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Which Nappy?

Confused by which nappy to buy?

Don't worry we were once in this position! After testing numerous different types and brands we have now become 'Nappy Gurus' and are here to help!

If the information below is helpful and you decide to purchase some real nappies, we have a facility on the left hand side of our website called 'quick shop' - this enables you to find nappies by type (such as 'shaped nappies') or by brand (such as Tots Bots).

It can be confusing trying to choose the right nappy for your baby and lifestyle - here is some advice to get you started.

There are four main types of modern cloth nappies on the market:

Flat Nappies:

This nappy system consists of two main parts - a folded terry or pre-fold nappy to absorb and a waterproof outer called a 'wrap' to prevent leaks.

Advantages: A budget priced system making it very reasonably priced. It can cost as little as £180, for a good quality set. These nappies also take less time to dry compared with shaped nappies, so a good choice if drying time is an issue.

Disadvantages: This system is fiddly and time-consuming as you have to fold the nappies prior to use and with a wriggly toddler they can be difficult to put on. As the nappy is not fitted around the baby, containment is poor compared to a shaped nappy system. Having said that they are an economical choice and if you use a good quality wrap (such as Popolini or Motherease) it should work fine. For night use we would definitely recommend a 'shaped' nappy.

Suggested wraps: We have found that the 'Motherease Rikki' is the best wrap for use with pre-fold nappies as it has gussets around the thigh which helps the pre-fold nappy stay in place. Terry Towelling Nappies work best with the following wraps: Motherease Rikki Wrap (Velcro) or the Motherease Airflow Wrap (Popper).

Examples of flat nappies: Flip Nappy, Bambino Mio, Bummis, Terry Towelling

Shaped Nappies:

Shaped nappies are already shaped to fit and fasten neatly around the baby without the need to fold them. They require a waterproof 'wrap' over the top to prevent leaks. Shaped nappies are available in different sizes or 'one-size' which adjusts as the baby grows.

Advantages: Shaped nappies tend to be the most reliable nappy type. Being shaped they are easier to use than a 'flat' nappy systems and there is no preparation involved. They are excellent for absorbency and the best nappy for containment as there are two sets of elasticated leg cuffs and waistbands to act as barriers to leaks (one in the nappy and one in the wrap!). Because of the last two points mentioned they are the best option for night-time use.

Disadvantages: They generally take longer to dry than other types of cloth nappies but this is very dependent on the fabric used. Bamboo for example is very absorbent and holds on to the fluid which is great, but because of this it will take longer to dry. If you have limited drying facilities it may be worth having just a few of these nappies for night time use and choosing a quicker drying option, such as a pocket nappy, for daytime use.

Examples of shaped nappies: Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretchy, Tots Bots Easyfit, Motherease One Size, Motherease Sandys

Pocket Nappies (also known as 'stuffable' nappies):

Pocket nappies are basically a wrap with a sewn-in fleece liner. These two layers form a pocket into which you add an absorbent insert (made from micro-fibre, bamboo, hemp or cotton). The nappy is adjusted by poppers or velcro to obtain a neat fit. The soft fleece lining inside acts as a stay-dry liner keeping baby's skin dry, and the fleece tends to be quite stain resistant.

Advantages: You can add slightly more absorbency to the nappy by putting another insert or booster inside the pocket. Once stuffed, these washable nappies work like all-in-one nappies, making them very convenient and easy to use - so great for nurseries / childminders. As the absorbent pad can be removed they take less time to dry compared to shaped nappies. Pocket nappies also tend to be quite slim-line in comparison to other types of nappies.

Disadvantages: If you have a heavy-wetter, you will need to purchase a booster to place in the nappy with the absorbent insert. Pocket nappies will need to be changed approx 3-4 hourly depending on your baby's absorbency needs. Although these nappies can be used at night with a booster, heavy wetters would require a 'shaped' nappy with a wrap for night-time use.

Examples of pocket nappies: Bumgenius V4, FuzziBunz, Blueberry Nappies.

All-in-One Nappies:

A nappy and wrap fastened together to provide you with the ultimate of convenience.

