How to use cloth nappies
Switching to cloth nappies is simple. Learn everything you need to know about our easy peasy Smarty Pants.
Maybe using cloth isn’t as easy as throwing away disposables but they are not that much more work.
You will never have to run to the supermarket in the middle of the night because you ran out of disposables, and you will have a lot more room in your wheelie bin, as those used disposables pile up quicker than you think.
You won’t have to bring home a huge pack of nappies with your groceries all the time.
Cloth nappies are a lot easier today than it was in your mother's or grandmother’s day.
Our mothers would have considered shaped diapers with no need for pins a breeze.
Not to mention we have washing machines, which make it so much easier than having to wash them by hand as they used to.
Nope. Even 30 years ago, in the dim dark ages of cloth nappies - you know, those terry towelling squares of joy :) - there was a magical little invention called the nappy liner.
Back then, they looked a bit like a Chux cloth, but these days, they are made of bamboo, and are 100% biodegradeable.
This little piece of bamboo not only wicks the moisture away from the baby's tender tooshie, but makes the clean up a breeze. If it's a wet one, simply dispose of the liner in the bin.
But if it is a soiled nappy you’re dealing with, simply toss or flush the poo away and bin the liner.
And washing nappies is no different to washing singlets, onesies, bedding, bibs. It all goes in the one load. It has been said it takes only around 8 minutes a day to deal with cloth nappies, including organising, washing and getting them ready for use again.
One size fits all, baby!
Our nappy shells are designed to grow with your baby.
The nappies have three rows of snaps on the front called riser snaps. These give you three sizes front to back, or on the rise of the nappy. Aim to have the front of the nappy sit just below the belly button, and the back not too low. (Think pooo explosion…).
There are three horizontal rows of "riser snaps" which give a number of different sizes to adjust the "rise" of the nappy to suit. A newborn will have the top row snapped into the bottom row. No real need to undo the rise snaps for washing. And as baby grows, simply adjust these to the next row, or leave them all undone to suit. You'll get a feel for when to change the rise, its simple once you become familiar with the fit.
A bonus with the riser snaps is they also allow you to adjust the fit if you are boosting overnight.
The belly snaps give you a multitude of options from tiny little mites to our much loved chunky monkeys. Again, adjust the fit as you go.
Around the middle, there are a multitude of snaps to get the absolute best fit around the tummy. Having all these snaps looks a little daunting, but once you are putting the nappy on bubby, the fit will become obvious. You are aiming for a firm but not tight fit. And the addition of a hip snap allows you to have more security around the legs, and a snug fit means no leaks.
The beauty of the modern cloth nappy is that you can adjust the fit as many times as you like as your baby grows and changes shape.
As they begin to crawl and move around, they may loose their little milk belly and the chubby legs will trim down a little. So it may also be that they begin solids and put on a little more weight.
Cloth nappies are adjustable and super easy to grow as you little ones grow.
Putting a cloth nappy on bub is very similar to a disposable.
The main difference is that a cloth nappy is resizeable, whereas a disposable is manufactured in different sizes.
Essentially, once you get the rise the right length, you open it out flat, lay bub on the nappy and bring the centre up to just below the belly button, in a firm but not tight fit. Ensure the elastic on the legs is sitting snug into the tops of the thighs, you should be able to run a finger around the thigh elastic without too much pressure. Then bring either side in and find your fit with the waist snaps.
You should aim for a firm fit, but not uncomfortably tight. Like a well fitting pair of jeans. If the nappy is too loose, leaks will occur.
It is generally recommended to have around 24 cloth nappies for full time cloth.
This takes the worry out of not having enough on rotation, and can give you days between washes.
This also takes into consideration wet days, and days where you just can’t get it all done. Take a load off, literally, and come back to it some other time. And this can also depend on your little one and where they’re at with their usage too.
Some bubs are heavy wetters, while some can go hours without wetting.
Seriously, this is not a silly question.
With the efficiency of cloth nappies compared to disposables, and the use of bamboo nappy liners, and the absorbency of bamboo in the nappy insert, it can be challenging to figure out whether bub is wet, or just warm.
We’ve found there’s a number of ways to tell if the nappy needs changing. If it’s obviously wet, if it’s heavy, if it’s smelly.
You might need to change baby after 10 minutes - believe me, this happens regularly, lol. But in general, every 2-3 hours is fair.
We don’t like to leave a nappy for longer than 3-4 hours during the day, absolute max.
It’s a warm, sometimes moist place, and we all know this is perfect conditions for bacteria to start. You will quickly get to “know” when you need to change bub.
The quick version:
- Before the first use, soak inserts in warm water for 24 hours
- Wash everything before first use
- Dry in the sun (preferable) or cool tumble dry
- Adjust snaps to fit as bub grows
The longer version:
With a little care, you'll be able to reuse them for years or pass them on (and make our planet smile).
Once the nappy has been changed, separate the inner from the outer, and either dispose of the nappy liner, or rinse and recycle as a nappy wipe.
Then remove solids. A popular option is a rubber brush, which is cheap, and easy to clean and disinfect. This brush helps remove the poo from the nappy, and ensures a better wash, and more effective use of the washing machine and detergent.
Put the cloth nappy into a dry bucket, pail, basket, whatever. If you have the room, get two baskets, ensuring both have plenty of airflow. Use one for dumping that day's used nappies into, and the other for storing the prewashed nappies in readiness for the main wash. Prewash cycle should be between 40 and 60 degrees with a half dose of your chosen detergent, once a day., followed by a 2-3 hour main wash cycle with a full dose of detergent every 2-3 days. Water temp again around the 40 and 60 degrees mark, with a 60 degree wash preferable.
Hang out in the sun to dry and disinfect. Alternatively, you can hang inside until almost dry, then run through a warm, not hot, clothes dryer. The sun is a natural disinfectant and whitener, great for helping remove stains.
Oh, for sure. Cloth is more cozy than disposable, and the magical bamboo liners and inserts keep bub’s toosh drier longer.
If they sleep through, or go longer between changes overnight then try adding our 3 layer trifold inserts to boost an overnight nappy. That’s another amazing 9 layers of absorbtion right there… or sleep ;)
The insert sucks it all in and holds in there. You may need to adjust the fit for an overnight nappy, because an extra insert will change the way the nappy moulds around the toosh and thighs.
Don’t be afraid of playing around with the snaps - that’s what they are there for.
Absolutely. Although we beg of you to try to minimise the use of disposables, we do understand that cloth can be challenging when you’re camping, away from home, or simply you are not sure where you will be able to wash and dry them while you’re away. And some day care centres haven’t yet embraced all that is cloth - but believe me, we are working hard on changing that with them.
But once you’re in the zone, on a roll, and have a handle on the eco-boss journey, you’ll be your own spokesperson to family and friends. It really feels good to be a #smartypant. And in the meantime, we’ve got you on this. Reach out anytime to us, or the Smarty Pants community.