Five years ago when I had my older son Leo, I knew a couple of Mums who used reusable nappies but I didn’t even consider switching. In all honesty, it just sounded a bit too ‘hippy’ for me and I had this old-dated image of terry towel nappies and safety pins that my Mum used in the early ’80s when she had me. While expecting my younger son Max a few months ago, I wanted to reduce the environmental impact of the disposable nappies that we would be using as well as choose nappies that would be free from chemicals so I looked into an eco-friendly brand of nappies. However, even though I went on to buy a bulk of them, I became increasingly curious about reusable nappies and started researching where to start. I thought it would be useful to record our journey here on my blog so that if other parents consider switching to reusable (or cloth) nappies, they can get a practical and real account of what it’s like to use and maintain cloth nappies on a regular basis.
(You May also want to check out my YouTube video in which I discuss my thoughts on various brands of cloth nappies – this was recorded 16 months after starting cloth nappying):
But before you embark on this journey with us, have a look at the following statements. I wonder whether you can guess which ones are true and which ones are false. I will reveal these at the end of the post – no cheating though! 🙂
- Three billion disposable nappies are thrown away each year in the UK (that’s just over eight million nappies every single day) – 90% of these are landfilled.
Some local councils offer financial incentives (such as free trials, laundry services and cashback) for parents to switch to reusable nappies in order to help reduce the environmental impact of disposables.
You can save up to £1,250 when switching to reusable nappies.
Now back to our diaries.
The first brand I looked into was BambinoMio – a family-run business in England, established by two parents nearly 20 years ago. I have read reviews by other Mums and watched videos on YouTube to see what they looked like and how to use them. I thought to myself – why not, let’s try and see how it goes. I decided to buy the Miosolo all-in-one nappy set to road test the nappies – the set contains six all-in-one nappies, 50 mioliners (more about them later) and 100g of the miosolo nappy cleanser. This starter set allows you to use the nappies over a period of time and decide whether you want to continue or not.
The nappies have finally arrived! I must say I’ve been really looking forward to seeing what they look like in real life as the prints looked so adorable in photos.
Bambino Mio All-in-one prints (photo: www.bambinomio.com)
These all-in-one (AIO) nappies consist of an extended piece of material, a 100% cotton layer which is attached to the main body of the nappy (a polyester shell) and has to be inserted inside a ‘pocket’ (see below). Apart from beautiful prints, my first impressions of the nappies are that they look well-made, the velcro elements look robust and the inner cotton material is really soft to the touch.
These nappies are also known as BTP (birth to potty) nappies as they are expected to last up to the point when your little one is ready to be potty trained. All brands that make BTPs state that one size fits most babies rather than all as BTPs may not be suitable for some babies on either side of the percentile growth chart.
So how can one nappy fit babies for up to two/ three years? Simple – as your baby grows, you adjust the size of the nappy by changing the setting of the poppers as well as the fastening of the Velcro across the front of the nappy (see below). If you want to find out more about the different types of reusable nappies, check out The Nappy Lady as the website has some useful advice as well as informative step-by-step guide videos.
Considering that an average child isn’t potty trained until around two and a half/ three years of age, you are looking at considerable savings from reusable nappies – Cloth Nappy Tree estimates these to be up to £1,250. The savings can be even higher if you re-use cloth nappies on future babies. On average, a baby requires 2,000 disposable nappies for every year they are in them (source: Real Nappies London), which equals to approx. £1,600 in costs (based on two and a half years in nappies and an average cost of a nappy at £0.20 – source: Cloth Nappy Tree). The cost of disposable nappies doesn’t end with them though – you also need nappy bags, wipes, etc. which hikes up the overall cost. There is also an indirect cost that councils incur to dispose of the nappies. Reusable nappies, on the other hand, will cost you, on average, £300-400 over their lifetime.
So not only are reusable nappies friendly to your purse, they are also better for the planet. Real Nappies London claims:
“Britain throws away nearly three billion nappies a year. That’s around eight million a day. 90% of disposables end up in landfill, where they can take more than 300 years to break down. If they do eventually breakdown in landfill, disposable nappies produce methane gas which adds to global warming. Using real nappies means less waste. Even if you just use them sometimes, you are still making a difference. By using just one real nappy in place of a disposable every day could save a staggering 730 nappies from landfill – all from just one baby!”
