What is a Wet Bag?

What is commonly referred to as a Wet Bag is a bag made from PUL (a waterproof material) that is usually sealed with a zip and designed to store used or wet items before they are washed. They can be used for swimming and gym wear but in this context are for cloth nappies.

The design means that they keep moisture and any smells contained within the bag so that they are a practical storage for soiled and wet nappies.

Wet Bags are available in a range of sizes, from small which may store 1 or 2 nappies or your reuseable wipes to the largest in which you can fit 15-20 nappies and large enough to use as your at home, before wash storage. The advantage of using a wet bag like this is that you simply unzip the bag, allowing the nappies to fall out during the wash cycle, and put the whole thing inside the drum. No need to touch or even look at the nappies.

For use out and about most people opt for a medium size bag, enough to hold a days worth. Again, unzip and place this bag inside your largest storage bag and wash the whole lot together.

Some wet bags have two sections with protection between so that when you are out of the home you can keep your dry unused nappies in one half and your used, wet nappies in the other. They tend to have some kind of handle, either one that snaps together to form a loop or else permanent strong handles.

They are a crucial part of making the use of cloth nappies and wipes easy and practical.

To browse Wet Bags click here

What is a Two Part Cloth Nappy and How do I use one?

All cloth nappies are made up of two components:

  • An absorbent part
  • A waterproof or water resistant part

As the name may suggest in a Two Part  cloth nappy these components are separate entities. They are not attached to each other in any way.

The absorbent part can be either a ‘flat’ nappy such as a Terry square, Prefold or a simple long absorbent soaker . Or it can be a ‘fitted’ nappy which is shaped to fit the baby and fastens together, coming in various sizes.  Another possibility is a disposable soaker.

Over the top, in order to contain the absorbent part and stop clothes getting wet you need a ‘wrap’ or ‘cover’. These are usually made from PUL (a waterproof material), shaped, size adjustable and fastened by hook and loop or snaps. There are also fleece and wool covers available, again in a shaped style or as a pull-up.

Depending on the combination you use you will either put your absorbent part on first followed by the cover or you will lay your absorbent part on top of the gusset part of the cover and put on baby together.

The Two Part cloth nappy combination is usually regarded as best for containment and maximum absorbency. You can boost the absorbency without compromising on the fit  by adding more layers beneath the wrap.

The wrap or cover will dry faster than the absorbent part meaning that you can use again sooner and therefore need less. They are often the cheapest system to buy.

They do require a little more time to use which can be a negative. A Two Part system is very popular for night time use or for children with a larger output.

To browse Two Part cloth nappies click here

What is a Pocket Cloth Nappy and How do I use one?

All cloth nappies are made up of two components:

  • An absorbent part
  • A waterproof or water resistant part

In a pocket cloth nappy those components are separate items. The waterproof part is a shell with an inner layer usually made of fleece sewn inside leaving one or both ends open to create a pocket. Inside the pocket you put your absorbent inserts.

Each pocket will be bought with one or more inserts. You can use one, two or more inserts in the pocket in a variety of materials to create the required absorbency for your child.

The pocket shell and inserts are dried separately, with the shell drying much faster. You can therefore use it again sooner if you have spare inserts. There is a small amount of preparation needed for each use in putting the inserts into the pocket, for some this is an annoyance. However, once prepared, when you put them on they are very simple.

You will find pocket nappies in hook and loop or snap closure and in all sizes.

To browse Pocket Nappies click here

What is a Nappy Liner?

When using cloth nappies some people prefer to use a nappy liner. This is a thin, non-absorbent piece of material that lays inside the nappy closest to the bottom. It has several purposes:

  • Catching poo
  • Protecting the nappy from stains
  • Keeping moisture away from the skin (fleece liners only)

There are two main types of nappy liner: Disposable and Reuseable. Disposable liners come on a roll and are commonly made from either bamboo or cornstarch. They are torn off the roll, placed inside the nappy and then removed and disposed off after a nappy change. They must be disposed of either in the general waste bin or composted, never flushed.

Reuseable liners are usually made from microfleece although other kinds do exist (silk for example). They have the additional function that when placed next to skin they quickly ‘wick’ moisture away and into the absorbent fabric beneath. They are soft to the touch which can be appealing.

After a wet change they should be left inside the nappy and washed all together. They air dry incredibly quickly. When dealing with a dirty change, post weaning, an effort should be made to deposit as much faeces as possible into the toilet. Various methods exist including holding under the flush and scraping off. Then the liner can be stored and washed with the nappy.

Reuseable liners are available in various sizes to suit the size of child and nappy and vary in texture across brands.

To browse the options click here

What is a Night Nappy and How is it different?

