Before You Buy Reusable Nappies For Your Baby

Before You Buy Reusable Nappies For Your Baby

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Before you buy reusable nappies for your baby, know that  cloth diapering can be intricate.

There is no way of  knowing exactly what may  or  may not work  well for you  or your baby in an instant.

This is why before you buy reusable nappies, you must do your due diligence.

Doing your due diligence is very important because it helps you arrive at your own conclusions.

As you know yourself, someone’s  absolute gold standard might turn out  to be another’s   worst nightmare.

The world of reusable nappies is huge!

There are dozens of brands and types to choose from and a  barrage  of ideas  to process.

Finding A Suitable Nappy

Credit Charlie Banana

What you want ultimately  is a nappy that  is easy to use and to manage, able to  contain  blow outs, has  a  snug fit, comfortable, versatile, convenient, durable, kind to your baby’s skin and above all, makes economic sense to you.

Now, depending on the brand, cloth nappies  don’t always come cheap for you initially.

Certain high end brands are pitched by some mums  as being their best choice ever.

This isn’t to say that budget friendly brands aren’t equally as  good.

In this world of cloth diapering, a budget friendly brand might work better for your baby than the  very pricey and highly recommended brand.

So far

So far,  you have learned about the evolution of the cloth nappies in choosing reusable nappies for your baby part one

In choosing reusable nappies for your baby part two, I told you about  the interwoven roles you  and  your baby  play in deciding  your  cloth diapering options.

You also learned about the beauty of cloth nappies, caring for your cloth nappies and laundry routines.

This is going to be the final part of this series and it’s in two parts.

There are  tons of things to cover that just one post wouldn’t suffice.

In this first part, before you buy reusable nappies for your baby, I will be telling you about the different types of reusable cloth diapers, their pros and cons and their suitability for your baby.

The second part then, will be  a review of some of the best reusable diapers around.

I would be using the term diapers and nappies interchangeably as they are one and the same.

The Americans say diapers while the British say nappies.

Before You Buy Reusable Nappies For Your Baby…

Before you buy or settle for any  reusable nappy, you will need to know  the different types, their pros and cons and their suitability for your baby.

There is  no better way to do this, than to be willing to try out a variety of brands and types.

Be Willing To Try Out A Variety

One of the best ways of knowing what will work for your baby in terms of fit, comfort, containment, or allergic reaction,  is to try out a variety of brands and types.

You can try out as many as you wish by buying trial packs or secondhand.

Some  retailers offer clients a 30 day  trial pack for their nappies with a promise of  refunding a certain percentage, if they aren’t fully satisfied.

They  are excellent because you can try out multiple brands  before making an informed decision on which to settle for  afterwards.

Second hand reusable diapers  are the best kept secret in cloth diapering.

With them, you can try out as many brands  and types as possible without breaking the bank.

You get to keep the ones you like and also resell those that didn’t work quite well for you.

Buying second hand is a very cost effective way of acquiring diapers but ensure that the elastic around the legs and waist are still in good condition.

Know The  Different Types Of Cloth Nappies

Before you buy reusable nappies for your baby, it will also be wise to have a knowledge  of  the different types of cloth nappies.

Reusable nappies have evolved over the centuries, from the initial trial and error stages, to what has proven to work well for today’s mums.

Cloth diapering has moved on from the traditional flats and prefolds to  more manageable and convenient modernised  styles.

There are a wide variety of styles to choose from including pockets, sleeves, all in ones and  twos and the hybrid  nappies.

Be  aware that some babies react to certain fabrics like wool, bamboo, and microfiber.

This tells me   that not all nappy rashes are nappy rashes  per se, but  your baby  reacting to the fabric itself.

Cloth nappies come in two distinct types: nappies without an outer protective shell/cover and those with  an outer  protective shell/cover with  fasteners attached  to secure them in place.

Nappies Without Protective Covers

Flats, prefolds, contour, fitted, and the tie -ups (outdated) come under this category.

Separate protective pants/wraps such as wool, microfleece, PUL (Polyester Urethane Laminate) or waterproof pants must be worn over them to prevent leaks.

In addition, you  must also use   snaps or pins (not my preference) to secure the nappies in place.

The traditional cloth nappy was the first proper form of baby diapering post  Elizabethan era, and has been around since the 1800s.

