If you are looking to switch or are just starting out with cloth nappies I can assure you that this is the beginning of a great journey. Not only will you be providing your baby with a more comfortable nappy, but you will also be taking steps in becoming more eco-friendly too. Cloth (or reusable) nappies have come a long way in recent years so in this guide we will take a quick look at what they are like, the terms, how many you will need, how to use them and how to care for them.

Modern Cloth Nappies

When you are presented with the term cloth nappies I am sure your immediate thoughts go back to white terry towels that are bulky and are fastened with a safety pin and, many years ago, this was very true and the only nappy option out there. Today’s cloth nappies have come a long way and we now have natural materials, quick-drying fabrics, improved technology, a variety of absorbency levels as well as the development of PUL which provides a waterproof layer on the outside of the cloth nappy. On top of this, modern cloth nappies are beautifully designed and fit perfectly.

Cloth Nappy Terms

There are a lot of new terms to learn when it comes to the world of cloth nappies and these can overwhelm and put many parents off but once you break them down and begin to understand what they mean, it all begins to slot into place:

All in ones or AIO’s are all in one nappies which simply means that the main insert is attached to the nappy. You don’t remove anything for washing but you can boost them for extra absorbency.

Pocket nappies have a pocket in the back where the insert is placed inside. This is what absorbs the urine and keeps it away from the baby’s skin. You can add extra inserts (boosters) for optimum absorbency. These inserts will fall out during the wash and you will have to stuff the nappy again once dry.

A two-part nappy system is made up of 2 cloth nappies. One that fully absorbs the moisture and a wrap that sits over the top of this to contain the wetness. These are a great option for a heavy wetter and for night time.

Pre-fold nappies are you traditional-looking style like your terry towel. These are extremely absorbent and can be used as above. However, there’s no need for safety pins now, nippas are clever rubber fasteners that will grip the pre-fold together with no risk of injury.

An all in two is a cloth nappy that has an insert that can popper inside which means you may be able to get away with just taking this out, replacing with a clean one and reusing the wrap at change time. 

A Little More Cloth Jargon…

Liners – There are 2 options here, a reusable liner or a disposable liner. A disposable is a thin piece of viscose that sits inside a nappy to catch the poo and can then be thrown away in a normal waste bin. A reusable liner will most likely be made of fleecy material and will do the same job as a disposable one but you will tip the poo into the toilet and wash the reusable liner to be used again.

Inserts – This is the absorbent layer that goes inside a cloth nappy.

Boosters – These are extra inserts (usually made from bamboo, Microfibre, Charcoal, Hemp) which provide an extra boost for your heavier wetters.

Choosing A Cloth Nappy

Which cloth nappy you choose will come down to what you like, what fits well, what is more convenient to you, absorbency, fastenings and of course, style and design.

My top tips in helping you to decide upon which cloth nappies to use are to speak to other cloth nappy parents, read reviews and blogs on particular brands, check if your local area has a cloth nappy library where you can get fantastic advice and also borrow a variety and to also join cloth nappy Facebook groups. Once you get a good idea of what will work for you, you can begin to build up your stash.

How Many Will You Need?

This will highly depend on whether or not you want to cloth full time. If you think that using cloth nappies full time is the right move for you then you will need around 20-25 nappies to be able to comfortably achieve this. However, if you don’t feel confident to go in full time, if your childcare setting won’t accept cloth nappies, you can do part disposable and part reusable. There are no rules, you just do what works for you and your family.

How To Use Cloth Nappies

A cloth nappy goes on and fastens in a very similar way to a disposable nappy. You have poppers to adjust the size (rise) and to tighten around the waist. You want a nice snug fit with the leg elastics turned in to prevent leaks and no movement. A baby should ideally get around 2-4 hours wear out of a cloth nappy but identifying when a change is required will take a little practise and time as you get to know how much urine it can hold. There is no indicator line here to help you but a quick feel of the outside should help you to determine how full a nappy is.

When your baby is ready for a nappy change, you simply remove it, clean them up with a wipe as you usually would and then place a new cloth nappy on. If the dirty nappy you have just removed is only wet, you can place this into your wet bag or nappy bin ready for the next wash. If you have a soiled nappy, you will need to tip the poo down the toilet, remove as much from the nappy as possible (you may need a wipe, toilet roll or scraper if it is a loose stool) and then place the cloth nappy in your nappy bin.

Washing & Drying

Washing your cloth nappies is probably the biggest talking point in the cloth nappy world. Everyone has their own routine as we all do with our regular washing but as a guide you should do:

  • Cold rinse or daily wash, no detergent
  • Longest and best cycle (usually a cotton or baby care) on a 40 or 60 degree with full dose of detergent (no conditioner)
  • Spin at 1200 or less
  • Air dry

Keeping a simple routine will make using cloth nappies really easy for you.

And that’s it really. My biggest piece of advice would be to just delve into the world of cloth nappies and give it a go. Once you start using them, you begin to find your feet with it all and soon enough you will be hooked!

Emma Reed is a Mother and Blogger who lives in Hampshire with her 2 children, Jake (7) and William (3), and her husband, Rob. She began her parenting blog back in 2016 when she self-published a book on baby teething. Her blog is inevitably what led her to begin living a more eco-friendly lifestyle and she now uses her platforms to show others how they can also adapt their own lives to incorporate these changes. You can read her blog over at www.emmareed.net or follow her on Instagram over at @emmareed_writes


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