There are a million different things to consider when you’re expecting a baby. Will you use a pram or a sling, will your baby be allowed screen-time, and what will your routine look like? If you’re environmentally conscious, you might have considered using reusable cloth nappies.
As someone that’s expecting their first baby, this was something I wanted to explore but truthfully, it sounded really confusing and too much hard work. My husband and I are both passionate about sustainability, so I decided the best thing to do was to learn as much as possible and to nail a routine to make cloth nappies work for us and our lifestyle.
After hours of research, with the help from the team at LittleLamb, it’s safe to say I’m completely sold on using reusable nappies and slightly obsessed with all the gorgeous prints and designs available, too.
Cloth vs. Disposables
Reusable nappies are more sustainable
If you’re looking for your way to be a more eco-friendly mama, then reusable cloth nappies are a great step to reducing waste and saving the planet.
Disposable diapers are one of the biggest factors in global plastic waste.
“Our son was clothed from birth so we never used disposables at all. We chose to cloth as it’s better for the environment. I couldn’t bear the thought of sending disposables to landfill and thankfully my husband felt the same way 🙂” – Ren Fisk ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Did you know? 💭 8 MILLION disposable nappies are thrown into landfills every single day, in the UK alone, accounting for 2-3% of all household waste, according to recycling charity Wrap.
Cloth nappies save money £££
The overall cost of buying disposable nappies could come to £1,875 or more over 2 ½ years (the average time it takes before a child is potty trained).
Reusable cloth nappies work out cheaper, even when taking into consideration the water and electricity required to clean them. You can also resell reusable nappies, or use them for younger children as your baby grows out of them, so you may save even more.
The cost savings of using cloth nappies shows that you could save enough to pay for a holiday, or even extend your maternity leave.
Reusable cloth nappies are healthier for your babies bum
Research done at Bristol University shows that children in cloth nappies are no more likely to have severe nappy rash than children in disposables.
In a matter of fact, cloth nappies (unlikely plastic nappies that may contain pesticides and fragrances), may actually be kinder to your baby’s soft, delicate skin.
“We used disposables for the first 6 months of my daughter’s life but she constantly had a nappy rash and they also smelt awful! I finally built up the courage to take the plunge and haven’t looked back!” – Heidi Ashworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The materials, such as bamboo and cotton, are more breathable, too.
Cloth nappy babies potty train sooner
So what’s the deal with the claim that using cloth nappies during infancy can help a toddler potty-train more easily? It’s (mostly) true!
Disposable nappies pull moisture away from the skin to keep babies comfortable after they have used their nappies. This means when your little one is wearing cloth nappies, they’re more aware of their nappy needs changing.
Mumsnet user, Dmtush, said:
“Mine were exclusively in cloth nappies. My eldest was out by 2 years and 2 months, my middle at 21 months, and my youngest at 23 months. I don’t know any friends using disposables who had anything near to that age, usually, it was just before they turned 3.”
➡️ You can learn more about the benefits of reusable nappies on the LittleLamb website here.
Are cloth nappies more eco-friendly than disposables?
Cloth nappies are 40% less harmful to the environment than disposables and they can be used over and over.
“I always wanted to use cloth from an environmental perspective. I remember hearing that a disposable nappy takes about 500 years to biodegrade and I just didn’t want to add to that.
In the end, we had to use disposables for a couple of weeks due to being in hospital and having to go back in and I absolutely hated the leaks and poo explosions! Once we started cloth at 3 weeks we haven’t looked back” – Rowena Hkm ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
While you may think biodegradable nappies are a good option, the truth is, a biodegradable nappy could take up to 50 years to decompose. In addition to this, there is a need to continuously produce them.
Did you know, a single disposable nappy takes 9 gallons of water to produce. 20 disposable diapers, the approximate amount needed for 3-4 days of diapering a 6 months+ baby, would equal 180 gallons of water.
Are cloth nappies cheaper than disposables?
Simply put, yes! All in, including the cost of water and electricity for washing them, they still work out cheaper than disposable nappies. Reusable nappies are a much more cost-effective and environmentally friendly option than disposable nappies.
“Monetary savings, even loosely estimated it’s worth it. I’ve spent roughly £350 on reusable nappies and inserts. For disposable nappies, let’s say it’s £5 per pack and you buy one a week.
You use them for 3 years (an average time for potty training) so £5 a week over 3 years: £5 x 52 weeks = 260 for 1 year 260 x 3 = 780.
So you’re looking at about £350ish saved, add in the additional benefits to reducing the amount of rubbish to landfill and it’s more than worth it” – Natasha Light ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This leaves more money for the fun stuff, like toys and cute clothing.
What are the pros and cons of reusable nappies?
Using cloth nappies will help preserve the environment for your baby’s future by not clogging up landfills. Typically one baby used 6,500 disposable nappies from birth to potty training, this is equivalent to one tonne of waste per baby!
