"HELP! I want to use cloth nappies but I am SO confused!"
I get this one a lot. Cloth nappies sound like a great idea, but they are also more intimidating than the copious amounts of stuff excreted from your child every day! It is a whole new language. There are SO many options, and so many different opinions. Plus - every baby has a different body shape and different absorbency requirements. So where do you start? I usually recommend playing with a few nappies, and seeing what gels better for you. Think about how you are going to wash and hang them to dry, do you want to be stuffing inserts into pockets or changing folds depending on your baby or do you want to just slap your inserts inside a cover and put it on? Does the price make a difference to you, and how many will you start with? Do you want to use snaps or velcro, or would you prefer to skip closures all together and jump straight to woolen covers (which need to be lanolised, but not every day!).
Confused yet? Yep, I thought you might be. Let's start with breaking down the basic nappy styles, to help you get the hang of things.
We all know what a traditional flat nappy is, right? A plain square of terry towelling or flannelette that we fold in one of many different ways, attach with pins or snappis or sliders, and then hide under a giant cover because, let's face it, that booty is huge! They're cheap, readily available and amazing value for money because you can use them after toilet training for house work, cleaning your car, wiping up random spills, keeping in the boot in case you need to dry a kid off or clean up an injury on the go. Plus, you simply rinse, wash and hang or throw in the dryer and they are ready to use again. Easy!
Prefolds and trifolds are generally rectangular shaped nappies, similar in style to a flat nappy. They usually have sewn in markings to help you with folding, and sometimes the middle section will include extra absorbency and/or a stay dry lining. You can do lots of fancy folds and change the folding to suit your baby's age, weight and also absorbency requirements. Prefolds are generally quite cheap, and can be used as a standalone nappy or as a booster (especially with toddlers needing more from their night nappy). Like the flat nappies, prefolds are easy to wash and dry but they do require a separate waterproof cover.
You can use flats or prefolds and covers for a newborn, and if you like that system you can continue to use it right through to toddlerhood. I use prefolds and OSFM covers with my 3 year old at home, and just use "MCNs" mostly when we are out or when hubby does nappy changes. I simply pad fold the prefold and lay it inside the cover because I am not a fancy girl!
WAIT! Aren't we talking about MODERN cloth nappies here? Well... yes! Flats and prefolds have still been modernised in recent years with the introduction of silicone nappy fasteners to replace nappy pins, and nappy covers have changed a lot! But let's get into the nitty gritty of the "modern" cloth nappy.
An All-In-One (AIO) literally means the entire nappy is one piece: inserts are sewn into the waterproof cover which is usually lined with more absorbency. Great for newborns when you are too tired to stuff nappies (although laying a pad-folded prefold inside a cover is very easy too!) and sometimes gets good favour with grandparents and daycares. AIOs generally take longer to dry because the layers can only be separated a little bit so they aren't ideal for particularly cold or wet climates.
All-In-Two (AI2) nappies have covers that can be separated from the inserts. They will often come with more than one insert to give you extra absorbency options as your baby grows. Many AI2s also have a pocket, so you can choose to put the inserts inside the pocket or simply lay them inside the cover. Most AI2 inserts will have some form of larger, often snap-in absorbency and a smaller booster (usually!). Each piece can be completely separated to allow for easier washing and drying, but they need to be hung individually so you will need more pegs or octopus hangers for all those extra bits! This is the most commonly used MCN style.
Pocket nappies have a soft lining (often made of a stay-dry fabric) sewn over the top of the cover, with a pocket opening in one or both ends to stuff your inserts inside. These generally take an extra few seconds to put back together but once they are prepped they look like a "complete nappy" so they are less likely to fall apart in your nappy bag and/or intimidate anyone that offers to help with a bum change! You can easily fit a pocket nappy in the dark, half asleep, without having to think too much about it. Repositioning inserts inside the pocket can be a negative for some people, while others prefer that the inserts are supported inside the pocket and may move around less while on the bum ("OTB" if you are in a Facebook chatter group!).
Fitted nappies are shaped like standard MCNs but require a separate waterproof cover. These can be particularly helpful for night nappies or when you need extra absorbency because you can fit the nappy with a good seal, then add extra absorbency on the *outside* and THEN add a waterproof cover over the top. There are lots of brands that offer fitted nappies with standard day absorbency, that can be boosted using their additional night inserts or your own (remember those prefolds we were talking about before?). Awesome for heavy wetters but the added thickness may increase drying time.
Night nappies is a whole other ball game. Some babies can get away with a standard day time MCN with possibly an extra booster included. Other times, a medium or heavy wetting baby (ie someone that feeds all-night-long!!) will need a dedicated night nappy. Night nappies are often the fitted style we just discussed due to the ability to boost the daylight out of them (see what I did there?). If you are using flats or prefolds with covers, or even an AI2 nappy with a generously sized cover, you can get away with using whatever covers you've got and just purchasing night nappies as required. You don't need night nappies for newborns because you get up to them so much anyway, so you can get away with waiting and seeing how you go with your stash in the meantime and worrying about night nappies when baby is a few months old and hopefully sleeping slightly longer stints (haaaaaaaa!).
A stash of 24x one size fits most (OSFM) nappies is a great place to start, but you could literally start with one cloth nappy a day if you wanted to just commit to a few. Just keep in mind that newborns generally need 10-12 nappies per 24hr period, so you may need a few extra prefolds or newborn sized nappies, but you can generally reuse the covers if they haven't been soiled so you won't need a huge number of those!
Still clear as mud? That's ok! Email me if you would like to arrange a video chat or showroom appointment to see the nappies first hand and have a chance to ask questions. If you are ready to jump in, check out our bulk discount codes and nappy starter packs to get that stash started!