There are several different types of cloth nappies, and countless brands. The benefits of using cloth are substantial if you consider the cost of using disposables to both your pocket and to the environment as well as being more convenient – yes you read correctly – if you running low on disposable nappies you must go out and buy more whereas if you are running low on cloth nappies, while you do have to wash thaem you won’t necessarily having to leave the house that day. Though they do require washing, drying and folding, stuffing or snapping, people are often surprised by how much easier they are to use than they anticipated using cloth would be, also you don’t have to use cloth full time, if it’s easier to just use cloth at home, or part time, just to cut down on the cost and environmental impact of using disposables then that’s a great start. Ultimately you need to do what works best for your family.
Cloth nappies come in a range of different materials, absorbent fabrics such as cotton, microfibre hemp and bamboo, water proof fabrics like PUL and PVC, water resistant fabrics like lanolised wool, and non-absorbent fabrics which allow wetness to pass through but stay dry against baby’s skin such as microfleece and suedcloth.
Below is an overview of different types of cloth nappies, keep in mind if you decide to use cloth you are in no way committed or restricted to just using one type of nappy on your baby, a successful nappy system can include a stash of various different nappies which do different “jobs” (aka at home nappies, going out nappies, baby sat by grandma nappies etc) You can also buy second hand (or sell your own when you are finished with them) to cut down on the cost of buying cloth nappies.
How many nappies will you need?
This largely depends on how often you plan to wash your nappies and what type of nappy you are using and how long they take to dry. An average newborn will use 8-12 cloth nappies a day and an older baby or toddler should go through about 5-8 nappies per day. If you are unsure if you will be using cloth full time 12 nappies is a good number to start with, if half the nappies baby uses are cloth, you should have enough to wash your nappies every second day. Though for full time in cloth you’ll likely need at least 24 nappies unless you plan to wash every day, with 24 nappies you should be able to wash every second day or so.
Maybe your own mother, and definitely your grandmother, would have used terry cloth nappies. This is the cheapest option, also often easiest to wash and fastest drying and most durable nappy system. Terry towels made from cotton can be purchased from baby stores as well as department stores like Kmart, Target and Big W or even supermarkets. Bamboo, hemp and blends can be purchased online OR you can make your own either from terry fabric or old towels. You will also need a 3-4 nappy covers, and either nappy pins or nappy fasteners.
Also they are very versatile because terry nappies can be used to wipe up baby spew and spills, baby can lay on a terry towel for nappy free time, you can use them as change mat while out and about, or in a pinch can use as a blanket or cover for the pram. For how to fold terry towel nappies youtube is a great place to look, some packets come with instructions.
PROS– Easy to wash, quick to dry, nappy itself is a “One-size-fits-all”, inexpensive and easily purchased (Kmart, Target, Big W and even some supermarkets stock terry towels, covers and pins)
CONS – Can be time consuming to fold, or difficult for baby sitters, also wetness stays against baby’s skin.
Prefold nappies are rectangles of absorbent fabric, with several layers sewn in to boost absorbency, with an middle panel with additional layers. They tend to be more absorbent than terry towel, easier to use because they are “pre-folded”, though you will need to make a couple of simple folds to fit them into a nappy cover. Though because of the sewn in layers do take longer to dry than terry towels. They can be used with pins or a fastener like a snappi, though if they are being used in a cover designed for prefolds they are unnecessary.
PROS – Are a little simpler to use than terry towel and are still fast drying and while cost a bit more than a terry towel set up they are still quite inexpensive.
CONS – Need to be folded, wetness stays on babies skin.
Fitted nappies fit like a nappy. They still require a cover to avoid leaking through like the prefolds and terries, however the nappy itself also has either press studs or Velcro and will stay on without the use of pins or fastener. Because the are elasticised at the legs and waist they are a lot better as holding poo-plosions than terries and prefolds. They can be made out of cotton, hemp, bamboo or stay dry fabrics like micro fleece or suede cloth against babies skin. Fitted nappies are great for summer so baby doesn’t have to wear a water proof layer which can be hot and uncomfortable around the home, you simply change the fitted nappy when you feel the wetness coming through. You will change nappies a lot more frequently this way but also in summer it is a good way to keep an eye on how hydrated baby is if you are aware of each time baby wees. Though with a cover they are perfectly functional as an everyday nappy.
PROS – Easy to use, fit nicely, breathable on their own and still reasonably fast drying.
CONS – Cost between $15-$30 for a good quality nappy, per nappy, plus the cost of covers. Also press studs, Velcro, elastic and edges can wear out over time (depending on the quality of the nappy)
PROS – The most absorbent layer can still be removed for washing and drying, they are easy to boost for more absorbency by adding additional inserts and no cover is required, they are a complete nappy.
CONS – The whole nappy has to be removed and washed after each wear, rather than removing the absorbent layer and put back on the cover until it is wet or soiled.
The simplest to use nappy, they are a whole and complete nappy in themselves, ready to go, nothing to do. They have an outer waterproof layer, an inner stay dry against baby’s skin, and an absorbent layer in between. Some AIO nappies do have a pocket, though they can be used without an insert and some can have inserts snapped in with press studs to boost absorbency but they can be used as a complete nappy on their own.
PROS – Easy to use, perfect for taking in the nappy bag, baby sitters, if you can use a disposable you can use an All in One Nappy.
CONS – They take a long time to dry and if they aren’t completely dry when packed away they do get a musty smell. Though if you do have a AIO with a pocket they dry faster if you turn the nappy inside out.
Similar to an All in One or Pocket nappy, except instead of having an inner pocket the absorbent layer is attached into the cover using press studs or Velcro.
PROS – Quicker drying than an AIO and the outer shell if not wet or soiled can be re-worn without washing and the inner layer simply removed and replaced.
CONS – They aren’t a complete nappy like an All in One, but they can’t be worn without the cover like a fitted nappy, though they are a good compromise between the two.