I had fondly imagined that when Thrifty Baby came along, I would be making at least some of his nappies myself, from a “how to” post I’d read by an American blogger years ago. Ha! Nothing could be further from reality. In the heady weeks and months after he was born, I was barely able to find the time to match my socks, let alone to sit serenely at my sewing machine, stitching little nappies out of cutesy animal prints.
But there was another option: to invest in a set of readymade reusable nappies. As those of you who have dipped a toe in the waters of modern parenthood will know, we have come a long way from the old terry towel squares. Today there are myriad types and brands of reusable nappy. Shaped nappies, all-in-one nappies, pocket nappies, prefold nappies, nappies with disposable liners, sized nappies, birth-to-potty nappies. Bum Genius, Fuzzi Bunz, Tots Bots, Mothercare own brand, Charlie Banana, Bambinex, Itti Bitti, Bambino Mio… I could go on.
To be honest, I found it all very daunting. I looked at sites like The Nappy Lady, which sells many different brands of reusable and also (importantly) has honest reviews about the various pros and cons of each, but I still didn’t know where to begin. I also demurred the prices: even though reusables work out much, much cheaper than disposables in the long run, you are still looking at an initial outlay of around £150 for 10-15 nappies to get started with. I checked out the various packs of second-hand nappies on eBay, but was still spoilt for choice.
To complicate matters just that little bit more, it turns out that different babies “get on” with different makes of nappy. (“Getting on”, in this case, referring to the containment of bodily fluids.) Which is all very well, but it makes it more difficult to justify a £150 outlay before the baby is even born. So where to turn?
Help was at hand at a terrific second-hand baby goods sale in Harrogate, where the lovely Amanda from Baby Bum Boutique had a stall. Baby Bum Boutique is an online nappy store, with brands ranging from the budget to the luxury handmade.
You can probably guess which ones I decided to take home and try! I chose two nappies from the budget range, an Australian brand called Hippybottomus, for £5 each. I took them home, dutifully washed them, folded them and put them in the little baby cupboard in the nursery, all ready to go.
And then Thrifty Baby was born…
I was advised to use disposable nappies for the first three weeks. This was for two reasons. Firstly, the tar-like meconium that babies poop after they are born can be a right pain to clean off reusable nappies. Secondly, although reusable nappies fit newborns, apparently they can be on the bulky side.
While pregnant I had stockpiled vouchers for free packets of newborn Huggies from Tesco, so we had a stash to keep us going for the first couple of weeks at least. So far, so good.
What I hadn’t accounted for was that by the time Thrifty Baby was three weeks old, he was very poorly with reflux. When he was four weeks old the pair of us went back into hospital. After we came out, the days were still quite hard and to be honest, fussing around with cloth nappies was the last thing on my mind. The Huggies came and went but I wasn’t really getting out of the house, so after the vouchers ran out, my husband kept us topped up with fresh supplies of disposables.
Suddenly, Thrifty Baby was two months old – and I realised that with those two Hippybottomus nappies gathering dust at the back of the nursery cupboard, it was now or never. I also made it to the supermarket for the first time since he was born, and had a fit when I worked out how much those disposables were costing us.
Dang, those nappies are expensive! Even the little newborn nappies were working out at around £5.00 for a week’s supply. That’s the cost of one budget reusable nappy. And the bigger the baby gets, the more expensive the nappy gets. Apparently parents can spend the best part of £2,000 on disposable nappies before a baby is fully potty-trained. The investment required for a full set of reusable nappies is tiny in comparison.
The waste was getting to me, too. Generally, I don’t have much rubbish to put out for the binman – as little as one bin bag per month. And now, courtesy of the nappy bin, I had one, super-heavy bin bag filled with reeking landfill every week. Nice.
It was time to get with the programme.