A Night Nappy is a cloth nappy that is worn over night, for most it must last from bedtime until morning. It is recommended to change newborns throughout the night as they still poo after feeds and their skin is particularly delicate.

This means that, in general, they must be more absorbent that a nappy used during the day time. The amount of absorbency needed varies hugely depending on a few factors:

  • overnight fluids
  • amount of awake time
  • age of child
  • natural variations e.g. bladder size

A nappy described as a ‘night nappy’ will be designed with many layers to maximise absorbency and can be any type. Many nappies are suitable for use over night but are not described as such, most commonly these are Two Part nappies (absorbent nappy + wrap/cover) which are often boosted as required. However, many people have success over night with all kinds of nappy.

Night nappies are available in all sizes and both hook and loop and snap closure. 

Due to the extra layers they can be bigger than expected which can be a surprise and extra consideration should be taken to provide maximum comfort. You might consider the softness of elastics, fleece integral lining or adding a fleece liner yourself. If you reach the morning without leaks it’s a success. A fully saturated, wet nappy is one that is doing it’s job.

How does Cloth Nappy Sizing work?

When buying a cloth nappy it’s important to check the  guidelines to make sure it will fit your child. However,  Cloth Nappy Sizing can be confusing when various brands use different terminology.

You will most commonly come across the phrase ‘Birth to Potty’ this may also be referred to as ‘One Size’. These nappies will be size adjustable most often using snaps on the front of the nappy to make it smaller and bigger. It covers the widest range of sizes from around 4.5kg to 16kg or 10lbs to 35lbs.

The majority of babies are born smaller than this and while ‘Birth to Potty’ is called this,  for most a smaller size is needed for the first few weeks. This is called ‘Newborn’ and tends to fit babies from 2kg to 5.5kgs or 4.5lbs to 12lbs.

Some manufacturers believe that a better fit and therefore greater comfort and less possibility of leaks and other problems can be achieved if the  cloth nappy sizing is broken down into more, smaller ranges. You may find these described as Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large or 1, 2 and 3. Unfortunately these two methods aren’t exactly equatable.

  • Small is usually interchangeable with Newborn: Up to 5 or 6kg/11 or 12lbs
  • Medium: Up to 10kg/22lbs
  • Large: Up to 13kg/28lbs
  • Extra Large: 12kg/26.5lbs and above.

 

  • Size 1 is usually a rough bridge between Newborn and Birth to Potty: 3-9ks/7-20lbs
  • Size 2: 9-16kgs/20-35lbs (A size 2 is often appropriate for a large portion of the ‘Birth to Potty’ size range.
  • Size 3: 16kgs/35lbs and above.

Extra Large and Size 3 are found in nappies that are appropriate for night time or maximum absorbency use as most children will be out of nappies or needing considerable absorbency before they hit this weight range.

Certain brands manufacture nappies that are larger than this to suit older children, teens and adults.

What is an All In One Cloth Nappy and How do I use it?

All cloth nappies are made up of two components.

  • An absorbent part
  • A waterproof or water resistant part

In the case of an All In One nappy both of those parts are permanently attached or sewn together. You put them on as one piece, wash them as one piece and dry them as one piece. You can see that in this picture of the absorbent and waterproof parts that they are sewn together. Some have absorbent parts that are removeable by snaps but even when removed there is still a complete nappy system remaining.

In some All In One nappies, like this one, the absorbent part is visible and lays on top, in others it sits inside under a lining. In most, they fold out to increase  the drying speed. You will find All in One’s in both hook and loop and snap closure and in all sizes.

These nappies are most simple and easiest to use type of cloth nappy, popular with child care providers.  Disadvantages include length of drying time, the precision and care needed when fitting and possibly less scope for customisation and boosting.

To browse various options click here

 

 

Hook and Loop or Snap Fastening on your Cloth Nappy?

The majority of nappies fasten using with either Hook and Loop (the proper term for the generic use of ‘velcro’) or Snaps. Exceptions are some fitted nappies that use a ‘nappy nippa’ (a stretchy Y shape with hooks on 3 points) and Pull Up styles, either as a whole nappy or in cover form.

                   Some brands offer a choice in the same style but most stick with one type of fastening or other. It may be a factor in deciding if a nappy is for you or it may not matter at all.

Hook and Loop closure often allow for more precision fit, as the options are not restricted to the position and spacing of the snaps. It’s common for child care providers and the less experienced user to prefer these for ease of use. It’s also worth mentioning that hook and loop can be preferable for anyone changing nappies that has hand mobility issues as snaps can sometimes be tricky and there are a few of them to do at each change.

