Setting up your cloth nappy stash can be very daunting. How do they work? What am I looking for in a nappy? What will work for my bubs? What about cleaning them?
It is estimated we use 1 tonne of disposable nappies per year for every child from birth to toilet training. These nappies take 500 years to decompose, so every nappy ever used is still sitting in landfill.
With an average of 6-8 nappy changes per day, a child uses between 6500 and 9000 nappies in 3 years. Disposables average 30 cents each, so that equates to $2000-$3000 per child!!
To use cloth from birth to toilet training is substantially cheaper. Most families have a stash size between 20-40 nappies for full time use. Cloth nappies range in price from $1.50 (flats) to $50 (custom or night nappies). There are also great bargains out there when buying second hand nappies. An average family would likely spend $750 to cloth their baby (30 nappies x $25). Add to that the water and energy consumption, which will depend on water temperature, water, power and detergent costs. An average of 4 loads a week will cost between $70 - $140 per year. That’s a substantial saving and most families actually wash less than 4 times per week!
The other benefits include:
~ less household waste
~ no harmful chemicals
~ ability to be used on multiple children
~ can be sold on once your children have toilet trained
A fantastic resource to look into is Nappy Leaks - a regular podcast that explains all things associated with cloth nappies. Vicki Simpson and Vashti Wadwell are industry leaders in manufacturing, retail and cloth education. They explore cloth in more depth, in a fun podcast designed for time poor families
The world of MCNs (Modern Cloth Nappies) can be very daunting and that can be hindered by the use of so many acronyms. Hopefully this list clears it up.
- OSFM - One size fits most or One size fits all
- AIO - All in One
- AI2 - All in Two
- SIO - Snap in One
- SS - Side snaps
- FS - Front snaps
- PUL - Polyurethane laminate (waterproof layer)
- OOAK - One of a kind
- WAHM - Work at home mum (handmade)
- CC - China cheapie (unethically made, generic nappy)
- Insert - A piece of fabric that comes with the nappy for added absorbency
- Booster - An extra piece of fabric to increase absorbency
- Liner - A piece of fabric (or disposable bamboo) to catch poo and keep baby dry
- Shell/Cover - The waterproof outer
- Flats - Old school Terry Towelling nappies that are folded into shape and require a cover.
- Prefolds - A square piece of fabric that can be folded into thirds (trifold) and laid inside a waterproof cover
- Fitteds - A fully absorbent nappy that is shaped to look like a disposable (require a cover). They may have snaps, velcro or snappi closure.
- OSFM - A nappy that is shaped like a disposable with snaps or velcro to change the size to suit your baby
- Sized - A shaped nappy that comes in Newborn, Small, Medium, Large and X Large
- All in One (AIO) - Everything (waterproof shell and absorbency) is all sewn together for convenience
- All in Two (AI2) - The waterproof shell and absorbency comes in two pieces, great for quicker drying time and the ability to customise the absorbency
- Pocket Nappies - The absorbency is stuffed inside a pocket
- Covers/Shells - The waterproof layer (PUL- Polyurethane Laminate) if it's not already built into the nappy.
How To Choose?
Choosing what works best for you and your baby is a personal choice. A good place to start is by having a consultant from Fluffy Bums come to you (located in Adelaide). If this isn’t an option, try investing in a mixture of brands, types and sizes. You can purchase starter packs or different brands in our value packs.
If you’re not keen on blind purchasing, there is also the option of using a nappy library. You can hire nappies for a period of time, allowing you to try before you buy. You will be provided with everything you’ll need to get started, including nappies, dry pail, wet bags and liners. Some councils also have nappy libraries, so check out your local.
This is a personal preference. It refers to the outer shell of AIO, AI2, pocket nappies and covers.
- Minky is a fluffy material that is soft against baby’s skin.
- PUL is a smooth material that gives a seamless look.
Both types can be plain and simple, mono-coloured or patterned, but only Minky can be embroidered. They both have the same waterproof layer.
Again, a personal preference. It refers to how the nappy cover closes.
- Velcro nappies are very easy to fit and are considered dad and grandparent proof! They are also a popular option to send to childcare. Once children are old enough to pull the Velcro apart you may need to invest in snaps though, or put the cover on backwards!
- Snaps come in all shapes, sizes and combinations. Some brands have a single row of waist snaps, others a double row and some a combination of both! Most OSFM will have rise snaps on the front that can be snapped down to fit newborn and small babies. OSFM can have numerous rows of snaps to get the perfect fit for your baby. Most children will be unable to undo snaps, which is important.
- Most nappies will have front snaps, where the front lays flat and the wings snap over the top at the front. They are the most common choice on the market. Front snapping OSFM nappies will also have rise snaps on the front to make them smaller for newborns etc.
- Side snapping nappies have the snaps on the wings. The front has 2 rows of snaps and is crossed over the wings - the bottom snap gets a good leg fit and the top snap gives a good waist fit. They can be snapped independent of one another to get the perfect fit. They are a popular choice if you have a baby with chubby legs and skinny tummy or vice versa. Unlike front snapping nappies, side snaps won’t usually have rise snaps as the nappy tends to ‘fold’ down naturally on smaller babies.
