable (recommended) then just flush it. The liners really help in the beginning when they’re still having those notoriously sloppy milk poos. But once they start solids the poo becomes more “plopable”… Oh the things moms have to talk about…
- But what if you get caught short with no liner and it’s not plopable to just get dropped directly in the toilet? Then I have a pair of heavy duty kitchen gloves reserved just for this purpose and I get as much of the poo off and into the toilet as I can, and then use a bar of sunlight soap and nail brush also reserved only for this purpose and give it a good scrub.
- If it’s been a binge session on blueberries or butternut lumo yellow and some staining has occurred, then rub it well with the sunlight bar so that it makes almost a paste and then leave it out in direct sunlight. UV light is a magical thing. Then just rinse it again that night in dirty bath water and toss in into the wash the next load.
What about all the extra laundry, isn’t it a hassle?
Yes, there is slightly more laundry. But between my skanky toddler that seems to be magnetised to mud and the usual daily laundry that piles up anyway, I find I’m not really doing all that much extra laundry. The covers I add in amongst the colour loads and the inserts I add into the whites load on a heavy-duty cycle.
After every nappy change I open up all the rise snaps and remove the inserts from inside the pocket, and just toss everything into a dry bucket that lives in the bath tub or shower without a lid so that air can circulate.
Then at the end of each bath at the end of the day, I leave the dirty water in the bath and just toss the contents of the nappy bucket in there to soak until I go to bed. Then I wring the water out of the nappies and inserts and add them back into the dry bucket. Don’t leave them to soak longer than a few hours as this can damage the laminate waterproof layer on the pockets. This method I found easier than doing a rinse cycle on my washing machine and it saves a lot of water. Then I just add the rinsed and wrung out nappies into existing loads of laundry the following day. Be careful not to use any fabric softeners, I don’t use these on any of my laundry so it’s not a concern for me, but just watch what you add to your nappy loads.
As if the gorgeous prints weren’t enough to convince you then check out the environmental impact not to mention the savings of easily over R20 000 you can save in expenses! Think of all the shoes you can buy yourself with that money instead!
If you’ve got this far into the post then I’m looking forward to seeing where your cloth journey takes you. Don’t forget to join the SACNU Facebook support group and tell Stacey from Biddykins I sent you, she will roll out the red carpet of support and assistance!
Welcome to the cloth side…