Cloth Nappy Basics, and how to pick the right nappy for you.

Carrying on from the theme of my last blog 'Washing your cloth nappies: The uncomplicated version' (read it here), the aim of this blog is not to give you every piece of information out there, but simply to give you enough information to start. We all know that sometimes too much information is actually overwhelming, and then you don't know where to start. 

    The absolute basics:

    The most commonly used everyday nappies:

    Either an all-in-one (AIO) or all-in-two (AI2) nappy in either one size fits most (OSFM) or in sizes. Essentially, it's a nappy with a hidden waterproof lining, and the absorbency (inserts) are either sewn in, or they are separate (and you lay them in, clip them in, or stuff them in a hidden layer/pocket). On appearance, they are usually all the cute nappies with different prints that you see everywhere.

    You can shop our entire range here. Keep a look out for AIO or AI2 in the title. I have tried to add essential details to the title of my listings, to make it easier to understand what each nappy is. Alternatively use our drop down menu to search for a specific type.

    The most simple way to start cloth, is to grab some AIO or AI2 brands that are within your budget, and try them out. They'll either be sized (anywhere from prem to xxl) or they will be one size fits most. Once you know which ones you love using, buy more, and once you feel confident, try some different brands or different types, or simply fill your stash with what you love.

    We stock some of the most popular brands on the market at Five Little Footprints.

    Quick tips: 

    • Aim for a total of 24 in your complete stash, if you feel confident in keeping up with washing and want to stick to a budget, or aim for approx. 35-40 if you'd like some flexibility with wash, dry and back in the draw times. Keep in mind, more nappies in rotation, means each nappy is washed less, and therefor has a longer lifespan for future children or second hand resale. I tend to recommend 24 as a starting point. This gives you flexibility once bub is here, to add more to your stash of the brands you really love, and also take advantage of cute new print releases.
    • Getting advice on brands is complicated. Every single brand you mention, is going to have people who love them and hate them. Please don't get hung up on this. It can get complicated, but simply, if they are within your budget, you like the prints and type of nappy, and you're happy with the absorbency material (explained more below) give them a go. There are brands I absolutely hate, that I know other people are happy with. It will send you crazy trying to decide. Think of it like men's t-shirts. 100 stores could sell the same style t-shirt, yet each individual might have a preference based on the feel of the fabric, whether they have a big head that wont fit well through one brand, whether they like the colours it comes in, or whether it fits them just how they like. Just buy some, and use them, and swap and sell if need be. The other reality, is you’ll probably like 100 different brands and types. It doesn’t mean you need to try all 100. Pick 2-5 brands/types, and it will probably be love at first try. 

    That's it, that's the very basics! There is enough information there, that you could have a completely successful cloth nappy journey without knowing any more (aside from our cleaning nappies blog). I will go into more detail in dot point below though, as it does help to get your head around all the options out there.

    All-in-one (AIO):

    • A nappy with all the absorbency sewn in, similar to a disposable.
    • Easy to use, great for daycare, grandparents and partners (and multiples, I love them for my triplets, as easy is our favourite word in this household).
    • Longer to dry. For this reason, most have an insert that is only sewn in at one end, and can flip out of the nappy for faster drying.
    • You wash the whole nappy together
    • No need to match inserts to covers after washing, it's all together

    All-in-two (AI2)

    • Inserts (absorbency) are removable
    • If not soaked through, wet inserts can be removed and the cover can be reused (honestly, if you are trying to keep it simple, don't do this. It's far easier to just have one set of inserts that belongs to one nappy, so you can put them all together, done up ready to go, near your change table.)
    • Quicker drying. Inserts can go through the dryer
    • Most AI2 come with two inserts (sometimes called an insert and a booster). Using both is the standard amount of absorbency, but on a newborn or young baby, you can use just one to make the nappy trimmer (smaller).

