The first decision about buying nappies for your baby that you need to make is whether you want cloth nappies or disposable nappies. Undoubtedly, disposable nappies are more convenient, but tend to be rather costly. On average, you can expect to part with about £1730 or more by the time your baby has learned to use the potty, or £2420 or more if you are using “eco-friendly” disposable nappies. Of course, this is a rough estimation and will depend on the brand you use and number of times you change the nappies.

Cloth nappies are relatively less costly, especially if you wash them yourself. You’ll just have to pay the initial price, and then reuse the cloth nappies again and again.

Disposable Nappies

These nappies are usually made of two layers of non-woven fabric, with an absorbent pad squeezed in between. There are chemical crystals inside the pad, which have the ability to absorb liquid up to 800X their weight, and then retain it in gel-form. This helps to protect your baby’s delicate skin from moisture, which can be uncomfortable for the baby. Of course, there are differences between various brands in terms of leakage control and absorbency. Recently, manufacturers have improved disposable nappies to make them thinner, in order to reduce waste in landfills.

Nappies are usually sized according to weight, starting with preemie and newborn, advancing to sizes one through seven (sometimes even eight). Some eco-friendly brands are simply marked small, medium, large and extra-large.

Cloth Nappies

nappiesThese are usually made using absorbent fabrics: flannel (like the material used in pyjamas and flannel sheets, but thicker and denser), terry (similar to towels, but softer), cotton fleece and unbleached wool, hemp, and other materials. The softest and most absorbent against the skin is flannel. You can also go for eco-friendly and organic cotton cloth nappies made from bamboo, but you will have to spend more as compared to non-organic cotton.

Many parents choose cloth nappies over disposables for environmental purposes, as a single child can contribute countless disposable nappies to the local land-fill before they learn to use the potty. Not that using “flushable” nappy inserts with the cloth nappy won’t augment the sewage waste disposal – but cloth tends to make more economic sense. Typical cloth nappies can cost between £11 to £17 depending on the features, size, and brand.

Fully washable nappies are usually cheaper to maintain than those that use disposable inserts. Some cloth nappy systems are compatible with various inserts – some that can be composted, others that can be flushed, and those that can be washed. Be sure to check the instructions on bamboo and organic cotton nappies, and wash them several times before your baby puts them on in order to improve their absorbency.

Cloth nappies can be broadly grouped into five categories:

All-in-one Nappies

These are a kind of pocket nappies, where the nappy is tailored to the exterior waterproof cover. They have an extra nappy inside, which can come in handy during the night, and are great for quick changes on the go. The quandary is that they are thick and bulky, so they tend to take more time to dry after washing.

Contour or Fitted Nappies

These have the same shape as disposables, with wide wings wrapping around the baby’s waist, and a narrow crotch. Some are secured with Velcro, while others require nappy fasteners. Some fitted nappies have a more absorbent layer at the centre and are elastic at the legs and waist.

Pre-folded Nappies

These have a rectangular shape but smaller in size than unfolded nappies, which makes them a favourite to some parents. You only have to fold them once or twice when fitting inside a water-proof nappy cover, but they are also versatile – they can be modified to accommodate the more liquid waste of a newborn, or the different absorption needs of girls versus boys, depending on the number of times you fold them. As your young one grows, you will have to get a different size nappy and nappy cover.

Pocket Nappies

Pocket nappies are designed with a water-proof casing that comes with a pocket into which a folded nappy or a washable or disposable liner goes in. The covering is kept closed by numerous rows of snaps or Velcro fasteners.

Unfolded Nappies

These are rectangular-shaped fabrics that can be folded to fit the shape of your baby, with nappy fasteners or nappy pins keeping them in place. You can also fold the unfolded nappies and place them inside a snap-closing waterproof or Velcro cover, which should be purchased in different sizes as the baby grows.