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Reusable nappies – a childminder’s perspective

I started using reusable nappies and wipes on my own children over four years ago now, when my eldest was just three months old; he was in cloth until he toilet trained at 2 and a half years old and his younger sister never wore a disposable nappy from the day she was born until the day she toilet trained. For a year, they were both in reusable nappies, which is when I realised that cloth nappies in a childminding setting with multiple children are a definite possibility.

When I was starting out I borrowed a kit from my local reusable nappy library; I was a massive sceptic and had already decided in advance that reusable nappies were unhygienic, expensive, and way too fiddly for everyday use.

How wrong I was!

Reusable nappies are not hygienic: FALSE!

With a sound wash routine in place reusable nappies will be perfectly clean and can be shared between multiple children. If using on several children, the UK Nappy Network (UKNN) advises that you wash at 60 degrees (full washing guidelines) and you should use powdered detergent as liquid can affect absorbency of the nappies. Once washed, simply hang out to dry on the washing line and off you go again.

I now run my local reusable nappy library and we are fully insured to loan to multiple families; our insurance policies dictate that nappies must be washed at 60 degrees between loans, and similar principles are in play in childminding settings.

One of the most common questions I get asked is how I deal with poo! The answer is simple; simple flush it down the toilet. You can use disposable liners inside the nappies instead, which can be bagged and binned if you don’t fancy flushing.

As a childminder working four days with (usually) two or three children in nappies a day, I wash the nappies once a week, at the end of my working week. In the meantime I store used nappies in a wet bag on the back of my bathroom door until washday. The zip keeps any smells in, and the wet bag can also be washed with the nappies.

Before I introduced reusable nappies into my setting, several of my childminded children were already in reusables when they came to me; parents provided reusable nappies and dirty ones went home in a wetbag to be washed by the parents. I class this as a great example of working in partnership with parents!

Ofsted have no official opinion on the use reusable nappies and will not mark you down for using them in your setting; as long as you are implementing the EYFS (which of course you do), and are ensuring hygienic practises (as you would with disposables) then Ofsted don’t actually mind what nappies you choose to use

Reusable nappies cost a lot of money: FALSE!

I run an ‘opt-out’ system where parents send their child to me in a disposable nappy, and I send them home in a disposable, and in between I use reusable nappies and wipes. Parents are free to opt out at any time and provide all nappies, wipes and nappy sacks, but that is rare, especially as it saves them money!

There are loads of different types and brands of reusable nappies out there; my blog post here runs you through the advantages and disadvantages of the different types.

In terms of individual settings, different types might work better for you, but I found prefolds and wraps to be the most reliable, and cheap to boot. Buying nappies brand new can be expensive, but there are plenty of preloved groups where you can pick up bargains. It cost me less than £10 to source enough reusable nappies and wipes for all my childminded children. Further details on cloth bumming on a budget can be found here.

Borrowing from your local reusable nappy library is the cheapest way to find out what system would work best in your childminding setting; nappy libraries loan out kits with a range of reusable nappies in so you can effectively ‘try before you buy’; you can find your local reusable nappy library on the map.

Once you have found out which types you prefer, they also have discount codes you can use to save money on purchases. The nappy library volunteers will also advise and support you with washing, fitting and any other issues you may have. You can also direct parents who are interested toward the nappy libraries; I find that a lot of my parents show interest once they realise how easy they are to use.

Some councils also have incentive schemes to encourage families to switch to reusable nappies; it’s worth seeing if yours has one too.

Reusable nappies are fiddly to use: FALSE!

One of the most common reasons from childminders being reluctant to use cloth is that they aren’t sure what to do with them when out and about. The answer is so simple, simply take a small wet bag with you to put dirty nappies in to take home with you.

Another aspect that puts people off is the idea that reusable nappies leak more than disposables. In fact, a well fitted reusable nappy with appropriate absorbency will last just as long as a disposable. The main reason that reusable nappies leak when starting out is due to not fitting them correctly. One of our UKNN volunteers has made a fab fit video which you can see to help you.

Benefits of Reusable Nappies

No stinky bin for a start, a definite bonus when the weather is as hot as it currently is!

For me though, the main reason is environmental; disposable nappies and wipes are a massive source of single use plastic. Even using just one reusable nappy every day of your working week will save over 250 disposable nappies from reaching landfill every year; multiply that by several children, or up it to two or more reusable nappies a day, and you are already into the thousands. That’s a lot of single use plastic saved from landfill or incineration.

Add then disposable wipes into the mix. Honestly, how many of those do you use a day?! A week? A month…? It all adds up. Reusable wipes are an easy switch to make, even if you are still not sure about reusable nappies, find out more on them here.

So, will you take up this challenge during this year’s Plastic Free July? Will you find out more about reusable nappies and wipes? Will you get in touch with your local nappy library? Will you even try some out?

I would love to hear from you if you do! 

Thanks for this Steph. I've been in touch with my local nappy library and plan on trialling a kit in September (with parents permission)!
11/08/2019 15:49:45

Naomi the childminder
Thank you. This is so helpful. I used cloth nappies 50% of the time with ds2 and all the time with ds3. I loved them and it was great knowing my bin isn't fill of nappies. This is what I struggle with as a childminder. I am almost decided to go ahead and source cloth nappies for my setting. My main concern now is if parents are put off? 😊
06/08/2019 14:12:42

Love this article!
25/07/2019 14:58:46

Steph Mills
Sara Palmer: The UKNN have very good washing guidelines on their website

Annette Bowdry: A couple of times I've had jeans that didn't fit over cloth bums, but it has generally not been an issue
I always keep a couple of spare bits of clothing for each child at mine anyway, so worst case scenario I swap for a different pair of bottoms which is roomier
11/07/2019 09:38:32

Catherine Parker
I’ve recently made the leap to washable nappies and wipes in my childminding setting and love it! I thought parents would need persuading at first but they are really happy!
08/07/2019 22:34:01

Sara Palmer
Hi there
I am using colour coded flannels instead of wipes in my setting which are changed daily and rinsed thoroughly for each use but would be interested to hear with regard to nappies also what wipes or cleaning approach you take with nappies. Many thanks
08/07/2019 13:21:33

Annette Bowdrey
Hi, I love your article on cloth bums. I was wondering if you've come across any difficulties with the children's clothing not easily fitting around cloth nappies? I remember having this issue at times with my own children's wardrobe, we had to be careful where we shopped because some brands/styles didn't suit cloth nappies.

Thank you in advance.
08/07/2019 12:09:19

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