    One size fits most (OSFM)

    • Intended to fit from birth to toilet training
    • Bulky on small babies. For this reason some people choose to use a newborn nappy to begin with, then move on to OSFM around 1-2 months old. 
    • Budget friendly option, no need to change sizes as you go.
    • Most have 'rise snaps'. These are rows of snaps you can see in front of the crotch area.Think of it like a piece of paper. If you bring the bottom right up to the top, it's shorter/smaller than if you bring the bottom only half way up the piece of paper. Some don't have rise snaps, but tend to be a bit more bulky in the early months.
    • OSFM have come a long way. These days, plenty of AI2 OSFM wont be bulky under clothing of a young baby, if you just use one insert until they get a bit older. They will always be pretty big on a newborn though. 
    • Our OSFM nappies include: Baby Beehinds AI2, Bare and Boho AI2, Baby Bare Cubs (AIO and AI2 options), and Baby Bare Teddy’s AI2. 

    Sized Nappies:

    • A trimmer, more tailored fit for each weight range.
    • Will fit under normal sized clothing without looking bulky, especially in the early months.
    • No rise snaps, making them an easier option for daycare, babysitters etc.
    • You will need 24-40 in each size. Benefit is they are usually in better condition to buy second hand, as they havent been used as long.
    • A popular choice for prem babies and newborn-3 months.
    • Our Baby Beehinds AIO is a sized nappy. 

    Front snaps:

    • Nappy is fit on baby using snaps.
    • Many people prefer the look of snaps rather than velcro
    • Snaps are more hardy than velcro
    • Snaps are harder for toddlers to undo
    • They can be harder to fit on bub, particularly when bub is between snap sizes
    • Our Baby Beehinds Multi-fit (OSFM, AI2), Bare and Boho (OSFM, AI2), Baby Bare Cub (OSFM, AIO and AI2 options) are all front snapping nappies. 

    Side snaps:

    • Personal preference, similar to above, however they snap at the side, allowing you to customise the fit around the thighs and waist. Great for bubs with particularly chubby or skinny legs. Our Baby Bare Teddy falls into the side snapping category. It’s a OSFM, AI2 nappy. 


    • Super easy to fit on bub, they are just like a disposable.
    • Speaking of easy, the easiest combo is an AIO, sized (therefor no rise snaps), with velcro. Our Baby Beehinds AIO and Peekaboo AIO fall in this category, and are the perfect nappy for babysitters, grandparents, partners that aren’t confident with cloth and especially with daycare.
    • Toddlers can sometimes learn to undo them.
    • Velcro can wear quicker than snaps.
    • More flexibility to adjust to the perfect fit

    Pocket Nappy:

    • A nappy that has an opening like an envelope that has been opened from the side. You can stuff the inserts down inside the ‘envelope’
    • This means that the fabric now against bubs bottom is a staydry layer, absorbing wetness away from skin, into the absorbent fabrics.
    •  If inserts are stuffed, the nappy now closely resembles a disposable. When you open it, all the absorbency is underneath the lining.
    • It makes for easier cleaning of soiled nappies. You can pull the inserts out, and only have to rinse solids off the nappy itself, rather than rinsing between layers of inserts.
    • People can feel like it’s too much effort to stuff the nappies, but you can always lay the inserts on top. 

    Fitted nappies:

    • If you see the word fitted, the first thing to remember is it’s not waterproof, so not a complete nappy to use on its own. Unlike the AIO or AI2 above, fitted nappies snap closed on bub similar, however they have no waterproof outer fabric. They need to be used with either a PUL (waterproof) cover, or a wool cover.
    •  So why would people use them then? Usually because the whole nappy is absorbent. Unlike AIO or AI2 above, the entire nappy is absorbent. The AIO or AI2 absorbency is generally rectangular, where as with a fitted nappy, there is some absorbency around the hips etc too. They tend to be a great, completely leak proof option. 
    • Also, when paired with a wool cover, they are a completely natural fibre option. 
    • Many night nappies on the market, are a type of fitted nappy, for the absorbency reason. 
    • Paired with a cute PUL cover, they can have a similar look to your standard AIO or AI2 nappy, however they will be a bit more bulky. 


