Our reusable nappy journey

Photograph: Christopher O’Donnell.

So, we’ve been using reusable nappies (as well as disposables) in our routine with Peggy since she was around 8 months old and I wanted to share some info on our journey so far. This isn’t an ‘everyone MUST do this’ post, we don’t solely use them but we feel good for every nappy we don’t throw away (not to mention not having them on every shopping list) and I wanted to share some info on how we’ve got on over the past 6 months. And I would like to add that I am no expert at all, but hopefully this can provide some balanced advice from someone navigating this territory!

Basically, it has been an easier transition than we thought! A few years ago, the idea of reusing nappies made me feel gross – I’m quite a clean freak but frankly, dealing with disposables ain’t much cleaner and once you get your head around that, reusables are totally do-able.

We haven’t gone fully reusable yet because we’re scared. Not of the nappies, but of leaks at night (we haven’t used them for 12 hour stints yet) and asking nursery to do it, when it’s our choice – I know, we should, we’re just not there yet. But my thoughts are that a lot of people doing something is a whole lot better than a load of people doing nothing. Hopefully my ramblings might make someone use a reusable nappy once a day – and that helps!

The funny thing is, most of our parents used cloth nappies, they got through it and it was a whole lot harder then! For us, it’s re-conditioning ourselves into unlearning all we know about nappies (ditching convenience, which is probably the hardest part). And trust me, it’s not as scary as you’d think.

First off: how cute are the nappies? They give Peggy a really chunky bum and it makes me smile so much – she is a bum shuffler so I think they (might) give her a little more support!

We started by researching The Nappy Lady website initially. It’s the best site with a huge range of nappies, it has clear breakdowns on the benefits of each one (some with lovely back stories on the brands, too), plus videos on how to use each nappy and how to wash (I found these immensely useful).

We initially bought two from Totsbots, cloth nappies with a Motherease wrap to go on top. We mainly went for them because they seemed the securest for leaks and could be used for day and night but also the story sounded lovely (the owner started making nappies for her baby as she couldn’t afford to buy them, then started making for friends, and now provides work for locals in her hometown of Glasgow!). I’m not going to lie, these are our least favourite. We use them, but only when there is no other option, despite them being probably the securest for leaks. I think the hassle of using the wrap as well as the cloth nappy, paired with the fact that the cloth gets sodden, which makes me worry about Peggy being a little damper than usual, doesn’t make me love them (however, these are supposed to the the BEST for overnight use, so we might start to love them again in the future).

Totsbots Bamboozle nappy and a Motherease wrap

But then my sister gave me a few Bambino Mio Solo nappies she had from her first baby (I had no idea she had even been using them!) and for me, they were a total game changer. They fit exactly like a disposable nappy, super easy to use and the cutest designs. And then Aldi had a special offer on them in store (selling for £8 as opposed to the usual £15.99) so my mum picked me up a couple of extra ones. Now I had around 7 nappies and we were starting to get into the swing of things.

Soon after, a reader reminded me of the council incentives to contribute towards costs, so I applied via Real Nappies for London and was offered a voucher for £54.15 (check out Fill Your Pants site for details on what is offered in your Borough and Nationwide) – so I went for the most expensive nappies we could get this time: 2 x Totsbots Elements and a Milovia Pocket Nappy we had been recommended by a reader. To be honest: Bambino Mio are still my favourite (and I am no way affiliated with them).

We now have 10 reusable nappies which is working for our usage of Friday – Tuesday afternoon (4.5 days a week), with washes in between so there is generally always one available drying if we need. We will probably up it soon but this is our current scenario. Most say that 20 is a good amount for full-time wear.

Bambino Mio Solo nappy

Yes, we have to wash a lot but we have to wash a lot anyway (did we mention we have a baby?), yes we have to scrape poo off the nappy, flush it and (preferably) rinse it straight away (but did you know you are supposed to do this with a disposable anyway?!) but frankly, I am much less worried about touching poo these days – it happens, a lot.

I think our epiphany came when we were away in Norfolk and only took reusable nappies for the daytime. There was an accident and Peggy’s nappy was leaking through to her trousers, we ran into a restaurant where we wanted to have lunch, but they were closed (despite staff being there) and wouldn’t even let us use the bathroom. It was 1 degree celsius outside and windy. We had to change her in the boot of our 20 year old Ford Fiesta in the freezing cold, everything exposed to the elements. We then had to carry the dirty nappy home with us – and you know what? We survived. It was fine. And that’s when we knew we could carry on – it actually excites me whenever we don’t throw a nappy in the bin.