Advantages: These nappies are great for those babies attending nursery or being cared for by grandparents as they are as simple to use as a disposable. You can add a booster to them to increase the absorbency if required.

Disadvantage: Some all-in-one nappies take a long time to dry because you can't separate the absorbent material from the waterproof wrap. The more recent all-in-one nappy designs have a 'pull-out' or 'popper-out' absorbent core which although still attached to the nappy enables this absorbent material to dry quicker. These nappies are proving very popular. Although these nappies can be used at night with a booster, heavy wetters would require a 'shaped' nappy with a wrap for night-time use.

Examples of 'new style' all-in-ones: Easyfit V2 by Tots Bots, Pop-in Nappy by Close Parent

Below are some factors to consider when choosing the right nappy for your baby:

Fabrics and drying times: Modern cloth nappies are made from a variety of different fabrics and drying times differ enormously.
Bamboo - is 60% more absorbent than cotton, anti-bacterial and soft. It is also eco-friendly as it grows quickly without the need for pesticides. Because it is very absorbent it can take a while to dry. This is one of the most popular fabrics for cloth nappies.

Micro fibre - dries the quickest. It absorbs moisture between rather than into the fibre. It stays soft and squishy but can be a little bulky. A popular fabric for cloth nappies.

Cotton - takes less time to dry than bamboo or hemp but can become stiff in hard water areas. Cotton nappies are generally bulkier as more fibre is needed to make it as absorbent as a bamboo nappy for example. Organic cotton is slightly softer, chemical-free and eco-friendly! Over the last five years cotton has become less popular as a choice for cloth nappies in the UK.

Hemp - tends to take longer than cotton to dry but is very absorbent and slim. It is a fairly 'stiff' fabric but works well as a booster in a micro fibre nappy.

Nappy Fastenings: Poppers, Velcro or Aplix? Mostly, it comes down to personal preference.
The most durable fastening is certainly 'poppers' although they can sometimes be fiddly, but you do get used to them quickly with 6-8 nappy changes a day! Babies can sometimes be between 'popper settings' but this is usually not for long and you can usually 'make do' on the smaller or larger setting during this short time. Toddlers tend to find 'popper' fastening nappies more difficult to remove!

With velcro (also known as 'hook and loop') you always get a neat fit and with first time parents it is a popular option as it is so easy. With velcro you need to remember to fold back the 'velcro tabs' when washing as this helps to keep the 'hook and loop' working. Over time velcro can look 'shabby'. Aplix however, is a more durable form of velcro and is a good option if you are hoping your nappies may last a second child (Tots Bots only use aplix on their nappies).


Basically there are two different options for sizing:

  • Sized nappies (come in different sizes ie small and large)
  • One Size nappies (are adjustable to fit the baby from birth to potty training)

Sized nappies: These generally come in two sizes - small and medium or size 1 and size 2 (some brands have XS and XL also). With sized nappies you will need to buy 2 or 3 sizes to get baby from birth to toddler. Because they are sized according to different weights, they are generally neater and slimmer fitting than one-size nappies. They work out more costly initially, however they get less wear than one-size nappies and will therefore last well for a second or even third baby.
It is worth remembering that there is a second-hand market for cloth nappies so when your baby has grown out of them you could sell them and use the money to purchase the next size. You can generally get half the price you paid for them.

One Size nappies: also known as birth to potty nappies, adjust as the baby grows. For most babies, they should fit from around birth to potty training (around 2.5 yrs). They adjust by poppers on the front of the nappy which enables you to adjust the 'rise' of the nappy giving a correct fit for your baby's size. The 'rise' of the nappy only needs to be adjusted a couple of times from birth through to potty training. The nappy is fastened using either velcro / aplix or poppers. As it fits from birth to potty you only need to purchase the one size of nappy, making it a very economical option. If you are using a 'shaped' nappy system (nappy with separate wrap) you will need to purchase sized wraps as these don't come in one-size.


Research carried out in 2008 by the Environmental Agency found that reusable nappies are up to 40% better for the environment than disposables!

