Friday 20 April 2012

Part 5: What I wish I’d known before I started and some old wives’ tales - guest blog

Be warned, cloth nappying becomes addictive. There are hundreds of gorgeous patterns and designs out there to add to your stash. If you’re not careful this can sometimes eat into the cost benefits of cloth vs disposables. But your baby will have a great looking bum!

You can start a stash for a lot less than you think – I went “route one” with an “everything-you-need-from-start-to-finish” kit. This is definitely the easiest way to do things, but by far the most expensive. By being clever about where you buy nappies, taking lots of advice and getting all the freebies and offers you can (there are frequent giveaways on manufacturers’ Facebook groups, for example) you can pick up some real bargains.

Don’t be afraid of preloved. Most people who use real nappies are conscious of the need to wash them properly and, while some may show signs of wear, buying secondhand saves you having to do those first absorbency washes. There are lots of places to buy secondhand. You can also make your own: old teatowels, muslins, anything you like really can be used to stuff into pockets. Those who are handy with a sewing machine and a pair of scissors could rustle up shaped nappies for next to nothing.

The amount of washing you do will change – but perhaps not in the way you think. I didn’t realise it until I had to use disposables for a few days but I do far less clothes washing with real nappies, because there are far fewer leaks. And once you’re dealing with weaned/weaning babies all the solids go into the loo, so you can wash nappies and clothes together. To be honest, I washed nappies and clothes together from the start but this is very much personal preference.

Avoiding nasty chemicals next to your baby’s skin is another benefit: my little one has had next-to-no nappy rash since ditching the ‘sposies. Its amazing how many mums wouldn’t consider feeding their kids non-organic food, but don’t even consider the chemicals at the other end. True, you do have to change real nappies reasonably frequently – perhaps more so than disposables. But then I’ve found cloth to be much better overnight. Now we’re down to 4-5 nappies per day, so it’s easy peasy really.

You don’t have to use cloth nappies exclusively. Think of it as the equivalent to combination feeding. I’ve certainly found the real nappies to be more effective for my baby, but I do sometimes use disposables. Cloth nappies are a bit bulkier than disposables but I’ve never had to buy larger clothes than his age group just to fit the nappies in. And earlier potty training is good news so far as I’m concerned!

Cloth nappies do not impede your child’s physical development! Actually, it seems that they keep babies’ hips at the optimum angle for hip development. My eight month old is happily cruising round furniture and has been for a month or so. He rolled, crawled and pulled up quite early.* When he falls down on his bum, it is soft and padded.

Ultimately cloth nappies will not be right for everyone. But I hope I’ve shown that you don’t have to take an enormous leap of faith into cloth nappies – there is plenty of help and advice out there and it is possible to combine with using disposables sometimes if you feel happier doing that. You also haven’t missed the boat if you didn’t start at birth. There are lots of resources available to help you convince the doubters and, if nothing else, it’ll save you money. Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hooked in no time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

*This is not a guarantee that your baby will walk early if he’s in cloth. All babies are different. That’s what makes them so fascinating.

Other posts by Helen that may interest you:
My Washable Nappy Journey
What Happened Next?
How did people react?
Why on Earth would we do this?

Thursday 19 April 2012

Part 4: Why on earth would we do this? - Guest blog

A good question. On the face of it, cloth nappies seem like more work, and disposables are so convenient. Aren’t they?

Yes and no. Disposables are less bulky, easier to find and more mainstream. But they’re also stuffed full of chemicals to make baby feel dry and that can mean you don’t tune into your baby as much as you do with cloth. And they’re yet another throwaway item.

One of the clinchers for me was when I heard that every single disposable nappy ever used is still in landfill – because it takes 500+ years for them to break down. If each baby uses roughly 5,000 nappies from birth to potty and there are approximately 700,000 babies born in the UK each year, that’s 3.5 million disposable nappies in landfill per year’s worth of babies! We are fortunate in this country to have an organised system for rubbish disposal. Other countries do not have this luxury. Perhaps we’d all be back to weekly rubbish collections if more people used cloth nappies…just a thought.

To be honest, the planetary argument was only part of the reason we switched. Even with washing, we estimate we can save £600 with this baby and even more if we have another one. (Or two, but don’t tell my husband). That is a not insignificant sum, especially in the current economic climate, and could have been even greater had I gone for the most economical method around – terry towels and wraps.

