Choosing cloth nappies for childcare is definitely something I spent a lot of time worrying over. Or more to the point, finding a childcare provider that would be willing to use cloth nappies. I’d read horror stories on cloth Facebook groups about nappies going missing or coming back inexplicably ruined. And then with the Covid-19 pandemic there was the additional stories of childcare providers refusing to use cloth nappies.
I’m fairly certain I’m not the only cloth mum who has experienced these worries so if it is on your mind you are not alone. It’s a valid concern to have, especially when mixed in with the general anxiety that comes with your little one starting childcare. I hope that this post will help alleviate some of those concerns so that you feel prepped and ready for continuing your cloth nappy journey, whatever childcare option you choose.
Choosing the right cloth nappies for childcare
It took us a little effort to convince our childminder to give cloth a go (more on that below) so I knew that the pressure was on to prove that cloth nappies were just as easy to use as disposables.
But if like me you have a pretty varied stash, how do you choose cloth nappies for childcare without leaving your childcare provider bamboozled? Below are 6 things to consider when choosing cloth nappies for childcare.
Unlike disposables cloth nappies come in a variety of different styles – all-in-ones (AIO), all-in-twos (AI2s), two part systems, pockets – there’s a lot of options. Many childcare providers may not be familiar with cloth nappies and so the temptation is to choose pockets or all-in-ones as these are more akin to a disposable.
But whilst these types of nappies are pretty beginner-proof you may have to compromise on absorbency (in the case of pockets) or drying time (in the case of AIOs). I love the hybrid design of Close Pop-ins(which are our go-to nappy for childcare) because whilst they are technically an all-in-two, they feel more like an AIO so simple enough for even the most unfamiliar cloth user.
Aplix (Velcro) feels like a no-brainer choice for childcare. Those sticky strips of Aplix on a Pop-in fasten up just like the adhesive strips on a disposable, making them feel much more familiar if your childcare provider isn’t used to cloth. Aplix also has the advantage of being much easier to fit than poppers (which if you’ve ever seen some of the pictures on cloth nappy Facebook groups you will know that poppers can be utterly baffling for cloth newbie childcare providers and family members).
I know that a lot of cloth parents prefer poppers because once little ones get that bit bigger they quickly learn how to take off a velcro fastened nappy, but this is less of a concern for childcare as your little one is likely to be straight back in several layers after a nappy change, making those Aplix tabs much harder for small hands to access.
The Aplix fastenings on Pop-ins also mean that our childminder can roll up the used nappies using the tabs to fasten at the front in the same way as she would a disposable. I’m fairly certain that this is the reason why she doesn’t need to bag them up in plastic, but it does mean that I get the fun job of unrolling them and sticking all the laundry tabs on before I put them in the wash.
Another common complaint about Aplix or Velcro fastenings is that they lose their stickiness over time. I’ve not experienced this problem, even my rather old preloved Pop-ins stay put. But I’ve also found that the main reason for Aplix becoming a little less sticky is because it can become clogged with fluff over time.
But it’s super easy to remedy this by running a pointed object through the Aplix to remove any fluff that’s built up – I use a seam ripper (being extremely careful not to catch the stitching holding the Aplix in place) but a tapestry needle, lace hook or even a safety pin all do the job.
Absorbency / reliability
The Pop-ins in our stash have always been my go-to nappy for reliability. The bamboo soaker and booster provide so much absorbency without bulk which makes them perfect for leak-free car journeys. Their reliability was one of the main reasons why I chose them as our main nappy for childcare.
I knew if I was going to convince our childminder about cloth I needed to send R to her with nappies that wouldn’t leak. So it’s a weight off my mind knowing that R is unlikely to have a leak when she’s got a Pop-in on. The containment is brilliant especially as the double-gusset can survive even the worst poonamis (we’ve never had a poo leak with a Pop-in).
Even at the end of the day when R may not have had a nappy change before going in her car seat and we don’t immediately change her when she gets home her nappy doesn’t leak.