Also known as  flats, they are either rectangular  or square shaped.

The most common fabrics used  are cotton, terry, and muslin, although today, we have them in a variety of fabrics like bamboo.

They are flat and single layered, much like a large tea towel.  You have to  first fold them  into shape to use.

A big plus for flats for me is that they are very  versatile and could serve more than one purpose.

For example, I used my terries  as  bath towels and  as protective overlays  on  the changing mat   to make them less cold during nappy change.

I particularly liked to lie my   babies’ on  them for  when I wanted  to “air” their  bums.

One mum said that  she  turned her cotton  nappies into kitchen towels  after a while, I turned my muslins  into burp cloths.

Very thick terry  can be  cut  up and used as inserts for pocket nappies.

One of my apprehensions  about flats  though, is that  you may not  achieve a  snug or customized fit  for your newborn.

That’s why I had leaks around the waist and legs.

I used to feel frustrated with the terry squares for my newborns  because they didn’t grip their  skinny legs well.

They were  too  bulky  for  their  tiny frame, and didn’t contain runny poo even with the protective plastic pants over them.

So much has changed since then.

More absorbent and less bulky fabrics like bamboo and hemp when used with the sleakier  and better covers like PULs, wool and fleece overpants  work much better.

Please click here for a how to fold diapers tutorials by Green Mountain


  • They are very durable, if  well cared for, and  can be used for  all  of your children and some.
  • They are easy to maintain.
  • They dry fast if you choose to use the terry or muslin
  • They have secondhand value.
  • They can be used from birth upwards.
  • They are ecofriendly.
  • They are  more affordable than the modern cloth nappy.


  • Terry squares are bulky when wet.
  • They don’t wick away moisture as the wetness sits on the surface
  • May not be suitable for extreme  heavy wetters, if used alone.
  • They are nappy rash prone.
  • They’re time consuming especially when you are in a hurry.
  • They  may not  contain explosives.
  • They are inconvenient for outings and daycare.

Some of these snags can be remedied especially if you are on a tight budget and want to go with this option.

Helpful Tips

You can choose to  use bamboo flats instead of terry  for trimness and better absorbency except that bamboos don’t dry as fast as the terry or muslin.

If you absolutely want to go for terry squares, you  can line the nappy with a  fleece liner  to keep things dry, and then wear baby a  wool or fleece cover, to absorb and protect against leaks.

You can use bamboo flats  overnight  if used in combination with a hemp booster  and fleece liner for added softness and dryness, plus a wool or fleece cover for added absoebency and leak protection.

Bamboo and hemp are very thirsty fabrics and work very well together to achieve better absorbency.

Hemp is normally stiff and scratchy so a fleece liner over it will make it more comfortable and also protect the nappy.

You can also use two flats.

The first is folded for use as usual while the second one  is folded  into a pad form  (tripfold)  and placed over the first.

You can use a fleece liner to protect the nappy and to maintain dryness and secure firmly with snap and a cover.

My concern about this is option is that  could be too bulky for baby.

Prefolds are similar to flats in shape and need to be  folded to use but  are  different in texture.

They  are made up of layers of  fabric sewn together with a padded mid-section for extra  absorbency.

Flats, on the other hand, are  flat, without layers or inner paddings.

They were  mostly  made of  cotton and muslin  but now come  in  fabrics like bamboo and in  combinations  such as  cotton and hemp.

Prefolds are suitable from newborn to potty training.

They are ideal  for heavy wetters or overnight use depending on the type of fabric you go for.

They are handy as inserts in pocket nappies or burp cloths if you so wish.


  • Like  flats, they are easy to maintain, durable, affordable, ecofriendly, versatile, have secondhand value.
  • They are more absorbent than flats because of the multiple layers and padded mid-section.
  • They are fast drying if you go for cotton or muslin
  • Ideal for newborns


  • They’re time consuming especially when you are in a hurry.
  • They  may not  contain explosives.
  • They are inconvenient for outings and daycare.

Helpful Tips

I think that when it comes to nappies, we have to accept the fact that there are really no absolutes against blow outs.

They can only  be curtailed if we make conscious efforts at trying to  reduce them by tucking the nappies into the covers properly  around the baby’s waist and the creases of his or legs, avoiding over stuffing the diaper.

