Cloth vs Disposable Nappies

Cloth vs Disposable Nappies

The Nappy Lady is here to guide you through one of the trickiest decisions for new parents: cloth nappies or disposables?

disposable nappies cloth nappies

Or did you can use both cloth nappies and disposables together!

As new parents to be, many of us may consider using cloth nappies for a moment but we generally tend to just go with the convenience of disposables from day one. 

Why is this?  Most of us just follow everyone else’s lead and think that cloth nappies will be too much like hard work.  I believe this is because we still think of cloth nappies as big flat nappies floating in the wind with tonnes of folding, buckets of dirty nappies soaking and nasty old pins. 

As new parents, we brought some flat nappies and gave up before we had even tried them.  I was NOT sticking pins anywhere near my baby!  Let alone the fact that I hadn’t even thought to buy any over naps for the nappies either so they were never going to work.

Little did we know that there were some more convenient cloth nappies out there called MCN’s (modern cloth nappies). We had no idea that cloth nappies had evolved and become far more effective and hi-tech than the old flat ones.  Until one day my friend Paula introduced me to them and look at me now!

Today, cloth nappies no longer require soaking, folding or pins and we worked out very quickly that we could save money even only using them part-time. 

Wow.... but how do you choose?

How could it be that there are so many brands available?  It is like a whole world of fluffiness that you had no idea ever existed until you had a baby!

You start doing a bit of research and before you know it you are hooked on cloth nappies and generally quite confused.  Your other half can’t understand your obsession with the little fluffy things you are sitting on the internet looking at for hours on end. 

Now you don’t know where to start and how to pick the best one for your baby.  The fact is they all look really great.

All of a sudden you are confronted with crazy new terms like - fitted nappies, pockets, AIO’s, OSFA, pre-folds, all in twos, snap in ones, inserts, boosters, covers, wraps, liners and the list goes on and that is without a brand in sight. 

So, let’s make it simple...There are two main parts to every nappy system. 

The Nappy – The absorbent bit – This is what absorbs any wetness and is made from a range of different fabrics for example, bamboo; cotton; microfiber; hemp. The absorbent part may also be called an insert or a booster.

The Wrap – The waterproof bit – The wrap is the outer most part of the nappy.  It keeps any wetness inside the nappy system. 

Inside the Nappy you may end up using:

A Liner – This catches the solids – The liner sits against the baby’s skin.  A disposable liner is one you pop I your rubbish bin or you can use reusable synthetic liners which keep baby’s skin dryer.  In some of the different nappy systems the liner is already a part of the nappy.

A Booster / doubler – Boosts the absorbency of the nappy system - These are made from multiple layers of fabric and are great for heavy wetter’s and night-time use.  The booster would normally be inserted between the nappy and the liner

So, there are basically just three basic parts to any nappy system, the ‘nappy’ (absorbency), the ‘wrap’/’cover’ (waterproof part) and the ‘liner’ (for convenience).  Every nappy will have these in some way shape or form.

Moving on to style:

There are four main styles of nappy available today and then there are styles within styles which can become a bit confusing. 

However, each nappy style has its own unique benefit that makes it different to the other ones available.  Obviously, nappy designs will also vary between brands so this is a very basic overview of the four main styles.

Pre-folds – The Basic Nappy

Pre-folds are like an upgraded flat nappy.  They are a great money saving option as they are quite a bit cheaper than some of the more hi-tech nappies available today, but they make a great new-born nappy.  I tend to suggest that parents using pre-folds need to use specific covers designed to go over pre-folds.  If you have a skinny legged baby like my boy was, you may also like to get a cover that has a leg gusset on it for extra containment.  The better covers will cost a bit more, but I found it well worth the extra expense.

Fitted Nappies – Poonami proof

Fitted Nappies are where the nappy is fitted (elasticised around the legs and waist) and the wrap is separate providing two leak guards giving excellent poop containment.  They were one of my favourites for our skinny mini son as we had less leakage with this style in the early days. They are a really absorbent nappy, so they also make a great night nappy option.

Pocket Nappies – Fast Drying

A pocket nappy is where the nappy has a pocket in the back or the front of the nappy where you add and remove the absorbency from inside the pocket.  The pocket nappy is a great day nappy because once all the pieces are together they are like a one piece to put on.  The biggest benefit of the pocket nappy is its ability to dry so quickly because they are generally made from synthetic fabrics and all of the fabrics pull out of the nappy to dry faster.

All in Ones - Convenience

An all-in-one nappy is the easiest nappy to use because all of the bits are sewn together.  This style is the most like using a disposable nappy. It is just one piece and it is put on a baby just like a disposable nappy. The All in Ones are great for putting on a moving child or for babysitters, day-cares or grandparents to use.

How many nappies do I need??

New-borns are normally changed around 8 – 10 times per day and infants are generally changed around 3 – 5 times per day so it depends on the age of your child as to how many nappies you will need to purchase to get started. 

If you are just wanting to have a go and see if you are going to like using cloth nappies, my suggestion is to get a couple of nappies or trial packs and just give it a go.  I would like to see every baby using at least 1 cloth nappy per day.  If we all had 1 cloth nappy change per day at home, this would prevent 1 million nappies per week from going to landfill.  But we would still be able to use the disposables for convenience.

If you are just intending on using them just on a home day, then start with around 4 – 6 nappies and see how you go.  Remember you can always get more especially if you are on a limited budget. 

It is important to remember that all nappies, cloth or disposable, should be changed regularly regardless of how much moisture they can absorb.  This will prevent a bacterial build up in the nappy which can cause skin irritation (nappy rash)

I personally liked having a range of nappies to use on my baby.  I had a few different brands of cloth nappies that I used when I was at home but when I went out or on holiday, I took disposables. This was the best thing for us as busy parents, but we also knew we were doing our bit for the environment as well and saving money on our weekly grocery bill.

It is also true that not every nappy suits every baby.  Sometimes you may find that your baby leaks out of a particular nappy.  There could be many reasons for this.  It could be the wrong size or perhaps the style doesn’t suit their shape, or the absorbency is not enough for the amount your baby drinks.  This can be the case with different styles of cloth nappies and also the different brands of disposables as well. 

If you do find that one of your cloth nappy styles leaks or doesn’t fit properly, or if you just don’t like them, swap them with a friend and try a different brand or you can even sell them on trade me. 

Using cloth nappies is not as hard as you may think and in some cases they will work far better than you ever expected so be brave and have a go and you may be pleasantly surprised at just how easy and cute they are.

Councils supporting cloth nappies:

There are many councils around New Zealand that host my workshops and the parents get a trial pack to get them started worth $100 to take home.

For more information about nappies or to book to come to a workshop head to

To browse our natural and gentle Mother & Baby range click here.

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