Hippybottomus nappies from Baby Bum Boutique
The nappies I bought to try were birth-to-potty pocket nappies. They come in two pieces: a shell and a washable liner. The shell has two layers: waterproof fabric on the outside, and soft fleece on the inside. You insert the washable liner into the space between the two, and pull it out again come laundry time.
These nappies have lots of plastic poppers on the front, so that you can adjust the size of the nappy as the baby grows. These can be confusing to a reusable nappy novice. The first time I attempted to strap Thrifty Baby into one of the things, I wasn’t sure which popper went where. He fixed me with a pitying look as if to say, “You really don’t know what you’re doing, do you?”
Actually, it was easy-peasy once I twigged that there were only two sets of poppers: one to adjust the nappy width, and one to adjust the height.
In short, once Thrifty Baby’s road test was complete, I was impressed. He seemed to find them comfortable enough. They didn’t leak. In fact, the poop was contained far more effectively than in the disposables, perhaps because the resuables are less flimsy. The laundry part, which I had been dreading, was a breeze (more on that later). The nappies came out of the machine clean as a whistle, and dried fairly quickly too.
It is recommended that you invest in 10-15 nappies for a full-time set. The budget Hippybottomus nappies worked perfectly for us, so I went back to Baby Bum Boutique and bought a further 11 nappies, bringing the total to 13, plus two additional inserts.
They arrived in a big purple parcel:
I was able to take advantage of a free postage offer, and the total investment came to around £70. It hasn’t taken us long to make that money back in what we would have spent on disposable nappies. Now we are saving, saving, saving all the way.
What I have learned about reusable nappies:
1. You do need to change them regularly – more regularly than you might change a disposable – to prevent leakage. I change them every 2-3 hours. (Also, as pointed out to me by Amanda from BBB, don’t have any of the white inner poking out the top, as I unwittingly did in these photos, as it increases the chance of leakage. Naughty me!)
2. If you don’t have a tumble dryer, buy extra inserts. This only applies if you are using the pocket nappies, of course. Although the nappies do air-dry quickly, the thick inserts take longer to dry than the shells. If you hang them out the night before, the inserts will still be damp in the morning but the shells will be bone dry. So having the extra inserts comes in handy…
3. Laundry is a doddle! Seriously, it is. The laundry part seems to be the part that people worry about most, because of the potential yuk factor, but we have a fairly efficient and yuk-free system in place. The used nappies go into a knotted plastic bag and go into the washing machine every time Thrifty Baby, um, soils himself. This is every couple of days right now. A really poopy nappy gets rinsed off beforehand but this only takes a few seconds to do.
Admittedly, we can do this at the moment because Thrifty Baby is still on 100% milk. Once he is on solids, the level of poop ming is set to rise and the laundry will be stepping up a gear. I’m not fazed: a wonderful Miss Thrifty reader called Moira has sent me a tip-top laundry strategy, which I am hoping to share with you. (Thank you Moira!)
4. When you wash them, don’t use fabric conditioner. It reduces the absorbency. You don’t want to do that. Of course, this is another good reason to use cheap white vinegar as fabric conditioner: it makes the nappies super-soft, but doesn’t leave them water-resistant.
5. Despite being glorified poop rags, reusable nappies will bring out your inner demented housewife. Look how cute they are hanging out on the line!
Special Offer From Baby Bum Boutique
When I was writing this post, I checked the Baby Bum Boutique website and saw that the Hippybottomus nappies are not longer listed there. Or rather, they are still there but are now called Baby Bum Boutique Basics and are £7.50 each (which is still a thrifty price for a reusable nappy).
I asked Baby Bum Boutique for clarification and Amanda emailed back:
“We do have a few left in stock (just not quite on the new website yet). However yes, we are replacing them with the Baby Bum Boutique Basics. These are a slightly upgraded version of the Hippybottomus, as they are made to the same fit, but have bamboo charcoal inners and inserts, which are both more absorbent, antibacterial and odour fighting.”
She also passed on details of a special offer:
Expiry date: 7 July 2012
Website: Baby Bum Boutique