Cloth Nappies 101 Series: Part II - The Essentials

With all these talks of All-in-ones, prefolds covers, hemp, cotton ,bamboo? Ogini!?  Wharris dis?! what does all the cloth nappy speak mean?!

This part of the cloth nappies 101 series breaks down the basics, the essential cloth diapering items and a few things to take into considerations on where each type may be better for you than  another type. So here goes:  

If you are just  joining the blog, the functions of a nappy have been dealt with in a previous post,   you can find it here in Part I.

With cloth nappies you have either a 1-part or 2-part system.

In a one- part system you have absorption and containment in one single use product. These may include an All-in-One Nappy (AIOs) or Pocket Nappies. By single use, we mean the entire contents of the  nappy will need to be washed after each use.

In a two-part systems,  these functions have been separated into 2 different products. i.e. a cover and an absorbent layer. These are also called All-in-two (AI2), which are essentially covers with  inserts/ soakers / boosters, prefolds, fitteds or flats.

All-in-one (AIO)
These  are the easiest cloth nappies to use as they are modeled on the disposable nappy.  They have the absorbent layers sewn together with the waterproof outer. When these are soiled or wet, you  simply remove the whole nappy and wash it.  These can be put on with either popper/ snaps or with hook & loop fasteners or velcro as  shown below.

AIOs are very convenient to use  and they are an ideal cloth nappy for  nursery, creche or when you have hubby or  grand parents helping out. They may have a compromise on absorption as the more layers that are added will impact on the washing and drying times.  The longer drying times after washing due to the multiple layers may be reduced by having AIOs with sewn in flaps or  pockets within them with detached inserts or additional snap in inserts, this is to allow for quicker  drying times and improvements in absorption.
These are also on the more expensive end of  the cloth diaper price scale and you generally need more of  these styles than the others. 

Pocket Nappies
Pocket Nappies are very similar to AIOs as they are single use cloth nappies  after which you have to wash the entire nappy.
They are sewn with the outer waterproof layer and an inner (usually) stay dry fabric liner which forms a pocket in which you "stuff" the absorbent  fabric.  These are very easy to customize as you can adjust what you put into the pocket. Pocket nappies are usually bought together with one or two inserts,  however you are free to  modify the number or type to give you the performance you want. 

Pocket Nappies -  with inserts to be stuffed into pocket for absorption

Once these are soiled, or wet, the entire nappy goes into the wash as the liners  are  soiled as well and these are attached to the outer layer, therefore everything will need to be washed.  Other pros of pocket include being very quick to dry  as all items are  separated and  each dries  faster  however you will need more  pocket nappies than if you were using a 2 part system.  They are also great for  nursery and child minders as once they are  prepped,  all you need to do is to put them on  similar to a disposable.   The cons include extra tasks of prepping and stuffing the pockets, and this also includes taking out the inserts  from inside the pockets before they go into  the dirty nappy storage.

All-in-two (AI2)

All-in-Two nappies  consist of a separate cover and  inner layer.  these may be sold as a set or  you can buy the inserts / absorbent parts separately to suit.

Cover  with  2 styles of  inserts- foldable inserts and  smaller rectangular no-fold inserts

Covers with insert placed inside ready to be put on baby

If just  wet, a 2 part system allows the covers to be wiped down, possibly air dried and reused a few times before they are  popped in the nappy storage unit to be washed.  if nappy is soiled then the entire nappy - cover and inner layers are washed.  Therefore you only need only one cover to every 3 - 4 inserts.
If buying as  a set, the covers may have some snaps to which the insert may clip into to keep it in place and reduce shifting.  However they also have the flexibility of using other types of inserts therefore these are very customization in terms of  absorption. A 2-part system could be:

  • Covers + Cotton Prefolds
  • Covers + Inserts (Cotton, Bamboo or Hemp)
  • Covers + Fitteds
  • Covers + Flats
  • Covers + Any other type of absorbent inner piece of fabric

Prefolds are  inserts made of  multiple layers of  fabric  sewn  in a large rectangular piece. in some  types, the central third section is made of more layers therefore thicker than the outer  third sections, and in some styles of prefolds the entire  piece  has the some number of layers. All our prefolds  apart from the preemie have 4 layers at the outer parts with 8 layers in the central section  (4/8/4 Layering).  Our preemie prefolds are thinner to reduce bulk. 

L. New Prefolds - central third  has more layers than  the 2 outer sides; R. Washed Prefolds with some shrinkage and quilting

Prefolds are  easy to use as they can be simply pad folded either  length (in thirds)  or  width wise (4 times)  or  they can be  wraped  around baby and secured with  nappy pins or fasteners.
Prefolds are  generally sized, however  many babies tend to use no more than 2 sizes for the majority of their cloth diapering time.  For more information on the prefolds we stock at Mima Bear, including folding techniques please click here.

Inserts/ Boosters/ Soakers
Inserts are sometimes called boosters or soakers. They  are smaller rectangular pieces  that  are  placed inside the  nappy to absorb urine,  these pieces are usually in multiple layers and come in various  fabric option  such as  cotton, Bamboo, Hemp, microfiber, Charcoal bamboo etc, etc, etc. 

You can use more  than one insert,  or type of  fabric  to  get the absorption you want for your baby.

 L. Hemp insert - small;  R. Bamboo inserts

We currently stock bamboo and  hemp inserts and we will provide more information on the fabric types in another post. 

Fitted are super  they are an all-absorbent shaped nappy (i.e they are not flat)  they are usually elasticated around the legs   and back, with or without  fasteners and are designed to be  worn around the  baby and secured with either  snaps, velcro or nappy pins/ fasteners. Please note: Fitted nappies  need an outer water proof layer.

Fitted Nappies  with snaps for size and waist adjustments

These are usually very absorbent as you get the entire surface area  to absorb urine, the are also great for poo containment  as you get the elasticated on the back and leg  so when used with a cover  which is  essential you have  a double layer of  protection against leaks.  Therefore they are great for night time use,  nap times or  other times when  added absorption may be required, they are also easy to customize. 

We currently do not stock these but  we  will be in the nearest future so do keep your eyes peeled.

Flats basically refer to a single layer of fabric which needs to be folded to build up the required absorbency.  these include:
  • Old school terry squares (Napkins)  or  
  • Muslin Squares (this is also called burp cloths. these make excellent newborn/ preemie nappies)  
  • Receiving blankets 
Terry Squares - also Known as old school "Napkins"

Recieving  blankets  can be used as nappies  as well

Muslin Squares  also know as burp cloths used as nappies

And any other  flat  piece of fabric usually of  cotton that requires  folding, wrapping , and  securing with a nappy fastener. 
A water proof cover is required for this type of  cloth nappies. 
Pros include they can be great for containment, however some folding skills will need to be learnt for this  type  of nappies, they also are quick to dry as  they are only one layer.  they can also be the more affordable option when compared with AIOs.  For more information on flats, folding techniques and cost saving tips you can find on this post here

Although we do not currently have these for sale at the moment, we plan to introduce a  small amount on bamboo terry flats.  We will also tackle using muslins and  how to extend their use past newborn stage in a separate blog post. 

Kindly let us have any comments or questions in the comment section , or drop us an email or a line on social media and we would be happy to  clarify any explanations if  they are not clear.

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