In this month’s episode of Nappy Leaks, Vashti and Vicki take a deep dive into newborn cloth nappies. They discuss some of the practicalities such as how many you need and how long you can use them. They also discuss some of the benefits of newborn cloth nappies vs going straight into One Size Fits Most such as extending the lifespan of your OSFM nappies, getting a better fit to prevent leaks and less bulk under newborn clothing. Take a listen and see if newborn cloth nappies seem like the right option for you and your family. If you want to learn more about the range of newborn cloth nappies available at Bubblebubs check out this video.
Vicki Simpson is the current President of the Australian Nappy Association and has been advocating for and selling cloth nappies in Australia for over a decade. She is the owner, creator and Chief Nappy Nerd here at Bubblebubs. Vashti Wadwell is the outgoing Member Secretary of the Australian Nappy Association and is the owner of Australia’s first bricks and mortar nappy store, Nest Nappies, in Brisbane, Australia. Both Vicki and Vashti have used cloth nappies for more than a decade each over three children and turned their passion into a business.
Transcript: Why use newborn cloth nappies?
Andrew: How you doing, Vashti?
Vashti: I’m good thanks, Andrew, how are you?
Andrew: Not bad. How you doing, Vicki?
Vicki: Yeah, not too bad.
Andrew: Been looking through some statistics and I’ve realised that, you remember our first podcast that we did almost two years ago?
Vashti: Is it that long already!
Andrew: Almost, a couple more months. Still gets a hundred plays a month.
Vashti: That’s pretty awesome.
Andrew: It is, it is. We’re obviously gaining more than a hundred plays a month. But yeah, a hundred people are still playing the first podcast every month, which is quite amazing.
Vashti: Well there’s lot of really great information in that podcast. That was the one that we did on all the different styles and types of nappies and, you know, what each one is capable of doing, so I think it’s a really good place for anybody to start with cloth nappies.
Vicki: I think it’s where everybody sends them.
Andrew: Also, you know, how many times have we talked about our transcribers? Like, quite a few? Mention them all the time?
Vashti: A bit.
Andrew: Never, ever given them a shout out. So the company we use is transcriberonline.com.au – they do all of our transcribing and, as I said, don’t read it anymore, they do such a good job. Thought I’d give them a shout out as well.
Today’s subject is the Top Eight Reasons to Use Newborn Cloth Nappies. So a special thanks to Jenna, for coming up with a lot of the content for this episode. And we’ve covered this a little bit in the past, but we’ve never actually done a whole show on it, so I wanted to bring all of the information into one podcast, so you can just go to one podcast if you need to review this. So let’s start with a profile of what a newborn cloth nappy is. Describe a newborn cloth nappy?
Vashti: Newborn cloth nappy is basically designed to fit in those early days. Things like the Bambams fit micro premmies down to 1.2 kilos and last all the way through until around about eight kilos. There are others where you can get all in ones, like GroVia, Pebbles, Thirsties Naturals, Pikapu, they all fit from, on average, around about the two to three kilo mark, all the way through until about 5.5, seven kilos. So the idea behind a newborn nappy is that they do fit in those early days, they’re trim, they’re snug, they’re secure, and there’s no chance of, you know, having difficulty getting clothes on over the top or anything like that.
Andrew: And how many do you think you need for the early stages?
Vicki: I say 24. I did it with 18, so I say 24. Depends how much your baby wets, I guess, but I found 24 was a good number. I always recommend 24, but Vashti recommends…
Vashti: I like three days’ worth, but then I have prolific poo-ers.
Andrew: How many is that?
Vashti: About 30 to 36.
Andrew: So how many are you actually using every day?
Vashti: About ten to 12 a day normally.
Andrew: So you’re using ten to 12 a day. So everybody can make their own mind up on how many they need. If they stick to a budget of ten to 12 a day, if they want to do it once every three days, then they can get that many.
Andrew: OK, no worries.
Vashti: By the time the bubbies six month though, you’re down to about six to eight changes a day, so you don’t need to stay at that 30 to 36 nappies, you can definitely get a lot less. And if you’re using things like flats and prefolds they dry a lot quicker than all in ones, so you don’t need as many, you don’t need as much drying time and stuff.
