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How to achieve a good fit when using cloth diapers

Physiotherapist Ania and mum to gorgeous Willow talks about the importance of a well-fitted nappy for the baby's well-being and physical development as well as her experience of using second hand cloth diapers. Here's what she had to say :)

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A couple of years ago I saw a friend of mine using cloth nappies with her children. We talked about it briefly and I was intrigued by the idea. I decided to explore the topic properly when I got pregnant and I was sold.

So what are my reasons for choosing cloth?

Firstly, it is important for me to know that what my daughter is wearing is good for her health. When you think about it, babies spend most of their first years of life in nappies. Reusable nappies give me complete control over what is in contact with her skin for such a long time. It is also easier for me to know when a nappy change is due (my baby signals it much faster than in single use), thus shortening the time she spends in a soiled nappy. In turn, that reduces the chances of nappy rash caused by contact with pee and poo.

Apart from using cloth nappies, we are trying to switch to eco-friendly options at home, whenever possible. Our world is already drowning in garbage and I think we owe our children a better future. Creating a giant pile of single use nappies does not help. Reusable nappies are a greener choice.

And besides, cloth nappies are just very aesthetically pleasing – so many cute prints!  No more sad-looking plastic nappies sagging between baby’s legs. It’s nappies with style now! 😊

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Our cloth nappy journey so far

I ordered our first set online when I was pregnant – we went for an affordable brand suggested by a friend: 16 super cute pocket nappies with inserts. When they arrived, I realised that they were definitely not going to fit my baby from “birth to potty”. They were lovely, but they looked so big! So, I bought a small set of newborn wraps and inserts locally. I started from when Willow was one week old, but only part-time. We decided to take it easy and learn as we go. When Willow wasn't in cloth we opted for eco-friendly disposables.

When you have a newborn, you need a lot of nappies. I was getting more confident using cloth. I had established a good washing system and felt ready to switch to reusables full time. I searched online and found several second-hand newborn-sized locally. Babies grow fast, so they only fit newborn nappies for a few weeks, but they last for years. I thought, why spend a lot of money on a new set, when they were almost like new? I learned about different types and bought some All-In-One, Snap-In and Pocket Nappies to try different systems. My baby grew out of them about 6 weeks later. This is when I found out that The Cloth Nappy Company had started a Pre-Loved Initiative. I happily passed on the nappies we no longer needed and bought a couple more pre-loved ones to try them out.

Like with every used item, you need to check if it is in a good condition before buying. I was happy to find second-hand nappies that were very well taken care of. The pre-loved nappies that I got through The Cloth Nappy Company were spotless. Like with any piece of clothing or toy that I buy for my daughter – I gave them a wash myself just to be 100% sure. 😉

"Reusable nappies are meant to last for a long time, and they do!"

Trying different types at a low cost enables you to find systems and brands that suit your needs well. As to the ones that weren't a good fit, I was happy to sell them knowing someone else will use them and I get some money back.

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The importance of a good fit

As a physiotherapist I pay a lot of attention to health aspects. What I find very important when using cloth nappies is ensuring the right fit. My advice is:

# Go for the right size & fit
I haven’t yet seen a nappy that fits well “from birth to potty”. If you want to start straight away, investing in newborn nappies is a must in my opinion. A well-fitting nappy should not restrict movement. The best test? See how your baby moves without a nappy – this is exactly how they should be able to move with the nappy on. To ensure that happens: slide elastics into the groins and make sure the nappy does not go down on the thighs. Ideally the nappy does not cover belly-button. Choose a nappy that is not too wide between the legs. Adjust the rise length, so nappy does not dangle between baby’s knees.

# Make sure that the nappy is not too tight
It is recommended that after fastening you should be able to fit two fingers between nappy and your baby’s belly. Pay attention to pressure marks on the skin to ensure that the elastics are not impairing circulation.

# To change nappies more often rather than stuffing them too much
It’s tempting to add some extra absorbency sometimes but be careful about having a nappy that is too ‘packed’ with inserts. Whilst your baby might still be able to move, a bulky nappy worn often can disrupt your child’s physical development. How? In lying down - a bulky nappy changes the natural curvatures of the spine and the position of the pelvis. It results in lower activation of tummy muscles and their stretching – that makes tummy time difficult and hinders rolling. In sitting - a big bulk under the bum may result in increased pelvic tilt and poor posture. In walking – in older toddles that are walking steadily a wide and packed nappy might force them to walk with their legs wide impairing the correct gait pattern.

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Don’t stress about going full time if you’re not ready, take it easy. Establish a good system that suits your needs. Plan how often are you going to wash; how many nappies you need so you have enough in between washes; where you are going to dry them; how you are going to store dirty ones; what nappy type/s are you going to choose.

And if you have a crisis? Just put a disposable back on until you’re ready to start again.

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