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Getting Started with Cloth Nappies

Why buy reusable nappies? 

To save a huge number of black bin bags of rubbish going to landfill. Whilst most toddlers are out of nappies before they’re three years old, over three years if you were to replace just one disposable nappy a day with a reusable nappy, you’d save around 900 nappies from going to landfill where they would take hundreds of years to decompose. 


Some parents, and one of the reasons I chose to use cloth nappies for Zachary, choose cloth nappies to avoid the chemicals in disposables. One study "detected a number of hazardous chemicals in disposable diapers that could migrate through urine, for example, and enter into prolonged contact with babies' skin."

So why aren’t we all using reusable modern cloth nappies? I know some people are put off by the idea of washing reusable nappies, it’s really not that bad, simply adding a few more loads into your routine. It's no different from washing your loved one’s clothes after a poonami (these rarely happen in cloth nappies by the way). 

Are Reusable nappies more expensive?

Whilst there is an initial cost to using modern cloth nappies: each disposable nappy sells for a few pence, reusable nappies cost pounds. Once you’ve stocked up, you don’t need to buy more, and they only add a few more loads of washing to your routine. Some councils offer cloth nappy incentive schemes with vouchers or cash back to help parents buy cloth nappies. This can be a postcode lottery so Bells Bumz has launched the FIRST Nationwide reusable nappy incentive scheme regardless of where you live in the UK. You can use them for multiple children and also sell them on once you are done!


When deciding which cloth nappies to buy, the most important thing is to choose ones which suit your household. We can help you find the best reusable nappy for your lifestyle with our cloth nappy questionnaire. Want to know how much you could save with cloth nappies? Use our savings calculator.

How Many Cloth Nappies Do I Need?

You can start with One! For a full day in cloth I would recommend 6 cloth nappies, to allow you to wash less often or use cloth full time 12 cloth nappies is a good starting number, although for the simplest wash routine most recommend 20-25 day time cloth nappies and 3 - 5 night time cloth nappies for full time use. If you’re using a two-part system, such as a fitted, flat nappy or our innovative z soakers in a wrap then we recommend buying one wrap for every three nappies. Usually the wrap stays clean so can be reused after most nappy changes for up to 12 hours, we recommend having two per daytime and alternating during the day. Our handy calculator below helps you calculate how many cloth nappies you need for your baby.

Use the questionnaire below to find out which of our cloth nappies will suit you and your baby, from newborn to toddler to beyong we have a cloth nappy to suit your needs. You may also find our cloth nappy calculator useful to see how many cloth nappies you will need.

How do I choose the best cloth nappies for my baby?

There are many things to consider when searching for the right reusable nappy: the size and shape of your baby, whether they’re prone to leaks (although poonami's are much less common in modern cloth nappies), and your home washing and drying facilities.

 

Using cloth nappies full-time, the size of your stash (how many cloth nappies you have) will dictate how often you wash your cloth nappies. Generally, people try to wash their cloth nappies every two or three days, you can find our cloth nappy washing advice here. If you live in a cold, small or damp space, you’ll need quick-drying reusable nappies or cloth nappies that you can put in your tumble drier if you have one, using a dehumidifier can also speed up drying time.

Whilst the choices and types of cloth nappies can seem overwhelming, there are two main options to choose from:

  • One-part cloth nappies involve fastening a nappy around your child in "one piece" much like a disposable nappy. They are convenient and quickest to put on but offer less absorbency and containment than a two-part reusable nappy system because they tend to have one set of elastic and less absorbent material. Some one-part cloth nappy systems take a little more preparation work as you need to assemble them (such as putting the absorbent "insert" inside a pocket opening in the water resistant shell "pocket" nappy) and some are all ready prepared (such as all in one cloth nappies, where everything is sewn together).

  • Two-part reusable nappies involve using a cloth nappy with a separate wrap or cover. They’re unbeatable for absorbency and containment. The whole cloth nappy of the inner layer is made from absorbent material, so they are often used as night-time nappies or for nap times and long journeys. They also form two separate sealed nappies around babies legs, making them likely to contain even the most explosive expulsions, as the wrap or cover which is water resistant goes on in a separate second piece. Historically fitted nappies tend to be slower drying, because they absorb more, but this was worth it when you’ve got a heavy wetter and space to dry the nappies, as they’re a reliable regular option.  However, with Bells Bumz our fitted nappies are designed to be quick drying as you can separate the layers. Two-parters, such as our innovative z swap system using our Z Wraps and Z soakers can work out cheaper because you only need to buy a few wraps to cover a stash of nappies.

 


What else will I need to get started?