Andrew: So you can get to that stage where you’re taking it off the line, putting it straight on the bum.
Vashti: Nearly (laughter).
Vicki: That’s if you’re using a line, too. If you’re using a dyer it’s a completely different story, it’s only like three hours to dry.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s true. How long from birth, this is probably a tricky question, how long from birth do you stop using a newborn nappy?
Vicki: Depends on the nappy.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s what I thought, depends on the nappy. So flats, you could use them right through?
Vashti: Yeah, through to toilet training.
Vicki: Six weeks.
Andrew: What’s some other brands? Bambams?
Vicki: That’s actually still ours.
Andrew: I know. [laughs]
Vashti: Four to six months on Bambams.
Andrew: So, some other brands?
Vashti: Thirsties Natural Newborns go up to about seven kilos, so up around the four month mark on average. Pee-Ka-Poo newborns go up until around about the 6.5, seven kilo mark again, so once again, up until around about the four month mark. It really does depend… but it also depends on the size of your baby, like if you have a very petite, tiny, bubba then, or a premmie, you’re going to be in those nappies for a lot longer. Whereas if you have a chunky bub, you know, who tops out the weight scales at birth, then you’re going to be in them for a lot less time.
Andrew: Are there other brands – there’s got to be more than just… like, what have we mentioned? Four brands – there’s got to be more than four brands.
Vashti: GroVia do a newborn. What else have I got? Close Parent do a newborn. Sloom they do a newborn.
Vicki: Happy Flute and Alva, like the China Cheapy newborns. I don’t know how long they last actually.
Vashti: Baby Bare, Bare and Boho. Seedling Baby’s about to bring out their mini-fit, I’m a bit excited about that.
Andrew: Is that breaking news?
Vashti: No, it’s been released.
Andrew: Ah, damn (laughter). It’s funny; we record these podcasts so far in advance any breaking news would be old by the time it comes out.
Vashti: What else have I got? The Thirsties, EcoPosh.
Vashti: Lil Joey, Kanga Care, yeah, Tots, they’re teeny fits. Pretty much any brand and lots of WAHM’s (work at home mums), they all do newborn sizes as well, because they’ll custom make for what you need.
Andrew: Oh, that’s nice.
Andrew: What’s the lead time though?
Vashti: It really depends on the maker. Some makers will only really ready made stuff, so ready to sell.
Andrew: That’s good.
Vashti: Other makers have waitlists and stuff like that.
Andrew: ‘Cause if you’re baby’s born and then you order some nappies, if somebody’s making them…
Vicki: Yeah, that’s a really foolish thing to do.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s just too late isn’t?
Vashti: Yeah. So you’d normally, you would order your nappies while you’re pregnant, if you want newborn ones from a work at home mum. Or, you find some that are ready made and are good to go.
Vicki: And the way the industry is going, you’re better off ordering while you’re pregnant anyway for your newborn, to make sure that you’ve got them ready to go as soon as you bring the baby home, because, you know, in that whole newborn phase, two or three weeks can go by before you’ve even caught your breath, let alone, you know, actually had enough sleep to be able to use a computer and order some stuff.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s quite hectic at that early stage; you need to be prepared before the baby comes.
Vicki: You do need to be prepared if you intend using newborn from birth, you do need to be prepared.
Andrew: But obviously when you’re going to the next stage, you can…
Vicki: … yeah, you’ve got more time.
Andrew: You’ve got more time, yeah, that’s right. So I know we’re going back a little bit and I probably should have asked this earlier, but how come we’re not just using one size nappies?
Vashti: So one size fits most nappies are designed to fit most babies, most of the time. So they can be quite big and bulky in the newborn days, and it can be difficult to get a really snug, trim fit, especially on those scrawny newborn legs, difficult to get clothes on over the top and stuff like that. That’s not to say they won’t work, because a lot of the time most of your one size fits most will go down to around about 3.5, four kilos, which, on average, 3.5 kilos is a decent sized bubby. If you have a teeny, tiny bubby you might find it difficult to get a good fit, it’s not to say that you won’t though.
