Getting Started with Cloth Nappies

toddler wearing a bumgenius cloth nappy and standing on a bed

I've been blown away by the reaction to this year's Real Nappy Week (Fortnight) and it seems that more people are showing an interest in switching to cloth than ever before!

There have been so many positive conversations around cloth nappies on social media over the last couple of weeks, which has led to quite a few questions landing in my inbox. Since so many people have been asking similar things, I thought I'd answer them here by putting together some tips on how to get started with cloth nappies:

Choose your nappies
First thing's first, you'll need to decide which nappies will work best for you and your baby. That might sound a bit daunting as there's a lot of jargon surrounding reusable nappies, but what it all boils down to is that there are different types. Your best bet is to go along to your local nappy library, where you'll be able to see every type of nappy close up and have a go at using them yourself. You'll also be able to get expert advice and hire trial kits to see how you get on. You can find your nearest one here.

If you don't have a nappy library nearby then the next best thing is to fill in The Nappy Lady's advice questionnaire. This is an online form that you can send off to determine which nappies will suit your needs. There's a lot of questions to answer but it's worth doing as the results will give you a really good starting point.

Another option is to just pick up an all-in-one style nappy and go for it! The design of these nappies means they're very similar to the disposables that you're familiar with and don't require any explanation to get started. You can find Bambino Mio's 'Miosolo' nappies in Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons, so it's easy enough to just grab one off the shelf when you're doing your weekly shop and see how you get on.

Check the fit
Right, now it's time to put that nappy on! Most all-in-one nappies are designed to fit babies from birth right up until they're potty trained which means that they're fully adjustable in length and width. You'll need to have a play around with the fastenings until you find the right fit for your baby but the good news is that once you're happy with the length, you can leave those poppers done up ready for the next nappy change. Cloth nappies tend to fit quite snugly so if you're used to disposables you might find yourself worrying that it's too tight, but unless you're getting bright red marks then it's probably ok (elastic marks are fine though - a bit like the ones you get when you take your socks off!) This handy little guide explains things a bit better and acts as a great point of reference:

Photo via Boho Babes Cloth Nappies

Extra bits and bobs
Once you're ready to change the nappy, you'll need somewhere to put the used one. We use a bucket lined with a mesh bag when we're at home and a wet bag for when we're out and about (although some people prefer to use wet bags at home as well as on the go - it's all about personal preference!)
When you're putting the fresh nappy on, you might want to consider adding a booster (a super absorbent piece of material) to make the nappy last longer between changes. You could also add a liner (either disposable or fleece) to catch any poo and make it easier to dispose of.

Night time
It's worth mentioning that you're likely to need different nappies for night time use. Now, I say this because to begin with, I naively thought that adding extra boosters to our normal nappies would do the trick - it turns out I was very, very wrong! Since most all-in-ones need to be changed every 3 hours or so, they're just not absorbent enough to last all night. It turns out that the best combination for overnight is a fitted bamboo nappy with a waterproof wrap over the top (we use a Tots Bots Bamboozle with a Motherease Airflow wrap and I'm yet to find a more leak-proof combo!)

If you're stocking up on new nappies then you'll need to give them a quick pre-wash before they go on to make them more absorbent (a bit like towels, really). Once you've started using them and have enough for a washload then just pop them all in the machine - first on a cold rinse cycle, then on a long, hot wash (either at 40 or 60 degrees, depending on your nappy's instructions) and hang up to dry. It's as simple as that! The only thing to keep in mind is that washing powder works better on nappies than liquid and you should never use fabric softener on them as it affects the absorbency.

Anything else?
That's it, you're good to go! Just remember that switching to cloth nappies isn't an all or nothing process - you don't have to change all of your habits at once and you don't have to use cloth full time if you're not able to for whatever reason (for example, we still use disposables when we're on holiday - partly because there's not always access to washing facilities, and partly because I feel that holidays should be a break from doing chores!)

My number one top tip is just to stick at it - it's so easy to feel disheartened if you get leaks but getting the fit right can take some practice (this was exactly what happened when we tried cloth first time round and I wish someone had told me that then!) so just keep going and I promise you'll be glad that you did.

If you've been inspired to give cloth a go then good luck! I'm always happy to answer any questions you might have about using cloth nappies but if you're after some expert advice then I've made a list of some useful links below:

Nappy Libraries:
UK Nappy Network
Bristol Cloth Nappy Library
Bath Cloth Nappy Library
Cloth Connections (South Glos)
North Somerset Nappies
Somerset & West Somerset Cloth Nappy Library

Fill Your Pants
Go Real
Nappy Ever After
The Nappy Gurus
The Nappy Lady

Facebook Groups:
BriSGlos Nappy Users
Cloth Bum Mums - Fluffy Advice & Chat
Go Real UK Cloth Nappy Chat and Information
The Nappy Guru Place
The Nappy Lady Pregnancy, Baby & Parenting Group