18 September 2018


How to choose the right cloth nappy for you and your baby

Do you want to ditch the disposables and start using cloth nappies? Perhaps you are a new or expecting parent and you’ve already decided that reusable nappies are for you. Maybe you’ve been using disposables for a while but want to make the switch. Either way, you might have done some online browsing and discovered the many options available these days. Overwhelmed? I certainly was!

In this article I am going to tell you about my cloth nappy trial (through South Yorkshire Nappy Library) and how I approached choosing which reusable nappies are best for us. I’m not going to tell you which cloth nappy you should buy, as every baby and family is different. What is right for us will not necessarily be right for you. I highly recommend doing a trial through a nappy library, if you have one in your area.

Why I did a nappy trial

I had always planned on going down the reusable nappy route, for both the environmental and financial benefits. A first time mum with no previous experience of looking after babies (I certainly had never changed a nappy before), I looked at various websites about cloth nappies, and quickly became very confused.

There were so many different types – or so it seemed – and then there were all the brands to choose from… How was I meant to decide what was for us? Would I need to keep buying bigger nappies as my baby grew? How many would I need?

That’s when I discovered nappy libraries – local services that hire out a variety of reusable nappies for newbies to try out for a few weeks. I got very excited! Here was a way to figure it all out and choose which type and brand to invest in.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a nappy library where I live, in South Yorkshire. There had been at some point, from what I could tell, but it was no longer active.

After being unexpectedly admitted to hospital 3 weeks before my due date, I was booked in for a planned C-section, and my daughter Sophie was suddenly here. In the first few weeks, I was focused on recovering from the c-section. In the weeks that followed, I was trying to find my feet as a new mum and feeling a little bit overwhelmed. All thoughts of reusable nappies went out the window as I tried to adjust to this crazy new life.

I kept telling myself that I would start using cloth nappies as soon as I felt more settled. The next thing I knew, we were celebrating our daughter’s first birthday. That’s a whole year of using disposable nappies – I haven’t done the maths but that’s a hell of a lot of nappies! It was time to stop ignoring the guilt I felt every time I threw a nappy in the bin and bite the bullet. Better late than never.

Incidentally, a friend told me that a nappy library was now up-and-running – joy! I contacted them and booked to attend one of their drop-in sessions, to hire a birth-to-potty trial pack. It cost £20 for 4 weeks’ hire, with a £40 deposit to be refunded on return of the pack. I think that’s pretty reasonable considering how much the nappies cost to buy new.

The nappy trial

The pack I hired contained a mix of nappy types and brands, and essential accessories like wet bags for storing dirty nappies between washes. The types of nappies it included are:

  • Terry prefolds (modern versions of the traditional terry nappies, prefolded so they’re easier to use)
  • Two-part nappies (fitted terry nappies with separate waterproof wraps)
  • All-in-one nappies (waterproof outer with attached absorbent inner that folds out for washing and faster drying)
  • All-in-two nappies (waterproof outer with absorbent inner that detaches for washing and faster drying)
  • Pocket nappies (waterproof outer with absorbent inserts held in a pocket, which are removed for washing and faster drying)

I decided straight away that I wouldn’t bother trying out the terry prefolds, as they are more suited to newborns and also seem a little more fiddly than the other nappy types.

The two-part nappies are recommended for using at night, as they are the most absorbent. I gave them a try at night and they did a brilliant job keeping the wee in. We had not leakage at all. However, what takes some getting used to is the smell. If you are used to disposable nappies, you might be surprised, like I was, at how bad a night’s worth of urine can smell. I took it for granted how well disposables lock in wetness and odour! That’s not necessarily a good thing, if you think about it – the chemicals needed to do that cannot be very good for the environment or for putting on your baby’s skin 24/7.

Also, I’ve been told by a few people that it’s not normal for them to smell really strongly – maybe it was because she was teething or maybe the nappies needed a thorough strip wash (I did try this but it made no difference) – but that was my experience so I have to be honest with you about that.