Vicki: I actually find most people just don’t put them on firm enough. Like, they’ve got a brand new baby and they don’t want to break it and they just don’t put the nappies on tight enough, so you won’t get a good fit with the one size nappy because you’re just not, essentially, prepared to put it on tight enough. You’re like oh, they get little red marks and stuff because they’re so teeny, tiny and precious, and a couple of weeks in you go, yeah, whatever.
Andrew: Doesn’t happen with the second baby though does it?
Vicki: Yeah, for just a lesser time.
Vashti: You know, a few days.
Vicki: And then the third one it’s like oh yeah, that’s right.
Andrew: And the fourth and the fifth? Who knows!
Vashti: Forget it, they roam free.
Vicki: I don’t know.
Andrew: So the reason we’re using them is they’re a better fit from birth?
[Vicki and Vashti collectively “Yep”]
Vicki: It’s like the difference between one size clothing and sized clothing; it’s exactly the same principle. One size fits most, literally, fits most, not all, most.
Andrew: Do they help with less leaks than say a one size nappy?
Vashti: Well that comes down to your fit, yeah.
Andrew: Is that because you put a nappy on and then you put a cover on? Or some of them you don’t have to put a cover on don’t you?
Vashti: No, no, some of them are all in ones or all in twos, or pockets even.
Vicki: Yeah, don’t confuse style with size. Completely different things.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m having real trouble with size and I don’t know why. Do they increase the life of your ordinary nappies? Like say you’ve brought a newborn stash and you’ve got a one size fits most nappies that you’re going to use after the newborn stage, are they helping?
Vashti: Most definitely. Like in that first sort of, you know…
Vicki: … six weeks.
Vashti: Well, I was going to say even up to that first three months, you’re actually putting your nappy closer to six months’ worth of use because of…
Vicki: … it’s 500 nappy changes in six weeks.
Vashti: Yeah, but just how many times you change a nappy in those early days, you’re using it and washing it and drying it and using it and washing it and drying it, and it is getting lots of use. If you are doing that on one size fit most nappy in the early days and putting it through those 500 uses in those first six weeks and then expecting it to do all the way through to two and half, three years, it’s sort of like, if you get a $30 t-shirt from Target and wear it every second day and wash it every second day and throw some of the worst stuff you could at it, it’s not going to look good at two and half to three years. So you probably would have actually ditched it by a lot earlier than that.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s a good point actually. These nappies seem to last longer than some clothes do.
Vashti: Yeah, definitely.
Andrew: They take so much more punishment don’t they?
Vashti: Oh well, they’re getting poo and wee in them (laughter).
Vicki: And then sitting. Sitting between washing and all of that sort of stuff as well.
Andrew: That never happens to my t-shirts.
Vashti: No, no.
Andrew: So we mentioned before they’re less bulky, like a lot less bulky? A little bit less bulky?
Vashti: No, a lot.
Andrew: A lot?
Vashti: I suppose it depends on the style of nappy.
Vicki: Yeah, but there’s less fabric, so it’s…
Andrew: … that’s the number one complaint of one size nappies isn’t? They’re a bit bulky on newborns?
Vicki: Yep, even when you fold them down and take all the extra inserts out, you’ve still got all of this extra fabric that fits a two and half, three year old. So at the end of the day they’re… yeah, the fabric has to go somewhere and it’s around their butt.
Andrew: It helps a little bit with one size nappies that have removable…
Vicki: … bits.
Andrew: Bits, yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Removable bits. I was about to use one of our brand names.
Vicki: Even though it’s supposed to be unbranded.
Andrew: I know (laughs), sometimes it’s hard to…
Vicki: You don’t even see it; I roll my eyes every single time.
Andrew: Here’s a silly question for you. When do you start using a one size nappy?
Vashti: It depends on the baby. Braith, he was born 4850 grams, so he would have easily fit into a one size fits most nappy right from day dot, because he was nearly five kilos. Other bubby’s, well how big was Gabriel at birth?
Vicki: He was actually my biggest and a 35-weeker, he was seven pound two.
Vashti: Seven pound two, so that’s around about the three kilos.
Vicki: 3.2, I think.
