Cloth nappies at daycare - how does it work?

Oh what!! Is it time already for your baby to start daycare?? Where has the time gone right¬†ūü•Ļ

So you might be asking yourself: do I need to do anything different for daycare? Do I need to buy different nappies? Or provide something?

Transitioning to daycare with cloth nappies requires some preparation, so that it's stress free for you and your childcare centre.

So here are a few things to think about.



This transition period can be bittersweet for most parents.

I remember my own experience: with my first-born Layla, I felt a real strong pull at the heart strings when it came time for her to start at daycare. I had a job with responsibilities, a mortgage to contribute to and was keen to go back to work for my mental sanity as well. But at the same time, I was breastfeeding and leaving my little 5.5 months old at daycare and felt such guilt that I was doing it. All the questions circling in my head: am I being selfish? Am I being a bad mother? What if she doesn't like it? Will I be able to pump enough milk for her when I'm at work? And on and on it went... it was a hard time. But after a while, I realised that it was more ME who was holding at the heart strings and Layla was happy, healthy and fine! She was loving daycare!¬†ūüõĚ

With my 2nd born Eve, I was able to enjoy my pregnancy a lot more and was able to return to work when she was around 9 months old. I had stopped breastfeeding (she wasn't that keen on it by then and it was less stress for me to not be pumping at work). Because I had that extra time with her and my previous experience with Layla, it was A LOT easier to transition to daycare.


In New Zealand and Australia, early childhood centres must provide continuity of care from home to a daycare center. This is to ensure a smooth and consistent experience for children transitioning between these two environments. So childcare centres shouldn't deny cloth nappies anywhere. But some are reluctant.


So here are my tips to make this a smooth transition with cloth nappies:  


1. Communication with Daycare¬†ūüôč

Contact the daycare well in advance to book a spot for your baby

In some places, it is a good idea to contact a few daycare centres, even 6 months to a year before you need them and check if they have a waiting list or when is a good time to contact them for enrolment. There is nothing more stressful when you need to go back to work, and you are on a waiting list for who knows how long!  

Ask about their policy on cloth nappies

A lot of centres now have experience with cloth nappies due to their rise in popularity. For example, back with Layla there was only me and one other family using reusable nappies. Fast forward 5 years later and there are 4 other children with cloth nappies at the same daycare centre. But there are also a lot of centres who are very ignorant or misinformed about cloth nappies and they might bluntly say they don't want them without providing reasons, or for reasons that would not make sense to a cloth nappy user.

Here are some examples of misconceptions they might have:

  • they need to change them more often than disposables so it will be more work for them - of course they don't! Childcare centres must check/change nappies every 2 hours as per policy so cloth nappies should definitely last at least that long. If your nappies don't last that long, have a read of my blog on¬†Cloth Nappy Leaks¬†troubleshooting, it's not normal!


  • they have to clean them in any way. If you get an educator that plops the #2s that's like winning Lotto! Tell them it's fine to leave the nappies as is and roll them up and into a wet bag.


  • cloth nappies smell more than disposables - well definitely they shouldn't! With #2s, regardless of what type of nappy, you will know there is one in there. But cloth nappies shouldn't smell more. If yours do, there is something you need to tweak in your wash routine. Actually, once you become a cloth mum, the smell of urine from a disposable nappy is revolting compared to a reusable nappy!¬†


Once childcare centres know they aren't expected to do anything but remove the soiled nappy, put it in a wet bag and put a fresh one on, they are much more amenable to the idea. 


2. Have the Nappies Ready to Use 

  • Make it easy for the staff to use the cloth nappies.

Have them with inserts already in place so they just need to grab and put on.

  • Disposable Liners: If you or the centre wants to use disposable nappy liners, discuss with them if they prefer them already placed in each nappy or if providing a roll of liners they can put in is acceptable.

These are the Real Nappies Bioliners which come in an easy pre-cut / tear off roll of 100 liners:

  • If you are currently using flat nappies or preflats, discuss with the centre if they can work with them.

If they are happy to use them, again have them folded and ready to go.


3. Transport and Storage at Daycare 

  • A typical setup is to bring clean nappies to daycare either in your baby's nappy bag or in a separate laundry bag. Laundry bags are waterproof bags also called wet bags or nappy pods.