Assuming that you already have a washing machine and somewhere to hang your nappies for drying, you’ll need:

Nappy Pail

Wet Bags / Nappy Pod (Waterproof storage bags) for dirty nappies when you’re out and about

Changing mat (We love the change and go changing mat and bag in one)

Cloth Wipes (more on reusable wipes below)

Reusable Liners (optional, more info on those below)

Inserts and Boosters (possibly, more info below)

How do I wash nappies?

Dirty nappies should be washed at least every two or three days. You can store dirty nappies inside a nappy pail (no soaking required) and then empty it into your washing machine. we recommend a first wash, known as a pre-wash with half detergent followed by a full wash known as a main wash with a full dose of detergent. You can wash your nappies at 40 or 60 degrees, we recommend 60 degrees if not washing every day or if using cloth nappies overnight. Detergent build-up is a myth (unless you use more than the packaging says to use) but mineral build-up in hard water areas without using the correct dose of detergent to wash away the minerals can affect the absorbency of cloth nappies. Therefore, we do not recommend additional rinses without detergent in a hard water area. Never use fabric softener or Ecover detergents because these reduce the absorbency of the cloth nappy.

It’s best to let your nappies dry naturally, although anything without PUL (the water resistant layer) can be tumble dried on low and sunlight is remarkably effective at removing stains (although this should not be needed with a good wash routine). For a simple wash routine read more here.

What are nappy liners?

Nappy liners protect the nappy fabric from any moisturisers or barrier creams that you might be using on baby’s bum and protect baby from feeling too wet and can reduce and prevent nappy rash. Liners are an optional extra, especially with Bells Bumz nappies as most of our cloth nappies have a built in stay dry layer of microfleece or athletic wicking jersey. Liners also help dispose of solids from the nappy more easily. Disposable Liners are available, but do not have the stay dry and nappy rash reducing qualities, the disposable ones can be lifted out and binned - do not flush them, regardless of what they say, whilst you can shake or scrape any solids off a reusable liner and then add it into the nappy pail. We sell washable reusable liners at Bells Bumz.

What are Inserts and What are boosters?

Boosters and Inserts are words that are used for THE SAME THING. They are used inside your cloth nappies for absorbency and can be used to boost the absorbency of nappies. They can be made from a wide variety of materials: microfibre, cotton, bamboo, hemp etc. You can mix and match, and even use old pieces of cloth and towel to boost cloth nappies as you see fit. If you have a heavy wetter you might regularly need to add a booster into your nappies. You will not find any microfibre in the Bells Bumz range as it acts like a sponge and is prone to compression leaks.

What are the pros and cons of different fabrics?

Microfibre – This is the quickest to dry of cloth nappy fabrics as it doesn’t truly “absorb” liquid, instead it has lots of tiny hooks and the liquid is trapped to sit in these hooks. This means that liquid is very quickly caught by the hooks, making it the fastest to “absorb”. However, if the fabric is squashed such as in a car seat or baby carrier microfibre can be prone to compression leaks. Microfibre is also very bulky on the bum in cloth nappies as it is similar to a sponge and “absorbs” significantly less gram per gram than the natural fibre alternatives. Microfibre only needs one wash before use to remove any manufacturing residue. Microfibre is extremely cheap to produce so can be a very cost effective method to try cloth nappies. However, when washed the microfibre releases microplastics into the environment. You will not find any microfibre in any of the Bells Bumz products for this reason, instead we have chosen to reduce our profit margins in order to produce high quality yet affordable options.

Cotton – This is the quickest natural fibre to dry for cloth nappies as it does not hold as much volume of liquid gram per gram as bamboo or hemp. However, it is extremely fast to absorb making it a good option to mix with bamboo or hemp to ensure a reliable reusable nappy. At Bells Bumz cloth nappies we mix Cotton with either bamboo or hemp as well as offer our BOOM range which includes a BOOM liner and BOOM boosters designed to help with those big fast wees our little ones can do. Our 100% Cotton BOOM products can be used after one wash to remove manufacturing residue. However, they can take up to 5 washes to improve how quickly they absorb liquid.

Bamboo – This is a slower drying fabric than cotton but it holds more liquid gram per gram than cotton, meaning that modern cloth nappies containing bamboo can be less bulky yet have higher absorbency. At Bells Bumz we offer two types of Bamboo in our reusable nappies: 80% Bamboo 20% polyester (the polyester is the backing that the bamboo loop is attached to, this gives the fabric strength as Bamboo alone is extremely delicate) and 70% Bamboo, 30% Cotton. Our bamboo fabrics require 5 washes to build absorbency. However, can be used after the first wash to remove manufacturing residue if you are prepared to change more regularly.

