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Beginners Guide to Cloth Nappies

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I wanted to use reusable nappies.

I didn't know anyone that used them. I didn't even know whether anyone did anymore. I didn't know what types there were or how deep the rabbit hole I was about to dive into really was.

I was cloth-nappied as a baby, and so there are plenty of photos of me with a massive big terry towelling bum as a newborn, and I'd heard my mum talk about buckets of napisan with nappies soaking all day long.

I thought surely, with everything we know today, there must be other people out there who are using reusable nappies because they are concerned about their environmental footprint?

So I googled "reusable cloth nappies". Well. There was a tonne of information, websites, brands, hire companies all talking about "MCNs" : Modern Cloth Nappies.

My first thought was: amazing! Not only are other people using them, but they seem to have been improved over the years and designed to be easier to use than ever. Freaking fantastic.

So I started to dig a little deeper - I opened a few websites and browsed their shops and their products. And I got very quickly overwhelmed.

Sure, they've changed a lot and the designs have really improved to be modern, sleek, easy to use... But that has also complicated it significantly. There are So. Many. Options. How on earth was I supposed to know whether I should buy an all-in-one or a pocket nappy? A hybrid or a snap-and-wipe shell? What are flats, are they different to terry towels? And then preflats, what's different about them? Why are some $5 and others $50? And would someone please tell give me a cheatsheet for all these acronyms?!

I stumbled around for a while desperately trying to work out the difference in the different styles and options and what brands were good. I was losing my mind trying to figure out what the difference between an AI2 and Pocket nappy was (and then brands that said they were both??) and eventually I decided on two brands that I would get and try out based on what seemed popular and most commonly available online.

I've now got two kids - one is about to turn 3 and toilet training, the other is 8 months old. I've done cloth nappies with them both, with breaks along the way. And, unsurprisingly, I've learned a LOT. Truly, if I had my time again, I'd start very differently.

I have always tried to be very open on social media about our cloth nappy journey, particularly because I knew what it was like to want to do it but feel like it didn't exist anymore. In doing so, I've attracted a lot of questions from friends asking about cloth. So now, I figure I should condense my lessons learned into a blog post for all to share in.

To avoid this from getting insanely long, I've created the glossary cheat sheet I always dreamed of which is free for you to download here:

Cloth Nappy Cheat Sheet
Download PDF • 4.47MB

Make sure to download and read it alongside this if you start feeling your head implode from all the cloth nappy jargon (who knew, right?)


Get ready for opinions and naysayers

This is a bit of a theme when it comes to parenting in general... There will always be people who want to give you their (usually) well-meaning opinions on your choices as a parent.

If you want to use cloth nappies, you go for it! And be reassured that there are PLENTY of people around the world doing so. You might find people will tell you anything from "you'll never have the time to keep up with the laundry once the baby's here" to "it's not even more sustainable by the time you do all that washing and drying" (which is a myth, by the way - people seem to forget the abhorrent amount of water require to produce plastic products including disposable nappies) There's no reason you can't give it a go. And to the naysayers, a response I always like it "thank you for your concerns, this is the decision we've made for our family". Or just a smile and nod is always a good back up.

Consider hiring a trial pack

Prepare your laundry space and routine

Seriously consider investing a bit of time to do flats over MCNs if you're strapped for cash or facilities

Or consider buying secondhand for even lower carbon footprint and financial savings

Jump right in as early as you can to maximise savings and fall into the routine

Use cloth wipes

Be flexible and go easy on yourself

Join some of the online communities for advice on fitting, different brands, wash routine, and general troubleshooting

Resources I recommend:

(not currently active - one of the presenters, Vicki, died suddenly last year and therefore the production of the podcast was halted. It remains full of great tips and information, though. RIP Vicki)

Facbook Groups:

Hire Libraries/Hire Packs:

Plus probably many more out there!

Retailers of multiple brands:

and more!


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