In fact, I do have some terry towels and wraps, I’ve just been a bit pathetic about learning to fold them and my little one is such a wriggler I think I may have missed the boat. I will make myself learn how to do it at some point though.

I keep hearing stories of children who are not potty trained until three, four or even five years old. Apparently kids in cloth tend to potty train earlier than those in disposables – how good is that? I’ll be honest, newborn poo is relatively innocuous. Weaned baby poo can be fairly offensive, so the sooner I don’t have to deal with it, the better. In many other cultures babies are toilet trained by the age of one, or never use nappies at all.

I use cloth nappies for several reasons: they’re economical in the long run, they look good, they’re better for the planet (even with potential water shortages), and I feel closer to my baby by doing so. I am also breastfeeding, baby wearing and baby-led weaning. I do all of these things because I think they’re best for my baby – and that, after all, is what most parents are interested in. For the record, I do also have a pushchair, I have given the occasional bottle of formula and my freezer harbours an ice-cube tray or two of pureed vegetables. My point is that it is possible to mix and match these things and cloth nappying is not a no-going-back scenario.

Tomorrow: What I wish I’d known before starting out, and some old wives’ tales examined. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, hopefully I can pass on a few tips that will make your cloth journey that bit easier.

Read Helen's first post: My Washable Nappy Journey

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Part 3: How did people react? - Guest post

Having plunged into the world of cloth nappies armed with little more than a (nappy) bucket full of enthusiasm and the words of a couple of wise mums ringing in my ears, I encountered a few challenges and differing opinions.

My husband wanted me to try the nappies out properly first before he had a go, even though he was keen on using them (for the record, he’s now happily using them and even helps me stuff the pockets once they’re washed and dried).

I hadn’t really understood the importance of washing the nappies before using them so there were a few leaks. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you’re trying to persuade others that cloth is a good idea. The daft thing is that we had more (and worse) leaks in disposables than we have ever had in cloth, but I suppose you’re more conscious of it when you start with cloth because you really want it to work, and sometimes it can feel like everyone is willing you to fail.

There were a few funny looks from people who thought I would be boiling terry towels on a stove for hours until I explained that things have moved on a bit. The nurses at my GP surgery were very impressed with the nappies when I took my little one for his injections – and agreed to point anyone who asked in my direction.

Luckily for me, my family have been very supportive, mainly because they used cloth themselves – I’m the first of my generation to have a baby so nappies haven’t been on the radar for a while. My mum’s initial reaction on hearing my enthusiastic “I’m going to try cloth nappies” was something along the lines of “as opposed to what?”!

My remarkably eco-conscious great-aunt (90+ years old) interrogated me after William was born about my nappy choices. At the time I was so overwhelmed with becoming a mum that my contribution to the planet extended only to “eco” disposables. My aunt inspired me further with the words “there’s nothing more satisfying than having a row of sparkling white terry towels drying on the line”.

William has recently started nursery and the look of abject horror on his key worker’s face when I mentioned cloth nappies was only topped by the relief when I showed her how easy the pocket nappies are.

I was pleased to discover a few others using cloth nappies when I made a comment about them on Facebook recently. And lots of mums ask me about cloth nappies when they see William wearing them. I’ve done a couple of demos for friends and have spoken to many people who, like me, were considering using them but hadn’t quite got around to it.

I’ve also lent out a few cloth nappies to people who complained that “I just can’t get a night nappy that doesn’t leak” and have been amazed with the results. Others less so, but it’s all individual and depends on the baby.

As you may be able to tell, I’m loving cloth nappies – and there’s always something new to discover. But the key thing is to get support when you need it. Ideally there would be widespread “cloth bum” cafes, just like there are breastfeeding cafes for mums to come together and share experiences. Who knows, this may be where I make my millions (unlikely!).

Have a look at this You Tube video for a quick intro to real nappies.

Tomorrow: Why on earth (pun intended) would we do this? Aren’t disposables so much more convenient? How do the costs stack up?

Helen's First guest post:
My Washable Nappy Journey?

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Part 2: What happened next? - guest blog

So what happened next? Strangely, the world did not end. I used the nappies on my baby. I washed the nappies. I dried the nappies. This was in autumn/winter when drying outside was not really possible so we were restricted to clothes horses in front of a radiator. The house did not smell of stale pee and there weren’t buckets of noxious substances soaking all over the place.