The all-in-one, all-in-two and pocket nappies are mostly only recommended for daytime use (unless they come with a night booster). The pack contained 2-4 different nappies of each type. I tried them all in rotation, giving each one at least 3 tries before deciding if it wasn’t for us. I made sure I used each one at different times of the day, as I think Sophie tends to wee more in the morning than she does in the afternoon (though of course it varies).

I systematically worked through the nappies in this way, making notes each time I used one, so I could look back and see how it performed over the course of the trial. If a nappy didn’t fit Sophie very well (some are more suited to chunky or taller babies and some are better for more petite babies) or if it persistently leaked after less than a couple of hours, then I stopped using it and put it in the ‘No’ pile.

I’ve put together a FREE log sheet that you can use to keep track of the nappies and look back over your notes to help you decide which is/are best for you and your baby.

By just over half way through the 4-week trial, I was down to about 6 nappies that were potentially right for us. I continued to use these for the rest of the trial and, by the end, I had 4 nappies that I felt happy with.

The shortlist

This was the point at which I looked at the nappies online. I drew up a comparison table and entered all the good and maybe not-so-good points I found about each nappy during the trial. I then added info from the manufacturers’ and stockists’ websites such as baby’s weight range, where the nappies are made, if they are certified chemical-free (Oeko-Tex certification for nappies manufactured within the EU) and cheapest price to buy them new (though I wanted to buy as many as possible second-hand). I found a lot of useful information on The Nappy Lady website.

I recommend that you don’t look the nappies up online until you have your shortlist of nappies that suit you and your baby, otherwise the first thing that’s going to affect your decision making is price. While price is an important factor, for me it came after making sure that the nappy was comfortable for my baby and performed well.

After comparing the details of the 4 nappies, I ruled out 2 of them because they were manufactured outside of Europe and weren’t certified chemical-free. That left me with 2 nappies – one on the lower end of the price scale and the other mid-to-high.

Buying the nappies

I started looking on Ebay, Facebook marketplace and local buy & sell groups, and other online sites with pre-loved items. I have seen plenty of good condition nappies being sold. There are some things that I would always ask before buying pre-loved cloth nappies (if the answers aren’t provided in the original post):

  • How many babies have they been used with?
  • Is there any wear and tear? Ask for photos if none provided.
  • Are the elastics in good condition?
  • If it has Velcro fastening, is the Velcro in good condition?
  • Do they come with the original inserts (if applicable)?
  • How have they been washed?

If you decide to buy new, you can save some money per nappy by buying a multi-pack. A lot of sites offer free delivery when you spend over a certain amount (some offer it regardless of how much you spend.

Watch the postage costs when buying second hand – try to buy bundles rather than just one or two nappies, as the cost of postage will soon add up.

Also, it’s worth checking if your local council offer a financial incentive for using cloth nappies. Mine does but by the time I got round to buying any, my daughter was too old to qualify for the scheme (it was for babies up to one year old).

Don’t delay – the sooner you get your cloth nappies, the more money you’ll save vs. using disposables.


You’ll need a couple of good sized wet bags for putting dirty nappies in until you wash them. You might also want to get a “wet dry bag” for going out, as it has a compartment for clean nappies and a separate, waterproof compartment for dirty nappies.

Depending on the nappy you choose, you might also need to buy liners. Here’s a useful article on reusable vs. disposable liners.

You can buy ready made reusable baby wipes but I suggest making your own out of old t-shirts or any other unwanted fabric you have lying around. Read my post about how I made my own reusable baby wipes.


I hope you found this article useful. If you have any questions about doing a nappy trial or choosing which is best for you, please get in touch.

Don’t forget to download the FREE log sheet to help you when doing a nappy trial.


Photo by Picsea on Unsplash


baby, cloth nappies, disposable, eco friendly, green living, parenthood, reduce, reusable, reusable nappies, reuse, zero waste

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