When you first discover you are pregnant, your mind starts whirring, wondering what essential items you will need for the new addition that is about to join your family like a tiny, screaming alien.
There is so much about becoming a new parent that seems completely unknown, perhaps you’ve never even held a baby before let alone changed a nappy. A quick Google will turn up lists of hundreds of necessary items you need to make life with a newborn go smoothly.
The truth is, not many of these items are really necessary. There is one though that will come up time and again: nappies.
Perhaps you’ve already thought about how you are going to nappy your child, or perhaps you are trying to keep thoughts of curry coloured poo as far from your mind as possible.
Either way, nappies come pretty high up the list of ‘things you can’t do without’.
So, you realise nappies are needed, but which type will you choose? Did you know that we throw away three billion single use nappies per year, in the UK alone? It’s something like 17 million every day if you account for the whole of the EU. That’s seventeen million. Every. Single. Day.
By switching to reusable you can save an average of 5000 nappies from landfill per child.
So, what do you need to get started?
A good number of nappies for going full time reusable is around twenty, but families can make it work with as few as fifteen or more than thirty. It all comes down to how frequently you want to wash them, and how many nappy changes your baby needs in a day. As a general rule, the younger the baby, the more changes they need. So a newborn is going to need more nappy changes than a one-year-old, for example.
Once you’ve got your nappies, you might be wondering what accessories you need. Where are you going to put the dirty ones, for example?
We used to use nappy buckets exclusively, soaking squares of cloth in a sanitising solution before putting them in the wash every night. But these days, thankfully things are a little simpler. You can still get buckets if you want them, but much easier (and prettier) are multi functional wet bags. Simply pop the dirty nappy into your wet bag and zip it up, sealing the funk inside.
Once the bag is full, empty it into your machine and bung the whole thing on for a nice long wash (not forgetting a pre rinse, but more on that later).
You are starting to feel tempted by reusable, but all of a sudden someone makes a face about the endless mountains of washing you will have to do.
There’s no denying it, there is washing to be done with cloth nappies. But it really doesn’t need to mean you are chained to the washing machine like its still 1950. If you’ve got a good number of nappies, a wash every couple of days will be fine, and a grand total of about half an hour a week hanging the nappies out on an airer or on the washing line and you are free to hit the town…although hang on a minute, you are still a parent…so lets be realistic - you are free to hit the sofa in your comfiest PJs.
And what about wash routines? Don’t you need a science degree to be able to understand laundry dosage? You don’t want your sweet little nipper smelling like a farmyard at nursery, do you?
Well, it really doesn’t have to be that complex. Yes there are a multitude of forums out there, each with hundreds of people posting about queries, issues and arguing the toss out of what the best temperature for optimum cleaning is. The truth is, you will find the routine that works for you, and you really don’t need a PhD to get there. Some top tips to remember: don’t use fabric conditioner, stick them on a separate rinse or quick wash cycle before your main wash, and do a maintenance wash on your machine once a month to keep it working hygienically. Your regular non-bio powder will work just fine in getting your nappies sparkly clean. If you find yourself facing problems, contact a nappy retailer if you can, they will be able to give you simple advice to troubleshoot your issue.
(Secret and somewhat controversial tip – sunlight will remove stains. This goes for sunshine on a grey day in England, through a window even. And it even works on red wine as well as poo. Thank me later.)
Don’t get me wrong though – the cloth nappy community is an incredibly friendly, vibrant and fun place to be, so do get yourself into some groups or forums, see who is out there and if there is one near you, get along to a nappy meet or library group - it’s a great chance to chat about all things baby related, as well as finding out about the longest lasting night nappy combos.
Finally, that age old question – but what do you do with the poo?!
Pre-weaning, the whole lot, yes the whole lot, can go straight in your washing machine. It’s actually a little spoken about fact that with single-use nappies we should be scraping all the poo, from day one, down the toilet, before we put it in the bin. This is because landfills aren’t meant to be places where human excrement is left to fester. Sounds a lot more grim when you think of it that way, doesn’t it? When it goes in the washing machine, it gets dealt with in the same way as it would if it went down the toilet – through the sewage system where it is filtered and treated properly, eliminating groundwater contamination risk.
Once solid foods are introduced, we enter the icky period called ‘weaning poo’. There really is no point in glossing over this. There will be websites out there that talk about poo just rolling obediently into the toilet with a gentle flick. All cloth bum parents out there know this is a particularly rose-tinted fallacy. Enter the fleece liner. This little rectangle of fleecy fabric will help with damage limitation and make sticky icky poos a little easier to deal with.
Another great tip is to employ the use of your shower, just blast the offensive matter off into a bucket and dispose of it in the loo. No getting your hands dirty with this method. There’s no two ways about it, weaning is a tricky time for real nappy users but if you are six months in to your journey at this point, you’ll be well seasoned and probably a little bit in love with cloth nappies by now and so a little bit of poop really won’t phase you. And to be honest, regardless of nappies, any parent will tell you that once you go on this wild ride, bodily fluids are coming for you, no matter your efforts to avoid them.
So that’s it from me, what are your real nappy tips? What would you tell you if you were just starting out? Let me know in the comments below…and happy nappying, folks!