Actually, to my great surprise and delight, my little one was dry all night for the first time ever. I was lucky (don’t hate me, it’s all changed now) that he slept for 8-10 hours a night from quite early on. No matter how many different disposable “night” nappies I had tried – even to the extent of a size four over a size three – there were always leaks come morning time.

Interestingly it was not the shaped bamboo nappies (bamboo is super absorbent and often recommended for night use) that kept him dry, but the pocket nappies with both the newborn and regular inserts. I’ve since learned how to boost nappies, and how the different materials work. A prefold cotton nappy inside a bamboo shaped nappy and he’ll go for hours. But every baby is different.

I gradually developed a system for how to wash and dry my stash and how often this needed doing. I estimate that it only takes me about 15-20 minutes every couple of days to wash, hang out and reassemble my nappies. It’s a learning experience – like everything baby-related there is no right answer, you have to find out what works for you. Which is great because you can adapt it all to your needs and preferences.

There were a few disasters to start with – mainly caused by not having prewashed enough – bamboo particularly requires 8-10 washes before it reaches full absorbency. Luckily by then I knew a few people I could ask for help and there are some great information-packed websites: Real Nappies for London, Go Real, Nappy Ever After, manufacturers’ sites, Facebook and Babycentre Community Cloth Nappy group.

The latter has been a fantastic source of information – other cloth-wielding mums have a wealth of knowledge about real nappies and are always happy to help, even if someone asked the same question yesterday (although I’d recommend having a look through the board before asking in case someone has already posted a similar query).

By then I was truly bitten by the bug. Someone told me about a website where you could get really cheap pocket nappies. With penguins on. And fluffy ones with safari animals. And then someone launched a new birth-to-potty pocket nappy. So I thought I’d better try one out. I’m currently saving my pennies for a purple bamboo shaped nappy. And waiting for a delivery of washable wipes and washable liners. I could, of course, have just cut up a towel and used that. And I probably will at some point. I may still use disposable wipes for particularly awkward nappy moments, or when out and about. A word of warning: it gets addictive.

Tomorrow: How did people react? What were the challenges I had to deal with in terms of attitudes?

Monday 16 April 2012

My washable nappy journey - Guest Post

Helen, mum to William aged 8 months

Over the next five days of Real Nappy Week I’ll be writing a series of blog posts to try and give an insight about my journey with real nappies so far. I’m very happy to try and answer questions that anyone may have, but I’m learning too, so I may have to refer you to someone more expert than myself if I don’t know the answer. Myself and another mum will also be available to answer questions at the Coin Street Milk Spot on Wednesday 18th April.

Part 1: Faffing about fluff
Cloth nappies, reuseable nappies, washable nappies, real nappies, fluff. What’s it all about? And why does an apparently sane person ditch the accepted easy option and start washing nappies?

I like to think I was “green” minded when I was younger – as much as you can be when you’re not making the buying decisions in your household. After finishing school, I even volunteered in Ecuador on a conservation project in cloud forest (missing the irony of flying all that way to save the world, ahem).

Fast forward a few years and, beyond recycling everything that sits still for long enough and raging about excessive packaging on groceries, my eco credentials had slipped somewhat. When we found out that we were expecting, I started to think about nappies and became uneasy about the number of bin bags we’d be getting through (apparently it averages out at 130 black bags just of nappies).

One of my NCT class mentioned that she would be using washable nappies, and pointed me in the direction of the London nappy voucher scheme. Aha, I thought, just what I’m looking for. So I applied for my voucher and received it by email. And there it sat, in my inbox.

Having eventually got my head around the whole “I’ve got a tiny baby to look after, what on earth do I do now?” thing, I bought a trial pack of prefold nappies from eBay and when Will was about a month old I steeled myself to try them. They leaked. I chalked this up to experience and tried again. They leaked again. I gave up.

It was only when, a few weeks later, I met another mum, Sophie, at a breastfeeding support group, that the topic of washable nappies resurfaced. I noticed her daughter was wearing a cloth nappy and asked about it. Sophie was kind enough to talk me through all of the different types of nappies available before recommending a particular type that worked for her.