Over stuffing creates gap at the bottom which  will lead to leaks and things like that.

Contours are easy to use and different from both  flats and prefolds in the sense that  they come in an hourglass shape which  takes away the burden of  folding.

I used the ones made of light terry fabric.

They are good to use from birth onwards but wouldn’t recommend for overnight use or heavy wetters.


  • Again, like  flats and prefolds, they are easy to maintain, durable, affordable, fast drying and have secondhand value.
  • They are less fiddly  which makes them easy to use.
  • They aren’t bulky when wet.


  • I wouldn’t recommend  them for outing or long travel
  • They don’t wick away moisture from the baby.
  • Not recommended  for heavy wetters and for overnight.
  • May not   contain blowout.

Fitted nappies are a much better version of contours and are  ideal for newborns.

They  do provide a snug fit, and  their hourglass shape, elasticated legs and waists means less leaks.

They come in a variety of fabrics (hemp, fleece, bamboo, or  cotton) and have  sized and  one size options.

Some fitted nappies come with inbuilt fasteners like velcro or snaps while  some don’t.


  • They are suitable for all ages.
  • The elasticated waist and legs help to contain blowout and leaks.
  • They come fitted already which makes them  convenient and easy to use.
  • They are excellent for overnight use and heavy wetters especially if they are of hemp or bamboo fabrics.


  • They tend to be bulky when wet
  • They are dearer than the flats, pre folds and contour.

Non-outer protective shell nappies have their pros and cons which you have seen for yourself.

One thing that stands out for me about flats and prefolds is their affordability and versatility.

The most obvious glitch about them is that you’ll   have to spend extra, buying covers and snaps.

Types of  Protective Covers

Protective covers are bought separately  and must be used alongside the  above nappies to help protect against leaks.

There are various types of covers.

Plastic nappy pants were the most commonly used pre-modern cloth diapering.

They had elasticated legs and waists  and were worn over the nappy like  a pant. They came in various sizes.

Being plastic means a lot of heat, no air circulation and diaper rash. Seeing  beads of condensed  moisture  on my  babies’ bum  was a regular occurrence due to the stuffiness they caused. That’s  why I needed to   “air ” their bums for a few minutes, ever so often. Plastic pants have a very short shelf life, tear easily after a few soapy rinses, are non-biodegradable  and are of the bygone era.

The Polyester Urethane Laminate known as PUL is very popular in modern cloth diapering.

They come  in the sized and   one size options.

They are waterproof, washable, breathable, durable, and manageable.

I also like them because they can be sterilised  which is a big thing for me.

Be aware though, that  care has to be taken  with  PULs when washing them in the machine.

Avoid  very hot temperature, fabric conditioners or  dryer   sheets as   they  can damage them.

Also note that they  stick  together when damp and can get damaged if  left  damp for too long.

Like  plastic pants,  PULs are  non-biodegradable.

Wool covers are natural, breathable, and excellent for absorbency.

This makes them  great for overnight use and  for heavy wetters.

Just a note of caution here, some babies  are  allergic to wool, so be vigilant  and watch out for any reaction.

The downside of wool  is that they dry slowly.

If you machine wash, be  careful  with wash temperatures and tumble drying.

Fleece covers are very absorbent and excellent for heavy wetters and for  overnight use.

I love them because they’re  soft and very  easy to manage.

They  wash well in any temperature, are quick drying, and very budget friendly.

Like wool, they are breathable, allow for air circulation and reduce the chances of diaper rash.

Fleece are a great alternative to wool for  baby’s  who are allergic to them.

Nappies With Protective Covers

Modern cloth nappies come under this category.

They usually consist of a fabric interior and protective shell  exterior added with  inserts, soakers, doublers,  boosters and liners for  different levels of absorbency.

They come in both  natural (like cotton, hemp, wool, bamboo) and  synthetic fabrics (like microfleece and microfiber).

The nappies are held in place by built-in fasteners  like snaps or velcro etc.

I have  mixed feelings for velcro.

Although they are very easy to use and help you  achieve a customised fit for your baby, they aren’t built to  withstand the rigours  of constant machine wash.

Besides  that, they are tricky to  wash too.

If you are familiar with  velcro, you’ll know that they   annoyingly stick onto other clothes in the wash.

