nappy basics

If you are looking into washable nappies for the first time you are probably totally confused by the huge range of nappies available. We hope this simple guide explains the basics.


These are easy to put on, and are fastened with poppers or Velcro
Choose a “birth to potty” style (adjusts to fit any age of baby) or sized
Used with a liner and a waterproof wrap


Made with the waterproof layer included, so there’s no need for a separate cover.
Easy to put on, no assembly required.
Can take a long time to dry, and the waterproof layer will age fast with regular washing.


The most basic type of nappy is the flat nappy – a simple square of muslin, terry or flannel. You put this on by folding it into shape (instructions here) and fastening it round your baby’s hips using nappy pins or a ‘nappi nippa’, a brilliant little silicon gadget that has pretty much replaced nappy pins nowadays.
To stop dampness from spreading, flat nappies need a nappy wrap (a waterproof cover) to go on top.
Flat nappies dry very quickly, are adjustable to all shapes and sizes, and are the cheapest option.

Prefold nappies are another kind of flat nappy which has been stitched so that there is an absorbent pad of several layers of cloth between your baby’s legs. They are rectangular and can either be folded in three to form a pad that is then inserted in a special wrap which is fastened with velcro, or they can be fastened with nappi nippas like other flat nappies and finished off with a nappy cover. This is what almost all nappy services provide.

Pocket nappies are the same as shaped or all-in-one nappies, but have an opening in the back of the nappy so that you can insert extra absorbent pads for use at night or when your baby is a heavy wetter.



One size nappies which can be shaped, pockets or all-in-ones, but have poppers on the outside to enable you to make it smaller for when your baby is starting out.


A waterproof cover for the nappy: cheaper pull-on plastic pants are available at mothercare, but are fragile and can dig into baby’s thighs. Wraps are fastened with poppers or velcro, and can come in a huge array of colours and types.

These are pads that can be added into any nappy for extra absorbency, some are made of fleece and cloth stitched together, with the fleece to go next to baby’s skin and keep it dry, some are made of cotton, bamboo fibre or microfibre.

These are rectangles that are placed next to baby’s skin to catch poo. They stop nappies from staining and make it easier to get rid of the poo down the toilet rather than storing it in the nappy until it’s washed. Disposable ones are made of cellulose fibres and can often be flushed, fleece keeps wetness away from the baby and can be washed alongside your nappies.

Baby wipes can be made from any material you fancy, muslin, facecloths, fleece – whatever is kind to your baby’s skin and works! You can also buy them from nappy retailers if you prefer. It’s a good idea to have a waterproof container to carry them about and keep them wet – a ziplock bag or small tupperware works well. When used, just throw it in the bucket with the nappy ready for wash day!

These are used to fasten nappies that don’t have poppers or velcro. They are basically three tiny ‘claw’ things that grab onto the cloth and pull it together, meaning you don’t have to worry about stabbing your baby with nappy pins. We like.

Nappy buckets are available online, but to be perfectly honest with you they are generally overpriced and not very good, or at least the ones we have experienced. You need a strong bucket with a handle and a good seal, to avoid smells wafting out and also to keep curious fingers from exploring the contents. Daily Bread in Cambridge is a good source of food grade buckets, which they sell for very cheap, or the household shop in Mill Road has clip-top buckets which seem reasonably strong and would be easier to open with one hand (useful when holding a newly changed baby)

A mesh laundry bag you can place in your bucket to make it easier to get nappies out and into the machine without touching them.

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