We’re nearly there folks. We’re nearly nappy-free…
Not that you’d guess it if you could have seen me and Himself holed up in a tiny public toilet in France recently, sliding around in god-knows-what as we suspended a tiny Wee-Refusenik over the scummy hole in the ground that passed for a loo in that particular village.
But how did we get to this point, you may ask? How did we make it out of Nappy Valley alive? You may particularly ask this if you’re a new parent, just stepping tentatively onto the Poop Road, wondering how to navigate the array of nappy options that are out there now. So here’s a review of our nappy journey, warts ‘n all, with (I hope) a review of our toilet-training trials to follow in the next week or so. Like a kind of two-part ‘Poopventure’. Awesome!
A THROW-AWAY COMMENT:
So, rewind two years: we started with the path of least resistance: disposable nappies. Before you spit in disgust and click the ‘F- off’ button on your browser, please know that there are some biodegradable options if you’d like to compromise. The ubiquitous ‘Natys’ are in your local Boots, as well as supermarkets near you, so they are easy to get hold of, and have served us well in emergencies. Though our usual disposable preference is Moltex, upon recommendation from a pal whose toddler readily out-wees her Natys. Moltex seem to come up higher and are maybe slightly more robust if you have been blessed with a human Urine Cannon.
So, yes, for the first month of Eva, we used disposables. Even knowing we wanted to try reusables, we figured there would be plenty already on our plate in those early days, and we were right. Also, let’s be real, here. Sometimes disposables are just useful backup to have around for emergencies. Ten months into our parenting journey, Eva developed an appalling nappy rash. I’m still not entirely sure what triggered it, and I’ve seen nothing like it before or since, but my one regret is that I didn’t switch to disposables earlier. A GP friend advised me to do it without delay and the improvement was immediate.
CHOPPIN’ AND CHANGIN’:
Rather then buying one nappy type in bulk straight away, we tried many different brands and formats, starting with a free trial of various reusables from our local Children’s Centre (a place I’d recommend any fraught new Mum heads for to get some support, and some NCT-esque friends without the price tag!). This offered us a lesson in what we definitely didn’t want (old model Tots Bots which just somehow seemed to leak from all directions if you even blinked at them). We also learned we should have checked all parts of the nappy kit were actually present before trying – we were missing the terry towels from our pack, which eventually turned out to be one of our main allies against baby-wee. But it was still a useful exercise overall. Here’s more information.
AND INTO THE BREACH
Clothbum-ism is a funny thing. You go into it all nobly wanting to lighten your footprint on the world, whilst simultaneously wrestling with the indignity of making a shit-bucket a fixture in the house. But, once they been weaned a while, you suddenly realise that having a disposable hanging around in a nappy bag, with poop folded into it, and that weird chemical whiff, is more objectionable than finding yourself trying to ‘assist’ mashed poop off a fleece liner and down the toilet for the umpteenth time anyway. Well, kinda.
And, once you make the leap, there are other considerations that keep you on your toes – like the fact that your child is constantly growing, changing and – with them – the amount of wee and poo, and the frequency with which they generate it! (think small-and-often to begin with, graduating to infrequent swimming pools as they get to Toddlerdom) After the first few months, we found ourselves buying extra inserts and trying various combos of these. While wraps bought in a specific size would need updating, so we tried to keep this sort to a minimum.
WILL I GET POO ON ME?
My friend, you will.
But, lets face it, if you choose to have kids, you’re going to get poo on you anyway. I’ve heard stories of it getting accidentally stuck down nails, kicked into hair, even farted into open mouths (no, really!). And none of these tales are cloth-bum specific, it just happens to every parent, indiscriminately. Equal opportunity Shite-Sprinkling, if you will (You can’t say it isn’t inclusive, this business of baby-poop).
SO, WHAT’S THE SKINNY?
Eva began as a modest little 6lb 7oz shrimp with skinny legs, and has grown to a 91st percentile chunk, complete with the family thighs! (let’s put it this way: when people bang on about the size of J-Lo’s bum, this household be all, like, ‘Wait…she has a bum…??’). Along the way we have tried nearly every conceivable reusable format and combo. Every baby is different but, in case it helps you, here is a list of the Winners, the ones that have stayed loyally with us these 2 years and counting.
