Baby steps (cloth nappies)

A smiling woman holding a cloth nappy.

Baby Steps: Meet Sarah who’s helping new parents get behind cloth nappies

When Bristol resident Sarah Smith’s husband was made redundant and the couple were faced one evening with the devastating choice of dinner or nappies, she decided to ditch the disposables…

Fourteen new-mums or new-to-be mums are sat in a circle in the backroom of the Milk Shed café in Bedminster ready to talk nappy absorbency!

Just another day at the Bristol Cloth Nappy Library session run by Sarah who arrives with a colourful shopping trolley in tow, jam-packed with nappies of all shapes and designs. Who knew there were so many different kinds!?

Sarah runs this kind of informal class in cafés and baby sessions all around the city, assisted by her nearly-two-year-old-daughter, Allanah. With three daughters all raised on cloth nappies, she’s got eight years of experience to draw upon.

So, what’s a Cloth Nappy Library?

For a small fee, you can hire a kit consisting of a variety of different types of nappies, made with various materials – from bamboo to microfiber, to cotton and even hemp.

The beauty of the cloth nappy system is that you can pick and mix materials for the liner, insert, boosters, and all the different parts to find out what works for your family. Different companies use different names though – so one person’s booster may be another’s soaker.

Sarah points out that without such an opportunity to hire nappies, people can spend hundreds of pounds trialling the different types, defeating the cost-savings that come with cutting back on the disposables.

One size doesn’t fit all
Sarah says, “Disposables can be tricky if your child is particularly big or small or particularly wet and they don’t fit the pre-set sizes.

“With cloth we don’t have that problem. We’ve got so many little things that we can tweak that often the aim is just to get you a kit of nappies that you like, that are washing and drying well for you, and that fit. You can tweak the system all the way through”.

Unexpectedly she says there’s less washing involved too.

“Most people are surprised to learn that certainly in the first three or four months, you actually have less washing with cloth than you do with disposables, because you’re not changing clothes so much”.

Mix and match
During the sessions, Sarah goes into much technical and engineering detail, showing how some of the different brands and style of nappy fit together and how to combine the elements to find something that will work for you.

From old-school terry squares with a proper pin to boot (though these days the pins are not quite sharp enough), right through to ‘nappy nipper’ fasteners, different size systems through to just-on-the-market hemp nappies, her daughter Allanah has tried them all.
Birth to potty?

For tiny and new-borns, there are super-small sizes available at the Cloth Nappy Library for a long-term loan, mainly pre-fold and wrapped designs. “So you don’t have to go shopping and waste money on tiny nappies that you won’t keep using”.

By about four to six months in, lots of babies can get to ‘one size fits most’, which is when it’s a good time to actually purchase a set of nappies that work for your family.

Sarah concedes that there’s nothing as effective as a disposable nappy for absorbency, but this is not always a good thing.

“Because disposables are just so darn good at what they do, many children find that the absorbing action is an irritant because they are hyper-drying and so they need to use a barrier cream all the time”.

Find out more

If you want to give cloth nappies a go, you can get free advice from the Bristol Cloth Nappy Library via Facebook, telephone or email. Kits are available for a fee.
Follow the Bristol Cloth Nappy Library on Facebook for updates about sessions.

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