Using cloth nappies instead of disposables isn’t hard. If you need some incentive or want some back ground on why we chose cloth read my post Why are disposable nappies the norm?
This post outlines what worked for us and the list is not definitive. There are so many other options out there once you start to look. If you are using cloth nappies and have other tips to add please let me know.
If you have heard about Modern Cloth Nappies (MCNs) but are not sure where to start, what it will cost, what a pocket nappy is, what CC stands for or what’s the difference between Ai2 or Ai1 then this post is for you. It goes through all the specific tips around cost, styles, brands, washing, storing and anything else I have learnt along the way and felt may be useful for those wanting to give it a crack too. Initially I just wrote up a document in response to friends and family who were all having babies and wanting to know what they had to do to get the cloth nappy thing working. But as people continue to ask me for advice, I thought why not just post it as a blog instead. So here goes… Modern Cloth Nappy 101 kicking off.
All of the nappies have a PUL lining outer (waterproof), then a micro-fleece layer against the skin (so stays dry), then bamboo/charcoal mix for the absorbent liner. There are just heaps of different styles that pull apart, click together etc. We got a mix of styles and brands as we were told some will be better for different types of babies (fat legs, skinny waist, long, short etc.). This was a good move and actually all the ones we bought work really well and there are none that have been failures. As babies change shape so much in the early months, some brands fitted great one week and another was better the next. Make sure you follow the washing instructions before use so they are absorbent, then don’t use any detergents with bleach or creams with zinc. We were told sun is the best thing to keep them clean and fresh and it is so true – sometimes there are some yellow marks out of the wash then after half an hour in the sun the nappy is white again.
Advice: Buy 24-26 in total
One of the toughest things about going cloth is the upfront expenditure but it is worth buying a complete stash so you can get in the habit from day one. You will need around 24 for full time use in cloth nappies and washing every 3rd day (with a newborn initially you may need to wash every 2nd day). We have 28 and that has been perfect. When we refill the draw with the clean ones we normally have about 3 or 4 left.
The price of each nappie ranges from about $10-$30 per nappy, depending on the quality and whether they are made in Australia or China. We bought a combination of cheap and more expensive ones and with nappies, wipes, bags, creams etc. we spent about $600. Depending on what disposables you would purchase you will spend about $1.5k a year on disposable nappies.
Advice: Buy mostly pocket nappies (16), then some all-in-one (4) and some all-in-two (4). Buy all nappies in one-size-fits-most.
These literally have a pocket inside that you put the bamboo insert into. To wash them you pull the insert out, and they dry much quicker than the other styles and are easy to put straight on. You can then add extra inserts into the pocket if they are sleeping longer or pee heaps. You can get Velcro or press-stud closing. We have some of both.
Hippobotumus: These are known as china cheapies (CC’s) and probably wont last as long as they cost half the price of the others. But we have 12 and they are the fastest drying ones and actually fit our baby really well. Nine months in, and we have had no issues with leakage and they are our go-to day time nappies.
Green kids: These are an Aussie company, Velcro closing pocket nappies, still at a good price. Having velcro closing is easier once they start wriggling around more. They take longer to dry but are a better quality insert so you can wear them for longer as are more absorbent.
In Ai2 nappies the absorbent bamboo insert layer is attached by press-studs. So to wash it you just unclip the studs. We have found Ai2s good, but take longer to put together (as you have to find the right bit to clip in) and they take longer to dry. We use these at night time. All these brands listed below are good quality Australian brands that we have found to be great. In general they are more expensive than the pocket nappies and cost around $30 per nappy.
Issy Bear: We have two of these and they are really good. Our baby sleeps 12 hours overnight and doesn’t leak at all.
Grovia Hybrid: The shell of these ones are also swim nappies which is great. We bought four of the no-prep inserts and two shells so four nappies. You can use the shell twice and just change the inside. The insert is mega absorbent for not being too bulky and the system works really well.
Itty Bitty Bums: A nice slim fit, with additional inserts if you need them.
Baby Bare: Slim fitting, well made and come with the insert and a booster. These nappies also have a pocket so you can add extra boosters for overnight. Really cool designs too and often have sales so you can get them at a really good price as are usually more expensive.
As it says, these nappies stay in one piece. These in general are a bit bulkier and due to being washed in one piece they take longer to dry. But because they are in one piece they are easy to pack away and put on. We use these ones at night time.
Pikapu: Has extra gusset around the leg so bullet proof for poo explosions. Actually dry’s surprisingly fast too.
Grovia: This one takes a long time to dry compared to the others, but is good. Sometimes has yellow marks out of the machine but put it in the sun and disappears.