It’s a fairly well known fact in the cloth community that most leaks can be sorted by adjusting the fit of a nappy. But if you are sending your child to childcare you can’t guarantee that your childcare provider is going to carefully check the fit every nappy change (this is especially the case for nurseries where there may be several different staff doing the nappy changes).
It’s another reason why Pop-ins felt like an obvious choice. Not only are they pretty simple to get a decent fit on but even when badly fitted they are unlikely to leak due to the double leg gusset ensuring everything stays in. I can think of very few other nappies in our stash that have the same ease for throwing on wriggly toddlers without a worry.
One of the biggest adjustments when R started with the childminder was getting on top of the washing routine. We normally send a big bag of clean nappies at the start of the week and then top it up with a second bag depending on how many have been used. It means that we have to be pretty on it with the washing to get everything washed and dried for the week ahead.
To save space I normally use our socktopus to dry our Pop-ins, detaching the soaker and booster means they dry super quickly even if we’re not able to get them out on the washing line. Which is not to say that we don’t usually have that Sunday panic of making sure that we have a bag full of nappies washed and dried. But it’s certainly less of a stress knowing we can get nappies washed and ready in a day if we absolutely have to.
One of the very practical reasons why we chose Pop-ins as our main nappy for childcare was that we already had a lot of Pop-ins in our stash. A friend had given us a huge box of preloved V1 Pop-ins when I was pregnant and although we hadn’t really used them (I won’t lie I’d been led astray by pictures of beautiful prints early on in my cloth nappy journey and so the slightly worn but perfectly functional pastel Pop-ins sat in their box) I knew I’d need a lot more nappies if we were going to make my suggested solution of providing a bag of clean nappies each week work.
But even with the box of preloved nappies, the beautiful newer prints that I had bought made their way into the childcare bag (it still makes me a little sad that I no longer get the absolute joy of putting Puffinsor Round-the-Garden on R). I also invested in a couple of extra Pop-ins to top up our stash for childcare to make sure we never leave our childminder short of spares.
Should you buy more cloth nappies for childcare?
If you follow me on social media you’ll know that I’m always discouraging people from buying more nappies than they need, and believe me I felt like a total fraud buying new nappies when we already had plenty in our stash. But the reality is sometimes your needs change and you do need to make a purchase. For us that meant selling some of our pocket nappies with poppers to make room for a couple extra Aplix Pop-ins to send to childcare.
It’s also so easy to underestimate just how many nappies you’ll need to send your childcare provider and how that will impact on your wash routine. I like knowing we have plenty of nappies for childcare days without impacting on our “home” stash, which means we have slightly more nappies than we did before R started childcare.
In the interests of full disclosure, whilst the majority of our childcare stash are preloved I did purchase a couple brand new. And yes I probably could have bulked out my stash by buying secondhand. But when I saw Twilight Garden on sale it may have slipped into my basket – we can’t all be absolutely perfect all the time when it comes to consumption and sustainability.
To save me from feeling like a total fraud, Close are also pretty brilliant when it comes to sustainable values. The outer shell of Pop-ins is made from recycled plastic bottles, which reduces the virgin materials required and they also have a packaging-free options when purchasing. But perhaps most importantly, they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting charities working to protect the environment.
When you see the endangered animals featured on Close products you can be reassured that there’s substance behind the super cute style, with 1% of the purchase price you pay going to WWF and other non-profit organisations through Close’s membership of OnePercentForThePlanet.org. So you can feel a little bit less guilty if you do end up having to buy new (and having had a peak at the new Up In The Trees collection I admit it’s taking a lot of willpower not to add a few more Pop-ins to our stash).
Negotiating on cloth
So you’re feeling fairly confident about how which nappies are going to go into your childcare bag but how do you go about discussing with your childcare provider the importance to you of using cloth?
It’s certainly something I felt pretty anxious about when we were trying to arrange childcare for R. I was fairly certain I wanted to use a childminder rather than a nursery. The home setting of a childminder felt like a better fit for us (but no judgment on anyone who decides to go for a nursery – the nurseries we looked at were wonderful too).