Hook and Loop fastening needs protecting during washing and drying to prevent ripping and attracting fluff. Cloth Nappy users often find that older babies and toddlers can often undo a hook and loop fastening themselves which understandably can cause problems. A Snap fastening can present as a ‘tidier’ nappy and requires less care, possibly extending the life of a nappy. They are also easier to replace.

How many Cloth Nappies should I buy and How do I prepare them for use?

Many people begin to use cloth nappies part time or as and when it’s convenient. This is GREAT because it allows time to adjust and work out what suits your baby and family routine and what doesn’t.

If you want to use full time straight away or increasing your use from part time you will be wondering how many cloth nappies you need. Consider a few factors:

  • The age of your baby, newborns require changing much more frequently than older babies and toddlers, including throughout the night.
  • The frequency you will be washing. Most people like to wash every second day but for others washing every third day, or every day is convenient.
  • The type of nappy you use. You will not need as many wraps or covers as you do absorbent inner parts for example

You will need to allow for nappies to be dirty and waiting for the wash, others being washed and dried and the ones that are clean and ready for use. For most people changing 5 times a day (including night) this means they will need 15 plus a few spare. 20 is a great number to work with.

Once you have your nappies you will need to prepare them for use. Consult the manufacturer guidelines for their specific advice. A common preparation is to wash the nappies once with your usual detergent (provided it doesn’t contradict the manufacturer guidelines). This ensures any factory residue or loose fibres are removed.

Absorbent materials get more able to hold liquid inside their fibres the more they are washed. You can run the absorbent parts of your nappy through a few short washes (no need for detergent) to maximise their capability before use. There is no need to do this for wraps or the pocket shells of course. Skipping this step just means that you may want to boost your nappies for the first few uses until they are fully functioning.

Nappies can then be dried and prepared as necessary for use!

How many cloth nappies you own is completely up to you but selecting an amount that means you can use them successfully is key.

Nappy Materials… What Do They All Mean?

Just when you think you have your head around the different types of nappies you start hearing words like Microfibre, Bamboo, Hemp and PUL and it feels like you are back to square one.

The different types of materials used have various properties which determine how the nappy behaves. This may mean they absorb quickly, dry fast, hold a lot of liquid etc and these are the factors that determine whether the nappy is suited to your needs. Once you understand the different materials it is so much easier to work out what to use on your baby.

We will go through the main materials and then look at some case studies which exemplify how they can be used to their, and your, best advantage. Let’s start from the outside:

PUL (Poly Urethane Laminate)

This material is used as the waterproof element of most cloth nappies. On the outer of an All In One, All In Two and Pocket nappy and the entirety of a waterproof wrap or cover. PUL is an extremely useful fabric being breathable, stretchy, quick to dry, creaseproof, stainproof and crucially for nappies, waterproof.

It is made by laminating, using heat, pressure and adhesive, a thin polyester fabric to a very thin film of polyurethane. If not cared for a a reverse process happens called ‘delamination’, the fabric and polyurethane become separate and therefore no longer waterproof.

One side of the PUL is brighter and softer (being the polyester side) and the other duller and a little sticky to the touch. For this reason in most nappy systems it doesn’t touch the baby, although is harmless if it does. The common material used to line nappies and be closest to the baby’s skin is….

Fleece

Fleece is a synthetic, man-made fabric and can be derived from either virgin or recycled plastic. The fibres of polyester are woven together in such a way to create a light, breathable fabric, perfect for contact with delicate skin. This weave is the reason why fleece is also commonly found as a separate liner.

When used as a liner it picks up liquid and moves it away from the source, spreading it out and passing it through to the other side to be absorbed or evaporated. If you want to be fancy this process is called ‘Capillarity’. Due to this it obviously dries very quickly, not increasing drying time as the lining of an All In One nappy and combining with PUL in a Pocket nappy to make a very quick drying item. You will also find fleece wraps or covers used over an absorbent nappy.

Moving on to the most common absorbent materials, starting with

Microfibre

This is another synthetic material made from polyester. We learn a lot about the nature of this material from the name, the fibres of this material are tiny and there are lots of them. Larger fibres are split into tiny ones and it is the combination of the surface area created and the the space between them that causes microfibre to absorb liquid very quickly. You can feel the texture of the material when you touch it as the fibres grab at any imperfections on your skin. This and the way microfibre draws moisture into itself is the reason it is not recommended to have microfibre in direct contact with skin for prolonged periods.

Because microfibre holds liquid between it’s fibres that liquid can easily be forced back out again, like squeezing a sponge. It does, however, mean  that the liquid can begin to be squeezed out of a nappy while it is still on the baby. This is what people mean when they talk about ‘compression leaks’. the plus point to this is that microfibre dries very quickly.