Vashti: So at 3.2 kilos you’d be able to get in…
Vicki: … no, he was teeny, tiny, like his legs were so scrawny. Not forgetting he was also, ‘cause he was a 35-weeker, he was in special care and so he lost a lot of that water weight. He wasn’t fed for three or four days, so literally… they tend to lose a lot more. Actually Bella was the same, because she was in NICU as well. They lose a lot more of that, I think it is like water weight and it just takes them a long time to put that chunky fatty kind of rolls on. Like the two little ones never had that, but Abbi did, ‘cause she was term, even though she was only a three kilo baby born, she ended up… she was a real chunky bub, because she was fed from birth. Whereas the other two… didn’t you know? You’ve got this really like, OMG my kids weren’t fed from birth! No, they actually didn’t, they were nil by mouth because they both had Hyaline Membrane Disease, which is sticky lungs and apparently feeding them would made it worse. So yeah, I don’t know why they didn’t cry or maybe they did cry, I don’t know.
Andrew: I don’t know why I didn’t pick that up, ‘cause they were in the hospital for days. How long was Gabriel in hospital, almost a week?
Vicki: Ten days.
Andrew: Ten days.
Vicki: Bella was only in hospital for four days, but she was sedated, intubated and sedated for a couple of days, whereas, Gabe, I think it wasn’t until he was two days old that they started to tube feed him, but before that… well, don’t forget they had drips, so it’s not like they weren’t getting fluid, but it’s not the same. I mean, you know, if you’ve ever been in a hospital, a drip is not the same as food, it’s purely liquid, so the two little ones lost all of their meat.
Andrew: So there’s no hard and fast rule then really is there?
Andrew: It’s personal preference really then isn’t when you make the transition?
Vashti: Yeah, very much.
Vicki: And also, if you’re talking about investment it depends whether you’re going to have more children, whether you’re wanting the nappies to, you know, like a one size nappy from birth, if you’re only going to have one kid, well it makes economical sense, you know, OK, well I’m going to put up with bulkiness for a couple of weeks and then I’ll use the same nappy right through til toilet training. If you’re going to have two or three kids, it makes sense to invest in the newborn system, so your one size nappies are in better condition for the next bub.
Vashti: And also like if you are planning on two kids and you’re using your newborn nappies, you’re still using your one size fits most on your older kids if you’ve had them close together as well. So having those two separate stashes means that most of the time you’re toddler is pretty much toilet trained by the time your newborn grows out of their newborn nappies.
Vicki: Yep, unless they regress.
Vashti: Yeah, which is normal.
Andrew: Then they regress when another child comes along?
Andrew: So do you remember Gabriel switched from, ‘cause I never changed any newborn nappies, you did all the new ones, newborn nappies.
Vicki: ‘Cause it’s fun. The poo doesn’t stink and, you know.
Andrew: It’s pleasant.
Vicki: It is, it borders on pleasant.
Vashti: It’s a sickly sweet smell.
Andrew: You don’t remember when Gabriel switched to one size fits most nappies? ‘Cause that’s when I started changing nappies.
Vicki: Yeah, I do remember I had a couple of sharks that were gifted to me, which were one size, they were the Rarpz.
Vashti: They were the Rarpz?
Vashti: They were cute, the Shark Pups.
Vicki: They were just gorgeous.
Andrew: Actually we’ve mentioned them before, but they’re not around anymore are they?
Vashti: I think she still does a little bit on the side, but not much.
Andrew: Better name her. What’s her name?
Vicki: She’s from New Zealand and she gifted me those because I’d helped her out with some supply, she was having some supply issues and I helped her find a new supplier for, I can’t even remember what, fabric or something. But I had still back the old all in ones that I had made for Gabe and, you know, his little ‘Just Hatched’ nappy and all of that. I can still remember the stash that I had at the hospital and I had Bambams for him as well and that was before I brought out our covers. I honestly can’t remember, it would have been, you know, a couple of months in. Maybe two, three… do you know what, to be perfectly honest, I just kept grabbing nappies like whenever. It’s like ‘urgh, haven’t done the washing again’…
Andrew: … was it when the nappies started… when your number twos starting smelling bad? Oh yeah, no, you need a one size fits most for this.
