New to Cloth Nappies – Getting Started

Considering cloth nappies?
Not sure where to start?

Are you new to cloth nappies? There is a huge variety of cloth or reusable nappies on the market, it’s hard to know what types and materials to go for.
Well I’m hoping this article will give you the lowdown on cloth nappies, I’ve broken the info down into 4 sections; sizing, types, materials and fastenings.


Generally nappies come into two main categories – sized and birth to potty (btp).

Birth to Potty (btp)

These are adjustable nappies which are intended to grow with your baby. The nappy may have poppers adjusting the rise of the nappy, or require minimal folding to reduce the size. They are easier to use than flats as thy don’t need extensive prep work before they resemble a nappy so they’re a bit more ‘hubby’ friendly. From a budget perspective birth to potty nappies are a winner, but they do tend to be bulkier than sized nappies and it can be harder to get a good ‘leak free’ fit on your baby.

Example: Totsbots easyfit, Bamboozle, bumGenius elemental, Milovia, pop-in +bamboo and +minkee
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Newborn nappies

People often say that they’re going to use disposables for the first few weeks and then switch to resuables, but we say “cloth from day 1”! One size nappies are great for use from birth to potty but they can sometimes be a little big for newborn babies. Newborn nappies are great size for babies that are about 5lb to 12lbs.

Exaples of these nappies are GroVia AIO, bumGenius Newborn, Pop-in newborn nappy pack and Milovia covers & inserts


Flats & Pre-folds

These are the traditional cloth nappy. the whole nappy is typically the same material and are generally cotton, or bamboo.
Flats and pre-folds do look similar however pre-folds are layered with the most absorbency in the centre of the nappy and tend to be more rectangular. These do require folding to fit round the baby, and fastening with either a pin of a nippa. These are also available in different sizes to accommodate the size of the baby. The whole nappy will get wet so they will require a wrap (new alternative to plastic pants) these will also be in different sizes.

Shaped or Fitted Terries

Shaped & fitted terries do not require any additional folding, they are shaped to fit round the baby, and can fasten with nippas, poppers (snaps), Aplix (velcro) or even tie on. Again they come in a range of materials including bamboo, cotton and microfibre. These are available in both sized and btp nappies. As with the Flats/Pre-folds these nappies also require a wrap as a waterproof barrier between the nappy and the baby’s clothes.

Pocket Nappies

Pocket nappies are quiet different to the others nappies described so far. They are generally nappy shaped ‘shell’ with a waterproof layer built in, and have a hole/slot in the lining of the nappy shell to allow ‘stuffing’. The stuffing is what provides the nappy with absorbency. Most manufacturers will sell their nappies with a basic level of absorbency, and they can be ‘boosted’ with extra inserts if needed. Some manufacturers only sell the nappy ‘shell’ as standard and you will need to purchase the inserts separately. It is always worth checking what is included before making a decision. These can be made in a variety of materials, fleece or suede-cloth is often used to line the nappy shell so there is a soft layer next to baby’s skin. Pockets are typically available in two types of fastenings Poppers and Aplix (velcro), and can be found in both sized and birth to potty varieties.

Example: bumGenius 4.0, FuzziBunz Elite, Wonderoos and Milovia pocket nappy

All-in-ones (AIO) or All-in-twos (AI2)

All-in-one nappies are what they say on the tin. Everything included. The waterproof outer, absorbency is all there. They often have all the inserts fixed in, and generally cannot be removed which can mean the drying process is slower after washing. Some manufacturers design the inserts so they can fold out when drying.
Example: TotsBots Easyfit,  bumGenius Freetime & Elemental and GroVia AIO 
All-in-Twos form the same basis as the all-in-one but the nappies come apart allowing for easy drying.
Example: Close Pop-in+bamboo  or Close Pop-in +Minkee
As with Pockets the two types of fastenings are used Poppers and Aplix (velcro), and can be found in both sized and birth to potty varieties.


The Hybrid is more recent addition to the cloth nappy world. In similar to traditional nappies they’re generally two-part a inner and a wrap. The big difference is the inner in hybrids can be reusable or disposable. These can be sized or birth-to-potty and in a range of materials.

Example: Bumgenius Flip and GroVia Hybrid nappies


Wraps on their own will not do the job of a nappy, but are designed to provide the barrier between the cloth and clothing. They are available in a range of fits, fastenings and materials. Fleece or Wool are good night wraps. They are typically sized but can now be found in birth to potty as well.