Terry Towels – the original and best. These were our bread and butter (not literally!!!!) for the majority of Eva’s nappied life. They seemed to be the only ones that caught most of the leaks, they proved easy to clean and dry, they didn’t shrink/distort (unlike the similar and more expense Bamboo Terries – more on those scoundrels later!). And they are cheap. If you want the trouble of tumble-drying them for 25 mins, they also become very soft and snuggley even when old. And hanging them outside in the sun where possible will bleach them a bit and maintain the whiteness.
We bought them in 60cm so they could see Eva through her different stages of growth depending on how they were folded. And, by the way, don’t be afraid of those folds: Muggins, here, learnt the Square Bat and Gaynors Fold without trouble, despite lacking DP’s interest in origami. Believe me, when you’re doing something about 20 times a day, it becomes second nature soon enough. This list of folds may be of assistance, they cover babies of all sizes.
The trick is to tuck the terries well up and in around the ‘leg holes’ thus forming a barrier that accidents cant escape.
Nappy Nippas – an essential if you are going for terry towels, but be sure to get the ones that look like a T-shape; some older models look like a Y, and they’re flimsier. Oh, and go for at least six… because you’ll lose a few, break a few. Plus you don’t want to miss out on all the colour options!
Milovia Nappy Cover – I did greet with some skepticism DP’s theory that it would pay off to get everything in adjustable sizes, rather than buy smaller sizes, then size up later. But these seem to back that up. They have been with us as the go-to wraps for our terry towels since the start, and have rarely let us down. They contain a pocket for inserts, so you have options there. Plus, they look awesome. They wash well. The poppers last better than many velcro alternatives.
For all that, there is one notable fly in the ointment though: they do not give great thigh coverage on the outside edge these days. DP makes a neater nappy than me so he rarely sees problems here but, as Eva (and thighs) have grown, I have had the terry creep out from underneath and leave damp patches on more than one occasion, along with a creeping wee-smell (it took me months to realise this was the culprit. Not the sharpest tool, etc) They have also become a snug fit with a full terry underneath in recent ’91st percentile’ times, so I’m finding Prefolds have suddenly come into their own as an insert [more on that later]
Incidentally I would suggest at least 4 of your chosen wrap – 6 if you can. It’s good to be able to swop them out when they get a bit stinky, even if they haven’t suffered a full-on poo-assault.
Fleece Nappy Liners – if you have a newborn in reusables, you’ll find out in pretty short order that it’s a waste of time using disposable nappy liners to begin with. Once you’re past the initial ‘marmite’ phase, Baby’s watery milk-poops will just run straight off them. You’re better off with an option that keeps stuff in place just a bit more. Once your child starts doing more solid ‘weaning poops’ you may want to look at disposable liners. But these are great for the early days, and they still get used here outside of known ‘poo’ hours! They look comfier than the alternative too.
Charlie Bananas – although the very robust Terry/Wrap combo has been our personal preference overall, a good all-in-one nappy is a gawd-send – especially when out and about. And the only all-in-one that has had a chance in hell of holding in Eva’s offerings from newborn to toddler is the Charlie Banana. Why? Adjustable leg-holes!
Yes, adjusting the elastic can be fiddly, knowing the length to adjust it to can be tricky (its marked with S, M, L etc but still has a ‘shot in the dark’ feel) but its worth it. IMO, no other all-in-one touches these. Not really. They will fit them from birth onwards. And they come in all sorts of goofy patterns. They are relatively small and neat too, and most parents happily use them full-time without issue. A great weapon in our Clothbum armoury. If you only pick one All-In-One nappy, consider making it this one.
NB, if Charlie Bs leak even after leg adjustment, consider trying an additional insert. Eva has taken two in hers, medium and small for a year at least. Any extra inserts can be repurposed as fillings for other wraps too.
Cheeky Wipes – they’re cheap, cheerful, plentiful and, most of all, soft for little bots. What’s not to like? Don’t be without them if you’re going ClothBum! Our initial choice – the much rougher and pricier Close Pop-in bamboo wipes – were soon repurposed much more successfully as face wipes (after a number of turns through the washing machine, I should add!!)