Vicki: I don’t know. Like, it’s really funny, I’d actually have to go back and look at pictures of him and see, because I only had the newborn all-in-ones and the Pebbles, so I’m actually wondering once the newborn all-in-ones, which they were kind of, well, that’s what the Pebbles are based on, so they probably fitted him for about eight, ten weeks or so.
Andrew: Gabriel had Pebbles on?
Vicki: No, no, no, they weren’t Pebbles, they were the old ones that I made, like with the pretty tabs, that’s what the Pebbles are based on is that design.
Andrew: Was it? That was our first nappy wasn’t it?
Vashti: It was a Bubblebubs original.
Andrew: It was an original, yeah. They’re still in the basket in the garage.
Vicki: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew: And like they say, what goes in the garage never comes out.
Vicki: That’s right. And I had some Delights I remember putting Delights on him from very early on, because they were soft and I played a lot with him, but I didn’t use prefolds or flats on him at all. I didn’t use prefolds or flats on any of my kids.
Vashti: I used flats on Braith, but then we moved away from them, because Brent didn’t like ‘em. But we did prefolds on Kylan. He was born at 3.580, which is eight pound 11, so… no, not 3.580. Michaela was 3.580, Kylan was 3.815, but he cracked eight kilos at four months, so he did gain weight quickly and he was still nine weeks old before I felt comfortable putting him in a one size, like finding that it was an OK fit and it wasn’t too bulky and he was still able to get clothes on over the top. And being a July baby as well, even here in Brisbane I still needed reasonably warm clothes on him, like zippy’s and stuff like that.
Vicki: Or Huggalugs baby leg warmers kind of thing.
Andrew: So nine months old?
Vashti: Nine weeks.
Andrew: Nine weeks old, OK.
Vashti: Michaela on the other hand, she was born 3.580, which was seven pound, 14, she didn’t crack eight kilos until 12-months, so what I’d been using on Braith really didn’t work for her so I had to find trimmer nappies, and so that’s when we found sized nappies and went to a specific size range for her and stuff like that.
Andrew: So what are some strategies on keeping the cost of your newborn nappies down?
Vashti: Prefolds and flats.
Vashti: Yeah, like muslin flats are really, really trim and while they’re not as absorbent as say cotton or a bamboo flat or anything like that, because you’re using them on such a small bubby, and you’re still changing so frequently you don’t need as much absorbency. So a muslin flat’s really, really good. And prefolds, loved prefolds with Kylan. And then you use them all the way through in different ways. Use them as boosting, use ‘em as pocket inserts, over the top of fitted for extra absorbency overnight.
Andrew: So if you get some flats or some prefolds, pretty much going to get, even when you switch to one size fits most, you’re still pretty much going to have use out of it.
Vashti: Yeah, definitely.
Andrew: As night boosters and stuff like that.
Vashti: Burp cloth, spew rags, change table covers (laughs).
Andrew: They start like at two bucks each don’t they?
Vashti: Ah, yeah.
Andrew: You say, baby’s number twos are quite pleasant, but they don’t start like that do they?
Vicki: I don’t know, because my kids were all in special care, so I didn’t have to change any nappies at that stage.
Vashti: No, we got the meconium. So the meconium is those poos in the first sort of 48-hours or, it’s the ones that are really black and sticky and tarry and it’s from all the amniotic fluid, from while the baby’s been in the womb. Those poos are not pleasant. It’s not that they smell it’s just that they’re very thick and very sticky.
Andrew: Is it like the alien blood that melts through decks of ships. Is it that bad?
Vashti: Oh, I don’t know if it will melt, but, you know, it is pretty bad (laughs). Kylan managed to get most of his out when we were doing skin-to-skin, so I ended up covered it in, in recovery and then on my way back to the ward and stuff like that. So there wasn’t too much in the nappies, but we did get a few nappies with meconium in them. We used cloth from birth with Kylan, so it’s not something to be scared of trying to get meconium out of your nappies, it does come out, you can use liners as well, liners will – either your one use liners or your reusable liners. Like, one use liners are great for meconium ‘cause you just pick ‘em up and put ‘em in the bio waste bins if you’re in the hospital. Or if you’re at home or a birth centre or something like that, oh birth centres generally have a bio hazard bin, but if you’re home birthing then you can just put them in a tie up bag, like a nappy bag or something. You could try and get as much meconium off the liner as you wanted, but not much comes… like that stuff is just too sticky.