You’ll  have to pull them off other items of  clothing and  that’s extra work to add to your workload already.

Thankfully, some brands have thought about this sticky situation and have devised ways to prevent it.

Modern cloth nappies are  very  similar in design to disposable nappies. Pockets, all in ones, all in twos and  hybrids fall under this group.

Pocket Diapers appear to be very popular among mums.

They are called pocket diapers because they have a pouch into which you can stuff  cloth inserts.

It’s interior is usually lined with  fabrics that wick  wetness from the surface.

For added absorbency, you can add a doubler alongside the cloth insert.

They are ideal for both day and overnight use,  as you can tweak them (by combining two types of fabrics) to achieve any  absorbency level to suit your baby’s needs.

They come in sized or one size options which makes them ideal from  newborns to  potty training.

They are quick drying, convenient, durable, and easy to maintain.

To wash, you would have to  remove the inserts and wash in baby mode settings preferably.

Note that too many inserts can  cause the diaper to become  bulky so  instead of helping with absorbency, they can in fact  leak, because the diaper becomes gappy at the bottom and fit snugly.

Price wise, there are both  dear  and budget friendly options.

Sleeve diapers are a variant of  pockets. Instead of one pouch, they have two, each  on both ends of the diaper.

They are less fiddly when stuffing  your insert.

They can  be washed in the machine without having to first  remove the inserts as they come out during the wash.

If you don’t like removing inserts, they are the  best for you.

All in Ones (AIOs) are convenient and easy to use.

They are user friendly and great for outing, the creche and  minders.

They are disposable nappies in reusable form.

The AIO  consists  of  an  outer protective shell onto which an overlay  of  absorbent fabrics are  sewn  to create a single  nappy.

They are ideal for all ages.

A  drawback for AIOs is that  they are very slow to dry.

On top of it all, you don’t have the luxury of reusing one  diaper multiple times.

All in Two (AI2) is  different from the AIO because it has  two separate parts.

An outer PUL exterior and  an inner  fabric overlay onto  which you  can  attach  or detach a soaker pad.

Unlike the AIO, the AI2  can be used multiple times if  not soiled or wet.

All you need  do is to replace  the  soiled soaker  with a clean one.

You don’t need to wash the outer shelf as often, making them longer lasting than the AIOs.

AI2s are affordable, convenient,  user friendly, and  are very good for when you  want to travel light or  don’t want to over pack for an outing.

Hybrid nappies are designed for  both disposable and reusable inserts.

They are very convenient for busy mums and versatile enough  for those who choose to use both reusable and disposable inserts.

Hybrid nappies  are ideal for travel, very long outings and for those times when washing is impractical. The holdup about them though is that they  are expensive.

Inserts, Doublers, Boosters, Soakers And Liners

Most  nappy brands  come with additional inserts as part of the package while some are sold separately.

I would say be sure  of what is  included in the price before you pay for it.

Inserts are those long rectangular strips usually stuffed  into the pocket nappies.

They are  used to trap in wetness and often come in a variety of fabrics, like cotton,  charcoal, bamboo, and hemp.

Most pocket diapers come with microfiber inserts.

A doubler can be used  with inserts for the pocket nappies for added absorbency.

It’s smaller in size and less bulky especially if it comes cut in  an hourglass shape.

Doublers come in bamboo, cotton, and hemp fabrics.

Some mums like to combine two  types of fabrics to achieve a higher level of absorbency.

Due to their size, they are excellent  as inserts for newborns.

Soaker pads are designed for AI2s and  are great for added absorbency.

Soakers come in cotton, hemp, and bamboo fabric, which  allows you to choose the absorbency level  you want to achieve, for either  daytime or overnight use.

Boosters are also  smaller than inserts and are  used in AIOs for extra absorbency.

The good thing about boosters is that you can combine  two types of  fabrics to achieve the level of absorbency you want.

They come in fabrics such as bamboo, cotton, charcoal, and hemp and  are ideal for heavy wetters and overnight use.

Liners are excellent for both  wicking away  wetness from the surface and to protect nappies from poo.

They are ideal for all types of  cloth nappies. You could use  flushable/disposable or reusable (fleece) liners.

I think flushable liners make dealing with poop a lot easier  but again, everything boils down to your preference.

Types Of Fabrics

Hemp is a natural fabric.

