Try and guess how many nappies your baby will use in their first year on this planet… Are you sitting down? Because the answer is a whopping 2,700 — and that’s just for the first 12 months! When you consider that number and factor in that your kiddo will be wearing nappies for another year or two until they are potty trained, you can start to see why reusable nappies are worth considering.
To be perfectly honest, the entire process can seem a bit intimidating when you’re just getting started but nowadays reusable nappies can be as simple to put on as disposables – they’re shaped, elasticated, fastened with velcro or poppers, and come in a dazzling choice of prints. And they’re easier to care for too: there’s no soaking or boiling as you might fear; all you have to do is throw them in the washing machine.
Over the past two years, I’ve had so many questions about reusable nappies and eco-friendly alternatives to the disposable type, so I’m finally going to answer them as best I can. We are living in a golden age of reusable nappies so here is my Eco Friendly Nappy Guide, based solely on my experience to help you figure out whats best for you.
Q. Why did you choose reusable nappies?
A. Two main reasons: To help the environment and to save money. By choosing reusable nappies, you won’t be contributing to the staggering 8 million single-use plastic nappies ending up in landfill and incineration each day in England. The components of most disposable nappies are not materials that most ecologically conscious people want to throw in the bin and what’s worse, come into contact with your baby’s precious skin.
Speaking of cost: You can expect to spend anywhere from £300 to £700 on cloth nappies (this estimate includes the extra laundry costs) versus £1,500 to £2,000 (also depending on brand) for disposables throughout your child’s nappy-wearing years. Plus, if you’re planning on having more than one child, that initial £300 investment on cloth diapers for baby number one will literally double your savings, since they can be reused again and again and again. There’s a significant initial cost outlay that exceeds what you’d pay for the same amount of disposable nappies, and while you’ll easily recoup this money – and more – by adopting the reusables long-term, it can be off-putting at the start.
TIP: If you live in the UK, check with your council if they have a nappy scheme. I received I huge starter pack completely for FREE! Definitely worth checking it out.
Q. Isn’t the process so much added work to your already busy and crazy baby schedule?
A. Not when you get the hang of it and into a routine. It’s essentially an extra load of laundry every day or two and it quickly becomes a part of your regular routine.
Q. When did you start?
A. Ok so this is something I want to make really clear. WE DID NOT USE CLOTH NAPPIES FROM BIRTH! And that’s totally ok – it’s never too late to start.
Following a traumatic delivery and a challenging postpartum, my mental health didn’t allow me to think any further than keeping my baby alive. As second best, we had a few biodegradable options that I really like and still used after transitioning to reusable nappies, i.e. long haul flights or when away somewhere I didn’t have access to a washing machine. Our favourite brands of disposable biodegradable nappies are Kit & Kin and Eco by Naty.
If you try reusable nappies and don’t get along with it at first, don’t give up but don’t beat yourself about it. Take a few days break and try again soon, even if you just replace one disposable nappy a day for a reusable one – that’s a great start!
Q. What kind of reusable nappy do you use?
A. There are a bunch of choices on the market—from ready-to-wear types to ones that are just a big piece of cloth that you need to fold and clip. The variety makes choosing cloth nappies both exciting and overwhelming. We use a combination of the Tots Bots Easy Fit with extra inserts and the Bambino Mio all-in-one. I love how easy it is to put on and how minimal and great quality they are.
Flats and prefolds: The original cloth nappy – flats are big, rectangular pieces of fabric (think dish-towel size). Prefolds are smaller pieces of fabric that have been doubled over. Both need to be folded, clipped and covered with a waterproof shell. They’re easy to wash, quick to dry and super cheap.
Fitted: These ready-to-wear diapers have elastic leg openings and snaps or Velcro tab closures around the waist. They’re made entirely from absorbent fabric and require a waterproof cover to go over them. They offer full-coverage absorbency (on the legs, waist and hips), and you can reuse the waterproof covering with a fresh diaper.
Pocket: These diapers have a waterproof exterior and inside pockets where you place absorbent inserts. The main benefits of a pocket diaper are the ability to adjust the insert for different absorbency levels and position the insert where your little one needs it most.
All-in-ones (aka our favourites): Most similar to disposable diapers, convenient all-in-ones have a waterproof cover and an inner cloth lining to absorb fluid. When you change your child’s diaper, you toss the entire diaper into the dirty pile to be washed and then grab another (no folding, no inserting).
Hybrids: Very similar to all-in-ones, hybrids have a waterproof shell, too, but feature a removable inner cloth lining. At changing time, you just pull the dirty lining/insert out and snap a fresh one into the same shell (as long as there was no leakage onto the shell). The benefit of this system is you can purchase fewer shells (covers) and stock up on liners instead.
Q. How many nappies should I buy for one baby to wear from infant to potty training?
A. Our starter pack came with 15 nappies. Given that newborns go through an average of about nine to 12 diapers a day, the supply was enough provided I’d wash them everyday. I’d also recommend getting a small supply of newborn sized diapers for the first couple of months. I felt that the one size diapers are huge on infant babies and so getting the smaller diapers are worth it, in my opinion. I’d would also recommend purchasing extra inserts once your baby approaches toddler-hood for more absorbency.
Q. Does it leak?
A. Your reusable nappy should not leak. If you’re experiencing leaks, first check the fit of the nappy. You want to ensure the elastic at the waist and legs is a close fit, without being too tight. The UK Nappy Network have a useful fit guide here.
The only times we’ve experienced leaks were when the diapers were not put on correctly or if we waited a bit too long between diaper changes. We also realised that after Florence became a toddler we needed an extra insert to hold more liquid. The double inserts make for a bulky bottom but will not leak.
Q. How do you wash your cloth nappies?
A. As soon as baby has soiled a diaper, flush any poop down the toilet then store the diaper in a designated hamper – you don’t need to invest in a special diaper pail with cloth diapers. When you have enough diapers for a load (for us this was right after bedtime), toss them in your regular washing machine, following the instructions on the care label.
In general, you’ll want to use a baby-friendly laundry detergent that’s free of dyes, perfumes, allergens and fabric softeners or brighteners. Our favourite is also by Totos Bots (shop here), not only can these irritate the delicate skin on your baby’s bottom, they can change the way the diaper fits and its ability to wick away moisture. I always recommend line drying your nappies to be kinder to the environment!
Seeking out fashion that supports sustainability and fair trade, philanthropy, green travel and cruelty free beauty, The Fair Edit is a paragon of meaningful lifestyle tips.