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The Real Nappy Guide
A friend of mine told me a story the other day. She’s got a 2-year old lovely daughter, Ester. When Ester was a baby, mum started her on disposable nappies. Baby constantly had nappy rash, so my friend had to change different nappy brands, from Pampers and Huggies to food retailers’ own nappy brand… but no difference at all – they were all full of lotions and nasty chemicals, irritating the newborn gentle skin. Besides, I wasn’t aware about something else she told me: nearly 3 billion nappies are thrown away in the UK every year. Wow! And it also takes hundreds of years for plastics in disposable nappies to decompose. It seems that the environmental impact of disposable nappies is considerable.
My friend had mums tea party once, gathering with some friends having babies on their own. As a gift from one of the mothers she received a cloth nappy starter set. She was a bit put of using real nappies at first, because of all that washing and drying, but then she decided to give it a try. “What a big difference!”, she told me. “It’s actually so easy and comfy to use, the washing and drying is not that much, but the baby skin feels so soft, baby stopped crying and feels happy. So I am happy, too!” Then she researched online for most suitable brands and nappies types. It took her some time to find best ones for her baby. “You may get a bit confused by all those real nappy types and sizes”, she admitted. So I asked her kindly to give me a hand with the “jungle” of real nappy types, and here is her guide below.
These nappies are particularly easy to use and closest to disposables in design. All-in-ones are shaped and fitted, they consist of absorbent nappy and wrap in one. They are very easy to use and ideal for when other people are changing your baby's nappy. You may find that you have to use a booster inside the nappy if the amount of absorbent material the manufacturer has used doesn't suit your baby.
- Ideal for quick changes
- A shaped cloth nappy with waterproof cover built in
- Snug fitting with elasticated legs
- Dries slower than other styles so will need more nappies
- Different sizes required as your child grows
Best in this range are the Imse Vimse All-In-One and Itti Bitti cloth nappies.
Imse Vimse All-In-One nappy is very simple to use, comfortable fitting nappy manufactured from a waterproof but breathable outer fabric (PUL) with a 100% certified organic cotton terry inner liner. Key features include the signature ImseVimse soft leg-gussets and adjustable hook and loop closure for quick and easy nappy changes.
You can purchase all Imse Vimse nappies from BabyKind's online shop.
Bitti D'lish All In One nappies are super slim, 'true' All In One real nappies. Microfibre and bamboo boosters are sewn into the nappy for the ease and convenience of a one-piece design, no folding, stuffing or snapping in - just put straight on.
- An outer of beautifully soft minkee fabric, which is waterproof and breathable and keeps looking great wash after wash
- Lined with custom milled supersoft suedecloth to keep baby dry and comfortable
- A contoured three layer, super absorbent microfibre booster is sewn into the body of the nappy and a two layer bamboo/organic cotton 'flap' booster, topped with stay-dry suedecloth is sewn into the back of the nappy allowing for fast drying.
- Snaps on the flap booster allow for a bitti d'lish microfibre or bamboo snap on mini booster to be added, which increases absorbency for heavy wetters, or for extended wear/naps. Snap on boosters can be snapped with a single snap at the front and folded in half giving extra absorbency for boys and tummy sleepers. Adding a mini booster to the bitti d'lish All in One is recommended for heavy wetters. This is the easiest type of cloth nappy to use, no cover or liners needed. It's 'simple and Dad proof' according to many of the Dads who are using them.
Snap In One by Bitti D'Lish is divinely comfortable with the performance of a disposable!
Because the nappy comes apart, you can re-use the outer 'shell' like a cover, replacing wet booster sets with dry ones, perfect for travelling or space-saving in the nappy bag - makes it a very economical option as well.
- Additional Booster Sets are sold separately. Using extra booster sets is a very economical option as well.
- Quick drying. 8 Layers of bamboo and organic cotton for a highly absorbent nappy, suitable even for heavy wetters, you can expect the nappy to last 3-4 hours or more.
You can order Itti Bitti nappies from their official distributor GreenBaby eco online store.
This system consists of an absorbent nappy and a separate outer wrap. No folding needed. These are shaped and fitted, with soft, elasticated legs and waist. Generally speaking, the more absorbent the nappy, the bulkier it will be and the longer it will take to dry. You can boost the thinner nappies when needed with boosters. They wash and dry easily, although some fabrics take longer to dry than others. All shaped nappies need a waterproof covering wrap.
- Easier to use that flat nappies as no complicated folding.
- The main advantage of two-part nappies over pocket nappies is that they generally give better containment. The nappy and the wrap give two lines of defence against leaks.
