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 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 an All In Two Cloth Nappy?

All cloth nappies are made up of two components.

  • An absorbent part
  • A waterproof or water resistant part

An All in Two cloth nappy is one in which these two parts are attached but can be removed. This is usually done by a snap connecting the back of the absorbent soaker to the inner part of the waterproof shell. The absorbent soaker can come in a variety of shapes, from a long straight piece that folds over to create layers to a shaped piece that mirrors the shape of the shell.

You can see in this image an outer shell and two absorbent soakers which all snap together to create the All in Two nappy.

The parts can be separated to speed up drying or added to in order to increase absorbency. The flexibility with this type of nappy makes it popular. Another appealing quality is the high potential for containment. Once any urine or faeces has been absorbed by the absorbent material it then has to broach the elastics of the shell making leaks rare.

During washing the parts to tend to come apart so there is a small amount of preparation to put the nappy together again before use.

To browse 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 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

 

 

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

 

Reuseable Wipes: Get the Lowdown

 

It’s time to stop flushing wipes to let our rivers run
https://www.theriverstrust.org/2019/01/15/its-time-to-stop-flushing-wipes-to-let-our-rivers-run/

The images of fatbergs in sewers and beaches and river beds strewn with flushed wet wipes are everywhere. How do they make you feel? Guilty? Annoyed? Frustrated? And how did it get that bad?

The thing is wet wipes are handy things! So useful, so easy!  Most people seem to have a pack in each room of the house and one in the car and use them for cleaning up all kinds of spills, for dusting, wiping surfaces, freshening up hands and faces. You name it a wet wipe will clean it. But it’s because they are so easy to use the amount that most families get through is astounding. It’s understandable that thinking of not having them around is very daunting. An alternative MUST be as easy and as effective.

Fortunately reuseable cloth wipes ARE. Ask anyone who uses them, one cloth wipe does the job of 3 disposable ones.  It’s the practical use of them that can be hard to get your head around so I’m going to break it down for you.

For use at home there are two popular methods. The first is to have a small pile of cloth wipes already damp and ready to use. Running them under a tap for a second, a quick squeeze and storing them in a wet bag or container takes seconds. I would say if you are changing many nappies a day and have lots of sticky hands and faces to wipe this method is going to be easiest for you.

The second method and probably more popular with parents of toddlers and older children is to ‘wet as you go’. Store your clean wipes dry and then grab one or two to use, wet them and off you go.

For either method used wipes can be put into a wet bag ready to be washed, just as you would with nappies.

It’s a popular idea to have different sets for bottoms and hands and faces, colour coding helps.

You will notice that if you are already using cloth nappies that not only does using reuseable wipes mean that you aren’t throwing those away it also means you don’t have to buy and throw away disposable nappy sacks that you would be putting your wipes in to put in the bin.

So, you’ve got that sussed but *deep breath* What about using them out and about??? It’s OK, you can exhale, I have news:

IT IS JUST AS EASY.

You know the wet bag or container I mentioned earlier? Just take that with you. As you are putting your nappies, spare clothes, snacks and kitchen sink into your changing bag, just put that in as you would a packet of disposable wipes. If you have pre wet them you are good to go, if not you might like to use a small spray bottle. When you have used one just put it into another wet bag, probably the same one you will be putting your used nappies into.

You are sensing a theme here right? Wet bags! A few small ones, a medium or large one for dirties out and about and an extra large one for home makes the whole system work.

So there you have it, ditch the throw away wipes, you won’t regret it.

Our Zero-Waste journey

A zero-waste week post.

It was Christmas last year that the sheer volume of waste we produce as a family really hit me. Everything we bought seemed to be wrapped in pointless plastic. I had received parcel after parcel from the postman and had more parcel bags than I could ever imagine reusing, and a brown bin overflowing with corrugated cardboard… We missed the last bin collection before New Year and I lost it:

“That’s it! We’re going zero waste!”
“Ok. What’s that?” asked my ever-patient husband.
“I don’t exactly know. But we’re going there.”