We only bought one-size-fits-most (OSFM) so we can use these the whole time. On the smallest setting they have been fine since week one. Our baby was born at 3.5kg and we used them on her right from the start. It did look sort of bulky at the start but we have never had any leaks or issues. Most brands do have newborn size too – but you would only use them for a couple of months so we decided it was not worth it. OSFM should fit until they are toilet trained or up until three if need be.
Due to the nappies being natural bamboo fibres you should avoid using any washing powder with bleach or fabric softeners (more info and a list on which powders are mcn friendly ). We use the Planet Ark Aware Sensitive washing powder that you get at Coles and it works great. Wash on 40 degrees and maximum 1000 spin (any higher wrecks the PUL waterproofing) with a rinse cycle. Over time the detergent may build up in the nappies and you may notice they are no longer as absorbent. If this happens, buy some Grovia Mighty Bubbles and wash all your nappies on a 60 degree wash with one sachet. You should only need to do this every six months or so. It removes the build up and they are back, better than ever!
Washing before use: The absorbency gets better with every wash. But before you use them take out all the inserts and soak just the inserts in cold water over night. Then wash the inserts and the covers on 60 degs to get rid of the chemicals from manufacturing. Then use them!
We bought the Grovia Perfect Pail wet-bag for the laundry and it is great. About $40 and has a slit at the top to drop the dirty nappies straight in, then a zip at the bottom to unzip straight into the washing machine. I just lightly rinse the nappy with water and take out the insert before I drop it in the laundry bag. We have it hanging on the laundry door. It is lined with water proof stuff so it is smell proof too and works a treat.
Storing Clean Nappies
We have a big plastic draw in one of those IKEA box book case thingies with all the nappies. Before putting them away we put the clean nappies together so they are ready to go (inserts in pockets, click in the Ai2’s). Takes about 10 minutes and means there is no fuss when you put a nappy on. Easy.
You can’t use any creams on MCN’s that have animal oils or zinc in them (so you can’t use bepanthan for example). The zinc based creams will build up on the layer against the skin and will stop the nappy being absorbent. If your baby does have an infection you can use Savlon (as it is water soluble) and you can also use all plant oils for nappy rash or dry skin (coconut oil, olive oil). There are lots of MCN specific creams you can purchase, we use the Grovia Magic Stick which is all natural and fine for the nappies. We use that at every change as a preventative and it is no-fuss, protects the skin and smells nice too. We have had no issues with nappy rash.
Micro-polar Fleece Liner
Micro-polar fleece is a wicking fabric that acts as a stay-dry layer against the skin and also protects the nappy. You can purchase it from spotlight and cut it into rectangles (10cm x 20cm) to use as a washable liner in the nappy. It does’t fray so no sewing is necessary. Just chop up and use. That way if you do want to use bepanthan or other zinc based creams you can. Other things such as panadol, immunisations and blueberries can also cause staining on the nappies which can be avoided by using a fleece liner. I did buy some initially for emergency use as it is easy and cheap. Now however, we actually use a micro-fleece liner in every nappy as it makes clean up much easier.
Disposable bamboo liners
These are ‘flushable’ liners that you can put in the nappy too. We bought a roll of 100 and they are intended to make clean up easier as you just flush the liner down the toilet (the use of the term flushable is a little dubious, however, they do biodegrade and you can put them in the bin). They are pointless for newborn poo, but once the little one was on solids we started using them if we are out and about as the poo just rolls off the liner into the toilet. It makes clean up much easier! If you tear them in half long ways and just put them in the nappy that normally gets the poo (eg. First of the day) the roll lasts longer and you reduce your disposable impact.
Reusable bamboo wipes
We also bought 24 bamboo wipes (they are like mini-facewashers). We were told that if you are doing the nappies it is easier to use these than disposables. My initial reaction was ‘what the #@!%?’. But now we are doing it I agree. We just have a water spray bottle (the one you use for the garden) or a pump bottle filled with water on the change table. And use that to wet the wipe. Then you clean up and put the wipe with the nappy to get washed. Really easy and otherwise you need to have a bin for disposable wipes.
We bought a mini-wetbag which is water and stink proof and fits about 5 nappies. It has a zip on either side – one for cleans and one for dirties. Then if you need to change while you are out you just put the dirty straight into the bag and add it to the laundry bag when you get home. They are about $10 or cheaper on ebay.
So that is it! All my (useful) MCN knowledge condensed into one post. If you have any questions or additional information to add please let me know.
If you are in Melbourne and want to check out some brands in person or attend a workshop on MCNs I recommend heading over to Little Green Footprints in Elsternwick. She is extremely helpful and also stocks most of the products that I listed here. Happy cloth nappying! If you have any questions or additional tips please post them below.