Demystifying cloth nappies (for beginners)

I know a fair few eco conscious people who have considered cloth nappies and then got nervous. It can seem pretty overwhelming at first – When I first started to look into cloth I had all sorts of questions… what’s an AIO? A pocket nappy? What’s the difference between a fleece liner and a “flushable” one… that you can’t actually flush?! And then there’s the wash routine! It can all seem quite scary to someone new to cloth.

But it really needn’t be! At the end of the day it’s a nappy, and once you know the different types of nappies out there and a basic wash routine, away you go with one of the best eco swaps you can make!

If you’re just starting out using cloth nappies then below you can find a basic run-down of different nappy types:

• Two part nappies (fitted nappies) –

A two part nappy consists of an absorbent nappy with a separate waterproof wrap. The nappy is fitted, or shaped, and fastened with velcro or poppers.

With this type of nappy the wraps can be used for multiple nappy changes and you can have a mix of nappy types and wraps.

I find that two part nappies are great for car journeys, overnight, and for those circumstances when you want a bomb proof nappy. The two separate layers are great for containment; on the very rare occasion that anything escapes the inner nappy, it is sure to be kept in by the wrap (in my experience anyway). These nappies are often boosted and used as a night nappy for the same reason.

Examples of a two part nappy: Tots Bots Bamboozles / Little Lamb shaped nappies. Examples of a two part wrap: Tots Bots Peanut wraps / Seedling Comodo Wrap / Thirsties Duo Wrap / Bambino Mio wrap.

• All-in-One (AIO) nappies –

In an AIO nappy, the absorbent part of the nappy is built into the wrap. These nappies are generally really easy to use, and therefore are often a good choice for nursery, or when someone else is looking after baby.

The downside being, there is no outer wrap that you can use for multiple changes, so a for a full stash of AIO’s you would need to consider drying time. Having a full stash of AIO’s can often be a much more expensive option too.

Examples of an AIO’s: Bambino Mio Miosolo / Motherease Wizard Uno / Blueberry Simplex / Bumgenius Elemental / TotsBots EasyFit

Bambino Mio Miosolo

• All-in-Two nappies –

An An All-in-Two nappy is similar to an AIO, except the wrap and the nappy are attached with poppers. This type of nappy has all the ease of an AIO, with the added benefit of being able to use the outer wrap for multiple changes. It also means that washing/drying can be easier and quicker. Lots of All-in-Two nappies come with two inserts too.

Examples of All In Two’s: Motherease Wizard Duo / Close Pop In / Petit Lulu Snap In

All parts of the Close Pop In – The wrap, the soaker and the booster
Close Pop In All-in-Two
Close Pop In with the “soaker” snapped in. The booster can also be snapped in if needed

• Pocket nappies –

A pocket nappy has an outer waterproof wrap, with a thin inner layer, often fleece. They have a hole in one end of the nappy which acts as a built in pocket, in which you add inserts as the absorbent layer.

These type of nappies are great for people with a smaller stash, or with not much space for drying, as the nappy usually dries very quickly, and most pocket nappies come with 2 boosters, so you can use one, while the other dries.

Examples of Pocket nappies: Baba + Boo nappies / Bumgenius JOY Elemental / Little Lamb Onesize / Milovia Pocket.

• Flat nappies and Prefolds

A flat nappy can be a traditional Terry square, or for newborns a Muslin can be a great, less bulky alternative. These types of nappies could be considered a little more fiddly as they are often folded and then fastened with a “nappy nippa” (a modern alternative to the traditional safety pin) like a do-it-yourself fitted nappy. However I find that they are extremely reliable, fast drying and an extremely cheap way of using reusable nappies. They are also great for an overnight option. You can also use a flat nappy like a prefold by folded it into a pad shape and simply sitting it inside a wrap.

Prefolds are similar to flat nappies, they are mainly used by folding them in to a pad shape and laying inside a wrap, but on smaller babies they can be folded and held with a nappy nippa like a traditional Terry nappy.

As with the two part system, you will need a waterproof wrap to go over the top of this nappy type.

• Boosters/inserts –

Inserts are the absorbency part of a pocket nappy, they fit into the pocket of the nappy and absorb the liquid. They are generally larger than boosters and tend to fit the entire width and length of the pocket nappy.

Not a nappy itself, but boosters do just that, they boost the absorbency of a nappy. Boosters are used as an additional absorbency layer in pocket nappies, or any other nappy really. They are great for adding absorbency for heavy wetters or night time use.

Insert/booster materials include: bamboo / cotton / hemp / charcoal. More on the differences between these in another post soon, or you can check out this handy guide to cloth nappy inserts and boosters.

• Liners –

There are two main types of liners; disposable and fleece.  

Disposable liners are there to catch solids to allow for easier disposal. They are very handy during the initial stage of weaning, where baby is starting on solid foods, and everything is just a little messy for a while! I mainly used disposable liners during this time if I was out and about, for ease of changing on the go. With newborn/breasted babies poos can be quite liquid, so a disposable liner isn’t usually needed and soiled nappies will come out clean easily enough with your standard wash routine.

It is important to note that many disposable liners claim to be flushable, however I strongly recommend that you do not flush these. Just like “flushable” wipes, these disposable liners don’t sufficiently break down and therefore can cause sewer blockages

Fleece liners are non-absorbent and as such they help to keep baby’s bum dry. Often, with pocket nappies especially, the inner fleece liner is built into the nappy already. But with two part nappies, like a bamboo fitted nappy, fleece liners are really helpful to keep baby’s bum dry overnight.

Both types of liners are optional.

Try before you buy

If you’re just starting to get your head around cloth nappies and want some cost effective ways to try before you buy there are plenty of options. Nappy Libraries are a great resource to get to know different nappies and try them out at home. However, if you’re trialling with a newborn be aware that the fit and style can be quite different, and as baby grows you may find that different nappies fit better. It is also worth noting that you don’t know how the nappies have been treated previously (which can affect the absorbancy).

Nappy selling websites often offer trial kits, have a look at The Nappy Gurus and The Nappy Lady for more information. And some nappy brands, like Baba and Boo, also offer a trial nappy scheme, where you can send back the nappy if it doesn’t work for you, and receive a 70% refund of the cost.

You can also check if your local council offers an incentive to try cloth nappies by checking their website.

I will try to add more in depth posts on each nappy type in the coming weeks, along with some photos.
But in the mean time I hope you find this helpful, feel free to ask away if you have any questions.

Amy 🙂

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