- You can ensure that only organic materials are next to your baby's skin with two part nappies as you can buy many brands that have no inner stay-dry or stay-soft layer if you do not want these.
- Separate waterproof cover allows quicker drying times.
Imse Vimse Organic Cotton Nappies with their well-loved simple and versatile design represent an extremely economical way to choose the softness and quality of organic cotton for your baby. They are shaped to fit round baby, with layers of organic cotton in the main part of the nappy or in a flap-out booster attached at the front for efficient laundering and drying. There is gentle covered elastic at the legs to improve containment.
Imse Vimse form-fitting nappies are available in a choice of either 100% organic brushed cotton (flannel) or organic cotton terry. The brushed cotton option is incredibly soft and stays soft even when washed in hard water. A Nappi Nippa can be used with the terry version if required, though the nappies will last better if they are not used.
With this nappy you may choose to use liners, either disposable or reusable (e.g. fleece), though they are not necessary, and you may prefer to have soft organic cotton against baby's skin. For night time use you will need to use boosters - Imse Vimse make their own boosters to use with the nappies (please see order page) though any booster will be suitable, popped under the flap-out booster.
Since this nappy is held in place by the wrap it is important to choose a close-fitting, hook and loop-fastening wrap. The Imse Vimse wraps are a great choice.
Also called stuffables, they consist of two layers which form a pocket, a waterproof outer layer and a stay-dry inner layer (usually fleece or suedecloth). Into this pocket you put the absorbent material. This may be an insert made to especially fit the pocket nappy or it may be a prefold or folded terry square.
- Once they are stuffed and ready to put on they then go on just like a disposable, with only one part to worry about, making them really quick and easy to use and great for nurseries, childminders, occasional baby-sitters.
- They do not require a separate covering wrap as this is integral to the design. Very versatile as you can add pads for night times and use fewer during the day.
- As you can take the absorbent inserts out for washing, the nappies and inserts dry very quickly.
- The inner fleece layer covers the whole of the baby's bottom and keeps wetness away from the skin meaning that you do not have to use an extra fleece liner (although you can use a liner to make disposing of nappy contents easier if you wish).
- Can be prepared in advance effectively making it as easy as an all-in-one
- Can vary degree of ‘boosting’ for different children/times of day
Blueberry Minky One size nappy is a fabulous one-size pocket nappy guaranteed to create a stir wherever you are! They are made from a layer of the plushest minky fabric which is soft and silky to the touch. The minky fabric has been laminated on the inside to make it waterproof, and remains supersoft with washing and drying. These nappies have a neat cut to give a trim fit. They fasten at the front with either a "hook and loop" closure (like Velcro) or poppers. Blueberry nappies adjust with simple, colour co-ordinated poppers to fit most babies from birth to potty training (approx 8 - 35lb+).
The Mother and Baby Bronze award winning Fuzzi Bunz is many parents choice. Fuzzi Bunz were the original pocket nappies and have become very popular. They were designed by a mother whose son was allergic to urine next to his skin to keep him dry and comfortable. Fuzzi Bunz nappies have a soft, stretchy, waterproof outer material (PUL) that keeps wetness and mess inside. Next to the baby's skin is a layer of soft micro-fleece which allows moisture to pass through, away from the baby, and then dries quickly. In the pocket formed between these layers an absorbent insert is placed to soak up the wetness. The insert inside the Fuzzi Bunz pocket becomes wet, but is not in contact with the baby's skin, helping to keep it dry. Pocket nappies are very versatile and the level of absorbency can be easily adjusted to suit baby and the occasion. Fuzzi Bunz are available in Small, Medium and Large sizes.
Another great option is Real Easies pocket nappies. This is one of the "new generation" all in ones, designed to be quick to dry without compromising on absorbency. Through combining the best features of other nappy systems, Real Easy nappies acheive the convenience of the all in one, with the slimness, quick drying and customizability of the pocket nappy.
Real Easies have a soft and stretchy outer waterproof layer (PUL) to keep wetness inside, and a fleece lining to keep baby comfortable and dry. These layers form a pocket with an opening at the back. Attached to the fleece inner is a microterry soaker pad (two layers thick) to quickly soak up wetness and wick it away from baby.
- Terry Squares: They are the so called original cloth nappy. These need some folding to fit the baby and a waterproof cover (wrap). No pins are needed if you use a little plastic gripper or special wraps. They dry quickly and they are a very economical option. Modern nappy gripper fasteners mean that you no longer have to use nappy pins. The disadvantages are that they have to be folded which can take practice so they are not ideal for nurseries, childminders or occasional baby-sitters (and some less-enthusiastic partners).
