To make using cloth nappies easy and effective you'll need some or all of the following 'kit':
Nappies! Between 15 and 25 depending on type and washing factors (see below).
Wraps Around 4 or 5 in each size.
Fleece liners To act as a stay-dry barrier between baby and nappy.
Disposable (bio-degradable) nappy liners For extra ease of use or when you're out and about.
Boosters For extra absorbency at night or for a heavy wetter.
Nappy bucket To put soiled nappies into. A large bucket with a tight fitting - or preferably locking - lid is ideal.
Drawstring Nappy mesh Goes inside the bucket to make transferring to the washing machine easier. Simply open the drawstring before dumping the whole lot in the machine and the nappies will come out of the bag as they wash.
Washable wipes Well, if you're washing nappies you may as well! Flannelette or terry squares work well.
Waterproof drawstring bag For nappy changes when you are out and about.
Nappi nippas The nappy pin for the 21st century - an ingenious 3-way stretchy 'gripper'.
The different nappy 'systems' - in a nutshell
The most sophisticated reusable nappies are shaped, just like disposables, and made of layers of terry cotton, flannelette or fleece. They fasten with poppers or Velcro/Aplix (brand names for 'hook and loop' fastening) and either have an integral waterproof cover or require a separate 'wrap'.
Under the broad umbrella of 'reusable' nappies, there are several basic types of nappy that are made and used slightly differently...
- All-in-ones are nappies with a built in waterproof outer and an absorbent inner consisting of layers of shaped cotton terry or fleece. They fasten with poppers or Aplix/Velcro and aside from adding a liner and possibly a booster they are to all intents and purposes 'washable disposables'.
- Pocket style nappies consist of a waterproof cover lined with fleece which forms a pouch. This pouch is 'stuffed' with additional absorbent material - usually cotton 'prefold' pads or folded terry squares (but can be anything from cut up bath towels or cheap flannels to specially made 'micro fibre' inserts that are like expensive washing up cloths). The 'stuffing' is removed for washing so you effectively have a flat nappy and a wrap to dry, making them very quick to dry and almost as convenient as an all-in-one.
- Shaped nappies are what we call the rest of the styles we stock. These vary from very sophisticated shaped terry nappies with Velcro/Aplix fastenings and integral boosters and liners, to much simpler shaped layers of terry or flannelette that require separate liners and boosters and fasten with a nappi nippa. All the nappies in the 'shaped nappy' category require a separate waterproof cover - called a 'wrap' - that fastens over the nappy with poppers or Aplix/Velcro and stops clothes getting damp or soiled.
- Flat nappies are the most basic and will usually require some folding. Terry squares, prefolds (the US equivalent of our terry towelling squares), tie-on nappies and 'contours' are all included in this category. Terry squares and prefolds are also commonly used as stuffing for pocket nappies.
In addition, some nappies are 'sized', in other words you'll need to buy larger nappies as your baby grows and others are designed to be 'birth to toddler' nappies that will in theory fit your baby right through to potty training. Both sorts have advantages and disadvantages based on financial outlay, bulkiness, ease of use etc. and we've tried to outline these pros and cons in more detail in the 'choosing nappies' advice section as well as providing additional guidance with the 'star ratings' we give to each nappy.
The wraps are used over shaped nappies, terry squares or prefolds and fasten with Velcro/Aplix or poppers.They are often washable at high temperatures so can go in with your nappies and can be made from a range of fabrics including PUL (polyurethane laminate - a high-tech breathable fabric that is incredibly waterproof), fleece & wool. Different fabrics are ideal for different nappies and circumstances, check out the 'choosing wraps' advice section for more help.
How many nappies will I need?
This basically depends on how often you intend to wash them and what your drying facilities are. If you use an average of 6-8 nappies in 24 hours then you'll need at least 16 - this will mean washing every day and getting the wet nappies dry within 24 hours - so at least part-drying in a tumble drier most of the time. If you intend to dry your nappies on a clothes airer, over radiators or on the line then you'll probably need an extra day's supply to give you time to get each batch dry. We line-dry, or dry on a ceiling airer and find that some of the heavier nappies can take more than 24 hours to dry. Don't forget that in the summer it can be tricky to get nappies dry in rainy weather as you're unlikely to have your heating on for radiator drying.
How many wraps will I need?
As wraps don't need washing every nappy change (unless soiled) you should be able to manage with 4/5 wraps, replacing them with the next size up as your baby grows. You might want to have different wraps for day and night use but we deal with the options in more detail in the 'choosing wraps' advice section.