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How to Use Modern Cloth Nappies for Your Newborn

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Are you curious about using cloth nappies for your newborn, but not sure where to start? Do you want to save money and reduce waste, while still keeping your baby comfortable and dry? If so, this one is for you.

Newborn wearing econaps cloth nappy - image shows how to use the buttons to adjust for size

I have been using cloth nappies for over two and a half years now, and I have learned a lot along the way. I’ve also just finished the newborn phase with our second child Anna, so I thought it would be a good time to share everything that I have learned the second time around, and what I wish I had known before I started using reusable cloth nappies.

In this blog post, I’ll give you a quick overview of the different types of cloth nappies that are available, and why we chose the style and brand that we use. I’ll also share some of the challenges and solutions that we faced when using cloth nappies for our newborn, as well as our washing routine and some tips and advice that I would have loved to know at the beginning.

Using cloth nappies may seem daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is not that hard. It can be quite fun and rewarding. You will be amazed at how much money you can save, how much waste you can avoid, and how cute your baby will look in their cloth nappies.

Newborn wearing Econaps nappy

Different Styles of Cloth Nappies

Modern cloth nappies typically feature a waterproof cover as the outer layer and lined with absorbent fabric.  However, there are a couple of different styles 


All-in-ones are cloth nappies that have the lining and the shell attached as one single unit. They are the easiest cloth nappies to use, as they most closely resemble disposable nappies. You don’t need to separate the liners from the shells or put them back together again. They are also quite easy to launder as you just throw them in the wash as they are.

However, all-in-ones are not very customizable, and therefore not ideal for newborns. It’s difficult to get them small enough for little baby bottoms, and you can’t adjust the absorbency according to your baby’s needs. They also take longer to dry, as the lining and the shell are sewn together.

Pocket nappies

Pocket nappies are cloth nappies that have the lining and the shell separate in a two-part system.  They typically have a pocket in the shell where you can insert the liners and an option to button the inserts directly on top as well. They are the most customisable cloth nappies and the ones that we have gone with and love.

You can:

  • choose how many liners you want to use
  • use the button snaps to adjust the length and the width of the shell, so you can get a snug fit for your newborn (this is called “OSFM nappies” – one size fits most)
  • add booster inserts into the pocket for extra absorbency at night.

The downside of pocket nappies is that they require more work, as you have to separate the liners from the shells before washing, and put them back together again after drying. They also tend to be bulkier than all-in-ones, especially if you use multiple-liners.

Graphic illustrating different components of cloth nappies: the outer shell, button in lines and trifold boosters.
Graphic illustrating different types of cloth nappies: swim nappy, all in one and woolen tie on style

Comparison Table

To help you compare the different types of cloth nappies, I have created a table that shows the features of each one, as well as some of the main brands that offer them:

BrandStyle of NappyDouble GussetLiner MaterialOuter Layer MaterialSwim Nappy
EcoNapsAll-in-one, pocket nappy or pull upYesBamboo and organic cottonPolyurethane laminateYes
Cloth BumsPocket nappyYesBamboo and microfleecePolyurethane laminateNo
My Little GumnutFitted nappy or two-part systemNoBamboo and microsuedePolyurethane laminateYes
Bare and BohoAll in one or two part systemNoHemp and organic cottonRecycled plastic bottlesYes
Bambino MioAll-in-one, pocket nappy or two-part systemNoCotton and microfibrePolyurethane laminateYes
Little LovebumAll in one or two-part systemYesBamboo, hemp and microfleecePolyurethane laminateYes
Little LambFitted nappy or two part systemNoBamboo, cotton or microfibrePolyurethane laminate or woolNo
DisanaTie-on nappy or fitted nappyNoOrganic cotton or merino woolWool coversNo

Newborn Cloth Nappies Challenges (change this)

Frequent nappy changes

One of the biggest challenges of using cloth nappies for your newborn is that you’ll need to change them more often than disposables, as newborns tend to poo and pee a lot!  This can be overwhelming at first, especially if you are new to cloth nappies and still learning how to use them.

One solution for this is to use disposables for the first few weeks until you and your partner are more comfortable with cloth nappies and can share the laundry responsibility.  As your baby grows older, and starts eating solids, the nappy changes will become less frequent and easier to manage.

Finding the right fit

It can be tricky to find a cloth nappy that fits if you have a tiny newborn.  My babies have been on the bigger side (both born at 4kg+)  and we have not run into any issues with the pocket nappy style, which is very customisable and adjustable. You can use the button snaps to change the length and the width of the shell.