It’s very thirsty and  the most absorbent  and  least bulky of all the fabrics which  makes it great for heavy wetters and overnight use.

The snag about it is that it’s stiff, rough, and scratchy and should be lined with a fleece liner for a soft and comfortable fit.

Hemp made in combination with cotton are easier to use but must still be lined with a microfleece liner for added softiness.

Cotton is absorbent and very affordable, although not as absorbent as the bamboo and hemp, they are durable and easily available.

Bamboo  is   a natural fabric  but when processed, they come out as rayon (viscose) which is  semi synthetic.

They are less bulky and more absorbent than cotton (especially after several wash cycles).

Like hemp, they excellent for heavy wetters and overnight use.

The down side to bamboo  is it takes a lot longer to dry.

Charcoal bamboo  is very absorbent and great for overnight use.

Microfiber is a  synthetic fabric and  commonly used as  insert for  pocket nappies.

They  are efficient, quick drying  and  highly absorbent.

They don’t shrink even after several washes and tend to be durable.

Microfibre tends to start having containment issues  over time due to  detergent build up which causes  the fabric  to repel liquid.

 Nappies  made of this  material are  most susceptible to compression leaks, that’s  why  they have  to  be changed frequently.

Although they  can hold  up  reasonable  amounts  of liquid, they don’t drink  them up   in the same   manner  as  bamboo or hemp.

Therefore, when the nappy is  full  and undergo a  squash  from   baby  sitting  forcefully  on his or her bum or  a  squeeze from   a firmly fitted car seat or  pushchair harness, leaks are likely to  occur.

Also, be  careful not to place  this fabric  directly under baby’s skin as they can cause  irritation.

If you must use it outside of the  pocket nappies, it’s better to put a liner (a fleece liner ) over it.

This way, your  baby’s bum isn’t  in  contact, significantly  reducing the changes of irritation.

Sized or One Sized Nappies

A common confusion mums’ face is whether  to buy a sized or one size diaper.

They both have their pros and cons.

Credit Charlie Banana

One of the advantages of buying a one size nappy is that you can use them  throughout your baby’s  diapering phase.

This means that you don’t have to keep replacing diapers  as baby grows from birth to potty training.

For this reason, one size diapers are  a more economical option.

They can be used for more than one child, that is if you have  young children under two years of age.

All you need to do is to adjust riser buttons as they  grow.

As easy as this may sound,  riser settings on  nappies appear to confuse many mums.

The good news now is that there are online  resources accessible  at your fingertips.

There are Facebook platforms, instructional videos on  YouTube  and apps created by manufacturers to help guide you every step along the way.

One sized nappies aren’t without cons.

Although they are mostly presented  as suitable for all ages, we know that in reality it isn’t always the case.

That they are one size doesn’t imply it’s a one size fits all for all babies.

Most of the time, they  fit  awkwardly  on preemies and newborns because even with the adjustments, they may be still too big for them.

Also, they don’t  always have provisions for the umbilical cord, which is a no brainer for me.

One size nappies also  undergo a lot of wear and tear due to frequent washing.

The Sized cloth nappy comes in  sizes  one and two or  X small,  small, medium, and large, depending on the brand.

They are the preferred choice for newborns or smaller babies  because they provide a snug and customised fit  and comfort.

They undergo less wear and tear because they are used for a specific period of time and can be kept away until when needed for another baby or for resell.

The cons are that you will have to replace them as your baby outgrows the size.

It’s not always the economical choice, if you have a tight budget.

There aren’t  any hard and fast rule when it comes to deciding whether to go for the sized or one size option.

I think it  will be a great idea to try both  out  in order to enjoy the benefits they provide.


What do you think about cloth nappies?  Do you have any experiences or advice to share?

We will be happy to hear from you. Please leave your comments below.

Thank you and stay safe.

Reference and further reads



Thinking about cloth


Ibinabo Enebi

Ibinabo Enebi

I'm Ibinabo Enebi, and I can now safely say that my life is a beautiful journey of ups and downs. What had appeared to be fragments of unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities were, in fact, the dots and colours necessary to create this worthy experience I call my life. I'm a wife, a mother of four, a sister, a friend, and an aunt. I hold a BA (Hons) in English Studies and a Master of Arts degree.

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