Vicki: It comes out easily enough in the wash anyway. Well, as far as I’ve been told. It’s funny that it’s quite a foreign concept to me that I’ve never…
Vashti: … never touched a meconium nappy.
Vicki: Nah, nup.
Andrew: And it’s only in the first 24-hours basically?
Vashti: Oh, it depends on your baby, like some babies is up to 72-hours, some babies get it out within the first poo.
Andrew: Most of the time you’re still there in the hospital for that anyway.
Vashti: Most of the time. If you are birthing in a hospital then yep, must of the time you’ll still be in the hospital for it.
Andrew: ‘Cause they’re still showing you how to breastfeed and…
Vashti: A lot of hospitals now, like I know here in Brisbane, the Mater, if you have a no complications, vaginal birth, you know, fairly stock standard, run of the mill, you can be home within in six hours.
Vicki: That’s right; you’ve just got to make sure that you have your hair and makeup done so you can have your photo shoot at the front of hospital first though.
Vashti: Well, there is that (laughs). But yeah, no, like it depends on you, I’m a big fan of saying take the time, if you can stay at the hospital for 48-hours…
Vicki: … yeah! Especially for the second and third child, like holy hell! It’s like a holiday! I mean we had the whole issue of having, well I had that issue of having to go home without the two little ones, and I had caesars, so I was in there for a whole week and I, tell you what, I was really, you know, looking forward to not doing stuff, actually being waited on and the food, you know…
Vashti: … it’s OK.
Vicki: Do you know what, it passes, anything that you’re not making yourself is better than stuff that you make yourself.
Andrew: Somebody told me the other day it’s like a menu system now – who was that?
Vashti: Well, there is actually, I was reading the Wesley; the Wesley’s doing these new congratulation platters. So when you birth at the Wesley, you get this you beaut platter after the birth of your baby that, you know, it’s for you and your partner to share and stuff like that to celebrate the arrival of your baby.
Vicki: They’re just buttering you up for the bill.
Vashti: Yeah, well there is that. (Laughter).
Andrew: I was about to say, let’s go have another one so we can get that platter.
Vicki: Yeah, no.
Andrew: Nah. That’s stopped.
Vashti: No, the bill (laughter). But yeah, no there are…
Vicki: … can I have a puppy?
Vicki: I’m not joking.
Vashti: Mater Private they have a program where if you have a normal birth with no complications, normal vaginal birth with no complications, you can actually chose to convalesce, as they say, at a local hotel and they’ve got an entire floor of a hotel just near the Mater that’s booked out and it’s got nursing staff on-call, 24/7 on that floor, but you’re basically…
Vicki: … and it’s not just that Mater that does that, I’ve actually seen many hospitals actually doing that now where they’re putting you up at five star hotels.
Vashti: Because they don’t have the space at the hospital to be able to cater for everyone that needs to be there, so yeah, they are farming you out to hotels. They still have the nursing staff there, they’re still close enough that if something does wrong they can deal with it, but you get the hotel food…
Vicki: … enjoy the baby moon.
Vashti: Yeah, and enjoy your time in those first couple of days with your baby.
Andrew: Wow. Thank you, Vicki.
Vicki: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Vashti.
Vashti: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Bye everybody.
Vicki is a wife and mother to three children, President of the Australian Nappy Association and owner and founder of Bubblebubs. Vicki has been making and selling cloth nappies through her website for 15-years. Bubblebubs is now one of the most recognised and awarded cloth nappies brands in Australia, and is currently expanding to other countries. You can find out more and contact her through her website, bubblebubs.com.au.
Vashti Wadwell is mother to three children and has been using cloth nappies for 13-years. She is the owner of Australia’s first cloth nappy store, Nest Nappies, located in Brisbane, Australia. She can be contacted through her website, nestnappies.com.au.
If you would like to give us feedback go to nappyleaks.com.au. If you are finding this podcast helpful, the way to thank us is to leave feedback in the iTunes store, or wherever you listen to podcasts. I am your host, Andrew Simpson.