Reusable nappies use 3.5 times less energy, 8 times less non-renewable materials, and 90 times less renewable resources than ‘disposables’. Cloth nappies are made from natural and recycled materials, so they are the ‘no nasties, more sustainable alternative to disposables.
They are also super cute, and give a well-padded bottom which is great for when they are learning to walk!
“I hadn’t heard of cloth until my boy was 14 months, and I was initially drawn by the pretty designs! After doing research into how much better they were I never looked back, and I still feel the guilt for the 14 months of disposables we used!” – Katie Mullins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
➡️ You can learn more about the benefits of reusable nappies on the LittleLamb website here.
The upfront cost can be challenging for some people and you need to keep up with the laundry. But you can always look at buying cloth nappies second-hand and slowly build up your stash.
You’ll be doing plenty of laundry with a little one anyway, and you can throw in your clothes in the same wash (more on that shortly when we get to the washing part of the articles..)
Types of reusable cloth nappies
There are so many different types of reusable nappies, it can be a little bit confusing to know which ones will be right for your family and your lifestyle. Here’s the low-down of some of the most common nappy types:
An All-in-One nappy is exactly what it says on the tin. Everything is built-in and this nappy needs no stuffing or extra parts. It’s as easy as a disposable, just chuck them in the washing machine instead of the bin!
They come in OneSize meaning they’ll fit your baby from Birth to Potty* so this can be a very affordable way to use cloth. These nappies can’t be tumble dried and they take a little longer to dry, so ideally you’ll need the space to accommodate that.
*some babes will need to wait a few weeks before they fit properly!
Pocket nappies consist of a waterproof outer and a fleece inner.
There’s an opening along the back of the nappy that creates a ‘pocket’ and into this you ‘stuff’ absorbent pieces of material called ‘boosters’ and ‘inserts’ so you can tailor your nappy to your baby’s needs.
Pocket nappies are very quick drying, slim and easy to fit on baby. They look similar to a disposable nappy so they are a good option for childcare as they’re so easy to use (they also come in really cute patterns, too!).
LittleLamb has two styles of pocket nappies; their regular Pocket Nappy which includes double leg gussets or their Onesize Pocket Nappy which grows with baby.
They can easily be boosted with more pieces of absorbent materials so can last a really long time before needing to be changed, so are perfect for nighttime or long car journeys.
These fitted nappies, especially the bamboo ones, can take a very long time to dry.
You can use these nappies during the daytime too, as they’re great for avoiding poo explosions!
LittleLamb fitted nappy is available in multiple options; bamboo, bamboo without velcro, and cotton. Fitted nappies need to be paired with a wrap to make them waterproof.
💡 Tip: You only need to change the outer wrap every 12 hours, unless it’s heavily soiled. They also dry pretty much immediately, so you really don’t need many wraps to get started.
This useful video shows how to use the LittleLamb fitted bamboo nappies:
Flats and prefolds nappies
Traditional flat nappies are fluffy, white squares that have been around for decades. They’re super absorbent, fast-drying, affordable, and extremely versatile. You’ll need to learn some basic folds and require the nappy using a nappy fastener or safety pin. They’re usually made from cotton terry toweling, muslin, or bamboo, depending on the level of absorbency required.
Prefolds are similar to flat nappies but they don’t require as much folding. Instead, the nappies are ‘prefolded’ and then sewn to give a thicker, absorbent panel through the center of the nappies.
Both flats and prefolds can be a little bit more fiddly, which might not be ideal for childcare or if you are completely new to using cloth nappies. That said, flats and prefolds are an affordable way to bulk out your stash. Remember, all flats and prefolds will have to be paired with a waterproof PUL wrap, just like the fitted nappies.
Things you’ll need to get started
Are you ready to start using cloth nappies? Here are some items you’ll need to get started on your journey:
Buying 20 nappies will be suitable for most families if washing every other day. With 20 nappies it will give you ten nappy changes a day at the start – when you use the most and as time goes on baby will use less each day and you’ll be able to relax a little with the routine.
LittleLamb offers nappy kits in packs of 20. It gives parents a decent amount of nappies to start with and they then top up with cute patterns as time goes on.
“I use cloth because of the environmental guilt of disposables. But also love the cute designs and the chunky cloth bum 😍” – Fay Usherwood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Whatever type of nappy you decide to go for, you’ll want to pair it with a liner to catch the poop and keep your baby’s bum feeling dry. There are reusable fleece liners that you can throw in the wash or disposable liners that you can just throw in the bin.
If you’re using a fleece liner, you’ll need to shake the poop off into the toilet before chucking it in the wash with the rest of your reusable cloth nappies. The good news is if your babe is exclusively breastfed you’ll be able to just chuck the whole thing in the wash as their poop is water-soluble.
Disposable liners are convenient but do have a financial cost over time which is why most of our nappy styles come complete with a washable liner that will last the life of the nappy. Disposable liners aren’t essential for the nappy system to work but they do make life just that little bit easier. They let the wee through to be absorbed into the nappy whilst catching the poo for easy disposal, especially when weaning.