A trifold is a cloth insert that is folded into thirds. It can be used to boost a day nappy, but more commonly used to boost at night time.
As above, they can be used to increase the absorbency. Made from different types of materials (explained below).
Liners are an optional extra, designed to aid in clean up. Choose from disposable (not flushable) or reusable options.
A WAHM is a Work at Home Mum who produces one off cloth nappies for sale. They make beautiful handmade nappies (and mum cloth) to suit your needs and can be customised and personalized. They can be slightly more expensive but are made with love and beautiful materials, whilst supporting fellow Mums.
There are lots of different types of materials used in cloth nappies, all with pros and cons. Here’s a few common ones:
A very popular choice. Highly absorbent as it holds a lot of moisture.
A misunderstanding with bamboo is that it's not all created equal. There's two things to know about bamboo - it's composition and it's weight. It will make a huge difference to how much it absorbs.
You will see things like 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 - that's the bamboo to cotton content. Bamboo is 40% more absorbent than cotton, so the higher that first number the more absorbent the fabric will be.
The second thing to know is the weight. A t-shirt is around 220gsm, lightweight track pants are 360gsm and a nice thick fleecy jumper is around 420gsm. The higher the weight the more absorbent the fabric will be.
So putting these factors together will help you to compare.
Bamboo absorbs reasonably quickly and generally holds a decent amount.
Highly absorbent, hemp is becoming more popular as boosters and inserts. It is the best fabric for environmental reasons as it is grown sustainably. Durable and boasting natural elasticity; it is soft, breathable and 20-30% more absorbent than cotton. It is easy to clean and fast drying.
Hemp isn't super quick to absorb, but it holds a lot of moisture. Great for night time and heavy wetters.
Cotton tea towels are a cheap way to boost nappies. Cotton inserts are also a great option as a natural fibre and hold a lot of moisture. They dry a fraction quicker than bamboo.
Quick to absorb however they don't hold as much moisture as Bamboo or Hemp.
Velour is super silky and soft - kind of like velvet. Bamboo and cotton blend, velour is luxury against your babies skin.
Great for cloth wipes but won’t hold a lot of moisture. Wipes will need the edges overlocked as flannel tends to fray.
POLYESTER (MAN-MADE) FABRICS
Microfibre is a synthetic material that is fast absorbing and acts like a sponge. It tends to hold smells more than natural materials, but isn't as absorbent. It can be prone to compression leaks but dries quite fast.
Not to be mistaken for microfibre, microfleece is commonly used as a stay dry material for liners. It is commonly sold as micro polar fleece (again not to be mistaken for polar fleece!). It is a synthetic fabric, which enables wee to pass through to maintain a stay dry layer against baby’s skin.
Fleece tends to repel fluid so is better used as a cover over a fitted or night nappy. Not so good as an absorbent insert.
This is a super soft fabric making it a popular choice as the layer in pocket nappies that goes against baby’s skin. It also acts as a stay dry layer.
Washing & Care
Gone are the days of soaking nappies. Wet pails breed bacteria and are a drowning risk to small children.
Dry pails are now used to store dirty nappies until wash day. The best type of pail is a basket with lots of ventilation - air flow is key to reducing smells. A standard laundry basket with holes or a wire basket are commonly used. A closed nappy bucket with lid is acceptable, but it traps the smells. If space is an issue, a hanging wet bag can be used but will still hold smells.
Your pail can be stored wherever you prefer to keep your dirty nappies (laundry, bathroom or baby’s room). You might want a couple – one to store prewashed nappies and then one for nappies that still require prewashing.
Having a good wash routine is fundamental to getting clean nappies that don’t smell and retain their absorbency. We recommend washing every 2-3 days, starting with a prewash to remove most of the nasties, followed by a long main wash in clean water.
Your nappies should never smell, so any stinkiness would be an early indicator that your routine needs tweaking. Firstly, check your load size, then check your detergent levels.
For a comprehensive wash routine view our washing & care guide.
Inserts can be line dried whereas shells and covers are best dried in the shade to avoid deterioration of PUL and elastics from the sun. If you need to use a tumble drier, always use low temperature and only dry inserts. PUL covers shouldn't be tumble dried.
There are 4 main reasons you can get leaks
1. The nappy is saturated:
If inserts are completely wet your solution is either change more regularly or add a booster.
2. Poor fit
If your inserts aren't saturated check the fit. Do you have leg gaps or gaping? If so, try checking some of the fit tutorials or post pictures on our Facebook page for help.
Bigger babies around 18m+ tend to hold their wee longer and then gush. Try adding a microfibre booster as your top layer (not against their skin, inside a pocket) then add a natural fibre underneath the microfibre. Microfibre absorbs faster so is good for the inital gush and then the natural fibre underneath will hold the bulk.
4. Damaged nappies
Delamination, shot elastics etc. This is more unusual but possible on second hand or older nappies.
We are here to answer all of your questions and troubleshoot any issues.
Join our Facebook page
~ Fluffy Bums - Modern Cloth Nappies
Book a consultation today and we'll come to you (available for Adelaide and surrounding suburbs). We will discuss the different options and what will work best for you. You will also be provided with a comprehensive guide to cloth nappies to help you along your journey.