Now isn’t that a powerful statement to consider when using disposable nappies?
Another advantage of using cloth nappies is earlier potty training. There is some evidence that, on average, children in cloth nappies toilet train around six months earlier than their peers in disposables. The rationale for this is that a toddler in cloth nappies will physically feel the wetness more than their peer in disposables which are designed to feel as dry as possible, and this newly-discovered connection between bladder release and a wet nappy is the first step to potty training.
Going back to our diaries – first thing I had to do with the nappies was to wash them. Helpful instructions which arrived with the nappies advised to get them washed twice – you can do the second wash straight away after you’ve washed them first time round, without waiting to dry them. This initial washing increases the absorbency of the nappies and then they’re ready to be used.
As this week is half term, we have been out and about quite a lot so I’ve only used the cloth nappies at home as I haven’t been brave enough to use them outside, in case we had to deal with a ‘special package’ 🙂 Nevertheless, I am really impressed how easy they are to use. Using AIOs means that there is very little effort involved – they’re pretty much the same to put on as a disposable nappy. The long pad gets stuffed inside the pocket of the nappy, you adjust the poppers, fasten the Velcro and voila – the nappy is on.
If you’re bottle or combination feeding, it is recommended to use these super-thin flushable liners – which came with my starter set – as they help contain the poo. If you are breastfeeding, you don’t necessarily need to use the liners as breastfed babies’ poo is water soluble, however the liners do help with containment and make washing much easier.
I’m amazed that even The Hubby does the nappy change with such a breeze. But I must admit that we both found changing the first soiled nappy a little bit overwhelming as you obviously cannot throw away the nappy and have to store it somewhere until it is washed. Next soiled nappy isn’t so much of a shock any more and I have decided to order a storage bucket from Bambino Mio, as well as more nappies. Things are going well then 🙂
Now that we have more nappies and the storage bucket (which comes with two handy mesh bags which allow you to transfer the nappies easily from the bucket into your washing machine), we are slowly getting into the swing of things. The bucket is fairly small and discreet but can hold up to 14 nappies (at a push!) and there are no funny smells coming from it.
Now that we’ve used all six nappies from the starter set, it’s time to wash them. Following advice from YouTube vloggers and fellow Mummy bloggers, I first put the soiled nappies on a rinse cycle, then pop in the rest of the nappies on a normal 60 degree cycle. A scoop of the Bambino Mio’s miosolo nappy cleanser goes in your washing powder drawer (together with your usual powder/ gel and, in my case, on its own as I use soap nuts in the drum – you can read my review of the soap nuts here). The cleanser refreshes the nappies and they honestly come out smelling really fresh – no funny smells whatsoever, which I’m positively surprised with. Laundry conditioner isn’t recommended as it can deteriorate the condition of reusable nappies. As for drying, it doesn’t take that long but at this point, we only have six nappies so it is hard to say what it’d be like with a full load. We don’t have a tumble dryer but if you have one, you could use it to speed up the process. However, prolonged tumble drying is said to deteriorate the condition of the nappy and of course, it increases the cost of using reusables so that’s something for you to consider.
Also, on some nights Max leaks through the nappy even though we are using an extra pad known as ‘booster’ so we decide to change him before we go to sleep to prevent the leaks. He definitely is proving to be a heavy wetter during the day, as we find that his nappies need to be changed every two hours. What is also worth pointing out if you are using any oil-based skincare products (coconut oil, etc.) on or around your baby’s bottom, you need to use that thin liner as well. This is because oil-based products can not only deteriorate the condition of the nappy but also repel the wee, leading to leaks. However, in our case, the problem seems to lie with heavy wetting so more frequent changes during the day and an extra change at night (with a booster) seem to do the trick.
I feel like I am getting really addicted to cloth nappies and whilst previously I considered only using them ‘part time’, I now want to make a complete switch. Even The Hubby has commented when taking the bins out for the weekly bin collection that we no longer throw away an entire rubbish bag full of soiled disposable nappies. That feels like such a big achievement, knowing that we are making a small contribution to the environment. It all adds up when you multiply all the households in this country, let alone in the entire world.
