Cloth nappies explained: Getting started with reusable nappies can be daunting, and learning the cloth nappy lingo will only help you so much. But which nappy does what? When should I use one type of cloth nappy over another? Why are there so many types of cloth nappies? We've got you covered! We'll break down cloth nappies into an easy to understand way so that you can choose which nappy style you prefer based on your needs as well as baby's needs.
Cloth nappies can be divided into 3 categories: the inner absorbent parts, the outer waterproof parts, and the accessories.
Style: All-in-one (AiO)
All-in-one nappies have everything you need in one piece. The absorbent layers within the nappies are sewn in either completely or in a ‘tongue’ style (for faster drying once taken out of the washing machine). These are the go-to for parents who have their children staying with Granny and Grandad or at creche due to their style being similar to a disposable nappy.
Style: All-in-two (Ai2)
All-in-twos (Ai2) nappies have inserts which are removable (usually they snap in and out) and if your baby only wets the nappy, you can simply remove the inserts and replace with new ones to reuse the waterproof part. They also dry faster than all-in-one nappies as you can separate the waterproof and absorbent parts.
Style: Pocket Nappy
Pocket nappies are the most customisable cloth nappies and the most popular at Summer Sweets Baby. A pocket nappy is essentially a nappy cover but has an added layer over the waterproof cover fabric to make it like a pocket that you stuff the insert(s) into. These are fabulous as you can use whatever type of insert you would like and can even double up if baby needs the extra boost of absorbency. For example, you can use a microfibre insert alone if your baby isn’t a heavy wetter or for day time use, or if you have a heavy wetter you can use a bamboo insert, or even pair the two up! The pocket nappies need to be changed out each time like disposable nappies. You also want to make sure once you have a dirty pocket nappy that you take the inserts out of the nappy to be ready for washing. Do note that the inserts and cloth nappies can be washed in the same cycle!
Style: Nappy Cover
Nappy covers, also called nappy wraps, are the waterproof outer part of a ‘two part nappy system’ where you will also need a separate inner absorbent layer (see inserts, fitted nappies, terries, and prefolds below). Waterproof outer nappy covers do not need to be washed after each use. You can essentially wipe them clean and just put a new, clean absorbent layer inside. As a rule of thumb, you can reuse the waterproof cover about 3 times, only once for a night nappy, and only once if your baby has dirtied in the nappy.
Style: Wool Nappy Covers
Wool nappy covers are the ultimate nappy cover when you’re looking to prevent leaks overnight. Wool covers are temperature regulating meaning that your baby won’t be too hot or too cold by wearing them. Wool needs to be treated with lanolin to keep and maintain its waterproof properties. Preparing and applying lanolin is an easy process that is only done when the nappy is new to ‘prep’ it or as needed (usually every few weeks). Wool nappies are a great natural alternative to polyester nappy covers and are an amazingly sustainable option for parents to choose for night nappies. Wool is also self cleaning and doesn’t require frequent washing. You can do a maintenance wash every 4-6 weeks or if it becomes soiled, but simply by hanging the nappy during the day it will self clean and any smells will disappear.
Inserts most commonly refer to the absorbent material used with pocket nappies. These can be made from microfibre, cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, charcoal bamboo, and/or hemp. The different materials provide different levels of absorption amounts and absorption speed and they are an incredibly cost effective way to boost different types of reusable nappies, particularly if your baby is a heavy wetter. Listed above they are in order of fastest to slowest absorbers, but if we were to list them the exact opposite way, they would be in order of how much liquid they can hold (example: microfibre can absorb very quickly, but does not hold much liquid). Inserts can be used with any type of nappy, and are incredibly easy to wash and dry.
Absorbency: Fitted Nappies
Fitted nappies look like a reusable nappy that ‘fits’ around baby as a regular disposable nappy would either by poppers or by a hook and loop closure, but there is no waterproof outer layer on the nappy itself. These are to be used with a waterproof nappy cover as a ‘two part nappy system’. This style of nappy is made of all absorbent materials such as bamboo, microfibre, hemp, cotton, or mixes of these materials. These are a great choice for parents who choose to use cloth overnight when paired with a waterproof cover for their babies instead of using disposable nappies.
Absorbency: Terry nappies
Terry nappies are usually made from cotton, bamboo, or a combination of these materials. They are similar in texture and look to a bath towel, but are much softer. They are great for use as night time nappies and for heavy wetting babies. As for washing and drying, they are quick to dry as you may place them in a drier. You will need to find a fold style that works for you and fits your baby and most of these require a nappy fastener. You will also need a waterproof nappy cover to go over a terry nappy. Many parents use these an economical introduction to cloth nappies.
Flat nappies are a thin, flat, super absorbent nappy choice. Flats are very quick to dry as they are so thin and may be placed in the drier if needed. Many are thinner than disposable nappies, and many people say they look like a disposable nappy! Again, like terries, you will need to learn a fold style that works for your baby and they require nappy fasteners and a wrap/cover. Flats normally are made from cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, or mixtures of these materials.
Prefolds are a great choice for parents beginning with reusable nappies, and who want the ease of a simple folded insert to lay in a nappy cover or stuff into a pocket nappy, but also want the reliable absorbency for their baby. Prefolds are usually many layers thick with a few extra layers in the inner third of the prefold. They are made from cotton, bamboo, hemp, or combinations of these materials. Some prefolds may also fit around baby like a fitted nappy and be fastened with a nappy fastener.
Accessories: Wet Bags
Wet bags are a staple in all cloth parent’s bags for storing the dirty reusable nappies, and they can store all types of cloth nappies. These can be used to store reusable nappies between wash cycles, used to store nappies when you’re out for the day, or even to take to the beach and hold toys and snacks. Wet bags come in a variety of sizes and styles (even nappy pods!) so you can find one that suits you best.
There are two types of nappy liners, one primarily used to keep your baby’s bum dry and one to make disposing of dirty nappies easier. Fleecy liners are made to keep your baby’s bum dry and while they definitely make cleanup easier, they incredibly easy to use inside your nappies as they can be washed and reused. Disposable liners are normally a thin sheet that you can lay on top of the cloth nappy that allow liquids to pass through, but keep the solids on top, therefore making cleanup much less of a hassle when you're out and about.
Accessories: Nappy Fasteners
Nappy fasteners are the modern day equivalent to a safety pin for a cloth nappy. These are much easier to use and you won’t be worried about hurting your baby when you fasten their flat nappies or terry nappies on with these. They have teeth that hold onto the fabric of flats, fitted nappies, prefolds, and muslins but are safe and protected by their shape. May also be referred to as nappy nippas, nappy fasteners, or snappis.
Accessories: Reusable Cloth Wipes
Cloth wipes are a great alternative to single-use wipes. Cloth wipes, also known as reusable wipes, are incredibly easy to use and you can wash them alongside your nappies on wash day. You can simply wet with water as you go or have them ready to use with a water/essential oil mixture, or a cloth nappy solution if your baby needs some extra softness during a nappy change. We have cloth wipe bits in both scented and unscented options that you can stir in with some boiled water to create a ready-made solution to pour over your reusable wipes.
This is just a brief introduction to cloth nappies explained, types of cloth nappies, and if you have any further questions please reach out to us!