Learning the ropes

There is a learning curve involved with cloth nappies, and you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and options available. You may also have doubts or questions about how to use, wash, and store your cloth nappies properly.

My advice here is to do your research before your baby is born instead of waiting to learn when they arrive. If this is your first time,  you’ve got enough going on as new parents in those tender early weeks!  Get familiar with your brand of cloth nappies; watch Youtube video tutorials online, practice putting them together, map out a basic laundry routine and purchase your laundry supplies and dry and wet pails ahead of time.

Close up of fitted nappy on newborn - demonstrating snug fit around legs

Our Routine for Washing and Drying Cloth Nappies

We have two buckets in our laundry: one for rinsed nappies and one for dirty nappies. Every day, we do a quick rinse cycle on the nappies from the day. One of the great things about newborn poo is that it’s completely water soluble, so you don’t have to do any pre-soaking or scrubbing. They can all go directly into your washing machine. These pre-washed nappies then go into the rinsed dry pail until we have enough to do a long hot wash.

For the main wash, we use a homemade laundry detergent, a little scoop of something like NapiSan that has some optical whiteners, and vinegar in the rinse cycle (you want to avoid fabric softener when it comes to cloth nappies!) as they will reduce their absorbency.

Line Drying Cloth Nappies: A picture of cloth nappies hanging on a clothesline outdoors.

We also put our nappies through a hot wash cycle. Every now and then when the liners are looking a bit stained, we select the option for everything to be soaked for four hours to give them a freshen up.

We then hang them on the clothesline in direct sunlight during the warmer months of the year. In the colder months, we still hang them on a clothes rack inside near the heater.  When the weather is really cold and damp, it’s hard to get them completely dry, so we just finish them off in the clothes dryer for 15 to 20 minutes. This is far more economical than drying them from the get-go in the dryer, which takes a long time due to their highly absorbent nature.  You can learn about our clean cloth nappies routine in more detail over here.

Pre-Washing Routine: An image of the pre-washing stage of: a pile of wet cloths nappies ready for the next step.

Accessories for cloth nappies

Wet bags

Wet bags are waterproof bags that you can get in various sizes, and they’re great for storing dirty nappies when you’re out and about. We have a really small one for quick trips into town or the park, and we have a larger one that we use for when we go into the city and stay with my parents. We can store a larger number of nappies in them, and keep them separate from the rest of our stuff.  The larger-sized wet bags typically have two compartments: one for dry nappies and one for dirty nappies. This way, you can keep them organised and hygienic.

Reusable wipes

If you want to avoid single-use plastics when it comes to nappying your newborn baby, get a pack of small cotton washcloths and use them as reusable wipes. You can place them in a Tupperware container at the beginning of the day and pre-moisten them with water, and then use them throughout the day. They can all go in the same nappy pail with your cloth nappies, and be washed and dried together.

Extra boosters

If you’re using pocket nappies you can get extra absorbent inserts that increase their absorbency which can be useful for night time when your newborn starts doing longer stretches of sleep, or if you have a particularly heavy wetter.

Cloth Nappies Tips & Tricks

  • Start with a small stash of different types of cloth nappies and see what works best for you and your baby. This is useful if you really don’t know which brand to go with, or if you want to try different styles and materials. Many brands offer starter kits, or even better, you can pick them up on Facebook marketplace and do your testing that way.
  • If you know what style and brand you want to go with, keep an eye out for good sales throughout your pregnancy. You can usually snap them up for a pretty good price for starter packs. You can also look for second-hand cloth nappies that are in good condition, or swap them with other parents who have different sizes or preferences.
  • Make sure you follow the specific care instructions provided by the manufacturer of your cloth nappies to ensure their quality and longevity. There can be some quirks of care for different types of fabric that will be good to be aware of. For instance, some warranties may be voided if you use citrus oils or bleach in your washing detergent.  You can also check out my detailed post on how to wash and dry your cloth nappies here.
Newborn in cloth nappy with pink and red design

I hope I’ve given you a helpful overview of cloth nappies and helped you decide whether they are right for your family from the newborn stage. While I believe that cloth nappies are a great way to care for your baby and the environment as well as their huge cost savings, I also understand that they may not be suitable for everyone in those early months. If you have any questions about cloth nappies, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

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