Storage-wise, we don’t have a nappy pail but we’re looking into it. The fact that most of them are plastic annoys me, and we have been using a lined drawstring bag we already had to store dirty nappies. We always wash soiled nappies and generally stick straight in the wash so the only smell is occasionally of wee, so we keep it either in her room and make sure it’s aired, or our spare room which is an undecorated bomb site of junk anyway. We have a nappy bin in her room for disposables which smells far worse whenever it’s opened….! Apparently net bags can be useful to transfer the cloth nappies into the wash so you don’t have to handle them again – but this doesn’t really bother me too much.

We have bought some extra booster pads, as often these help prevent leaks and allow the nappies to last longer. We were passed on some disposable nappy liners from my sister (some say they’re flushable but best not to) to catch poo but we don’t use these now, we just remove and wash the booster which generally catches everything for us, or you can buy (or make!) washable fleece liners which are easy to use.

When we go out, we use waterproof zip wallets (which are great even if you don’t use cloth nappies!) to carry old nappies and they also make them for reusable wipes, too.

We don’t use special nappy cleaner in with our wash, and all seems to be fine so far.

And I think that is everything I can share…! So far our reusable nappies have set us back £64.42:

2 Totsbots nappies with Motherease wrap: £32.77

3 pack of booster pads: £11.95

2 Bambino Mio Solo nappies via Aldi: £16

3 nappies bought via council voucher – difference paid: £3.70

3 nappies given to me by my sister 

But bear in mind we still buy disposeables as well.  In terms of disposables, when we can afford to, we buy biodegradable (Mum and You are superb) or we buy Lupilu ones from Lidl. Reusable nappies aren’t cheap, but the long-term cost does work out cheaper, and obviously it works out cheaper the more children you might have. We are hoping to use 100% reusable if we have another child (it is worth thinking about sizings though, as newborns might need a different size nappy and you may need more, as they require more changes).

And obviously if you are really savvy about it, these costs could be even less – buying nappies secondhand, for example, saves loads of money, plus there is a huge resale market – you could even make a lot of your money back.

All in all, it has been a good experience for us, and I must admit there is something lovely about never having too much panic if we haven’t got a nappy – there’s always one drying or one we can bung in the wash quickly!

PS we also use Cheeky Wipes at home instead of throwaway wipes and have never looked back.

Photograph: Joe Galvin.

Some extra tips:

When travelling, make sure you have access to a washing machine, that’s why Spain is so easy for us this summer. We’ve also bought reusable swim nappies (Aldi have a deal on them, too! £4.99 as opposed to £9.99).

Cloth nappies become more absorbent over time, so the more you use them, the better they get! But also maybe wash them a few times before you use (we actually never did this, and used them from the get go).

There is a great secondhand market, which is great for saving money plus also helping people who cannot afford to buy them new. The Nappy Lady has advice for reselling here and has a Facebook page for Buying and Reselling, too!

A few sites offer a rental service, too, but they do get booked up so prepare in advance. Or there are local Cloth Nappy Libraries which can help you ‘try before you buy’.

If you are eligible for a council voucher but don’t know where to start, The Nappy Lady offers a Trial pack, with a balanced selection of a few different nappies to start with.

Once you have finished with your nappies, there are lots of options to help put them back into circulation or recycle, this site helps you decide.

There are lots of groups and meet-ups you can be part of too, where people share info and do tutorials – Time for a Nappy Change Facebook page shares really useful information.

 

Reading List:

Real Nappies for London – great, useful advice which helps you get started, as well as offering advice on accessing those council vouchers.

Fill Your Pants – cloth nappy shop but also helps provide lots of advice as well as info on the voucher incentives,

MamaLina – a fellow North London blogger, who discusses all sorts of sustainable parenting tips as well as a huge advocate for cloth nappies. I love this post here on getting started as well as this tackling those disposable nappy myths head on here.

The Nappy Lady – this site almost needs to be in my favourites. I found the video tutorials really handy.

Baby Centre – advice on how many you need to how to change a cloth nappy.

Manchester recycling – this post helps bust some myths on reusable nappies.

Baba & Boo – I came across this site whilst researching this post and found it really helpful, the blog provides useful info in a kind and non judgemental way and you can buy nappies here, too.

34 Comments

  1. Your earnest article made me smile. My generation only needed terry nappy squares, nappy pins, rubber pants, Sudocrem, nappy bucket and Napisan. Soak the nappies with Napisan in the bucket for several hours, chuck the waste down the toilet and put the soiled nappies in the washing machine. (My mother’s generation hand washed. Hence the early potty training.) Disposables were strictly for holidays. Which is more polluting one nappy bucket or hundreds of disposable nappies per family? Our bucket ended up as a planter in the garden and the nappies, used for both babies, were passed on in the family.