- Prefolds: A rectangle of fabric prefolded and stitched into three panels, with the centre panel (which goes between the legs) being thicker and more absorbent. They are less bulky than terry squares, but more expensive and take longer to dry. You fold into a pad and place inside a waterproof wrap. Disadvantage is that some people find that they get constant leaks.
What extras you might need, depending on nappy type:
A waterproof wrap is worn over flat or shaped nappies (not with pocket or all-in-ones). Covers nappy to keep babies clothes dry. Most are soft, durable, breathable and machine washable. Fabrics vary from waterproofed nylon, polyester or cotton to wool. Styles range through popper and Velcro fastening to pull-on; all allow for quick and easy nappy changes. Avoid polyurethane and PVC wraps and pants.
Biodegradable (flushable) paper liners or washable (cotton, silk and fleece) liners can be placed inside nappies to contain faeces. After changing the nappy simply remove and flush the contents down the lavatory. If only wet and not soiled, some biodegradable liners can even be washed for reuse. They are available in two main types - paper and washable. On the great side is that they allows wee to soak through but not pass back to baby’s skin. They also Allow easy removal/flushing of poo from soiled nappies.
A shaped cloth pad used with nappy to add extra absorbency. They are ideal for temporary boosts such as night-time, car journeys and at times when wetting increases.
Find lots of cloth nappies and accessories as well as great advice on types and size at Cheeks & Cherries online store. And why don't you check Go Real's website - The RealNappy Information Service? - It has everything you need to know about the real nappy world, all in one place!
A word about the fabrics
There are three best eco-friendly and gentle on skin fabrics – organic cotton, bamboo or hemp. They may differ in terms of drying time, for instance, but are all great for the baby’s skin and for the environment.
This is the traditional choice of fabric for real nappies, has been used for many years and is still a favourite today. Cotton is absorbent and hard wearing; it can be washed at very high temperatures and is used almost exclusively by nappy laundry services. It can become slightly stiff after washing. It breathes easily as a result of its fibre structure and keeps the body cool in summer and warm in winter because it is a good conductor of heat. Cotton has a high absorbency rate and holds up to 27 times its own weight in water.
Bamboo has a very quick growing cycle and needs less water than cotton and no pesticides to grow. Bamboo is a very absorbent material and can hold up to 60% more moisture than cotton. It is a very soft fabric, naturally anti-bacterial and will stay soft after washing. The drawbacks to bamboo are that it can take a lot longer than cotton to dry and it does not like direct heat so avoid drying your bamboo nappies on the radiator.
Hemp is another very absorbent material used to make real nappies and it also has a greener tag than other fabrics. Hemp is more water absorbent than cotton and has 3 times the tensile strength. As a crop it requires no pesticides or fertilisers and is one of the most eco-friendly fabric fibres known to us. It is used as a fabric for inserts more than nappies as hemp can become quite stiff after washing. Hemp is also not as quick acting as some fabrics and is sometimes best when mixed with another quicker acting fabric like microfibre. Natural Hemp is a course fibre but combining it with cotton softens the texture without compromising its absorbency.
Most important here is to find brands that use organic fabric for their nappies. Why? Traditionally grown cotton is incredibly heavy in the use of chemicals, accounting for something like 25% of the planets insecticide use and 10% of the planets insecticide use. There are pesticides and fertilisers used to produce non-organic nappies. These chemicals weaken the fibres, meaning that cotton grown without the use of chemicals produces a more superior fabric that retains its quality for much longer. As well as being chemical free, organic cotton is also much softer, which explains why more and more parents are ‘going organic’ as organic clothing and nappies are kinder on baby’s skin.
So, it’s your choice, I would say.
All sounds good, but I still needed to be entirely convinced. “I’ll give you not 1 but 5 reasons to start using real nappies”, my friend said.
- They are soft and natural on your baby's bottom because they are chemical-free. Modern disposable nappies contain super absorbent granules that turn into a gel when they come into contact with urine.
- They save you money. By using reusable nappies you could save over £500 – even more if you use them on your second or third baby!
- As they tend to fit snugly around waist and legs, cloth nappies are generally very reliable - especially those with a separate cover.
- They are kind to the environment. By using reusable nappies no waste will go into landfill. By not using a tumble drier, for example, you will also be helping to minimise further the impact on the environment.
- They are also quite easy to use.
To be honest, I am now 100% convinced and switching to real nappies. How about you?
You can download your printable Real Nappy Guide here.
Please feel free to comment on disposable vs. real nappies discussion in the forum.
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