how to use reusable nappies

It’s funny when you become a parent, and suddenly you have so so much to say about poo!  Today’s post is about pee and poo, or rather, how to use reusable nappies.  If you’re not a parent or parent-to-be then you’ve got my permission to skip this post as long as you come back for the next post!  Deal?!

I first thought about washable/reusable nappies when I was about 4 months pregnant, after discussing them with another pregnant friend.  The idea of buying the nappies up front and then never having to spend anymore money on nappies was very very appealing, and would help with budgeting big time.

My first thoughts about washable/reusable nappies, however, were the terry towel nappies secured by large safety pins that my mother used on my sisters and I as babies.  I knew that I would never be able to get my head around the folds and the pins, and so I began to research cloth nappies and I was pleasantly surprised at how far cloth nappies have come in the past 30 years.  Most washable nappies look like nappies, and require no folding and definitely no pins, as they fasten with poppers or velcro.

My research also uncovered some rather disturbing facts about disposable nappies – did you know they can take 500 years (yes, a whole 500 years) to break down in landfill, and not only that, the materials they use to make the nappies absorbent are full of rather nasty chemicals that sit right next to your baby’s delicate skin.

So, a few days before my baby was born we invested in a set of washable nappies- a birth to potty set – meaning we needed no other nappies, and started using them when my daughter was about 6 weeks old.  You can start using them from birth, but we wanted to get past the meconium stage as once that stuff stains then it’s stained for good.  As first time parents, we also wanted some time to also get over the shock of becoming parents before adding something else to learn to the mix!

Despite watching YouTube videos, getting a demonstration from my friend and e-mails to the nappy company, these particular nappies just did not work for us at all – we had leaks a plenty.  I felt disheartened, and went to the shop and bought a pack of disposables, thinking we were resigned to using disposables.

A few weeks later I really wasn’t happy about using the disposables, so I bought two Bumgenius nappies online that I found going cheap, figuring if they didn’t work then I hadn’t lost out much.  They arrived and we tried them, and triumphantly they held in the pee and the poo, even overnight.    I sold my existing set of nappies on eBay (for about the same price as I paid for them – this is the beauty of washable nappies – they hold their price well, even if used) and bought 16 Bumgenius nappies which I found on a buy one get one half price offer at Babipur.

As I’ve been using the Bumgenius nappies for over a year now, I thought I’d share here just about everything you could ever need to know and more on how to use reusable nappies.

What You Need

First off, here is my reusable nappy arsenal.  It’s probably less than you’d imagine:

washable nappies equipment needed

Bucket / Detergent (switching to Bio D shortly as it’s palm oil free) / Nappies (I have 16 – I haven’t pictured them all – a mix of Bumgenius Freetime and Bumgenius V.4 – now updated to V.5) / Wet Bag / Liners / 3 Extra Inserts (for night time)

Buying Reusable Nappies

What I like about Bumgenius nappies is that they expand as your child grows via a system of poppers and folds.  So as your child grows you simply let them out a bit, meaning once you have made your initial purchase you don’t have to buy anything else.

I paid around £180 for the 16 nappies, but if you consider this is all we need until our daughter is potty trained then this is considerably less than if we were buying disposables every week for two years plus.  If we have another child then our savings would be considerably greater.  I also plan on selling our set once we are done with it, helping to offset the initial outlay.

Reusable nappies typically come with popper or velcro fasteners, and with Bumgenius you get a choice of which fastener you prefer.  I went for poppers as I thought they would be more durable than velcro.  As you are dealing with fasteners, and not safety pins, this makes Bumgenius really easy to use – so far we’ve not had a problem with them and the nursery that we use are happy to use them as well.

I have a combination of Bumgenius V.4’s and Freetime – 10 V.4’s and 6 Freetime.  I think V.4’s are best for nighttime as you can stuff them with an extra insert to increase absorbency; whereas Freetime are great for during the day as they don’t need stuffing so it’s less time consuming.

bumgenius reviews

Will Reusable Nappies Hold As Much Wee as a Disposable?

Yes!  We can go four to five hours between changes in the day.

Storing Reusable Nappies

Storing the dirty nappies isn’t that big a deal.  I have a nappy bucket that came with two net bags.  I line the bucket with the net bag and place the nappies in there.    When it’s time to wash all you have to do is lift out the net bag and put it straight into the machine – so you don’t even have to touch the nappies!  This method is called dry-pailing, however you can soak the nappies in water and sanitiser when they’re in the bucket (known as wet-pailing), depending on your preferences.  Wet-pailing sounded like too much of a faff for me.  Your bucket won’t smell if you use liners (covered later).