Smartipants Portable Nappy Pail – Basically a giant nappy bag, and a really handy addition to your regular sized ones. Fab for holidays.. no having to lug a solid nappy bucket around. You just fill, unzip and throw the whole lot in the washing machine at once.
Comes into its own again later down the line, as a wetbag for any potty-training accidents, clothes and all. And then for swimming gear. Eva’s goes to nursery with her too (though they still don’t seem to have twigged that putting the soiled items in a nappy bag first defeats the whole object of the thing!)
Bear in mind it is quicker to dry them inside-out due to the waterproof lining.
Shown below is my super-purple one, alongside a cheaper wetbag I bought from Amazon which is also proving handy (it came in a two-pack with a smaller one, which I use for Eva’s cutlery bowls and wipes when we eat out)
Oh, and a sidenote from The Ministry Of The Bleedin’ Obvious concerning Nappy Buckets: go for one whose lid clips on rather than just pushes into place. The latter just wont cut the mustard when it comes to locking smells inside. (Yes, such buckets exist. I have seen them with my own eyes!). Also, do yourself a favour and get a mesh bag to put in the bucket. We went without for a few weeks and, let me tell you, they save time and effort when you have to heave the things into the washing machine at the end of the day.
Also: ‘To soak, or not to soak’? Well, not in this household, thanks – though my Mum doesn’t approve! The thing is, you’re just making poo-soup, and an awkward nightmare for yourself when it comes to getting the whole lot in the washing machine without spillage. The nappies seem to wash fine regardless, and they shouldn’t whiff if the lid is secure on your bucket.
Finally, you’ll be using your washing machine a lot. If it starts to smell a bit ‘funky-fresh’ after a while, throw a cup of distilled vinegar into the drum and put it through a regular wash.
PS: adding an extended Rinse to your nappy wash cycle may reduce the need for strip washing.
The following have been helpful, with some caveats.
Motherease Airflow Wraps – While they’re not much to write home about looks-wise, who cares when they are so damn good at containing leaks? Where these fell down slightly (not literally) was Eva’s generous thighs: they give great coverage of this area, but they regularly left pink marks that concerned her nursery workers, even on the loosest ‘popper setting’ (which, btw, really did feel pretty loose!). My suspicion was that it was fine, as she never seemed uncomfortable, and the marks would disappear completely after removing the wrap. Nonetheless, it’s not really something you want to take a chance on, so I set about looking for alternatives. If you have a child with slimmer legs, I would still recommended trying one if you have problems with leakage. Maybe the problem lies with the edging being very ‘no-frills’ and quite stiff as you can see in the photo below.
Note that there is no pocket for inserts in these and they are not adjustable size.
Nature Babies Classic Wraps – These were the successors to the Motherease, cos The Internets told me they are more forgiving around the thigh area – and indeed they are, much softer and less rough! This softness means they maybe aren’t quite so sh*t-hot at preventing leaks as the Motherease, but the difference is pretty minimal, and they still hold up well. They look fun and are reasonably priced too. We’re still using them at nights.
We have one with poppers and one with velcro. Bear in mind that in general, poppers are nearly always better, people. Its quite easy for exposed velcro to rub against a toddlers skin as they barrel around – and poppers won’t lose their tightness due to accumulated fluff!
On the whole, these should be a safe bet for larger legs! I do believe they make an adjustable-size model too, which may just swing them into the ‘Winners’ category for me if they work as well as this model (Though, as with the Motherease, they don’t contain a pocket for inserts.)
Disposable Nappy Liners – These are great at the right time – and that time is definitely post-weaning. If you think there’s an imminent poop in the pipe, switch to these, then just flush the whole lot down the toilet. Top tip – you can also put these through your wash with the nappies a couple times if you want to reuse! I often just bung them in the bucket with the nappy itself if left unpooped!