Unfortunately, we are experiencing (pee) leaks on a regular basis now and even though we are using liners whenever we use any nappy creams/ oils, my research into this issue shows that the problem lies with the wrong type of nappy for Max’s heavy wetting and that two-part nappies are much better suited to heavy wetters. After a bit more research, I’ve ordered the Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretch nappies as well as Close Parent Pop-in New Gen v2 +bamboo nappies, having read good reviews of both brands and those particular types of nappies. Both brands were founded by UK parents passionate about making practical products for mums and dads to use for their children – they are now global brands with many awards under their belts.
This week, we have also ventured out with the cloth nappy on and managed to deal with a poo which I had been quite anxious about – success! Who would have thought that I’d be happy about such an achievement 🙂
As the weather turns and it is getting colder and colder, drying the nappies takes much longer, especially along with other washing and not being able to hang it outside. It is certainly something to consider if you’re planning to switch to reusables as despite us living in a 3-bed house, we are struggling with our usual laundry now that there’s four of us so cloth nappies have just been an extra wash every other day.
As for our new stash of Bamboozle Stretch and Pop-in nappies – I absolutely love them! Both are made from bamboo which is my current eco obsession. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and up to three times more absorbent than cotton, making it a perfect material for reusable nappies. It is also one of the most sustainable materials as it is self-seeding, meaning it doesn’t need replanting. Anyway, both types of nappies have passed our test for super-duper absorbency levels so they are here to stay.
When Max is in Pop-ins, which we only use during the day, he can easily last three-four hours without even the slightest leak. I’ve also used them for the first ‘leg’ of nighttime (i.e. from around 6-7pm until around midnight) when the Bamboozles are in the wash. Part of me regrets that I hadn’t done more research at the beginning into different brands and cloth nappy systems as the Pop-ins are definitely more suitable to Maxi than miosolos but I suppose I couldn’t have known that he would turn out to be such a heavy wetter.
As for the Bamboozles – well, they’re truly the mother of all nighttime nappies! They’ve been absolutely amazing, undoubtedly thanks to the mighty bamboo! We’ve been really impressed with their absorbency as they can easily handle 12-13 hours of wetness without any leaks – this has been a big lifesaver as it means we don’t have to change Max in the middle of the night and disturb his sleep. Bamboozles come in two sizes: Size 1 (6-18 lbs) and Size 2 (9-35lbs). Size 2 could be a BTP nappy by folding down the poppers at the front of the nappy. Mine are Size 2 and the different settings are shown below.
Both Bamboozle and Pop-ins are ‘two-part’ nappies, meaning that you need to ‘assemble’ two pieces of material when putting them on your baby (as opposed to the AIO nappy). Bamboozles consist of a bamboo nappy and soaker, and a polyester waterproof wrap called Peenut Wrap (the plum wrap shown below). They may seem a bit tricky to put on but after a while, you really get the hang of it. And as I said before, my research seems to show that two-part nappies are much more absorbent than AIOs, thanks to their design.
As for the Pop-ins, the nappy consists of a polyester waterproof shell, a soaker pad and a booster – which is already supplied with the nappy – and both parts literally need to be “popped” into the shell. Pop-ins are much slimmer than miosolos and don’t look as bulky on Max so that’s a big tick for me.
Overall, what I like about the miosolo all-in-one nappies from Bambino Mio is:
- insert material made of 100% soft cotton so breathable for baby’s skin
- easy to use AIO nappy so perfect for childcare staff/ grandparents/ Dads as you don’t require any knowledge of using cloth nappies and can be fastened just like disposables
- wash well and don’t leave any stains, even when soiled nappies have been left in the storage bucket for a couple of days before being washed
- drying time is relatively quick (24-48 hours)
- look well-made and robust – time will only tell if they can withstand the test of repeat washing
- one-size so no need to worry about buying sized nappy as baby grows – you simply change the setting of your poppers
In terms of drawbacks:
- sadly, we’ve had regular pee leaks – as I said before, I am confident this is due to Max being a heavy wetter rather than the quality of the nappies, and more frequent changing plus using a booster seem to have eliminated this problem but this means more washing, increased cost, etc, etc. However, having bought 20 nappies, I have little choice but to continue to use them as I just can’t afford to replace them with another brand.
- they do look quite bulky as far as I am concerned – this isn’t a major issue (and I think they will look less bulky as Max grows up) but there are more slimline nappies on the market.
- the Velcro could be a bit wider as I am getting worried about Max outgrowing them very quickly as we fasten the nappy close to the end of the Velcro.