    • Fold in 3 to be used as an insert (once folded will obviously be three layers of absorbency, usually a pretty versatile insert option). 
    • Can be put on bub like the old traditional cloth nappies, where you bring around the side and pin the front or use a snappi. 
    • A popular choice for newborns, before OSFM fit. Once a newborn grows out of them, they can be used folded in three as a booster for more absorbency in other nappies 
    • Will require a cover, they are not waterproof. 
    • Definitely a budget friendly option, you can buy 30-40 Prefolds and 10-15 covers, and keep up with washing. The covers will be washed and dry and back in the draw much quicker than the prefolds, so you don’t need as many. 
    • They can come in sizes, to fit each age better. A newborn prefold, paired with a newborn cover, is actually quite a trim little fit, and I loved this combo on my newborn babies.
    • Usually have more absorbency through the centre panel of the nappy. This means if you fit it like the old traditional nappies, the sides coming around bubs hips won’t be as thick and bulky.


    • Similar to a prefold, however they are not sized,  and generally the absorbency is evenly distributed. 
    • Sometimes have snaps, so they can snap into nappies. 
    • Usually used as an insert in a nappy: on their own, in addition to other inserts for more absorbency, or in addition to all the standard inserts in a nappy to covert it to a night nappy. 

    PUL cover:

    • A cover with a waterproof lining. The outside can come in nice prints and colours, and will feel smooth. 
    • Osfm and sized options 
    • Snap or Velcro closure options

    Wool cover:

    • Wool covers are a completely natural fibre cover option. 
    • They need to be lanolised (soaked in a lanolin solution) and then they work by repelling the moisture back into the nappy.
    • They seem a little bit like magic, but they really do work.
    • A great breathable option over a fitted nappy, and a popular choice for a night nappy cover, particularly in summer as they are more breathable than PUL. 

    Night Nappies:

    • A bulkier, more absorbent nappy for nighttime. 
    • They can either be extra inserts you ‘boost’ your normal nappy with, or a designated fitted night nappy you use a cover with. A fitted nappy option is going to be more leak proof, but simply using extra inserts/boosters in your normal nappies can be a more economical option. 
    • You don’t necessarily need night nappies in the early months. Aside from bub waking often enough for frequent nappy changes throughout the night, the volume off wee also usually isn’t enough to need a night nappy yet. 

    Newborn Nappies:

    • A sized nappy specifically made to fit newborns. 
    • A question I get asked a lot, is should I get newborn nappies? If you can afford to, my answer is yes! They are going to fit better around the thighs and waist, and they will fit under all your gorgeous little newborn clothes. Keep them throughout all your children, then sell them on, plenty of people are looking for second hand newborn nappies.
    • Newborns are notorious for being frequent poopers, sometimes 12+ times a day. If you can set yourself up to use cloth from birth, that’s 360 disposables you’ve saved from landfill just in the first month!
    • Our newborn options include the Bare and Boho Mini, and Baby Beehinds AIO in newborn size. 


    • Most common is either bamboo, bamboo/cotton, a bamboo microfibre combo, or microfibre. Other options include hemp and cotton. 
    • Microfibre on its own, is not a great option. Whilst microfibre absorbs fast, it doesn’t hold as much, and it lets go of the moisture when compressed. This does make it a quick drying option, and great for babies who hold their wee all in and then flood the nappy all at once, because it absorbs the moisture quickly, but you’d want to pair it with a bamboo or hemp insert as well, so it can hold that moisture in. A microfibre/bamboo combo, can be an amazing option, and is a favourite for me with one of my trio being a ‘flooder’. The Baby Bare Cub AIO is an example of a nappy that has this combo. Please note, microfibre cannot go against bubs skin, as it draws moisture from their skin causing irritation (think about the feeling of your hands after using a microfibre tea towel.)
    • Bamboo, hemp and cotton are all great absorbency. It’s quite common to see a bamboo/cotton blend. 

    PUL vs Minky:

    • Often you’ll see a cover choice of either PUL or minky when you are looking at all the AIO and AI2 nappies out there. 
    • Both options will have the waterproof PUL layer, minky nappies simply have a super soft outer fabric. Some people love the soft feel, others don’t like the feeling, and some say a minky outside doesn’t stay in good condition as long. It’s all personal preference, maybe give both a go. 


