Baby in a traditional terry cloth nappy
Living with cloth

#30: Success the second time around

Melissa’s story is proof you don’t need to get it right immediately with cloth nappies. She started using cloth from birth with her son, gave up, then started again when he was 15 months old. Just over a year later, her daughter was born and, this time, her cloth journey has been a continuous one. She credits the cloth community for its help and support in her stronger trouble-shooting ability the second time around. Her advice is to take it one nappy at a time and to try not to become overwhelmed – “at the end of the day they are just nappies”.

Welcome, Melissa @mel_and_one_of_each

Why I use cloth nappies

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you live, and what you love about where you live.

Hi, and thanks for having me! I’m Melissa. I live in the Cotwolds with my husband, Jake, our little ones, Zack and Amelia, and our two dogs. I love living here as I’ve grown up in the countryside and there are just so many lovely places to get out and explore. We live in a small town with lots of little independent shops. I can easily kill a few hours wandering around them at the weekends.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

I worked with and owned horses right up until I had my first baby. I had a bad accident in 2011 which ended my main career of backing and schooling young horses and, when I had my son, I decided I couldn’t risk something like that happening again.

What’s your secret super power?

Finding things my husband swears aren’t there!

Can you describe what brings you the most happiness in life and why?

Aside from the obvious answer of my family, I love brightly coloured things. A burst of colour here and there just immediately makes me feel happy!

If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?

So hard to choose. I feel if people had a bit more compassion and empathy then a lot of problems would be solved!

How do you ensure you look after yourself? What kinds of activities help you feel like you?

I love a nice bath with a jazzy bath bomb, and putting on some normal clothes instead of just my work uniform or PJs. I used to be a Zumba instructor which I absolutely loved but it’s been hard finding time to fit it in around work recently.

Can you tell us about your motherhood journey? What has been the most challenging, the most rewarding, the most surprising?

So the beginning of my journey into motherhood wasn’t exactly smooth. I had no experience of babies at all when my son was born so I was literally like a rabbit in headlights! I was induced as he was two weeks late and found hospital extremely stressful, which I’m sure contributed to my PND and giving up breastfeeding, which was something I’d really wanted to do. I was diagnosed with PND when he turned 1, and also anaemia, which made a lot of sense. I had a course of CBT and life definitely improved after that.

In contrast, when my daughter was born everything was so much calmer and went much more smoothly. I felt amazing after the birth which definitely helped with adjusting to being a mum of two and my son was amazing with his new little sister. The most challenging thing was learning to split myself in two to deal with both of their needs at the same time. Still don’t think I’ve quite nailed it, but we manage.

The most rewarding thing is seeing them play together. I worried for a while that the 2.5 year age gap was a horrible idea but now they are both a bit older they interact amazingly with each other (when they aren’t squabbling of course).

To be honest, the most surprising thing for me is how much I enjoy being a mum of two. Being a mum of one seemed much more difficult in comparison which makes no sense, but I suspect it’s because I put much less pressure on myself these days and having two of them has forced me to find a good routine.

What new skills have you learnt since becoming a mum? How have they changed who you are?

I’ve learned how to manage my time better than I ever would have been able to without kids. I’ve also got better at cooking and have become a bit more adventurous with recipes (only a bit, nothing fancy). Most importantly, I’ve learned not to take things too seriously. Sometimes you just have to let it go and not dwell. We all have bad days and make bad decisions occasionally; it’s how you learn from them and move forward that matters.

What is your parenting motto and how do you try to live by it or incorporate it into your life?

I don’t have a motto as such, but I find it comes quite naturally to be always saying ‘No’ to things – be it the kids asking for something or a friend asking to meet up. I try to always ask myself if there is a good reason to say no before actually saying it, that way I’m much more open to things and my kids know that if I say no then it really is a no!

How do you handle the more stressful parts of motherhood?

When I can, I take a little bit of time for myself to just chill out for a bit, even if it’s just a quick bath, nap or even sitting in my room playing on my phone for half an hour. In the moment, I just try to remind myself that a lot of the time they can’t help the way they are behaving, it’s age appropriate and it’s a phase. It’s always a phase!

What clichés of motherhood do you think are unfair?

That mothers are always responsible for the children. Dads are parents too and have just as much right to be there for their kids as mums do!

Do you have any tips for managing it all?

Do any of us really manage “it all”? I wing it, every single day. Prioritise the things you really need to do, everything else can wait. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Can you describe your village and how it has impacted on your motherhood journey to date?

When I had my son, Jake and I lived 200 miles away from all our family and friends. We’d moved away for work and because we felt like trying something new. When my son was born, we had no support, which I found really hard. We now live back near our families and it makes so much difference. We don’t have large families but its lovely to know that you have someone nearby that can help out if we need it. It’s also lovely to see the kids forming relationships with other family members and they love being spoilt by their grandparents.