Hemp – This is the slowest drying fabric but hemp is extremely absorbent once it has been washed at least 10 times and holds the highest volume of liquid gram per gram making it perfect for cloth nappies. This means that hemp nappies are less bulky on the bum providing more absorbency for reusable nappies. Hemp is also a very environmentally friendly fabric with the least environmental impact for modern cloth nappies. You can use nappies containing hemp after the first wash if you are prepared to change more regularly. As hemp is an extremely rough fabric, all hemp nappies contain a mixture of hemp and cotton, the cotton also allows the fabric to absorb liquid faster than it would alone as hemp is very slow to absorb. Despite being blended with cotton the hemp fabrics are slower to absorb than the bamboo and cotton alternatives. The Bells Bumz hemp fabric is 55% hemp, 45% cotton which is a superior ratio to other affordable brands.

Can I use reusable nappies overnight?

Yes you definitely can and many do, if your baby is a very heavy wetter (especially if they’re still feeding through the night) then we recommend our Bells Bumz or Reusabelles Fitted Nappies with a Z wrap or Breeze Wrap.

What size nappies do I need?

Our cloth nappies come in different sizes and each size is adjustable as your baby grows, we have our "size one" also known as "newborn" cloth nappies (c4 - 25lb) and our ‘one-size’ or ‘birth to potty’ reusable nappies (c10 - 35lb) and then our "junior" also known as "jumbo" modern cloth nappies (c20lb - 50lb+). All of which can be adjusted to fit your growing baby and fit a wide range.

You can hire newborn kits to keep costs down as you won’t need this size for very long or you can purchase our newborn to potty swap kits.

Some parents choose to start reusables when their babies are a couple of months old so that they can go straight into the birth to potty one-size nappies. Other parents prefer to use newborn "size one" cloth nappies and then move into "junior", whatever you choose reusable nappies make economic sense and this increases if serving multiple children, who could be wearing different sizes at the same time.

Why am I getting leaks?

If you’re experiencing leaks, first check the fit of the nappy. You want to ensure the elastic at the waist and legs is a close fit, without being too tight. We have a fit guide in our getting started guide.

If there are no gaps where liquid is escaping, you’ll want to check the absorbent capacity of the nappy and might need to add boosters, or try folding more absorbency at the front if you have dry patches.

For overnight, most people recommend adding extra boosters between the cloth nappy and the wrap because you can’t add too many boosters inside the nappy without compromising the fit. It’s also worth looking on our instagram at our videos/reels and joining our facebook cloth nappy support group.

Is it worth using reusable wipes?

Definitely. Once you’re using reusable nappies, reusable wipes are a no-brainer. A pile of reusable cloth wipes will last years and save you a small fortune - plus you’ll never run out. They’re natural on baby’s bum. They have good traction, you need less to clean more.

You can store them pre-dampened with cooled boiled water, or wet as you go.

What type of nappy fastening is best?

It’s worth considering how the outer part of the nappy fastens. Velcro is easy to pop on quickly but as your baby gets older, it’s also the easiest for little hands to undo.

Poppers are trickier for babies to mess with and tend to hold up better after years of washing which is why we only offer popper fastening nappies at Bells Bumz.

How often do you change a reusable nappy?

You should change a reusable nappy every two to three hours during the day. Newborns generally need changing more regularly, every two hours. Babies and toddlers over six months old need changing approximately every three hours. Of course, if your child does a poo then you ushould change them straight away like you would with a disposable. If you have a suitably absorbent cloth nappy for night use then they can be used for twelve hours without a change without a poo, just like disposables overnight.

How long do reusable nappies last?

They should last for years and can be passed from child to child. Of course, all brands and fabrics are different and it depends how you treat them with washing and drying. If you follow our care instructions, we have a Family Lifetime Warranty. There will be some wear and tear from hundreds of washes but we promise you should have a useable nappy for your families use (see Warranty for details and exclusions).

Do cloth nappies restrict movement?

There is no evidence to suggest that cloth nappies affect a child’s mobility or their development when it comes to sitting, crawling, or walking. Until a few decades ago, we were all wearing reusable nappies, without any noted consequences. Cloth nappies support the "happy hip" position and are great for hip development.

What is a nappy library?

Check our cloth nappy library page to see if there is a nappy library near you – they’re not for profit, run by volunteers, offer demonstrations of reusable nappies and can loan you kits to experiment with. Some even offer postal hire! Nothing beats getting your hands on some cloth nappies and having a go.

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