All about cloth nappies!

Hello. I am Kate, mummy to Charlie, who is 20 months old. I LOVE cloth nappies, and I am not a radical eco-warrior or a hippy! My aim is to try to spread the cloth nappy love, and get more babies bums in cloth nappies.

Prior to single-use nappies becoming popular in the 1970s cloth nappies were the only option available to parents. If you ask your parents and grandparents, it is likely they will remember cloth nappies. But now we live in such a throw-away age, and single use nappies are the norm; many new parents and parents-to-be do not even give cloth nappies a thought and automatically use single use nappies.   I think this is such a shame, and I hope I can persuade you to think about using reusable cloth nappies.

When I was pregnant with my son, I spoke to my mum about all things baby and she told me about using cloth nappies when I was a baby. This got me thinking, and I started doing some research online. The more I read, the more I was determined to ‘do’ cloth. I remember being on our final baby-free holiday and ordering a starter kit from Baba and Boo. I was so excited when I got home from holiday and it was waiting for me!

But why?

It’s simple, cloth nappies are better for your baby, better for your baby’s future, betterfor your bank balance, and they look good. What is not to love?

Think back to a few years ago, we didn’t give any thought to using single use plastic bags for our supermarket shopping. But now, we are all (mostly) using reusable bags for our food shopping, and if we occasionally forget, as we all do, we feel guilty. Disposable nappies, however, are a far bigger problem than plastic bags. They take at least five times longer to degrade, they take up more space in landfill, they are more damaging to manufacture, and they cannot be recycled.

I hope we can change attitudes towards single use nappies in the same way as plastic bags, so that cloth nappies become the norm, again.

Did you know every single disposable nappy that has ever been made is still in existence in our beautiful world somewhere? They take 500 years to decompose. What a horrible thought.

Cloth nappies are, without question, MUCH cheaper than single use nappies. If you were to buy all the disposable nappies you need until your baby is potty trained (about 4000) at the outset, you would lay out over £1000, but everything you need for full-time cloth nappies would cost you around£200. Even when you take into account the cost of washing, at about £1 per week, you will still save hundreds of pounds. In addition, it costs us millions of pounds in council tax every year to send waste to landfill. The savings become even greater if you have more children and use your nappies again, or if you give them to a friend or to a charity when you have finished with them.

Do you wear paper/plastic knickers? No (I suspect not, anyway!). So why would you put your baby in plastic nappies, when there is the option for them to wear super soft, fabric, nappies? Your baby is much less likely to suffer from nappy rash when using cloth nappies, and you will save a fortune in nappy creams too.

However, I warn you now, cloth nappies are addictive! There are so many lovely patterns and prints, unless you are far more restrained than I am, you are likely to soon have built up a nappy ‘stash’.

The basics

I use Baba and Boo nappies. They are one-size pocket nappies, which are made up of a waterproof outer with a pocket which you fill with separate absorbent inserts. They are really easy to use. There is loads of information online, and you get a handy little guide to putting them on, but it isn’t any more difficult than putting on a disposable nappy, there are no safety pins involved.   Check out their website : If you sign up for the newsletter you get 10% off your order.

There are lots of different brands and types of reusable nappies, so it is a good idea to try a few to see what you like best. Try to talk to other cloth-using parents or get in touch with a nappy library. There are also supportive groups online.

You really don’t need lots of equipment to use cloth nappies. My essential shopping list is:

  • About 20 nappies, with inserts.
  • A nappy bucket to store your nappies until you wash them.
  • Laundry bags for lining the bucket. When you are ready to wash, you just lift the bag out and pop it straight into the machine.
  • ‘Wet bags’ for storing your used nappies when you are out and about. These contain all the liquid and smells. They are also brilliant to use for wet swimming kit.
  • Nappy liners to catch the poo. My favourites are fleece liners.

And that’s it.

If you use cloth nappies full time, you will need about 20 nappies and this will mean you will wash every 2-3 days, at 40 degrees. I promise you, this is not a burden at all. It is not as if you will be scrubbing the nappies by hand, the machine does all the hard work! Your washing machine will be on most days when you have a baby in the house anyway. The nappies are then just hung up to dry – this is far better for your nappies than using a tumble drier, and obviously far better for the environment. The sun also does wonders for any stains!

Charlie goes to nursery, and he wears cloth nappies at nursery too. His nursery is very happy to use them, and most nurseries are. I just send him with a few pre-stuffed nappies, and a wet bag, and he comes home with the used nappies in a wet bag, which I then pop in the bucket and wash with the next load. It really is no more hassle, and will save the nursery a small fortune in waste disposal.

We went abroad on holiday last year, and I was a bit unsure about whether we would manage to successfully use cloth nappies, but we did! In fact, it was easy. Fortunately, we had access to a washing machine, so it was just as easy as being at home, and the warm sun dried them in no time.

But it isn’t all or nothing, every time you use a cloth nappy you are saving a nappy going to landfill. Many people use cloth nappies part time, and that is just fine.


“Your washing machine gets full of poo!”

Rubbish – you put the poo down the loo, where it belongs.

“You have to carry smelly nappies round with you”

No, you have a wet bag which contains all smells. This is much better than carrying around         used disposable nappies in a nappy bag. Reusable nappies actually smell less than disposable nappies.

“They leak more”

Nope – not true. Many mums reports less leaks with cloth nappies than with disposables. Charlie wears cloth nappies at night too, and no leaks. It took a little while to crack night times without leaks but we have it mastered now, and never have a leak overnight.

“It’s loads of extra work”

It is really just a few extra washes a week and a few minutes stuffing the nappies. It probably takes 10-15 minutes extra per week, and you never run out of nappies, so there are no emergency trips to the shops.

“It makes your babies hips develop incorrectly”

Absolutely not true – before the 1970s everyone wore cloth nappies, and your parents and uncles/ aunts etc all have OK hips don’t they!

Waste less, live more

Since I have been using cloth nappies, I have started to give more thought to other things we use in every day life that we throw away unnecessarily. It has resulted in me living in a much less wasteful way. I am really conscious of plastic packaging, and try to buy food without layers and layers of unnecessary plastic. I now make my own bread, and often bake biscuits rather than buying them. I use bars of soap, with absolutely no detriment to my skin at all. I get milk from the milkman in glass bottles. I use recycled toilet roll, and most recently, I am trying to cut down on using cling film by using beeswax food wraps. I have a long long way to go, but these little changes do make a difference. They result in me spending less on ‘things’ meaning more money and time to enjoy my lovely little boy.

It seems a bit dramatic to say, but cloth nappies really have been life changing for me.

I challenge you to buy at least one cloth nappy and use it each day – just this would save 900 disposable nappies going to landfill.

If cloth nappies are really not for you, then there are alternatives that are kinder on the environment than most; have a look at Naty nappies, or Kit and Kin.

I am passionate about getting more babies bums in cloth nappies, and if this blog gets even one more baby wearing cloth nappies, it will make me a very happy person.

Kate x

Photo credits: Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Cloth Nappies, Baba and Boo