Cloth Nappies explained

Image credit: Creator: Linda Patterson Copyright: © Timeless Edge Photography

So you read about the waterproof part and you’ve had time let it sink in? No? Missed it? Go back a step – this way! Or scroll down to read about the absorbent part.

The absorbent part of a cloth nappy is designed to do one thing only – soak up the excretions from your wonderful pooping kiddo! Something to bare in mind here, is that you are relying completely on the fabric and it’s natural behaviour, rather than man made chemicals. This means two things: cloth nappies will not behave like a disposable in that you can’t expect them to last 12 hours without a little extra work (more on that later) and, therefore, typically this reduces nappy rash because of…well…no chemicals and more frequent changes.

‘Ugh, more changes?’ I hear you say. Well, ask yourself, is it really a bad thing to change a nappy more regularly? I’m speaking with an assumption that we ‘could’ leave a sposey on for say… 4 hours if there isn’t a poop. But would you really want to sit in your wee for that long? In *most* cases, a cloth nappy gets changed around every 3 hours on average during the day. And with some extra padding, they have the potential to last overnight. Assuming no poop, and that your darling actually sleeps that long anyway!

So, some names for the absorbent part include: insert, inner, prefold/flat/pad, muslins, and nappy.


This quite simply refers to the piece of absorbent material of your choosing, that gets ‘inserted’ into the wrap/cover.


When you start talking about cloth nappies around previous generations, you’ll often hear them say ‘oh yes, we had those…terries… large squares of cotton that we pinned to you’. Now, fear not. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. These pieces of fabric still exist, and I swear by them! I still use them on my preschooler who, bless his heart, sleeps deeper than a frozen mammoth.

Essentially, they are several layers of fabric, typically cotton, sewn together and you can fold them any which way you want. You can get fancy with it, or keep it simple. Whatever works for you. And they are seriously easy to wash and dry – just pop them in the tumble dryer or peg them on the line. There are some great youtube videos to help with this. Below is a video (coming soon) of my basic break down of them. 


These are used the same way the prefolds are, but on a smaller scale. They are perfect for newborns, who need changing very regularly anyway and have delicate skin and tiny bottoms. You fold them however you like and pop them in your chosen wrap, just as you would with a prefold.


The last alternate option for the absorbent part, is to have a ‘nappy’. These look just like your disposable nappy, only they are made with fabric. This can vary from cotton to bamboo, and have layers of fleece etc. Usually they are described by weight and sold in sizes such as ‘size 1’, and they are a very popular choice for night time. Being sized/shaped means they will last for a period of time before you need the next size. Some may have a row or two of poppers to make them smaller/bigger which extends the limits in which they fit. They are very absorbent and typically fit better being as they are more closely sized to the baby. 


Have you heard of boosters and liners? These are optional extras. Boosters are pieces of fabric you can add to your nappy for extra absorbency. This may be for heavy wetters or overnight. They come in various fabrics which each offer different levels of absorbency. Bamboo and hemp are known to be very absorbent but take longer to dry. They are ideal for children who urinate frequently in smaller amounts as they tend to absorb slower. Whereas microfibre absorbs large volumes quickly but may leak out. If you imagine a sponge that you squeeze in your hand then place on top of a spill and let go. It will soak it up quickly but if you apply some pressure onto it, the liquid will start to spill back out.

With bamboo and hemp, you would place it onto the spillage and it’ll soak up slower but won’t leak as easily under pressure. However if you were to pour liquid onto it quickly, it’ll slide over the top layer and spill out over the edge as it’s not had time to soak up.

Still with me? We’ve talked about the absorbent part and the waterproof part – but how do we put them together? Let this blog sink in and then continue onto the next blog about cloth nappy systems when you’re ready. 

Nappy Demonstration

Still feeling confused? A face to face demonstration often helps & includes one weeks hire.

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