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Your Cloth Nappy Need-To-Know Guide

3 February 2020  |  Admin

By Amy, The Nappy Camper

So you think about using cloth nappies, give a quick Google and throw your phone/device at the wall. I get it, it’s overwhelming. How many different types are there? How many do I need? How much am I going to need to spend on them? What if they don’t suit my baby? Are they really that much better for the environment than disposables nappies if I have to keep washing them over and over again? From the wise words of Luna Petunia; “Stop. Breathe. And Believe.” Here is your Need-To-Know Guide to making the right choice for you, your baby and the environment.

BROWSE Earthmother's cloth nappy range now

All these types just for one bum?

Yes there are sooo many types of cloth nappies and accessories out there on the market and sooo many brands it’s hard to distinguish the good from the bad, the necessary from the unnecessary.

What brand will suit my baby? Answer: There is no answer (sorry!). Every baby is a different shape and size and what will suit one baby might not suit another. An adult example would be: Susan wears a size 12 pair of jeans. You are a size 12 also. You borrow said jeans from Susan for a night out and quickly realise that your size 12 butt does not suit Susan’s size 12 jeans.  You quickly undress and don a pair of Kylie Minogue gold hot pants instead. Winning.

Similarly, some babies are heavy wetters but others are not. They are all uniquely wonderful. Having said that the popular brands do tend to be pretty trustworthy. Usually if a nappy’s price is too good to be true it probably isn’t worth it. I’m talking about what’s known as “China Cheapies”. Now, I have nothing against anything being made in China or any other country in this world provided that they are made sustainably and by happy workers with equal rights. Being conscious about where our nappies are made, what materials they are made from and by whom is a good question to ask when choosing your nappies. If there is one thing I have learned, you just can’t skimp out when it comes to quality. Try choosing natural materials such as cotton, bamboo or hemp over microfiber. Microfiber will shed tiny fibers which are essentially teeny pieces of plastic in every wash and end up in our oceans.

To help you experience Cloth Nappies before making your purchase, you can hire a trial pack for 2 weeks along with some liners and a wetbag from Earthmother. This should give you enough time to get a good feel for how great they are! 


Here is a guide to break down the different types.

Flat/Folded: Must be folded into the shape of a nappy covered with a waterproof wrap.  E.g Terry squares, muslins, prefolds.

Fitted/Shaped Nappy: Consists of an absorbent nappy made of microfiber, cotton, bamboo or hemp. Fitted/shaped nappies need a waterproof cover over them.     

All in Two: A waterproof wrap plus inserts/prefolds that either snap in or sit on the cover.

Pocket: Outer waterproof cover usually with a fleece inner lining. It will have an opening at the back or front allowing space to be stuffed with boosters (extra absorbent material) or any absorbent insert of your choosing. You could even go zero waste and cut up an old towel or t-shirt!

All in One: Nappy includes outer waterproof cover with inserts/boosters sewn together for ease.


How many will I need?

Answer: A good base is between 20 to 24 cloth nappies to keep you going. These should be a mix of brands and you will have day time nappies and night time nappies. It’s not recommended to buy a big stash of the same brand before knowing if they suit your baby just in case. This is a rough guide and there are absolutely no rules when it comes to how many you want to start with or end up with. You can start with one or two and see how you get on or start with 10 or 12. Build your stash as slowly or as fast as you wish. Warning: you may become addicted to all the gorgeous prints and overspend.

How much will I need to spend?

Answer: Again this is an entirely personal choice and there are no rules. From buying pre loved to keep the cost down to buying top of the range €30 per nappy or somewhere in between. In general though for full time use a top end budget of €400 to €500 for investing in cloth nappies and accessories will have you set up from birth to potty training. An added bonus is that they can be reused for future children.  I realise €400 sounds like a lot when written down like this but compare that to an average spend of €1,080 for disposable nappies for one child for the same amount of time and it just doesn’t compare. Compare prices here

What if they don’t suit my baby?

Answer: So you invest in a bunch of nappies without seeing if they suit your baby and it turns out they don’t. It happens. There a few things you can do.

  • You can wait and see if they will suit your baby in a couple of weeks or months when they have put on more weight or if their wee volume changes.
  • Donate them to The Cloth Nappy Library so that others can give cloth a go
  • Sell them on to another cloth loving fluffy bum online or to someone you know.
  • Or donate them to an overseas orphanage or charity in a part of the world where nappies of any kind are difficult to come by.

Are they really any better for the environment than disposable nappies?

It is difficult to find reliable evidence based information on the topic because most studies are industry funded and therefore lean heavily towards one over the other. Aside from the obvious landfill dilemma where they stay for up to 500 years creating methane gas, here are some other arguments or concerns I’ve found.

“Cloth nappies need lots of energy, water and detergent to clean them and in turn are not better than disposables for the environment.”

Answer: Yes cloth nappies need energy and water to get them clean. What is not sometimes considered is the amount of water and energy needed in the manufacturing of disposables.

Commissioned by The Women’s Environmental Network U.K, two studies were carried out by Land Bank Consultancy who used Procter and Gambles (manufacturers of Pampers) own research findings to identify that during manufacturing:

  • Disposable nappies use 3.5 times more energy,
  • 8 times more non-renewable raw materials,
  • 90 times more renewable material than washable nappies.

And through water usage:

  • Disposable nappies produce 2.3 times more wastewater,
  • 60 times more solid waste than washable nappies,
  • Disposable nappies require between 4 and 30 times more land for growing natural materials as reusable nappies.

Read more on this at

“Cotton is not an environmentally friendly crop”

Cloth nappies are not without their environmental impact. Cotton is a water thirsty and highly chemically treated crop with pesticides.  It is then bleached to make it into the white gleaming nappy we love. However, after all of the processing involved in making a crop into a material be it cotton, bamboo or hemp, doesn’t is make more sense to reuse it over and over again than simply throwing it away after one use? Disposable nappies contain natural raw materials such as wood pulp and some cotton fibres and in my opinion it just seems to be disrespectful to the Earth and the workers who have tended to and grown them to just chuck them in the bin.

You have more control over your carbon footprint when using cloth through all the choices you have in using them. Choose natural fabrics, choose to wash at lower temperatures, choose to line/air-dry over tumble drying. You have one choice with disposables, throw it away.

Amy, The Nappy Camper

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BROWSE Earthmother's cloth nappy range here.