How to start using Cloth Nappies and stick at it!

If you have been inspired this Real Nappy Week and fancy using cloth nappies

What Would You Rather? 3000 disposables or 15 Cloth Nappies
What Would You Rather? 3000 disposables or 15 Cloth Nappies

but have no idea where to start then read on for Top Tips on how to START and KEEP GOING with Cloth……..

Whether it’s for environmental reasons, reducing your household waste or pretty prints…. whatever the reason it’s time to stop procrastinating and give it a go.

Top Tip Number 1: Chat to someone who knows what they are talking about.

This might be a friend or family member who is using modern cloth nappies (I say modern cloth nappy because everyone will have a relative who has used traditional terry squares and boiled and pinned them. This is really quite a long way away from how we use cloth nappies in 2019). If you are lucky they might even lend you some!

You could visit a nappy library.

UK Nappy Network
UK Nappy Network

Volunteers up and down the country run loaning and demonstration sessions. Click here to see where your nearest one is.

At Yes Bebe we have a nappy advice service. You can ask questions and receive a personalised reply, fill in a questionnaire and get recommendations of what cloth nappy is best for you, based on the individual needs of your family. Regular #ClothChat and #ClothClinics give lots of information on all you need to know to use cloth nappies via video and discussion.

#ClothClinic
#ClothClinic

Talking to someone with lots of personal experience that you can trust means that you can ask all the questions you have and have the answers explained in a way that makes sense to you.

Top Tip Number 2: Start small and don’t be scared of cloth nappies.

(If you have never used any kind of nappy before and are about to begin caring for your first child this may not apply….. in this case I would suggest you just go for it!)

If you have been using disposables try not to see cloth nappies as a mysterious world full of code words and secret handshakes. The principle is the same; catch the poo and wee. Take it from me disposable nappies can seem alien when you haven’t bought them before too, numbers and sizes and symbols and different brands can be really confusing. Following Tip 1 means you can get eyes and hands on the nappies which helps massively to understand the terminology and different parts.

Miosolo A Bug's Life Collection
Miosolo A Bug’s Life Collection

You will also learn along the way that it is hardly ever a good idea to pick a cloth nappy, buy enough for full time use and get yourself stuck in the middle. You may be swept up in all the excitement and really want to get going but take your time. It is much better to come to understand cloth nappies properly, make sure you are using them correctly and buy a few of a nappy that suits your needs. If you don’t have a lot of drying facilities you are really going to end up resenting having 20 very slow drying nappies hanging up all over the place.

Once you have a few, just start! Nothing bad is going to happen. Yes, you might get a little leak but a) clothes wash and b) you’ll fit it better next time.

How to fit a cloth nappy
How to fit a Cloth Nappy

It is a bit of a learning curve, there is no lying about that but, what part of parenting isn’t. You aren’t a pro at everything straight away and this is no different.

Top Tip Number 3: Keep an open mind, keep learning and Enjoy!

Even the most experienced cloth nappy users are constantly learning, experimenting and trying new things. Once you are past the teething stage (of your cloth nappy journey, not your ACTUAL baby) and your collection of cloth is growing you can really start to have fun.

  • Mix and match your nappies, you might find new combinations that work really well!
  • Take washing line photos! A little twee maybe but there is no denying it’s a glorious sight all those nappies blowing in the breeze. You can look back on those photos with real fondness and maybe sharing them will inspire others.

    Tickle Tots Washing Line
    Tickle Tots Washing Line
  • Get involved in your local cloth nappy community. Whether that is through regular nappy meet ups, a group of parents who happen to use cloth nappies or a local Facebook group, it’s a great way to meet people and make friends.

Top Tip Number 4: Stop buying disposables and BE PROUD!

When your stash of cloth nappies is big enough just stop buying disposables! You’ll soon see that cloth nappies are appropriate for all situations if you want them to be. Going back to an earlier point, having a range of types of nappy including various inserts and boosters means that even when you are running low and behind on the washing (let’s face it, who isn’t?!) having those two basic components of a nappy: 1. A waterproof layer and 2. An absorbent fabric, means that you can practically conjure a nappy out of nowhere.

Now you are a total Pro, BE PROUD! We are all at different stages of our parenting journeys travelling down many different paths but having chosen this route means that you have done something that really deserves a huge pat on the back!

Well Done from Planet Earth!

BM Planet Earth
BM Planet Earth

 

What is an Insert an How does it differ from a Booster?

An integral part of a cloth nappy is it’s absorbency. In some styles this is removeable and this piece of absorbent fabric is known as an Insert.

Inserts can be made from a variety of materials and blends. You will most commonly find Microfibre, Bamboo, Cotton and Hemp inserts. They all have various properties which determine what should be used when and how.

They can be all manner of shapes and sizes from rectangles and hourglass shapes to larger squares and long strips that need to be folded.

When we talk of ‘boosting’ a nappy we mean adding absorbency. A booster is an extra piece that we include in a nappy to meet our needs other than the components it originally came with. There is no physical difference between an insert and a booster but there is in how it is used.

We tend to boost All in One and Two Part nappies, so adding to their absorbency and use inserts in Pocket nappies. Practically speaking the two are interchangeable.

To browse Inserts and Boosters 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 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.

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

 

 

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

 

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