This is the Real Nappies laundry bag which is large enough to keep a day's worth of nappies at daycare:


The daycare may keep the clean nappies in the laundry bag in the changing room hanging on named hooks or put them in named wall hanging baskets or maybe in a cupboard.

  • Include another laundry bag for storing used cloth nappies. This helps contain most odours and makes it easier for daycare staff to manage. They usually also get hung in the changing room.

The centre's policy might be to use a lidded bucket (although I feel like that would take more room than the other options). A lidded bucket is not ideal, as there is no air flow compared to a laundry bag. But it is also ok for the nappies as long as they are dry pailed as soon as possible once home and especially if you do your prewash every 2nd day or more.

Again, discuss with your centre what options they can work with.


3. Labelling

  • Ensure your laundry bags and clothing items are labelled with your child's name.


  • For the nappies, discuss with the centre if each nappy is required to be labelled. Depending on the setup, they might only be able to change one child at a time. Or your child may be the only child in cloth nappies. Consequently, labelling may not be necessary!

If the nappies are required to be labelled, for nappies with snaps; snap nappy name tags can be purchased. But check what size snaps your nappies have (this does vary between brands) and what size the name tags are.

With hook and loop nappies, velcro name tags can be purchased.  

With Real Nappies, I recommend writing on the fabric tag with a permanent marker, this has held up well through washes and is an economical way to do it.

4. Provide an Ample Supply

  • Ensure you have a sufficient number of cloth nappies to last throughout the daycare day, working out from the changing policy of every 2 hours.

  • Include extra cloth nappies in the bag in case of emergencies (eg. when baby has done more #2s than usual) or when they do water play activities as the nappies and clothes will get wet. In summer, your baby might drink more and therefore need extra nappies.


Real Nappies nappy cover colours

    5. Demonstrate Use

    • Share information about the type of cloth nappies you use, how they work, and any specific instructions for changing them. But keep it simple, remember what it was like for you to learn about them!

    • If possible, and especially in a centre where they haven't used cloth nappies before, give a demonstration to the daycare staff on how to use and change the cloth nappies to make them feel more comfortable.

    • For nappies that need securing with snaps, a visual aid they can put on the wall may help the staff. It can simply be a photo of a nappy with what snaps they should use for your child and also a photo of what a good fit looks like. You can also buy "snap covers" which are little plastic pieces to cover the snaps you don't want the staff to use.


    • For hook and loop nappies, because they are much more like a disposable, a visual aid is not usually needed. However, it is a good idea to point out that unlike disposables, cloth nappies are held in place from both the hip and the crotch area and it is important to tuck the nappy gusset inside the undie line and the nappy does not need to be as tight as a disposable at the waist.

     Real Nappies assembled


    6. Be Open to Compromise

    • Be willing to compromise on certain aspects, like using disposable liners for convenience or the lidded bucket if the daycare prefers.



     In any case, it helps to remember how you felt when you first learnt how to use cloth nappies and put yourself in the daycare centre's situation.

    They have policies they need to follow. Some of these policies are mandatory from the Ministry/Department of Education and some are internal policies. The latter can be adapted as long as they don't go against the mandatory ones. But the centre must be willing to adapt.

    Reminding daycare centres of their continuity of care duties is a way to let them know that you know your rights. And after all, there are many, many families that have switched to cloth nappies after having tried every brand of disposable nappies out there and their baby have a skin reaction to all of them.


    Ultimately, if the daycare centre you are talking to does not want to budge; it is up to you to decide. You can still do cloth nappies at home and send your child in a reusable that they just take off at the first change and put in a wet bag. Or you can choose to have your child at a centre that is cloth nappy friendly.
    Did you know some childcare centres now are fully cloth nappies only and provide their own during the day??




    Testimonial from an early childhood centre educator:

    We love your nappies, they don't leak like the others do. With some of the others, we know we'll have to change the child's outfit as well as the nappies but Real Nappies seem to hold up better when the kids do bigger wees. Cindy



    Peruse our range of uncomplicated cloth nappies and inserts and find the money-saving bundle that suits your needs.

    If you want to take a look, try our Intro Packs.

    If you want to dip your toes in the water, then start with a Starter Pack or Mixed Bundle.

    If you're ready and want to be set with all you need, then get a game-changing Birth or Infant to Potty Pack. This pack includes a laundry bag, swim nappy, booster pads, Snappis and rolls of disposable liners.


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