A cloth nappy

Understanding how cloth nappies work

I remember when I first started researching modern cloth nappies; I felt confused and overwhelmed, and it probably took me the nine months of my pregnancy to really understand the different types. Pocketsflats, pre-folds, all-in-ones—and don’t get me started on all the acronyms. It was a lot.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, so I’ve put together this basic guide to help you understand, in the simplest terms, what a reusable nappy is and how it works. Once I understood this, everything else made sense.

What's a cloth nappy?

A cloth nappy's a reusable, washable diaper that has two parts to it—the absorbent inner layer and the waterproof outside layer. So, no matter what type of washable nappy you’re talking about, they all come down to these two parts.

Most nappies come in separate layers, meaning you have to buy the waterproof layer and the absorbent layer separately. All-in-ones, on the other hand, are so called because they combine the two sections into a single product.


An infographic showing how to understand cloth nappies

What types of reusable nappies come in separate layers?

Here are the types of reusable nappes you’ll need to buy in separate layers:

  • Pockets
  • Flats
  • Prefolds
  • All-in-twos
  • Snap-ins

Snap-ins can straddle both categories. They’re often sold together with the inserts, but because they’re removable, they’re still a two-step system.

What types of nappies are best for you?

The best nappies for you are the ones that are easy for you to put on, comfortable for your child and have the right amount of absorption. So if you were hoping for a clear-cut answer to this—sorry.

The only way to know is to try different types. If this makes you nervous, try starting with just two kinds and see how you like them. You’ll quickly determine if they’re working for you or not, even if you’re a first-time cloth parent. If not, sell the ones you have (yes, there’s a market for secondhand reusables) and try something else. Easy as.

Don’t worry too much about wasting money this way—check out our research on how much disposable diapers cost.

Buy cloth nappies here

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