And so our 2018 resolution was born. We’ve always been environmentally aware – we’ve used cloth nappies with all 3 kids, buying our first bin bag-full of preloved TotsBots back in 2012 when I was pregnant with the twins. I had previously made our own soap, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent, because until I found Yes Bebe I couldn’t find anything in this category that would keep the family acceptably clean without potentially damaging the wider eco-system. I started growing my own “organic” fruit and veg in 2012 before I fell pregnant, and believed from the start in using our dishwashing and bath water to water the plants – something I could not do with popular or supermarket brands of soap or detergent. Not to mention that my kids and husband are all somewhat sensitive to fragrance and start sneezing if they so much as smell commercial laundry powders (a problem I never have with Violets)…

But until this year I had sort of accepted plastic as a necessity of modern life. I hadn’t really thought about what happened to it after I had finished with it – we threw it in the recycling and it got recycled, right? I had no idea about the limitations of plastic recycling, had never thought about microplastics or microfibres getting into the water table.

one green bottle zero-waste

Once Christmas was over I started planning our next steps in earnest. I ordered a family of OGBs from Yes Bebe, alongside a couple of stainless steel lunchboxes for the sole purpose of bringing food home from the butcher’s. I found out which milkman delivered locally and started booking in regularly. We made a chart and stuck it on our fridge, writing in where we found plastic-free alternatives or which brands were plastic-free. We also made a note of those who had plastic packaging hidden inside a cardboard box, or even used plastic-lined paper which looked like waxed but, in fact, wasn’t (I’m looking at you, Weetabix!)

We also made a note of which products were proving difficult or even impossible to source. Cheese remains a problem, and I have been known to go to the cheese counter in local supermarkets and buy an entire waxed wheel to avoid having to buy pre-packaged portions. Yoghurt we overcame by making it ourselves; a simple if slow process (although slow does not mean time-consuming or labour-intensive – there’s just a lot of leaving it to do its thing!). Bread, we also found difficult, as all our local bakeries bag theirs up before it hits the shop floor – but we overcame this by investing in a bread machine which we use EVERY DAY and fills the house with the most inviting smell.

Fresh fruit and veg are bought weekly from our local greengrocer, who has become accustomed to me turning up with my own produce bags and has even reintroduced paper bags as an option after a conversation we shared back in spring. Meat is bought from the farm shop where we not only take our own containers, but are greeted with a blackboard that tells us exactly how few miles our meat has travelled before we buy. Double cream and creme fraiche are bought in glass jars, and frozen fruit and veg are bought out of huge chest freezers, scooped into our own containers each week.

One thing we really miss out on is a zero-waste bulk-buy shop where we might source wholegrains, pulses, rice, pasta etc. Before we went plastic-free we ate a lot of wholegrains – brown rice, wholewheat pasta and so forth… As we have been unable to source plastic-free carbs, we compromise by buying in the largest quantities we can. Unfortunately, all the bulk bags I have been able to find have contained white pasta and white rice – a little better for the planet but far worse for our guts! This is top on our list of things to tackle in coming months.

bok

And what of our other waste? We are lucky that our council offer a really good recycling service which includes paper, cardboard, all cans/tins and glass. They don’t take plastic bags or batteries, which we instead take to recycling points at the supermarket ourselves, or any food waste, which we have plenty of with a toddler in the house! So we compost what we can, and bokashi the rest! I LOVE bokashi – being able to put all that food waste back into our garden and knowing that it is benefitting the vegetable patch is a great comfort to me, and almost displaces the guilt I feel at wasting that food in the first place…

We still have a LONG way to go to become truly zero-waste, but I do feel we’ve come along way already this year. And although it is true that businesses themselves need to start playing their part in caring for the planet, I believe it still matters what choices we make as individuals. For me, going zero-waste is about more than just cutting down on plastic. It’s about slowing down in everything that we do. It’s about stepping outside of the convenience bubble and recognising the constraints that “convenience” places upon us – and the freedom inconvenience offers in its place. It’s about reconnecting with everything from the earth to our children. And it’s about getting back a sense of perspective with regards to what really matters, the cycle of life and living, the holistic nature of existence. For me personally, going zero-waste began as a back-lash against commercialism that I suppose I often feel immediately after Christmas, but has become something much more spiritual. It has become a path back to who we are and where we fit in the world. And it matters!