Boosters are essential for any cloth nappy parent, and they will work to allow you to customise the absorbency of your nappies to suit. Boosters can be laid inside fitted nappies, or stuffed inside pocket nappies to give your nappies that extra boost exactly when and where you need it!
Place one or two bamboo boosters in the nappy to extend the absorption capability. Ideal for nighttime or long car journeys especially if you have a heavy wetter. Available in bamboo or hemp.
Gone are the days of storing dirty nappies in a bucket of water. Instead, it’s recommended that you store dirty nappies in a dry pail the nappies. This means, either stick them in a nappy bin or store them in a dry pail wet bag, until you have a load ready for washing day.
Dry pail bags are ideal if you are limited on space, or if you want to hang them up high to ensure little hands or furry friends can’t get into your dirty nappy laundry bin!
You’ll also want to stock up on a couple of smaller wet bags for when you are out and about. You can chuck the dirty nappies in the wet bag when you’re on the go, and it’ll keep all the moisture in. They’re also great for storing other items, such as reusable wet wipes and liners.
How to clean reusable cloth nappies
Washing nappies might seem a little scary at first, but it’s really quite simple. Whilst lots of different people will have different wash routines that suit them, their machine, and water hardness, most wash routines are pretty similar. Here are some basics to help you get started:
Washing reusable nappies
Soiled nappies should be washed regularly. Do not leave soiled nappies for longer than three days. When you have a load ready, pop them in the washer on a 60 – 90 minute 40˚ wash using ½ a dose of bio powder.
💡 Tip: Keep small items, such as liners and boosters, in a mesh bag to stop them from getting lost.
Once it’s finished, you can throw in the rest of your washing to bulk out the load then put on a long 40˚ wash cycle with bio powder (a long wash cycle is essential for effectively cleaning cloth nappies).
• Avoid using fabric softener in your nappy wash and refrain from overdosing, as this can cause issues. If you live in a soft water area always do an extra rinse. A cold water rinse is better if you have that facility.
• Always check the velcro tabs are closed on wraps and fitted nappies, and remove the boosters and inserts from pocket nappies before putting them in the wash. This will ensure they come out clean.
• Whilst you don’t need anything special to clean cloth nappies, sadly, Ecoeggs and similar environmentally friendly detergents don’t offer the strong cleaning power required for cleansing cloth nappies.
Drying reusable nappies
Set your washing machine on a fast and long spin after the wash cycle, this will remove most of the moisture.
Line drying in direct sunshine is the best way to dry any reusable cloth nappy, as the sun naturally bleaches the materials, it’s free, and kind to the environment, too! In the winter, you can pop your nappies near a radiator or a fan to encourage them to dry a little quicker.
Avoid using a tumble dryer, as this can reduce the lifespan of cloth nappies. This is especially true for wraps, pockets, and OneSize nappies – these types of nappies air-dry very quickly after shaking off any surface water, so there’s no need to waste energy on tumble drying them.
💡 Drying tip from LittleLamb: “If you air-dry the nappies inside make sure it’s a draughty spot. I use a small table-top fan for my inside drying area. If it’s set on the lowest speed all my laundry will still dry overnight. To power, my fan costs just over 4p a day – a lot cheaper than a drier!”
Can you get reusable wet wipes?
🌿 Reusable cloth wipes fact: 30 million wet wipes are thrown away every day, 9.3 million of which end up getting flushed down the toilet and causing 93% of our sewage problems
Reusable cloth wipes are simply cloths you can use on your baby to clean bottoms, hands, or faces, and are the perfect eco-friendly swap for disposable baby wipes (and they do a better job, too!).
“With my first, I thought that cloth nappies were for really dedicated ‘hippie-type parents. Not something that the everyday overwhelmed first-time mum would be capable of doing.
Of course, I was completely wrong, I’m just a normal mum, like everyone else, trying to be a little gentler on our planet for the sake of our children. Cloth nappies don’t have to be scary or overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing” – Cat James ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Simply chuck them in the wash with your reusable nappies and use them over and over again.
Tips for using cloth nappies
Beginning your reusable cloth nappy journey can be a huge learning curve, so here’s something tips and advice on getting started:
🍃 Remember, it isn’t all or nothing. Even 1 cloth nappy change a day will be 1 less disposable in landfill.
🍃 Experiment with different types of nappies and see what works for you and your baby.
🍃 Take advantage of using nappies from a nappy library or buy a nappy trial pack from LittleLamb.
🍃 Consider using cloth nappies when your babe is big enough to fit into the OneSize nappies, this will save money and will also take off the pressure of starting reusables straight away.
🍃 Use a vest extender so you can fit your baby’s big fluffy bum into their clothes.
🍃 Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you need a break from cloth, that’s okay, you can try another day.
Have you tried using reusable cloth nappies? 🌿🍼