A guide to the different types of cloth nappy

As part of Reusable Nappy Week 2021, I have been posting reviews of each type of cloth nappy on Instagram. It can be so confusing to work out what will work for you if you’re new to it all. So hopefully this will help explain what the options are and what might be best for you.

Pocket Nappies

First up in my reviews of different nappy types is the humble pocket. I love these are they are incredibly versatile, economical and quick drying. Perfect as babies grow and change shape, and brilliant for those on a budget.

🌿 What is a pocket nappy?
A pocket nappy is made up of two parts – a waterproof shell with a soft lining (the pocket) and an absorbent inner which can be removed from the inside of the pocket (the insert).

🌿 What goes in the pocket?
Anything absorbent really! There are so many inserts to choose from and I’ll do a separate post on that. But your main four choices are: Hemp, Bamboo, Cotton and Microfibre (or a combination). You can vary which inserts you use each time boosting when you need longer out of a nappy, which makes this a super flexible option.

🌿 What’s so great about them?
Because the pocket and the insert separate, these are a great option for quick drying. The pocket will dry super fast so you can then put other inserts in to get it back on the bum in no time. They’re also a pretty cheap option as you have so much flexibility and can pick up inserts very cheaply secondhand.

🌿 What’s your favourite pocket nappy?
We love @babaandboo – they are super soft fleece inside, with a double gusset (two sets of elastic around the legs) to contain even the most explosive poos. The inserts they come with (a bamboo mix) are slim but very absorbent, we only need to use one. And they fit so nicely with lots of room to grow!

Cloth nappy with woodland creatures pattern on dark background. Child is standing in front of a sofa with only the lower half visible, facing away from the camera.

All-in-one (AIO) nappies

Next we have all-in-ones. These are often the simplest nappies to use as they’re the most similar to a disposable. However, this means they can also be on the pricier side and not all AIOs are created equal!

🌿 What is an All-in-One nappy?
AIOs are all one piece. The absorbent part and the waterproof outer (PUL) are all attached. This means that you don’t need to do any prep before putting them on baby or washing them.

🌿 What’s so great about them?
AIOs are super easy to use, so they are great for out and about and for those less confident with cloth nappies. They are also ideal for sending to childcare and grandparents etc. They’re very easy to wash but can take longer to dry as they often don’t separate.

🌿 What should I watch out for?
AIOs are super easy and convenient, but because they’re all one part you need to pay attention to what they’re made of. Check what material the absorbent part is, as natural fibres (cotton, bamboo) are more absorbent than man-made microfibre. AIOs are also more pricey than other nappy types because of their convenience and you do get what you pay for so if you’re on a budget, it might be better to explore other options!

🌿 What’s your favourite AIO nappy?
We use a lot of AIOs and most of our stash is @littlelovebum and @bambinomio. They are quite different but they are both great in their own way. We love the convenience of AIOs and it’s really helped get everyone who looks after our babies on board with cloth, including nursery and family.

AIOs are a great way to switch over to cloth if you’re used to disposables. But it’s worth trying a few before you invest as they can be quite different in terms of fit and absorbency!

Child is crawling on a bed with white sheets, wearing a yellow cloth nappy in a chevrons pattern.

Fitted Nappies

Next, the focus is on fitted nappies. These are typically a good option for heavy wetter or night nappies but lack the convenience of an AIO or birth-to-potty solution

🌿 What is a fitted nappy?
A fitted nappy is a shaped nappy made just of absorbent material with no waterproof outer layer attached. They still have elastics to create a good fit and may have poppers, velcro or a nipper fastening. You put the absorbent part on the baby first and then fit a waterproof wrap over the outside.

🌿 What’s so great about them?
Because the whole nappy is made of absorbent material, rather than just a pad or insert, these are typically pretty heavy duty. As they are already shaped with elastics, they’re much easier to fit than flats or terries (more on those later) We use fitted nappies for overnight as they can easily cope with 13 hours’ wear.

🌿 What should I watch out for?
The main downside of fitted nappies is their bulk. They’re bigger than most AIOs and pockets so can give baby a pretty big booty. Some brands are also sized rather than birth-to-potty so you will need to buy new sizes as baby grows. Typically though this is only required once or twice, at around 9m and 2.5y. Depending on material, fitted nappies can also take a while to dry.

🌿 What’s your favourite fitted nappy?
We love @littlelambnappies bamboo fitted nappies. They’re excellent night nappies, being super absorbent and easy to use. The booster is sewn in but you can also add extra boosters if needed. We have a set of 5 which have been used every night for 2 years (across the two kids). The elastics are a bit sad now, but that doesn’t really matter as the wrap over the top keeps everything together!

Fitted nappies are an excellent option for when you need more absorbency from a nappy, particularly overnight. Don’t let the fact they’re two parts put you off as they’re still pretty simple and very effective!

Child is climbing on a chair in a cloth nappy with a forest creatures pattern in blue and red. Only the lower half of the child is visible, facing away from the camera.

Flat Nappies

Let’s talk about flat nappies. They are often overlooked for being too old-school and too fiddly. But there is a lot to love about flats! They’re wonderful for newborns, overnight and for heavy wetters as they’re versatile, cheap and incredibly quick-drying.

🌿 What is a flat nappy?
A flat nappy is a absorbent material that you fold before attaching to your baby and putting a waterproof wrap over the top. These include terries, muslins, bamboo flats and prefolds. There are many ways to fold these but they’re really not as complicated as you think! In terms of fastening, you’ll need a little device called a nappy nipper, the modern alternative to nappy pins.

🌿 What’s so great about them?
Flat nappies are a really economical option, great if you’re on a budget. They also tend to be very absorbent so are a super option for overnight or heavy wetters. They are incredibly versatile and, because you choose the fold, they’ll fit any sized baby and you won’t have to buy new ones as they grow. They also dry the quickest of any nappy option. Even better, once they’re done being nappies you have some excellent small towels or cleaning cloths!

🌿 What should I watch out for?
Flat nappies can be bulky once they’re folded and fitted, but that depends on the fold you use. And there’s no avoiding that they are more work than an AIO. They need to be folded and they can be more difficult to fit on a wriggler. However, if you store them ready-folded, you can pin one on even the most active toddler. My top tip would be to learn one fold and stick with it.

🌿 What’s your favourite flat nappy?
We used terries overnight for many months and even Tom can now do a kite fold with one hand! They are incredibly reliable. However, Buttons flats are so incredibly slim, yet still absorbent, so we do use these during the day and they dry in about an hour. Two excellent flat nappy options!

Flat nappies may seem complicated, but I really would urge you to give them a go if you are short on funds or drying space. It took some practice, but these are now a reliable and staple section of our nappy stash.

Child lying on a carpet holding a toy duck and smiling at the camera. Child is wearing a white terry towelling nappy.

The other main type of cloth nappy is an all-in-two (AI2), but I don’t use these so can’t review too well. However, they’re similar to an AIO, but the absorbent bit pops in rather than being attached.

I hope you find this explainer helpful and, as always, if you have any questions at all about cloth nappies please do drop me a message on Instagram or send me an email.


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