Cloth Nappies – The Basics

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The cloth nappy universe can be a daunting, confusing place for the uninitiated. There are several nappying systems, myriad different opinions on the best way to wash and enough brands to befuddle the most intrepid cloth nappy convert. Here is my low down on the most common types of nappy on the market today.


The most basic but most affordable type of nappy, the term flat covers both terries and prefolds. If your mum was using cloth nappies when you were little, this is probably what she had. Essentially a flat piece of cloth which can be folded in a number of ways to suit your needs. The adaptability and affordability of these nappies makes them a great option for newborns. There are only a handful of nappies that will fit a baby for the first four months of their life, and most of them can seem quite expensive given the short time they will be required. Also, as any mum will know, newborns go through a lot of nappies! Flat nappies fit the bill perfectly, being both inexpensive and easily adjustable. They will literally fit every baby!

What puts most people off flat nappies are the complicated looking folds, but they are easier to use than you would think. I used terries when Little Bean was a newborn. It was easy to learn the folds and I made sure to have plenty folded ready to go on when needed. The Nappy Lady has loads of great folding tutorials, it’s such a great resource! I used the Jo fold, quick and easy 🙂 If you plan to use flat nappies you will also need a wrap (this makes it all waterproof, here is a good choice for a newborn) and nappi nippas (the modern equivalent of a pin).


By far my favourite type of nappy and definitely the workhorse of my stash, fitted nappies are super reliable, economical (although more expensive than flat nappies), easy to use and give a nice big fluffy bum look! They are shaped just like a disposable and fix with either poppers or with a hook and loop type fastening (like velcro or aplix). They will also require a waterproof wrap on top (the Tots Bots Peenut and the Little Lamb Bombproof are excellent), but that double layer provides a double barrier to prevent leaks.

Fitteds come in a few different fabrics all with differing qualities. Bamboo seems to be the most common and easy to find. It is the most absorbent of the three but also takes the longest to dry. The Tots Bots Stretchies are a good choice of nice absorbent bamboo that doesn’t take too long to dry. Stretchies are the nappy I would always, without a doubt recommend, they were always my go to nappy! Fitteds also come in cotton for a decent level of absorbency with a little less drying time (see the Little Lamb cotton) and microfibre (like this Little Lamb nappy) for those who need a super quick drying option. They literally come out the washing machine almost dry! However, that quick drying ability comes at the cost of absorbency. These are ok for young babies, who need changed frequently anyway, but I wouldn’t count on their ability to hold a massive toddler wee!


The pocket nappy is another great adaptable option. The nappy is literally a pocket that you can stuff with whatever absorbent material you want to put in there. They are shaped and fasten the same way as a fitted but instead of adding a waterproof layer over the top of the absorbent part, you stuff the absorbent part in the pocket between the waterproof layer and the fast wicking fleece. It’s best explained with a picture, the Little Lamb onesize is a great pocket with some nice bamboo inserts and the page also has a great explanatory picture (and see here for a great deal on this lovely little nappy).

The trick with pocket nappies is getting the absorbency right and you may need to experiment a little with what you stuff them with. I found for us the two bamboo inserts in the Little Lamb worked well or a microfibre insert with a bamboo insert underneath. If you go for this combo always put the microfibre on top! The microfibre acts as a sponge, sucking up all that pee really quickly. However, just like a sponge, the pee can be squeezed out, which is where the bamboo comes in. The bamboo is great at storing the pee until change time.

All in two or Two part

All in twos, or ai2 for short, are less complicated than a pocket nappy but more economical than an all in one. They consist of a waterproof part and a separate absorbent part and the two popper together to make a complete nappy. My Little Bean is now out of nappies but I wish I had had more of these in my stash. They look great, are easy to use, don’t take up tons of space and you can reuse the waterproof part for more than one nappy change. The Grovia is a fantastic and beautiful ai2 (my ai2 of choice!) and Tots Bots have just developed their Peenut which looks very promising and has some great reviews, although I haven’t actually used it.

All in one

The ultimate in ease and luxury, you can’t get simpler than an all in one! As the name suggests, this is a complete nappy, all you need to do is put it on. Often a section of the absorbent part will fold out to make washing and drying that bit easier, and sometimes they will also have a pocket that you can stuff some extra absorbency in. The downside? Well, first is cost. They are the most expensive option (but you can get some great deals, like this one) and after one use everything needs washed, unlike a fitted or ai2. Next is drying time. With everything stuck together they take much longer to dry (but not as long as a fitted usually). But they are very easy and, because of this, even though it’s not my favourite nappy system, I did have a few of these in my stash and they were very useful. Great for those times I didn’t want to fight Little Bean to put a nappy on AND a wrap or those times I had run out of pockets because I hadn’t bothered to put them together. Tots Bots again have a great nappy in their Easyfit. Its particularly good because it is bamboo heavy, nice and absorbent! The Bambino Mio Miosolo is also a nappy I love, although I often had to add some bamboo boosters when Little Bean was a bit older.

So there you have it! Sorry that turned out to be a bit eic, but like I said before, there’s lots of info out there. I hope this can help to clear up any confusion you might have and if you have any other questions please leave a comment below or email me at You can also check out my post here for info on washing nappies.

Peace, Nat

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