Reusable nappies are initially more expensive to purchase, however research has found that even when the cost of washing and drying is taken into consideration, you could save over £500 over your baby's nappy wearing life when compared to disposables. When you consider that reusables can be used on other children or even sold they become even more economical. The average cost of disposable nappies for one baby from birth to 2.5yrs is approximately £1,000. This cost does not even include the disposable wipes (approx £300-£500) and nappy sacks (£150) that are used over this period. The amount escalates to almost £2,000 when parents also use the expensive 'pull up pants' during the potty training period. And this is just for one baby!

The average spend for a good quality birth to potty kit of one-size washable nappies including accessories is between £250 - £300. You obviously need to consider washing costs which are approximately £40 a year (£100 over a 2.5 year period). If you opt for pre-fold nappies and wraps the cost is as little as £180 plus washing costs and at the other end of the scale a sized system (ie 20 small nappies and 14 larger nappies) will cost around £390 to include accessories. If well cared for these nappies may last a second or third baby!

How many nappies do I need?

Small babies need on average 6-8 nappy changes a day. Most customers like to have 2-3 days worth of washable nappies so they can wash the nappies on alternate days, rather than every day. Based on this we would recommend 20 nappies for a small baby. For older babies and toddlers, 5 - 6 nappy changes a day is normal. If you choose sized cloth nappies (nappies that come in different sizes) you could buy less of the larger size compared to the smaller size as you won't be changing the nappies as frequently. For 2-3 days worth we suggest 12-14 large nappies if you choose quick drying nappies (ie pocket nappies with micro-insert) or 14-16 nappies if you choose nappies or inserts made from cotton, hemp or bamboo (these are the longest drying nappies). If you decide on one-size nappies (that grow with your baby) I would recommend getting the standard 20 nappies as you will certainly need all 20 nappies in the early days.

If you decide to use a two part nappy system (a nappy that requires a separate waterproof cover / wrap) then you will need to purchase approx 1 wrap for 4-5 nappies (ie 4-5 wraps for 20 nappies). You don't need to change the wrap every time you change the nappy, simply wipe the wrap with a washable wipe / wet wipe and then re-use. You will need to change the wrap sooner if it becomes soiled.

What else do I need?

Bucket: A large bucket with lid to store your nappies in. We recommend 'dry pailing' your nappies in the bucket with a couple of drops of tea tree oil. We do not advise soaking nappies as this can damage some modern cloth nappies. If you wish to add a sanitiser to the wash we would recommend 'bio d nappy fresh' - available on our website.

Mesh Laundry Bag: A mesh bag that sits in the nappy bucket for easy transfer of soiled nappies to your washing machine. You don't need to touch the nappies when transferring from bucket to machine.

Wet Nappy Bag: A waterproof bag for storage of wet nappies when you are out and about.

Washable Wipes: It makes sense to use washable wipes when using cloth nappies - simply wet one under warm water and wipe baby's bottom. Place the wipe in the nappy bucket with the nappy and wash together (you will save between £300-£500 compared to disposable wet wipes).

Paper Liners or Fleece Liners: The paper liners we sell are both flushable and compostable, and come in rolls or boxes of 100 liners. They are convenient and easy to use. You simply place one in the nappy and when it is soiled you flush it down the toilet. If the liner is just wet, it can be placed in a compost bin. Polyester fleece liners create a 'stay dry' effect to your baby's nappy. Instead of using chemicals to absorb the urine, like the disposable nappies do, a fleece liner allows urine to pass through it into the absorbent part of the nappy and then dries quickly leaving a soft dry lining against your baby's skin. Solids don't tend to stick to the fleece liner and will drop off easily if placed over the toilet. You will need one fleece liner per nappy.

Check out our nappy accessory kit which includes all the accessories you need to get started with using cloth nappies and save £'s!!

Still confused and need HELP?

If you are still unsure or confused about which nappies to choose, we would love to chat it over with you. Please contact us and we will ask you a few questions regarding your preferences and your situation (ie.. Will you be returning to work?..... Do you have limited drying facilities etc....). With your answers we will be able to advise you on a type and brand of nappy to choose and discuss this with you.
Contact us on: 01926 735516 or visit our shop and see the full range at 73 Clarendon Street, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 4PN.


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