  2. Hi Alex,
    Are you still using the Ecoegg for washing or have you found you need to use detergent for nappy washes? Would like to make the change over to reusable nappies but finding the initial leap a bit scary! Thanks for all the info!
    Kate

  3. Hi Alex,
    This is simply inspirational for mums. Well done and thanks for the extensive research you have offered. Let’s hope more people will take this on board and yes, you’re right they do look cute! It is more work and may not suit everyone’s lifestyle but worth giving it a go if you are at all serious about reducing plastic usage. Things have certainly moved on from the old style terry nappies.

  4. Hi,

    Your articles all seem very timely at the moment! Six months pregnant, doing up our house and living locally to you so picking up lots of handy tips. Thank you….

    Reusables is a big debate in our household. We’re keen and have a Nappy Ever After talk at the weekend.

    My thought is probably to go biodegradeable disposables for the first few months and switch when things at the poo end are a bit more settled. What do you recommend having done the switch?

    Thanks
    Sam

    1. My thoughts are honestly: see how you go! Just doing a few in those first few months is a huge help, and probably helps with the fear – I think sometimes the later you leave it, the more you put it off, although I honestly think with my first child, we needed time to simply ‘adjust’ before going to the reusables. I’m so glad I made the change – even the small amount we are doing. And just sticking in the washing machine is easy, trust me x

  5. The TotsBots Bamboozles with the Motherease wrap are excellent for night. I use them on my baby with no leaks for around 12 hours, though he’s younger so possibly wees a bit less (!). You can pop a booster in too for more absorption And a fleece liner to keep wetness away. I think it’s a really good option for night time and we get less leaks vs disposables like Pampers. Anyway, as a new-ish user of cloth I loved this piece.

  6. Great article from a fellow part time user! I try to use them Friday-Monday with my 16 month old. Gives me the Tuesday-Thursday for a wash and drying when she’s at nursery. We personally used a local Nappy Library when she was around 3 months old, and found that we like pocket popper nappies so we’re a big fan of Alva Baby and Little Lambs through Fill Your Pants. We have a totsbots bucket with Little lamb mesh bags for the storage of soiled/wet nappies. Also use ‘disposable liners’ where i pop the poo in the loo and the liner into a nappy bag for the bin (better than a whole disposable nappy i figured and i havent worked out what else to do with it!). Haven’t done night nappies yet as i felt they were even bulkier and so we use disposables for that. I agree its better to do what works for you, but the more we can use reuseables and encourage others the less there are going to landfill! Now just to make myself get back into the habit of using the cheeky wipes!

    1. This is so helpful – yes wish I’d known about nappy libraries – I’m sometimes a bit gung-ho and just got straight into it when actually, it would’ve paid to be more considered! x

  7. Hi Alex,
    great post and very timely! Could you please consider doing a post on the Eco egg; I’d love to hear an honest review. Been thinking about it for quite some time but am worried that the laundry doesn’t smell ‘clean’.
    Many thanks,
    Antje

    1. To be honest, there’s not much to say! Everything comes out clean and we have bought pellets once and they last ages! A few people have said use essential oil for a nicer smell perhaps, but I don’t really worry about it. I was discussing with Hannah Rochell (from En Brogue) that we need to recondition ourselves out of thinking ‘clean’ is a smell x

  8. Thank you for responding, that’s good to know. I never use fabric conditioner and always dry my washing outside (even in the winter), so I guess my idea of ‘clean’ laundry smell is that of fresh air. Will definitely give the eco egg a try.

  9. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for much for this post, have been doing a lot of research into this for our new arrival due in a few months. I had read that potentially a baby’s clothes may not fit as well because the reusable nappies are bulkier than disposables, some people have suggested sizing up with their clothes or buying vest extenders to allow the vest to fit better around the nappy. Have you found this to be an issue?
    Have also heard that they are less likely to get nappy rash in a reusable as it’s cotton next to the skin, have you found this to be the case? x

    1. Honestly, I’ve had no issue with clothes – all baby’s sizes are different, some are longer in the body, some are wider – so clothes not fitting affects every baby anyway….you just have to see how you go – Peggy was always skinny so it hasn’t really affected much. And re: nappy rash, again – not sure, Peggy’s only had it once thankfully and not sure whether it was from the type of nappy x

  10. You’ve convinced me!!! As an avid environmentalists and soon to be first time mother I was having such an internal conflict about nappies but reading this has empowered me to just go for it. As you say, even if you do it some of the time that better than not giving it ago, plus that are super cute!
    Thank you!

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