I am relatively new to cloth, but it’s fair to say that I’m hooked already. There’s so
much choice available nowadays, and Squish and I are thoroughly enjoying exploring
However, cloth isn’t for everybody. And however much I adore our soft fluffy
nappies, there are some drawbacks. For us, those drawbacks are 100% worth it and
definitely don’t outweigh all of the great things about cloth, but this series
wouldn’t be balanced without a nod to the downsides.
Drawback #1 – Laundry
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that cloth nappies (as we call them here
in the UK) take a little more upkeep than ‘sposies. Depending on how many you
have, you’ll probably have to do some extra loads of laundry. Right now, Squish
is still exclusively breastfed so we don’t have to deal with toxic poops. Therefore,
his nappies just get thrown into a normal 40° wash with the rest of our laundry.
Sometimes, if one gets stained, I’ll have to do a separate 60° wash to get the stain out.
Occasionally I will soak a stained nappy, but most stains come right out after a few
hours in the sun (if we ever get any… good old British weather…)
In all honesty, if you own enough nappies (and we’re certainly getting there) you will
easily be able to get away with just one or two extra loads each week.
Of course, when your baby starts chowing down on more than just the boob, those
poops won’t be quite so easy to shift. This is when it can come in very handy to use
some kind of liner in your nappy. Disposable biodegradable liners are ideal, as you
can just shake them straight into a toilet without any kind of sluicing involved.
Drawback #2 – Maintenance & Storage
Now, this is dependant very much on what kind of nappies you use. All cloth nappies
require more attention than just bringing the packet home and putting it somewhere
near your nappy changing station.
I use pocket nappies mostly. I find them to be slim fitting, versatile and available in a
vast range of colours, designs and styles. However, they do take a little preparation.
When all of my nappies are dry, I have to take the time to stuff them with the inserts
and boosters. It doesn’t take long, but nevertheless it’s a job that needs to be done.
Cloth nappies also take up quite a bit more space than disposables, so I have a
dedicated cupboard for them next to our changing area.
Drawback #3 – Leakage
Leakage doesn’t have to be an issue with cloth nappies, but unfortunately it
sometimes is – especially if, like me, you are new to cloth and are figuring out what
fits your baby best. And, because babies change shape as they grow, you will have to
re-evaluate your options on a regular basis.
The thing with cloth nappies is that they are not a one-size-fits-all option. You will
even find the same thing with disposables – some brands will fit your baby a lot better
than others. Many parents rush out and buy an expensive kit of cloth nappies when
they are pregnant, and end up selling them all on a few weeks after their babies are
born, because that specific shape of nappy isn’t right for their baby. The best thing
you can do is buy different types of nappy second-hand to find one that suits.
One thing to bear in mind also is that however nice those soft, fluffy all-in-ones
and pocket nappies are, nothing can beat a good two-part nappy to contain those
frighteningly huge breastfed baby poop explosions. They certainly hold up much
more reliably than a ‘sposie!
Drawback #4 – Transportation
As we previously found in Drawback #2, cloth nappies take up more space
than ‘sposies. So, when you are out and about with your baby, they are naturally
going to fill your changing bag that bit more. This is part of the reason why many
parents who use cloth only do so when they are at home (and I have to admit,
sometimes for quick outings I just sling a ‘sposie and some packeted wet wipes into
my handbag rather than take the time to pack my cloth kit – when you have more than
one child, time is of the essence!).
However, some nappies take up less space than others. Going for a two-part nappy
option (a fitted or prefold nappy with a separate waterproof wrap) is ideal for when
you and your baby are on the move, as there is generally no need to change a wrap
unless it is soiled.
Drawback #5 – Expense
To be honest, I was debating writing this point at all. Yes, cloth nappies are more
expensive per piece than disposables. You will usually spend between £5 - £20 on one
new nappy, depending on what kind you go for. But this is a no-brainer, obviously,
because you won’t be throwing that nappy in the bin! And the great thing about a
good cloth nappy is that it will hold its value, meaning you can sell it on at a later date
and reclaim some of your initial outlay. By using disposables, you will spend around
£300 (around $500, I think) in the first year of your baby’s life. You can easily spend
half of that on cloth to last for the entire time your baby is wearing nappies, and you’ll
be able to sell them on or use them for future children.
(…Unless of course, like me, you develop a full blown addiction and end up spending
extortionate amounts of money on cloth. Well, a girl’s gotta have some kind of vice!)
Unfortunately, most children’s clothes are designed to fit over ‘sposies. Some brands
are roomier than others, as are certain styles. European children’s clothes tend to be
designed with room for a cloth nappy (and the styles are funky, too).
It also very much depends on what kind of nappy your baby is wearing. If, for
example, they are wearing a heavily-boosted night nappy, they will probably just be
wearing a comfy sleepsuit anyway so will have plenty of room to encase the extra
Like everything else when it comes to cloth, it’s all about experimenting and finding
what works for you. Some of Squish’s nappies won’t fit under his jeans, but leave
room to spare in a romper. He has some AIO’s (all-in-ones) that are almost as slim as
a ‘sposie. Modern cloth nappies come in such a vast array of styles, you’re bound to
find something that suits.
When it comes down to it, nothing is perfect. There’s no denying that disposable
nappies are more convenient than cloth, but clothie mamas will always tell you that
the extra work is worth it. To be honest, I can’t really remember what it was like
before. Our nappy maintenance routine of laundry, drying and stuffing is second
nature now. Even if you find that for you it’s too much work to use cloth full-time,
partial use will still make a positive difference to the environment and (hopefully)
your bank balance.
Imogen O’Reilly is a semi-crunchy mama of two boys, Monkey and Squish, and
resides in Devon, UK. She is fiercely passionate about breastfeeding, natural
birth and the importance of respectful and gentle child-rearing, and spends
inordinate amounts of time writing about those things at her blog, Alternative Mama.
What drawbacks to cloth irritate you the most?