Example: TotsBots Flexiwraps and Milovia Covers

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The materials listed below are typically used in the manufacture of nappies. Each has it’s purpose for either providing a stay-dry layer, waterproofing or absorbency.


Bamboo is one of the fastest growing sustainable materials nappies are made from with the added bonus is that it’s really absorbent. It is used for either the whole nappy (traditional/shaped terries) or for the inserts of the nappy. Due to the thickness of bamboo it is a very slow drying material and depending on the drying facilities you have available bamboo might not necessarily suit your needs.


Cotton is the most common nappy material either on it’s own or combined in other materials, as with the bamboo it is either used for the whole nappy (traditional/shaped terries) or for the absorbent core. It is generally quick drying and can easily be tumble dried. Organic cotton tends to be more absorbent than standard cotton due to fewer chemicals being used in the growing process.


Fleece is a man-made polyester based fabric which has useful stay-dry properties, moisture only passes one way allowing wetness to go through it and keep the baby’s skin dry. It’s often used as a liner in pocket and all-in-one’s, independently as a wrap or sometimes as a decorative, soft cover for the outside of the nappy.


Hemp like bamboo is a fast growing, sustainable material. It is also a thirsty material however unlike bamboo Hemp takes in moisture much more slowly. So is not normally used for the whole nappy but mainly for inserts/boosters to complement additional inserts such as microfibre or cotton. It is ideal as a booster if you have a heavy wetter.


Microfibre is a man-made fabric, highly absorbent but tends to get squidgy when saturated and can cause wicking. It is the typical material used for nappy inserts. Microfibre on it’s own can chaff so it is advisable to use it inside pockets or topped with fleece or suede cloth.

PUL (Polyurethane laminate)

Again this is a polyester based fabric, however this has been laminated to create a waterproof barrier. Unlike traditional plastic pants PUL is much more breathable, and can be easily washed and tumble dried. PUL is used as the waterproof layer inside pocket/all-in-one/two nappies and in wraps.


Suede-cloth is a man made fabric which is really soft and has similar properties to fleece being that moisture can pass through it and stays locked away from baby’s skin. Often used as a topper to inserts or as a lining to pockets.


Wool can be specifically knitted or recycled into wraps for covering traditional nappies. They do require lanolising with Lanolin to provide a waterproof barrier. Lanolin is what keeps sheep naturally waterproof.

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Aplix (velcro)

Aplix also known as velcro is a strong fastening material for the nappies, most manufacturers will provide ‘laundry tabs’ for the aplix to stick to whilst being washed to prevent damage to other garments. Aplix is highly adjustable allowing a good fit around both the baby’s tummy and thighs.


The nappy nippa or snappy is a modern replacement to the traditional pin. It is a ‘T’ shaped piece of stretchy plastic with hooks on the underside which grips onto the fabric. When the nappy and the nippa are in place the nappy should fit snug. These are used on the traditional/shaped terries. They tend not to be used on other types of nappy as they can damage the waterproof layer.


Poppers or Snaps are used on the body of a birth-to-potty nappy to enable the rise to be adjusted and secured, or as a fastening across the babies tummy, or both. Most manufacturers now allow for the baby’s growth in the design of the nappy, but poppers do not always allow for the snug fit, and can have fit issues if your baby has a chunky waist and slender thighs or vice versa.


Tie on nappies are not overly common and are typically the more traditional styles of nappy which require a wrap. The tie will normally be the same material as the nappy body.

Hopefully this article has educated you on some of the many options available when choosing cloth.

For further Info in starting out see Cloth Nappy Care

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I am Mummy to a little boy called Quentin, currently on maternity leave until July 2010 and Nuts about Cloth Nappies.

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5 Responses

  1. Niamh says:

    Great informative blog – very practical for anyone new to cloth!

  2. Allan says:

    Great guide to how to start with washable nappies.

  3. Caroline says:

    Fab artical! i’ve just started out in the world of cloth and its pretty overwhelming…its great to read an artical like this! thank you

  4. Jo says:

    I wish we’d read something like this when we first bought washable nappies! Thanks for this fab article X

  5. nicola Rothwell says:

    Great article, I am a fourth time mum first time real nappy user hopefully when this baby arrives in early spring 2013. I was getting myself confused about the different types but you have cleared up a few issues. Thank you very much

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