Can you tell us a little about your love for wooden toys?

I’ve always been more drawn to wooden toys. I don’t really know why. A lot of the toys we have are second hand as not buying new is the best thing you can do for the environment when it comes to buying toys, but new wooden toys are a close second. I also love the way they look. I much prefer having a living room full of wooden toys than having to look at plastic ones all the time. Our favourite wooden toys have got to be Grapat, Grimms and Lanka Kade. We love open-ended toys as they encourage children to use their imaginations; the toys can be whatever they want them to be.

What is the most important lesson you want your children to learn?

To be helpful and kind.

Why should I use cloth nappies?

Can you explain what made you want to start using cloth with your children?

I came across an advert on Facebook for Little Lamb nappies when I was pregnant and decided then that I’d like to use cloth. I bought a few bundles preloved and had a whole stash ready when my son was born, and gave it a try a few months in. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much knowledge and didn’t know where to look for support and a few of the nappies weren’t in the best condition and leaked, so with everything else going on with my PND, I gave up and sold my stash. When he was around 15 months, I bought some new and tried again, and never looked back. My little girl has been in cloth from birth and I had both of them in cloth for a little while before my son started potty training.

My main reason for wanting to use cloth was the thought of all those nappies mounting up in landfill, but since I’ve started I’ve discovered many more advantages of using cloth over disposables – like the fact it takes less water and energy to create a cloth nappy than a disposable one, which I think is just amazing. My son also gets eczema on his lower half and it was amazing how much it improved once we switched to cloth.

Can you tell us about your early days in cloth?

I started part time – my son wore cloth at home and disposables at nursery as they weren’t exactly open to cloth. We’ve used cloth at night since we started but needed to upgrade from pocket nappies to two parters (fitted nappy and wrap) as we found the pockets weren’t quite absorbent enough. My daughter has been in cloth full time since birth – we started with two parters all the time when she was newborn and then moved on to other types when she was a bit less wet.

I was surprised by how easy it was to make the switch and fit the extra couple of loads of washing in – after a few weeks it became part of our routine and we’ve never really considered it to be any extra work.

A couple of challenges we faced were getting things dry in the winter with no dryer, four people worth of laundry to do and childcare. The nursery we used to use weren’t exactly keen, but the childminder my kids go to now has no problem with cloth at all and is more than happy to use them.

Looking back at your cloth journey so far, of what are you most proud?

Probably that we’ve managed to cloth continually without going back to disposables, even with a newborn and two in cloth. Not that there is anything at all wrong with using a mixture of both; after all, every cloth nappy used is one less in landfill!

Can you explain what you believe to be the greatest benefit of using cloth nappies?

There are so many benefits that its tricky to choose just one! Originally I switched because of the nappies sitting in landfill, but I found out that in our area our general waste gets incinerated so that wasn’t a problem anymore. However, there are loads more benefits than just the lack of waste, such as being able to use natural materials against baby’s skin, the lack of chemicals, the cost saving (as long as you don’t get addicted to the pretty patterns!), the fact that less resources are used in producing cloth nappies compared to disposables, and also that you can reuse the nappies on more than one child.

Can you share what brings you the greatest joy with using cloth?

The number of nappies we’ve saved from landfill (and the pretty prints always brighten up my day).

Do you have any great nappy fails, or a funny story to share?

Once my husband managed to put my daughter’s night nappy on without a wrap over the top. Luckily she isn’t a heavy wetter and I didn’t even notice until the morning when I picked her up and her babygrow felt damp. I’ve also managed to leave bits hanging out of wraps here and there. Luckily we’ve never had any major disasters from it.

How have you overcome any negativity toward choosing reusable nappies? What is the best thing others can do to support your cloth efforts?

I haven’t really faced too much negativity luckily, but I’d say the most important thing is that you are confident in your decision. Often people are just scared of the unknown or may have negative preconceptions about cloth, so when they see that cloth is much easier than they thought then it’s easier for them to be supportive. Some people are going to hate cloth for their own reasons, and that’s okay, they don’t have to use them.

Have you found a new community since starting cloth?

The cloth community as a whole is so helpful and supportive, I can’t help but feel that if I’d known about it the first time I tried cloth it might have gone slightly better! Last year I was asked to join The Nappy Gurus and I’ve loved being part of the team and having other like-minded mums to chat to and also learn from, and it’s also given me the chance to help other people on their cloth journeys, which I find really rewarding. I’ve met loads of wonderful ladies through Instagram and it just makes life as a mum feel a bit less lonely.

