15/07/2009 15:09 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Dad Tip: Everything You Need To Know About Real Nappies, By A Man!

My other half shocked me recently when he told me that his dad had never once changed a nappy for either him or his two siblings. I was even more dismayed to hear since that some modern dads of our generation also don't change nappies. Not so in Tom Burgess's household!

Tom wrote such a great answer to a question I sent to him and his wife about nappies that it deserves a special Dad Tip column of its own. We read so many great words of advice from other women that it felt very refreshing to hear about parenting from a chap's point of view -- I mean, would a woman use the phrase 'poo lumps'? This is the king of advice columns about real nappies, folks.

Tom writes:

We have done real nappies for both of our babies and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Using real nappies is one thing you can do to really cut down the cost and environmental impact of the first years of your baby. I don't condemn people who use disposables but having done real nappies for our two is one of the things I am proudest of.

I must admit, though, with our second baby we have been using a standard disposables for the nights. For our first we kept it real the whole day and night through!Keep it simple...
Like almost every equipment choice you have to make for babies it is all too easy to go for something which is over designed, too expensive and too complicated to be practical. Cheapest isn't always best but the most simple and most flexible usually is.

With this in mind I would recommend people go for straightforward towelling nappies, just flat squares of white cotton towelling. The shaped ones are seductive but they take ages to dry and they come in confusing different sizes.

Regular plain nappies fit as long as you need them for. You do have to learn how to fold them but this is really easy and you'll have it sorted after the first week. The other great advantage of plain nappies (rather than shaped) is they dry much, much faster.

How to fit...
Put a paper nappy liner inside the folded nappy. Put barrier cream (zinc and caster oil) around your baby's bits. Secure nappy with a nappy nipper and then cover the whole thing with either a waterproof wrap or waterproof pants.

When it comes to changing, the liner with the poo goes in the toilet (non-pooey liners can be washed and re-used), the wet / dirty nappy goes in your waterproof nappy bag (buy a nice one online or use a carrier bag) to be dealt with later.

Washing real nappies...
As regards washing nappies, again it really is pretty simple. They do not need to be boiled at all. Remember with babies you will have tons of washing anyway so you can chuck the wet nappies in with everything else (rinse them under the tap first if you feel you need to).

Pooey nappies are dealt with thus. Get two buckets, at least one should have a lid. Put water into one bucket. Nappy into water, having scraped off the very worst first). Swish it around to get the poo off. Poor water down toilet. Repeat till the poo lumps are gone. Either put in the bucket with a lid where your other dirty nappies are waiting or put nappy in wash as above. 30/40 degrees should do most nappies absolutely fine.

For really nasty ones put some nappy san powder in the bucket with water and leave to soak awhile.

Stick with it in the tricky early days...
Unfortunately, the trickiest bit with nappies is the first few weeks (poo is very unpredictable, runny and will stain, you are totally knackered, you've never had someone else's poo on your hand before!) So if you can survive these with real nappies then you have got what it takes to do the more predictable six months-plus stage.

I know people who have started to do real nappies but just found it too much hard work in the early days. Others have started with disposables for the first stage intending to swap later, but never done it. Others have said their baby wees too much! Everything is hard work when the baby arrives but you will get in a groove and get the hang of fitting the nappy tightly. You can do it!

It may well be worth getting a few smaller nappies for the first month or so as the full-sized ones get a bit bulky when folded.

Nappy rash...
Nappy rash doesn't seem to be any more of a problem with real nappies rather than disposables as long as you use barrier cream. Plenty of good eco friendly creams out there to use if they do get it. If it is really bad you can swap to disposables for a week or so till it clears up.

Fleecy nappies at night...
When/if your baby starts to sleep through you might think about the fleecy nappies. The idea here is to stuff the fleecy outer with nappies to soak up 8 hours or so of wee. In the early days you'll probably be up often enough to change them regularly anyway. I must admit second time around these frazzled parents have used a disposable at night time.

The greatest thing about real nappies is the amount of waste you will cut down on, never mind the packaging and fuel costs of getting all those millions of nappies to the supermarket. Also, most nappies will survive one child to be used again if you have another or can be passed on to a friend.

Drying nappies...
The biggest problem is drying them in the middle of a long dark UK winter and you may well find yourself using the tumble dryer more than you would have done. I still think that with enough nappies in your system you should be able to run things pretty efficiently and when the weather picks up you'll have them all on the line drying for free.