I also went to see a “nappy guru”, who explained the options and showed me where to buy nappy trial kits – everything you’re ever likely to need to furnish your little one with a “cloth bum”. My trial kit came through and I quickly identified which ones were (a) sufficiently robust for my heavy-wetting, very mobile small person and (b) dad/grandparent/nursery-proof.
So I took the plunge: I bought a birth-to-potty, everything-you-need kit of the chosen nappies (the only dilemmas being Velcro or poppers and what colours to get – I went for a mix of both).

Since you ask, I use mostly BumGenius V4 pocket nappies with both inserts. This is, of course, the expensive way of doing things. If I were starting now, I’d go for a mixture of new and preloved nappies and build up a stash gradually. But I was keen to get started and, besides, the website had loyalty points so I earned myself money off my next purchase…what’s not to like?

Tomorrow: What happened next? Having spent a fair amount of money on my stash I was willing them to work – and had an incentive to do so. What challenges did I encounter?

Thursday 12 April 2012

The Real Nappy Week message this year is Real nappies… Real easy!

At Real Nappies for London we think this is absolutely true and here’s why:

We're all the same, when we think about changing a nappy we imagine the worst! In reality most nappies are simply damp.

You can use disposable bio-degradable liners with real nappies. That means that if a nappy is soiled most of the poo can go down the loo.

Many babies give cues to tell you that they are about to soil. They are born with a natural instinct to be clean. If your baby does this you may find your baby likes you to remove the nappy to enable her/him to poo on a pot. Less washing, real easy.

A laundry bag in a bucket with a lid means you store the nappies – most people don’t soak nappies these days – until you have a machine load. Then you lift out the bag and throw it in the machine. The nappies fall out of the bag during the wash cycle. It’s as clean and simple as that.

Soapnuts and special nappy detergents mean there is no need to wash nappies at more than 60 degrees. Beyond 6 months, 40 degrees is normally fine.

If nappies are not completely clean and fresh when they come out of the washing machine (it does depend on your washing machine) start with a cold rinse cycle before the normal wash cycle.

Shaped nappies in modern light weight materials are available for parents who can’t or don’t like folding flat nappies. For those who do like wrapping baby in a cotton nappy (snug fit for new borns) there is no need for pins. Waterproof wraps hold the nappy in place or you can use a nappy grip.

Fleece liners are available for babies that don’t like feeling wet. Please note that stay dry nappies, whether reusable or disposable don’t give baby the stimulation to experiment with bladder control so try to give baby stimulation some of the time. Our research indicated that wearing cotton nappies before 6 months makes potty training happen earlier, quicker and more easily.

You don’t need to change a real nappy any more often than you should change any nappy ie every 3-4 hours (during waking hours). The incidence of nappy rash has not declined since the dominance of disposable nappies. Nappy rash is caused by teething, illness, change of diet and most of all not changing the nappy frequently enough.

People who use real nappies say they are fantastic and producing less waste makes them feel great about the whole nappy changing business.

Visit to help you find out which nappies will be best for you and your baby.

Check out events happening during Real Nappy Week across London where you can get information from a mum who has used real nappies and meet other mums who are using them:

The Great Cloth Diaper Change is an opportunity to watch real parents changing real nappies. It's happening at 5.30pm on Saturday 21 April in Camden, Hackney and Lewisham.

Enjoy real nappies, enjoy your baby.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Potty training - it's controversial

There's been a lot of coverage of potty training in the media over the week-end. A wonder baby using the potty at 6 months in the Daily Express (search Daily Express+baby talks) and research that says don't try to potty train before 27 months in the Daily Mail (search Daily Mail+ potty training+rushed).

Last year Real Nappies for London asked London parents about their experience of potty training. Only 7% said they had been given advice about potty training by their health visitor. Most said they had started potty training after their child's second birthday and wished they'd started earlier.

Take a look and let us know what you think;

Will I need to change my baby more frequently?

What's your experience/advice?

Is it really possible to use real nappies at night?

Many parents who use real nappies on their baby during the day would never trust them for nights. What's your experience?

Will my baby be uncomfortable in a wet nappy?

Disposable nappies keep baby's bottom dry. So do fleece nappies, but cotton nappies and bamboo nappies get wet. Is this a problem?

There's too much choice. Please tell me which nappy to buy!

Which nappies have worked best for you? What's the best thing to buy when you are just starting out?