The benefits of modern cloth nappies

What style of nappy do you use and why?

I have lots of different types in my stash but we mostly use pocket nappies. I love how easy it is to adjust the absorbency to suit your baby’s needs, and also the fact that all the inserts can be removed which decreases drying time. They are very simple to use and, once stuffed, they go on just like a disposable so are less daunting for those less confident with cloth. 

I know you have prefolds in your stash. Can you share what you love about prefolds for any readers who don’t include them in their stash?

They are just so versatile. You can use them from birth right up to potty training and beyond. They make amazing newborn nappies, either folded and secured with a Nappy Nippa or pad folded and placed into a wrap. They can be used as inserts for pocket nappies, as an all-in-two system placed inside a wrap or as a booster inside other nappies. They are also handy as burp cloths or an impromptu changing mat.

Can you explain boosters for those who are unaware, and how you use them in your stash?

Boosters are basically extra material you can add to nappies to make them more absorbent. Some are also good to use as inserts, like Little Lamb triple thickness boosters, but mostly they are just for adding absorbency. They are made from a variety of materials, but bamboo and hemp are usually a good option to go for.

How do you deal with nappy storage? Is it something that has evolved over time for you?

My nappies started off in the top drawer of the changing unit, then they moved into the front room on a DVD rack and now they take up an entire bookshelf. I quite like having my nappies “on show” so it doesn’t bother me that they are so visable. I keep all my boosters, wipes and liners in a nappy caddy and have a couple of baskets for things like training pants, wraps and creams.

What’s your favourite use for wetbags?

We mostly use them for dry pailing the used nappies and for storing nappies when we are out. We also use them for swimming costumes, cutlery and a plate for my daughter when we eat out and various other things, and I have my own stash of smaller ones for my CSP. They are so handy to have.

What do you consider to be your quirkiest nappy habit?

My drying system. I like to have inserts on the outer parts of the airer, then pockets on the inside at the top, and wipes on the inside at the bottom. I have been known to re-do it if someone else has hung them out wrong.

What are your greatest cloth hacks?

The twist and stick for velcro nappies to stop them coming undone in the wash. Basically you turn one of the tabs over and then stick it to the other side. I know this probably doesn’t make sense but have a look on Instagram – there are lots of brilliant posts and photos which explain it clearly. I also saw one recently that said to have the labels of your inserts to the back of the pocket when you stuff them, so that when you pull them out you don’t have to touch the wee soaked insert. I would have never thought of that.

You’ve got one minute to convince a pregnant mother to use cloth – go.

It’s honestly not as scary as it sounds. They are better for the environment in terms of production and waste, and they are also better for baby’s skin as they don’t contain any of the chemicals that disposable do. You will likely have a local nappy library – if you do, go and visit them and see the nappies first hand, looking at them online can be a minefield but, when you can actually get your hands on some and see how they work for yourself, it looks much less daunting. The worst that can happen is that you’ll get a leak, definitely not the end of the world! And, of course, cloth nappies are so much cuter than disposables!

What do you consider to be the top 3-5 things all parents new to cloth should know?

  • Poo goes down the toilet, not in your washing machine. What do you do with poo is always one of the first questions people have when they are looking at switching to cloth.
  • It’s not all or nothing, you can use a combination of cloth and disposables.
  • It’s always worth having a pack of boosters in your stash in case you find your nappies aren’t quite absorbent enough.
  • There are people that can help if things aren’t going quite right. There are nappy libraries all across the country that would be happy to help, and Facebook groups such as The Nappy Guru Place where you can ask questions and get advice.

Many parents new to cloth are often worried about the bulk of cloth nappies, including that they might stop their babies from learning to move. Can you please respond to this concern?

This is a totally understandable concern, especially as a lot of parents are only used to seeing disposables on babies. It’s good to remember that it really wasn’t long ago that all babies wore terry squares and no one has mobility issues from this. The extra bulk can actually be beneficial to baby’s hip development as it holds their legs in the best position for the joint to develop properly. Cloth nappies may make it a bit trickier for young babies to roll, but once they have figured it out there will be no stopping them, nappy or not.

Another of the reservations that people have about cloth is that it’s time consuming. How would you respond to this statement?

I can honestly say I don’t find it time consuming at all. The only real extra work is prepping nappies after they’ve been washed, which takes around 15 minutes two or three times a week. You just get used to fitting it in to your normal routine and don’t even think about it after a while. To be honest, I actually find spending 15 minutes or so stuffing nappies quite therapeutic, much more so than the rest of the housework.

Are cloth nappies time consuming?

How do you approach dressing with cloth?