    • They come in disposable or reusable. 
    • It’s important to note that ‘flushable’ liners are not flushable, due to the time it takes them to break down, they can cause serious clogging issues. Please don’t flush them. 
    • Disposable allow people to remove most of the solids from the nappy and throw out, so that you do not have to rinse the solids off the nappy before washing. It also allows you to discard of solids when out and about. 
    • Reusable are great for a few reasons. For starters, they protect your inserts when you are using a nappy rash cream, stopping the cream from going into the inserts and effecting the absorbency. For this reason, I recommend having 5-10 just in your draws, for those times. They can also make cleaning easier, simply remove the liner with the solids and rinse that, without needing to rinse the nappy. Aim for one liner per nappy you own, if you’d like to use them for ease of cleaning. Finally, they can act as a stay dry layer, separating bubs bottom from a cotton/hemp or bamboo insert, for babies comfort. 
    • It is entirely possible and common, to not use inserts at all, do not feel like they are a necessity. 
    • Our reusable liners can be found here 

    Cloth on a budget:

    • There are so many options if you are on a really tight budget. It’s impossible to get all the information out in dot point, so if you want some personal advice, email me at
    • They key points though, are:
    • Buy second hand
    • Wait for sales
    • Take advantage of bulk buy discounts and try get your nappies all from one or two places to keep postage costs low
    • Go for cheap alternatives. Alvas are a popular cheap brand. Keep in mind, cheaper nappies often mean poor quality absorbency (such as an entirely microfibre absorbency) as well as a shorter longevity of elastics and the lifespan of the nappy in general. You may find you need to change bub more often to avoid leaks, or buy more inserts from elsewhere to make them work for you. Plenty of people have success with a tweak here and there. Honestly, you can even grab some cotton tea towels from ikea, and pair them with some cheap covers, and still have success. You just might have different experiences with leaking frequency and how often you need to change, as well as resell value on your nappies at the end. 

    I hope this has been helpful. Everyone has different priorities, such as cost, cuteness factor, ease of use, ability to customise fit more, drying time, lengthier time between each nappy change etc. I am so passionate about cloth nappies, so if you ever want one on one advice, email me at or contact me on Instagram @fivelittlefootprints

    I plan to add a video link here soon, showing you every type of nappy we stock, so you can physically see the difference between all the options above. 

    Please keep in mind, in the impossible task of trying to keep this simple, I haven’t explained everything in full detail, and I don’t have every bit of information out there, written here. I feel the first few paragraphs are enough to get you started, the rest is enough to build some confidence in knowledge and understanding, and then from there, I highly recommend ‘mcn reviews uncensored’ and ‘clean cloth nappies’ as groups to join on Facebook. The information on there is endless, and whilst it can be completely overwhelming, once you feel you know the basics, it can help you to learn a bit more. The first group is particularly helpful for posting photos of your bub in their nappy, asking others for advice on fit. 

    If you follow this link, you’ll see our entire cloth collection in one place. Click on all the AIO and AI2 options, add some to your cart and give them a go. Add some wetbags for putting dirty nappies in while out and about, some reusable liners to have ready to go if needed, and some wipes to dip in water and use instead of disposable wipes. If you are pregnant, try some newborn nappies for the early stages, and if you have an older bub, try a night nappy and cover for overnight. It’s as easy as that, simply take the first step, and go from there. I promise I’m here to help when you need it, you’ve got this! So many cloth parents are a bit addicted, and wonder why on earth they hesitated at the beginning, believe it or not, it can be kind of fun!

    You’ll find trial packs (which can be tailored to your preference if you contact me) and also bulk buy discounts of 10% off. I have chosen to stock highly reputable, popular nappies that I personally love. I rank them all high on quality, absorbency and style. I cannot bring myself to stock a nappy, that I haven’t personally used and loved, which is why you won’t find the cheaper, poorer quality brands here.