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Are there risks associated with using cloth nappies?
Q: I’m planning to use cloth nappies when my child arrives. Are there risks involved with using them or are they just a safe as disposables? Also, how do you wash them? Can you throw them in the washing machine or should you first rinse them to get the poop out? If they put my baby in disposable nappies in the hospital can I still use cloth nappies when I take her home? Or do I need to insist that they use only cloth?
A: Margaret, both cloth and disposable nappys are safe and healthy. Each has slightly different advantages and disadvantages. You may choose to use only cloth nappys, only disposable nappys or a combination of cloth and disposable. Although the hospital nursery is likely to use disposable nappys, you can change to cloth nappys when you bring baby home.

If you are thinking of using cloth nappys, there are no major health risks, but there are a couple of health considerations. Cloth nappys are slightly less absorbent than disposable nappys, so you need to change them more frequently to keep your baby dry and prevent nappy rash. Also, cloth nappys tend to fit less snugly around the baby’s waist and legs than disposable nappys, which have elasticized waist and leg bands. This can sometimes lead to leakage of urine or stool, and you may have to clean up your baby and change his clothes a little more often. You can minimize leaks in cloth nappys by pinning the nappy on tightly and using waterproof nappy covers that fit snugly around the baby’s waist and legs.

To wash cloth nappys, you can either use a nappy service or wash the nappys at home. A nappy service is a professional laundry that rents you a supply of nappys and gives you a nappy pail that you line with a plastic bag. When you change your baby’s nappy, you simply drop the dirty nappy into the nappy pail. Once or twice a week, the nappy service picks up your bag of soiled nappys and delivers freshly laundered ones. nappy services are very convenient, and the cost is comparable with that of disposable nappys.

If you wash your cloth nappys at home, you will need to buy a covered nappy pail. A nappy pail with a foot pedal is best so you don’t have to handle the cover, which can get soiled. Consider adding baking soda or a deodorizer to cut down on nappy odor. Follow these steps for nappy changing and laundering:
  • Throw urine-soaked nappys directly into the pail.


  • If the nappy has stool, flush it down the toilet before putting the nappy in the pail. If the stool is soft and clinging to the nappy, you can swish the nappy in the toilet before putting it in the nappy pail. Be sure to wash your hands well afterward.


  • Launder the nappys separately from other clothes, and launder no more than two dozen nappys in a single load.


  • Use a laundry soap that is unscented and recommended for babies, since perfumes can be irritating for babies’ skin.


  • Use a cold presoak cycle to prevent staining and rinse out the solids. After the cold cycle, run the washing machine on a hot or warm wash and a cold rinse at the highest water level.


  • If your baby develops nappy rash, consider using a double-rinse cycle and/or adding ¼ cup of vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser. Do not use fabric softener, since it can coat the nappys and make them less absorbent.


  • Dry the nappys on normal heat for about 60 minutes.

No matter what kind of nappy you use or how you choose to clean them, remember that nappying is a great time to be face-to-face and enjoy playing, smiling, cooing, talking, singing to and tickling your baby.