The time from using nappies to toilet training can seem like a very long journey for any parent; more so a special needs parent. As a mum of a special needs child, Abbey, who is still in nappies after 12 years, I am not sure if she will ever develop the skills needed to become toilet trained and independent. With this long-term challenge ahead, I did wonder how I would manage, and afford the mountains of disposable nappies needed for years to come.
As a child grows, larger disposable options become very expensive, and once your child outgrows the range available at the supermarket, it becomes harder still to access appropriate sizes and absorbency. There are government assistance programs to help with the cost, however there simply are not enough nappies provided to meet daily needs of an incontinent child. A solution had to be found.
I had used cloth nappies since birth for all of my children, but when my girl started to outgrow even the largest ones I had, I went looking for special needs cloth nappies. Eight years ago, there were few options. Now, however, a wealth of styles and materials are available and I make use of them alongside our child-sized disposable nappies, in order to manage Abbeys daily needs.
I have found the benefits of special needs cloth nappies or reusable incontinence aids to be:
- You never run out (assuming you have enough in your cloth nappy stash).
- You can choose from natural fibres or materials that best draw moisture away from the skin.
- They are more affordable in the long run.
- There is a large range of styles and designs available.
- You can customise the absorbency to suit your child’s needs.
- For Abbey at least, the material-feel means less fidgeting and ‘roaming hands’ to relieve itches, compared to plastic disposables.
A major part of any toilet training routine is your child learning to feel wet in their nappy. ‘Pull Up’ trainers may have less absorbency to accomplish this, but are completely unsuitable for a child that can’t stand to put them on. Special needs cloth nappies can be adjusted in absorbency very easily, and now Abbey will make a disgruntled noise to indicate that she is uncomfortable and needs to be changed. This is a milestone; one of the little victories worth celebrating.
Cloth nappies continue to work for us, where our disposable options are limited. Now the question is: Are they right for you?
Special needs cloth nappies provide you with the flexibility to choose the incontinence aid option that will suit your childs’ level of development. From the ‘feel-wet’ sensation as described above, to true toilet training pants, or even overnight nappy options for a full-nights sleep.
If you are anxious about using cloth nappies for the first time, I’ve good news: it’s completely normal. The most common concerns parents have when considering using cloth nappies are:
- the washing,
- the cost and,
- the ‘icki-ness’ factor.
Thankfully, your Cloth Nappy Doctor is here to help.
Washing cloth nappies may seem like a huge deal, but it really isn’t. If like me, you already do an extra load a day or each week, then the cloth nappies will only add a small amount to a load. The cloth nappies are (thankfully ) modernised to reduce our manual labour. They aren’t at all like our what our Grandmothers used to handle. Here’s how a cloth nappy is prepared for washing:
- Remove any solids (there are disposable liners and sprayers to assist).
- Hand rinse to dilute urine.
- Place in a pail, wetbag or bucket until washing day.
- Wash every 1 to 2 days with quality detergent, free from bleach and fabric softeners. They can be washed with your other clothes, if rinsed as described above.
- Hang to dry.
It’s a small new routine to incorporate into your day and the washing is a few added items to an already full washing machine. I have found it is nothing onerous compared to what I already manage as a special needs mum.
The second concern you may have, is the cost of cloth nappies. A packet of larger disposable nappies can cost up to $70, which is quite literally, thrown into the rubbish. One cloth nappy may cost up to $30, although can be as little as $10. Being reusable, consider each one an investment. Abbey has a stash of 12 cloth nappies to supplement her disposable options. This has costs me approximately $250 and for the past five years I have not needed to purchase additional disposable nappies. Using each cloth nappy twice or three times a week means each nappy change cost me approximately 60c. Cloth nappies have saved us money to put towards the therapies she requires.
Finally, the ‘icki-ness’ factor is reduced by finding a style of cloth nappy that suits your child and your routine. There are many different styles available, from the terry towelling flat and larger cover, to an all-in-one style that is most like a disposable option. When deciding on the style of cloth nappies or reusable incontinence aids you’ll use, consider the following:
- The cloth nappies where the absorbency layer(s) can be separated from the cover can be easier to match to your child’s output needs, by boosting layers in certain places;
- Older children urinate a lot in one go; ensure you have adequate absorbency to allow for a ‘fast flow’;
- If your child has issues with their bowels, then a style of cloth nappy called a prefold may be best, with their flat service, they are easier to clean.
There are also accessories that make it easier to clean the ‘icki’ stuff from cloth nappies. These include disposable liners that keep most of the nasty stuff off the nappy and sprayers attached to the toilet to flush it straight down the bowl. These accessories can save your sanity on chaotic days and make the task of cleaning up easier. Plus, clean hands!
Personally, using cloth nappies for Abbey has allowed me the freedom of choosing which nappy option is best for her at any given time. It saves me from buying larger disposable nappies, and they are more comfortable for Abbey. When wearing cloth, she’ll sit soundly in her wheelchair or sleep longer than when sporting disposables. You may find them to be a great benefit for your child too.
Share with me your experience or concerns with cloth nappies or reusable incontinence aids.