Cotton

Cotton is a natural fibre and can therefore absorb liquid INSIDE it’s cells. To simplify the science, cotton has naturally occuring cellulose which has a negative charge. It attracts slightly positive water molecules, bonds together and stores the liquid inside the ‘lumen’ or empty space in the middle of each cotton fibre. This makes cotton a highly absorbent material. Because liquid is stored inside the fibres it does take longer to dry than synthetic materials.

Cotton has the same capillarity action as fleece, spreading the liquid throughout the material meaning that it can continue to absorb in the same area. The use of cotton in cloth nappies is extremely useful in preventing ‘flooding’ and consequent leaks where another material cannot absorb fast enough.

This is probably a good point to mention that with each material there are various environmental and/or ethical factors present at various points of their growth and manufacture, cotton is well known for this. While these factors may influence our choice of nappy, the conversation is complex and far reaching. A topic to return to in the future. However, it is one of the reasons that in recent times where cotton would be used it is being replaced by

Hemp

Similar to cotton in its structure and natural cellulose but with coarser, longer fibres resulting in a stronger, more absorbent and more durable fabric. Adding a hemp booster to a nappy, in particular a night nappy, can be a simple way to increase absorption speed and volume.

Although, like cotton, it gets softer the more it is used it can be rough, for this reason when we find hemp in cloth nappies it is usually a blend with cotton. The wear, wash and dry of natural material makes them less dense, increasing the spaces where liquid can be stored inside and in between the fibres. This is why we prewash and why you find excellent ‘work horse’ nappies that are years old and extremely absorbent.

Bamboo

The fabric we refer to as bamboo is properly called viscose rayon. It used to be called ‘artificial silk’ and when it comes to softness bamboo really appeals to be worn next to the skin of babies and is easily identifiable by it’s sheen. The cellulose in the bamboo is extracted and reformed into the fabric we love to use in cloth nappies. The fibres themselves, while having the same gaps and holes inside the fibres and cracks and grooves on the surface as cotton and hemp, are fine and sleeker. This is why bamboo absorbs the slowest of the commonly used materials in cloth nappies. 

As liquid is stored inside the fibres it takes longer to dry a bamboo nappy than for example a microfibre one. Bamboo rayon fibres are fine and short, it is common to find bamboo blends because the addition of cotton for example makes for a stronger fabric.

A Case Study:

An 18 month old baby who has always worn an all in one nappy with a bamboo absorbent core with no problems suddenly starts experiencing leaks within half an hour of a nappy change. 

Having checked the PUL of the nappy for any signs of delamination or holes an initial response might be to add more bamboo to increase the absorbency level. However, given the time frame of the leak it is unlikely that the child’s output has increased in volume over time but more likely that the volume of each wee is more. Toddlers can start to hold their urine for a little while increasing the pressure and volume of a single wee. A bamboo based nappy will hold a lot and wouldn’t struggle with this volume, but we know that it absorbs slowly so the liquid will run to any escape points such as the seams of the nappy before the bamboo has had time to absorb all the liquid. The best solution here would be to add a cotton or hemp booster inside the nappy. Microfibre may work on a younger baby that is less mobile and likely to compress the nappy. By adding it inside the nappy the faster absorbing material can quickly manage the liquid giving time for it to  to spread throughout the absorbent parts of the nappy and be stored. This means that there is still capacity for more output so an immediate change isn’t needed.

A Case Study

A 3 month old baby has been wearing a 2 part, microfibre based nappy system which until now has been excellent at containing liquid poo and the frequent small wees she has been having. They have been changing regularly day and night. Now the little one is sleeping longer at night they require something more absorbent to last longer.

Two Part nappies are excellent and quite often the best solution over night. There is twice the protection at the leg and waist against leaks. These parents will want to consider a bamboo nappy for maximum over night capacity. They may want to line it with a fleece liner to help keep the bottom feeling dry by wicking the moisture away. Over the nappy they can continue to use their PUL wrap. Over time depending on the child they may want to add additional boosting of more bamboo or hemp either inside the nappy or between nappy and wrap.

Cloth Nappies should be simple to use, by understanding the components of them we have more chance of selecting an appropriate nappy and much more chance of successful  and sustainable use. Whether it’s one a day or full time use you are aiming for it all makes a difference to you, to baby and to the environment.

For advice on cloth nappies please email: nappies@yesbebe.co.uk

Sources: www.sciencedirect.com, www.madehow.com, www.theartofcleanliness.com, www.sciencing.com, www.oecotexfiles-wordpress.com, www.researchgate.net, www.textileinsight.blogspot.com, www.towelswell.com