I don’t actually find it too difficult, but I tend to opt for loose, stretchy clothes rather than restrictive ones as they are better for running around, climbing and generally being active. There are brands that are specifically cut for cloth such as Frugi, Maxomorra, Toby Tiger and Duns (which all also have the added benefit of being ethically made and organic), but if you avoid things like chinos and jeans and opt for harem style trousers, stretchy dungarees, leggings and jogging bottoms then most brands are fine to use with cloth.

What are your experiences with nappy rash?

We have had much less nappy rash with cloth than disposable. My son had toddler diarrhoea and the worst of his eczema was always on his bum, but switching to cloth made a huge difference.  Some nappy creams are branded “cloth safe” but, honestly, we’ve never had an issue with washing them out, and you can always use a liner if you’re worried.

What is your experience with cloth and daycare?

The nursery my son used to go to wasn’t open to cloth, but luckily he also went to an amazing childminder who was more than happy with cloth. Although we didn’t ask her to use them on him, she has used them on my little girl since the start and was open to learning new types that she wasn’t familiar with. From what I’ve read, childcare providers are becoming much more open to cloth which is great.

What are your tips for dealing with a wriggly baby?

A wriggly baby is definitely something that we’ve been through! For a while I started doing my pocket nappies up slightly looser and using them as pullups when my daughter was being particularly difficult. We also introduced the potty at an early age as my daughter would hold her wee all night and then wee everywhere when I opened her nappy in the morning, so we figured it made sense that if she was going to do it she may as well do it on the potty. This became very helpful later on when she was refusing nappy changes as we just left her to it and put her on the potty every now and again. She’s now 18 months and has a lot of nappy free time at home and regularly takes herself off to the potty.

What tips do you have for managing cloth nappies in winter?

Winter can be hard going if you don’t have a tumble dryer. Try to put your nappies somewhere with a bit of air flow. Pointing a fan at them can help them dry quicker too. Dehumidifiers can be useful and will also help stop damp and mould forming in your house. Heated airers and radiators are okay to use but just be careful not to put PUL or bamboo on direct heat; they don’t like it.

Can you share your best tips and advice for getting started with cloth wipes?

Wipes are such an easy switch to make, and possibly one of the best. You can buy purpose-made wipes but also any old material can be used as wipes too. Simply wet them and off you go. I like to add a tiny squirt of baby soap to mine, so I soak them in water and soap and keep them in an old ice cream tub so they are ready to use when I need them. When we go out, I take a few in a plastic takeaway tub. I definitely do not miss having to use half a pack to clean up a poo, one or two wipes is plenty with cloth.

Can you share your experiences with using family cloth?

Myself and the kids use it, my husband point blank refuses, but that’s fine – some people won’t be comfortable using cloth wipes on themselves. We have a set of dry wipes in each toilet (1 upstairs, 1 downstairs) and just wet them as we go as we obviously have the sink nearby. Then put them in a wet bag and wash with the nappies.

For parents hesitant to begin cloth, what other eco changes would you suggest instead?

Try cloth wipes! Honestly, you won’t go back. There are also less scary changes like switching to solid soaps and shampoos, bamboo toothbrushes, eco-friendly deodorants, shopping in charity shops and buying second hand rather than buying new, plastic-free groceries, reusable produce bags etc. There are so many easy swaps that can be made that make very little difference to your everyday life.

What are your thoughts on sustainability and how parents as a whole can make a difference?

We try to be as sustainable as we can. We are obviously not perfect but we are always looking for ways to make our life more sustainable. I think the most important thing is to just buy less, and if you really do need to buy something, especially plastic items which don’t biodegrade, try to buy it second hand. Kids clothes are a good place to start when it comes to becoming more sustainable, there’s a great second-hand market for them as they are often only lightly worn before they are outgrown so you can save some money and also help save the planet.

Do you have any other tips to share?

  • Take it one step at a time and don’t get overwhelmed, at the end of the day they are just nappies.
  • Try and find your local nappy library or Nappy Guru, they can help you get started and find which nappy system might work best for your circumstances.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you get leaks, often there is a simple fix.
  • Keep your wash routine simple. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful routines out there but simple is always best. Ours is a 50-minute rinse followed by a long 40 or 60-degree wash with bio powder. If what you’re doing is working, your nappies don’t smell and are clean, then don’t change a thing.

In brief

Number of bums in cloth. 2.

Time in cloth. Nearly 3 years.

Number of nappies. Around 50.

Full or part time. Full time.

Nappy style. Pockets.

Stuff or snap. Stuff.

Pre-stuff or lay as you go. Pre-stuff.

Line or tumble dry. Got to be line! Nothing better than a line full of nappies!

Favourite cloth related product. Ooh, tough one. Probably cloth wipes.

Describe your journey with cloth in one word. Enjoyable.

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