We all know that using cloth nappies is best for the environment and for our baby's health (not to mention our pockets) but just how easy are they to use?
Here are answers to some common questions to help get you started.
Are cloth nappies easy to use?
The short answer, is YES. The more useful response is to answer some common questions about real nappies.
What do I do at change time?
If the nappy is simply wet, all you need to do is take it off, throw the liner away (if disposable) and put the nappy and reusable liner in your nappy bucket instead of the bin.
If the nappy is dirty, the poo can be flushed away down the loo (far more hygienic than putting it in the bin) and the nappy put in the bucket.
Liquid poo can be washed off by holding the nappy under the flush of the loo before being dealt with in your normal way.
Are they difficult to put on?
Not at all. Shaped nappies or all-in-ones are the easiest to use and require no folding - simply put them on just as you would a disposable. Flat or terry nappies do need to be folded but the fantastic invention of the Nappi Nippa means that you don't have to use a pin.
Will I have to do lots of washing?
All families have lots of washing, so to add in a few nappies isn't really that much extra work. When you are ready to do a normal wash, simply take the nappies out of the bucket and put them in the washing machine, it is as simple as that.
Putting nappies into a modern machine with its fast spin is a far cry from having to put them through the twin tub and mangle that your mother may have used.
Nappies can be washed at 60c and some people even use 40c with the odd hotter wash to keep the stains at bay.
The best way to dry nappies is on the line with the rest of your washing (or on a radiator during the winter) but I like to fluff them by putting them in the dryer for 10 mins with the bath towels after taking them off the line.
Will I get dirty putting them in the washing machine?
No. The poo will have been disposed of, so you are only dealing with a little wee. If you wet pail (see below) you can use a mesh bag to store the nappies in, so you just need to pick that up and put it in the machine. Dry pailing is even easier to do.
What is "pailing"?
Basically, storing used nappies in a bucket. Wet pailing involves putting the nappies into a solution of water and nappy soak or similar or just plain water.
Dry pailing is very easy - simply drop the used nappy into the bucket and replace the lid.
Will my house smell?
Only if you leave lots of dirty nappies hanging around for days. Just think of how your bin smells with a couple day's worth of dirty disposables in it. With real nappies, the poo is flushed down the loo straight away, so you won't suffer from this problem. If you like, you can put a few drops of essential oil on a cloth that you keep on the top of the bucket to help with any smells.
Won't all the washing powders harm the environment?
Yes and no. Yes to the extent that all detergents cause some damage (this can be limited by using non-bio or eco-friendly products) but no to the extent that this is still much better than using disposable nappies.
Will I have to change more nappies?
Not really. Guidelines state that you should change your baby's nappy every 4 hours during the day (more often for new borns), so this remains the same.
Won't my baby get nappy rash?
Nappy rash is caused by bacteria in the poo reacting to the ammonia in wee. The best way to stop nappy rash is to change frequently (every 4 hours or so) and allow fresh air to get to the nappy area.
The lock away core in disposable nappies encourages parents to change less often and their very design prevents air from circulating. Most designs of real nappy are breathable, allowing air to circulate, resulting in a healthier bottom.
Will they leak?
Not if they fit properly. A well fitting cloth nappy with wrap if appropriate is no more likely to leak than a disposable. It is a good idea to try a few sample kits to make sure you buy the right nappy for your baby.
What about overnight?
It is perfectly possible to use cloth nappies overnight, maybe with the addition of a cloth booster pad. Other parents opt for an eco-disposable overnight.
What if I go out for the day?
Many parents use real nappies even when they go out and just take a slightly bigger bag with them. Others have a stock of eco-disposables to use for day trips or when they go away.
What is a nappy laundry services?
A nappy laundry service will provide you with a set of nappies and collect and wash the dirty nappies. A real boon if you are pushed for time but can be a little more expensive than washing your own.
Will I really save money?
Yes. Figures vary, but you should expect to save over ?500 for the first child in cloth nappies, plus you get to use them again for subsequent children. Also, there is a thriving market in second hand nappies, so you could even recoup some of the initial set up costs.
Are they really better?
Certainly! Cloth nappies help prevent nappy rash, aid walking and early potty training and are much better for the environment. What are you waiting for?
Arabella Greatorex is the owner of http://www.naturalnursery.co.uk, an online store selling organic and fairly traded products for families including organic clothing and nappies, fairly traded toys and natural toiletries.