As for the Close Parent Pop-in New Gen v2 +bamboo nappies:
- made from bamboo which is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
- wash well but the boosters show some signs of discolouration – however, that’s nothing to worry about as I am reassured by other Mums confirming this is due to teething affecting the poos
- slim-fitting and don’t look bulky
- very absorbent – four hours easily achievable!
- wide Velcro panel meaning it will last longer on chubbier babies
- absolutely no leaks
- one size so no need to buy different sized nappies as your baby grows
- AIO nappy so perfect for childcare staff/ grandparents/ Dads
- bamboo takes a bit longer to dry so their drying time can be up to 72 hours
Finally, the Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretch nappies:
- made from bamboo – naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
- superior absorbency levels so perfect for nighttime and heavy wetters
- stretchy material, meaning you achieve a perfect fit, regardless of your child’s build
- wash really well and don’t leave any stains whatsoever
- absolutely no leaks
- can be a BTP if your newborn weighs min. 9lbs
- drying time takes longer than cotton and up to 72 hours.
So this is the end of our diaries. Having been using reusable nappies for nearly three months now, I cannot recommend them enough and I truly feel they have been the best decision we have made for Max (and us as well!). The Hubby and I are genuinely loving them and I personally regret that I hadn’t been brave enough five years ago to at least try them. Undoubtedly, they are quite a big upfront commitment as you are looking at approx. £300-400 to spend on a full set plus costs for extras, such as a storage bin (although you could easily use an existing nappy bin if you have one), liners, boosters and wet bags, not to mention the cost of water bills and electricity for the additional washing you’ll be doing. However, even when you factor in these extra costs, you’ll still be making a considerable saving over the course of two/ three years. Whilst the cost of an individual nappy may seem high to someone not using reusable nappies, you need to acknowledge that they will be used time and time again for up to two/three years (if not longer if you use them on other children) so they do need to be robust and for that, you need to expect to pay a premium.
For anyone who wishes to switch to reusable nappies, I have put together a list of things to consider, based on our experiences:
- Going full time vs. part time. Have a think about whether you are going to make a complete switch or just go ‘part-time’. If you want to ditch disposables completely, then I recommend getting around 25 nappies plus four or five that will be suitable for night time. This will allow you to have enough clean nappies whilst your dirty stash is in the wash.
- Storing and drying. Consider how you will store your soiled nappies and how you will dry them once washed – in the winter, they do take up to two days to dry indoors (especially if you have other washing hung out) so if you lack space, this may be an issue for you. Tumble drying is an option but it does deteriorate nappies in the longer and increases the cost of using cloth nappies.
- The cost. Consider the up-front cost as an average reusable nappy costs approx. £16-17 so it is a big financial commitment. Shop around for deals and discounts though – I have managed to get some of mine half price or reduced by 25-30% so it is definitely possible to get them cheaper. You can always buy preloved nappies too – I haven’t done that myself so I can’t recommend any particular website but as with all secondhand items, do look around before you commit as you may not be able to return the nappies if they turn out to be worn out, etc. As the pre-loved market is booming, you can also resell your own nappies once you are done with them and recoup your original costs. Finally, check with your council if they offer any financial incentives – many offer cashback, laundry services or free trials. The Nappy Lady has a helpful list of all councils offering incentives, however mine appears on it but no longer offers incentives so bear in mind that the list may be a bit out of date.
If you do decide to switch to cloth nappies, make sure you reap the maximum of financial benefits of cloth nappies and reduce their environmental impact by following these guidelines, as recommended by Real Nappies for London:
- Line-dry outside whenever possible
- Tumble dry as little as possible
- When replacing appliances, choose more energy efficient appliances (A+ rated machines are preferred)
- Don’t wash above 60°C
- Wash fuller loads
- Reuse nappies on other children.
Hope you have enjoyed this rather lengthy but hopefully informative post. Let me know what you think about reusable nappies and whether I have made you consider them. I look forward to hearing from you 🙂
P.S. As for the three statements at the start of the post. You will have already picked up on these facts throughout the post so yes, they are all true indeed.
P.S.S. Finally, I’d like to say thanks to two fellow Mummy bloggers for their words of encouragement as well as helpful tips and advice on your websites and social media: Rachida from Oummanna and Ana from AnaGoesGreen. Thanks so much ladies 🙂
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I purchased all the products mentioned within this post. All views and opinions expressed here are all my own and 100% honest.