In the almost 10 years that I have been using cloth nappies, the market has expanded beyond recognition. I take great delights in explaining to trial kit customers that when I had my eldest is a Motherease One Size was considered an innovation!
This growth in the market is all for the good, it means there really is a nappy for every family out there, but it does mean that the choice can be somewhat overwhelming. I wrote a post before about how it is important it is to try before you buy if you can, but in the meantime, here is a quick fire overview..
The first thing to note is that all nappies require an absorbent part and a waterproof part. How the absorbent bit and the waterproof bit go together is what differentiate the different nappy types.
All in ones (AIOs) are so called because each nappy is a complete unit – ie the absorbent part and the waterproof part are sewn together. The advantage of these is that they are easy to use and change just like a disposable. This is particularly useful if lots of people are going to be changing baby’s nappies (eg grandparents, day care etc). The downside is the cost. The most expensive part of a cloth nappy is the waterproof bit, so the more often you’re changing that, the more expensive your nappy system is going to be.
Pockets are so called, because they are made up of 2 parts – a pocket which tends to be waterproof material on one side and fleece on the inside. You then put absorbant inserts into the pocket to make the nappy usable. Inserts vary from brand to brand, some are all microfibre, some are bamboo (more on materials later in the guide). Once “stuffed” with their absorbant inserts, a pocket nappy is as easy to use as an AIO, with the added advantage that you can choose how much absorbancy to add – meaning you can make them slimmer fitting for a newborn, and more absorbant for a toddler. Like AIOs, they tend to be more expensive (although there are cheap chinese imports on the market).
Snap ins/All in Twos
These nappies get their name from the fact that the absorbent parts popper into their waterproof outer. Once poppered together they are very easy to use. Their main advantage is that if the nappy is only wet, or the poo has been contained by the aborbent pad, then only the pad needs changing and a fresh pad can be poppered into the waterproof outer. The advantage of this is that you can usually use several absorbant inners to each waterproof outer, which brings the cost of your system down.
Brands include Gro Via
These nappies get their name from the fact that they are often a sized nappy (most of the AIOs, pockets and AI2s are birth to potty). They are a 2 part nappy system. The nappy itself is absorbant, it is then covered by a waterproof cover. When the nappy needs changing you just change the internal nappy, not the waterproof outer (although these will need changing at least once a day). As a rule you will need 1 waterproof cover for every 4 or 5 nappies. The advantages of these are that they tend to be better fitting, work out as cheaper than all in ones and many people find them more reliable as there are two lots of leg elastic to hold any “explosions” in! The disadvantage is that each time you change a nappy you have to put 2 layers on.
Flat nappies are, well, flat pieces of material that are folded to fit baby. There are 3 main types – terry squares, prefolds and flips.
Terry squares are squares of cotton towelling which can be folded into a variety of different shapes to fit any baby and secured with a nappy nippa (a y-shaped piece of rubber with grips) and a waterproof cover putting over.
Prefolds are a pad of layers of smooth cotton which are folded in 3 and placed in waterproof cover, they also can be secured with a nappy nippa. These come in sizes depending on the size of the baby.
Flips are a budget option from Bum Genius. There are a choice of inserts, including an organic cotton flat nappy that can be folded in a variety of ways to fit a baby of any size!
Some people also use muslins as newborn flat nappies as they can be folded very small. The main advantages of flat nappies are that they are cheap and flexible. As well as being used as nappies they can be used as sick cloths, as emergency change mats and for nappy free time. (they also make great floor cloths!). The disadvantage is that they can be tricky to fold.
Brands include Junior Joy and Bambino Mio
Things to bear in mind:
Wraps Waterproof covers for 2 part nappy systems
Inserts Absorbent pads for use in pocket and snap in 2 systems
Boosters Additional absorbent material mostly used with AIOs, but also fitteds and other nappies
Liners Sit inside the nappy to make dealing with poo easier. “Flushable” ones are generally made of plant cellulose manufacturers claim can be flushed down the loo, however water companies advise caution. Fleece ones are washable once the faeces has been tipped into the toilet
Micro fibre A man made fiber that is quick drying. Moderately absorbant
Bamboo Also viscose/rayon from Bamboo – a man made fibre from natural sources. Bamboo is highly absorbant, but slow to dry.
Hybrid This can be a confusing term because different manufacturers use it differently. It can mean a nappy like the Gro Via and the Flip which can be used with disposable inserts. Other manufacturers use it to describe a thick fitted nappy with a thin water repellant layer that can be used for short periods as an all in one
PUL A waterproof material (polyester urethan laminate) usually used for waterproof outers
Minky A fluffy material that can be laminated to make it absorbant. Laminated minky is often used for the outside of pocket nappies. Nonlaminated minky is sometimes used as part of the absorbancy in some AIOs
Wetbag A waterproof bag for bring cloth nappies home in