Washing Reusable Nappies

I was worried at the start that I’d constantly be washing poopy nappies, but the reality is that the washing isn’t too bad.  I wash my nappies every other day.  All I have to do is throw the bag in the machine, switch it on, leave it to do it’s thing, then spend 5 minutes hanging them up to dry and viola – that’s it!  It takes less time and hassle than if I had to go to the shop to buy a pack of disposables.

I wash at 60ºC (running the nappies through a pre-wash setting first as I don’t wet pail) – with a little bit of non-bio detergent (about a third of what you would normally use)  (too much can cause detergent build up on the nappies and reduce their effectiveness), and the nappies come out clean and fresh.

If you do get detergent build up then it’s not a big deal – you can strip then by washing the nappies in a 60ºC cycle without any detergent until you stop seeing detergent bubbles.

Even the drying of them is quick – the V.4 nappies separate into three parts for ease of drying – in winter the nappies dry within a couple of hours on a clothes horse/radiator, and last summer, as it was very wet, I  dried most of my stuff on a clothes horse without the heating on and they dried over night.  The Freetime nappies also fold out for ease of drying.

Do I Have to Touch Poo?

No!  I use flushable nappy liners as this makes it easy to flush poo down the toilet.  As a parent to a baby, I always think the more you can do to avoid handling poo the better!  I’ve found that Tots Bots nappy liners fit Bumgenius nappies perfectly.

The best thing about using liners is that as the poo goes down straight the toilet then there is no poo in your nappy bucket, so it doesn’t get stinky in between washes.  In fact, when I was using disposables the dirty nappies would sit in my outside bin for 2 weeks, making my bin stink something rotten.

Won’t the Reusable Nappies Get Covered in Poo Stains?

No.  If you use the liners you won’t.  If on the off-chance you do, hang your nappies outside on a sunny day – sunlight does wonders at bleaching them.  You could also add bleach to a wash of only the inserts of the V.4’s (not the outer covers), but I haven’t done this.

Will The Reusable Nappies Leak Overnight?

I was using the Bumgenius overnight, and up until about the 10 months stage I never had a problem with leakages.  My daughter can sleep up to 12 hours so I thought that was a pretty good test.  As she got bigger and started taking on more fluids in the day unfortunately we started to see leakages, so at this time we started using Naty by Nature Babycare disposables overnight.  Then I had a brainwave of adding an extra insert to the V.4 (so using two large and one small insert per nighttime nappy) and voila, nighttime dryness again!  You can buy additional inserts for this.

What About When We’re Out?

When we’re out and about we still use the washable nappies.  I bought a wet bag for my changing bag so I can put the dirty nappies in there without having to worry about leakages or smells.  I just dispose of the liners first so I’m not carrying any poo around with me!  And I always think that is someone were to steal my bag then they’d be in for a surprise when they opened it!  Just remember to pop them in your nappy bucket when you get home.

Will My Husband/Parents/Childminders/Nursery Use Reusable Nappies?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  My boyfriend, my parents and my daughter’s nursery have no problem in using the nappies as they’re so easy to use.  With the nursery, I first showed them how to use reusable nappies and then supplied some clean nappies in a wet bag every morning.  The nursery then put the used nappies into the wet bag, and then I take them home with me when I collect my daughter.  The nursery have no problem with using them.  And my mum, who was used to using the folding and pinning method on my sisters and I found them so easy to use – she wished they’d been around when we were babies!

So all in all, purse friendly (once you’ve made the initial purchase), easy to use, planet friendly, and baby friendly – I would say these nappies have been the best baby investment we have made.

Bumgenius is just one option – there is a whole world of reusable nappies out there and these are just our experiences.  Your local council might take part in a real nappy initiative and might be able to give you a chance to buy some tester nappies, or let you have a loan of some nappies.

I’d recommend this as not all nappies will suit your child.  As I mentioned, the first set of nappies we used didn’t suit my daughter, even though my friend is using that particular brand and has no problems with them.  Even if you pick up a few different secondhand nappies on eBay to try out before you make your investment, then this would be a good idea.

I hope you’ve found this guide on how to use reusable nappies useful, but if you’ve got any other questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

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