So with little knowledge of what I was looking for I set about searching our local Council’s website for a registered childminder – stumbling upon a listing for a lady who lived in the next village to us. She sounded perfect and I quickly set up a meeting to find out more. Our meeting went really well and she answered all of my (hastily put together) list of questions. She was even happy to use a potty with R as we practice elimination communication at home. There was just one sticking point. She wasn’t willing to use cloth nappies.
Cue much panicking. We knew we didn’t have much time to sort out childcare and I was loath to be back to square one having to find a childminder but I also really didn’t want to have to switch to disposables (even If I wouldn’t have to be the one using them). So I decided to try to negotiate.
I knew that the reason for refusing to use cloth was based on a concern around reducing Covid-19 infection risks in line with Ofsted guidance (this was in October 2020). So I set about drafting an email that set out our concerns and offered solutions to the infection risk issues in the hope that we could reach a compromise.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation where your potential childcare provider isn’t keen or cloth (or flat out refuses to use them) don’t lose hope! If they feel like the right fit for your family then have a go at negotiating first. I’ve set out below the approach I took to help get you started:
- Set out your concerns clearly – for us there were several reasons why we didn’t want to switch to disposables (not least because we would have no idea what type / size / brand to buy). In my email I explained that as R had never really worn disposables I was concerned that having to wear them for a prolonged period (she would be doing 10 hour days) could cause a skin reaction. I also explained that we had already invested in cloth nappies and therefore buying disposables would be an additional cost that we hadn’t budgeted for.
- Suggest solutions – our childminder had a system where parents would give her an unopened pack of disposables which she could then wipe down fully and keep for use at the setting reducing any infection risk. So I suggested that we would provide a full bag of cloth nappies in a bag that could be wiped down easily. I even went as far as to suggest that we could operate a quarantine system where we gave her the bag of clean nappies at the end of the week so that they could be quarantined over the weekend (luckily we didn’t end up doing this because we would have needed so many extra nappies!)
- Be willing to compromise – I knew that I didn’t want R in disposables but I suggested that our childminder could bag up each used cloth nappy in a plastic nappy sack if that would help her meet any infection control requirements. The idea of all that single-use plastic was less-than-appealing but I was willing to suggest it as a compromise as it would be less plastic than disposables plus nappy sacks. Again we didn’t end up needing these due to us using Pop-ins as these can easily be rolled up and fastened.
If you are going to try to negotiate then above all remember to be nice. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar i.e. you’re more likely to get someone onside if you present a reasoned argument in a pleasant way. And at the end of the day you want this person to be looking after your child so it’s vital that you don’t ruin the relationship by sending a rude email.
Ofsted require providers of childcare to work with families and my carefully considered email did the job. Our childminder understood that using cloth was really important for us as a family and agreed to make it work. In fact we now give our childminder a clean bag of nappies on a Monday morning and she gives us a filled wetbag at the end of each day (with not a plastic nappy sack in sight).
Preparing for that first day of childcare
OK so you’ve got your nappies prepped and ready to go and hopefully all the other things your little one will need (it amazes me how much stuff R needs – extra changes of clothes, coats, waterproofs, wellies, hats…). Now it’s time to relax. I know that you are probably feeling a whole heap of anxiety about the whole thing but don’t be! Most little ones settle into the childcare routine really easily and actually love spending time with other children.
For me childcare days are brilliant. I get to get on with my work undisrupted knowing that R is having a fantastic time with her friends. When we pick her up at the end of the day she’s always happy, fed and ready for a good night’s sleep, which makes our evenings that bit easier too. Once she’s in bed I pop the wet bag of used nappies on a nappy wash and then settle down with a cuppa to read R’s notes and find out about the adventures she’s had that day.
I really hope this post has helped you feel a little more prepared for your little one starting childcare – let me know if the comments or drop me a message on Instagram.