Bambino Mio: Miosolo – Initially, I rolled my eyes at these all-in-ones and wrote these firmly into the ‘won’t hold leaks’ category. But these days, with Eva’s legs long since filled out, they actually work rather well with two inserts, and sometimes it’s nice to have an easy velcro option if you just want to throw a nappy on in double-quick time (very handy for emergencies now we’re deep in ‘nappy training’ territory). The insert they come with is easy to – well – insert, and they score well for comfort too. Awesome patterns abound again, and – unlike most reusables – these are readily available from some supermarkets (I’ve seen branches of Morrisons and Sainsburys stocking them). So these see decent use now Eva is older – though they do still leak easier than the Charlie Bananas (quite often getting damp though the ‘bum’ panel, bafflingly). They have some neat design features for protecting velcro from fluff during washing. But just bear in mind that I wouldn’t recommend them for newborns or other small/skinny babies.
Blueberry Cotton Pre-folds – these were an early buy, the idea being that we fastened them around the tiny Eva ‘nappy-style’ underneath the Milovia Wraps, but they turned out to be waaaay too faffy for my liking, even with the nappy nippas. DP had more success, but I just couldn’t master the level of ‘tautness’ needed, at least at 3am on a newborn with my boobs leaking milk everywhere. Trying desperately to hold everything in place for the nappy nippa only to realise it was still saggy and leak-prone after the fifth attempt was a form of torture.
They did, however, see a second life: firstly as handy floor covers/mopper-uppers for Eva’s nappy free time, but – more recently, as straightforward inserts for her Milovia wraps at night, and this is where they are at their best. Eva is now pretty big and generates a lot of wee overnight, so we put two in plus a Charlie Banana insert. She looks like she is Packing Wood, but it soaks up copious amounts of wetness, and leaves her thighs free of red marks.
So, although not an initial success, definitely handy in the longer term!
Wonderoos Little Easy – still slightly baffled as to what is ‘easy’ about design of this newborn nappy two years on. Most of the inside lining near the legs seems to turn out as it has a kind of ‘frilly’ edge, so immediately you have a wet area in contact with baby’s clothes. And its a weird, awkward shape. Plus the insert is a strange fold-over thing with poppers that is nearly as fiddly as changing a duvet. No doubt this is to speed up drying but… overall this nappy was not for us. However you may find differently, and let me know if you do. They certainly look cute.
Bamboo Terries: Bah! Expensive, hard to dry, distorted badly after after regular use, despite our efforts to keep them clear of the tumble drier. Harder to get the Nappy Nippas to stick in these, too. (Some charity shop worker in the locality is probably still wondering why they received a pile of oddly-shaped towels recently. I really should have put then on Gumtree..)
THE END OF THE POOP ROAD:
Well, that outlines our reusable Nappy journey.
It’s strange looking back at all that experimentation now Eva is almost out of nappies completely. It seems like we spent a lot of time and energy trying different stuff, although we didn’t think anything of it at the time (and – warning, shopaholics – its quite easy to develop a compulsion for buying all the cute and colourful nappies you can get your mitts on, as much as it is for kids clothes!). If you can find an all-in-one that suits your child, that will probably make life less complicated but, in general, I’d recommended trialling a good selection if possible, especially if you can do it for free via friends or a nappy library. For us, the terries worked so well because Eva generates plenty of wee and, together with the adjustable wraps, they adapted so well to her ever-changing shape. I find it inconceivable that some children can routinely wear an all-in-one for three hours with neither leak nor nappy rash, yet I know most toddlers regularly do so. So (…another announcement from the Ministry Of The Bleedin’ Obvious..) its all about trial and error, and what works for your child.
I’m glad we made the clothbum choice. It feels good to look at all those nappies and know they could be used again and again by Eva and others after her. And I always enjoyed seeing a peek of colour and pattern from the top of her trousers, rather than a white plasticky disposable peeping out.
There was one other unforeseen benefit too.. because nappy-free time has always been doubly important in our household due to Eva having quite sensitive skin, she was introduced to a potty a little earlier than usual. This is because quite early on, I figured I may as well be holding her over a potty at the crucial moment as holding her over a prefold on the floor. And I am quite sure this put us in good stead for a relatively quick and easy journey into ‘big girl pants’.
As mentioned, it might be good to write a sequel outlining our adventures with Big Girl Pants soon but, in the meantime, I hope this Nappy-Tale helps someone. And would love to hear your own experience too. Every baby is different and what didn’t work for us may have been your saviour! And the more nappy info out there for new Mums, the better.