Flat cloth nappies


The pros and cons of traditional square flat cloth nappies are reviewed in this article. Flat cloth nappies have been used successfully for centuries…they are cheap, gentle on the environment, and with a little practice, easy to fold!

Traditional cloth nappies have been used by parents for centuries, and have only recently been exposed to any competing products.  Cloth nappies consist of a large square of cotton material that is folded into shape to fit the baby. Nowadays, they are often called flat nappies or square nappies in order to distinguish them from the modern cloth re-usable ones which are pre-shaped.

Cloth nappies have always had the obvious benefits of being cheaper and better for the environment, but in the last decade they have become less popular as parents have searched for quicker, cleaner and more convenient options. This article outlines the pros and cons of cloth nappies and gives excellent advice on how to use them successfully.

Convenience of flat cloth nappies

Traditional cloth nappies are folded and pinned to hold them in place, so a little preparation is required.  Folding a cloth nappy is a bit like learning origami; you usually require lessons from an expert mum or midwife as well as lots of practice! If you get really proficient, you can even do away with the nappy pins, as your folding technique will hold the nappy firmly in place.

For some brilliant illustrations on how to fold a nappy (in 15 different ways!) take a look at the Nappy Lady’s site in England www.thenappylady.co.uk  If you can’t fold a nappy after reading this, you’d better give up on flats now!!

To speed up the process some parents choose to pre-fold all their nappies after washing, while others just grab one from the washing pile and fold it as they go. If you are taking baby out, you will want to have a few pre-folded ones in your nappy bag.

Cloth nappies are worn with over-naps over the top, to stop any wetness soaking through to baby’s clothes. These do not need to be changed every time you change a nappy, but certainly if they are damp they will need changing. You are likely to use 2-3 pairs of over-naps each day.

Traditional cloth nappies need soaking before washing, and you will need two buckets – one for wet nappies and one for those that are a little messier. If soaking and washing seems like too much hard work, you can still get traditional cloth nappies through a nappy service (although with the popularity of disposables they are getting harder to find). Nappy services pick up your soiled nappies and replace them with a clean set. They work with hospital-grade hygiene levels, so you can be assured that the nappies really are clean.

Stay dry quality of flat cloth nappies

Traditional cloth nappies are prone to becoming wet and soggy with a single wee or poo and consequently need changing straight away. A nappy liner will make a limited attempt to draw the moisture away from your baby’s skin, but they are not particularly effective. You can use disposable or washable nappy liners. An over-nap will help protect your baby’s clothes from the wet.

Nappy rash

Nappy rash is most directly related to keeping baby’s bottom dry, although other factors like diet, allergies and general health can also contribute. Unfortunately on this count, traditional cloth nappies have a poor performance rating. Of all 3 types of nappies, you will need to change these the most frequently; approximately every 2 – 3 hours during the day to avoid nappy rash.

Are flat cloth nappies leak proof?

Of the 3 main nappy options, traditional cloth nappies are the least effective at catching leaks, although you can improve your chances by changing the way you fold your nappy. There are several ways you can fold a nappy and different ways make them more absorbent in different areas. Your mum, midwife or your Plunket nurse will be able to show you different ways to fold and catch leaks. Alternatively, consult The Nappy Lady online www.thenappylady.co.uk

Style and comfort of flat cloth nappies

Some parents argue that big bulky cloth nappies must be uncomfortable; but if they are folded and pinned well, they should be just as comfortable as any other type of nappy. The drawback comes in their poor ability to draw moisture away from baby’s skin – a wet soggy bottom is not comfortable!

Some parents believe that cloth nappies (which can tend to be a bit soggy, bulky and uncomfortable when wet) will actually encourage children to toilet train earlier than those children who enjoy the relative comfort of disposables.

What do I really need?

When it comes to nappies, there is a big difference between what you really NEED and what would make life easier for you and your baby. Generations have survived with traditional cloth nappies and some parents still choose this option for all sorts of reasons.

While they often get a bad rap, traditional cloth nappies still do what they have always done! If you are choosing to use traditional cloth nappies, you need to develop a system and keep on top of the washing and folding. Other than that, it is nappy business as usual.

You will need:

  • 2 dozen cloth nappies
  • 8-10 washable nappy liners or you can use disposable liners
  • 6 nappy pins
  • 6-8 pairs of over-naps
  • 2 nappy buckets (and Napisan for sterilising)

Be aware that you can choose from Chinese cotton, Indian cotton and towelling nappies.  These all vary in price, absorbency and feel.

How much will flat cloth nappies cost?

As a guideline, the costs for cloth nappies will be as follows:

You will need 2 dozen cloth nappies, which cost approximately $40 per dozen, plus pins, liners, over-naps and nappy buckets. All up it will cost you approximately $120 to get set up with cloth nappies and then it is just the washing and drying costs you need to take into account.

How can I save money on flat cloth nappies?

The main way to save money with cloth nappies is to buy second hand.  Cloth nappies and nappy buckets last through many babies, so you will find these through second hand stores, online auctions like TradeMe, and through parenting or antenatal groups. Another cost advantage of cloth nappies is that you only need to buy them once, and then they will last you through multiple children.

Where can I buy cloth nappies?

It is actually getting more and more difficult to find traditional cloth nappies to buy.  You might like to try second hand stores, online with TradeMe, bigger stores such as Farmers or the Baby Factory, or some of the online nappy stores who sell modern cloth re-usables. In some areas it is possible to purchase cloth nappies through your antenatal classes or midwife.

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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