Real Nappies

4 October 2007
This post is by guest writer, Bel. Bel's blog is here.

NB: a nappy is also known as a diaper

I have six children. If I hadn’t used cloth nappies, our family could have put thousands of little bundles of paper, plastic, wee and poo into landfill. And we’d have paid around $20000 for the privilege. Yuck! Just thinking about that makes me guilty for the disposables we did use.

We used some disposable nappies – regular ones and then eco-brands once they became readily available – especially for overnight (when I couldn’t find a cloth nappy and cover to suit heavy wetting), travel, and when it just rained and rained and rained, which interfered with my washing. But mostly we used re-usable cloth ones – terry flats and cheap, basic flannelette fitted nappies with my firstborn, full systems of fancy fitted all-in-one modern cloth nappies (MCNs) for my next two (with the firstborn’s hand-me-downs as backup), and a mixture of what I had and what I could get for the following three children. I still have two children wearing night-time pull-up nappy pants most nights. One is five and one is three. I’ve made some of these pants, and bought another two pairs for around $20 each. That’s a bargain compared to the disposable option for preschoolers @ $1+ per pair.

The nappy pants I made for my toddlers for bedtime.

Choosing cloth nappies for your baby or toddler (it’s never too late to switch) can be an overwhelming task with the variety available now. There’s bamboo, hemp, soy, organic cotton and various other fabrics. Styles include all-in-ones, pockets, pre-folds, basic fitteds and more. If you’re unsure and have time to research, perhaps you could visit one of the nappy forums online to read what other parents are saying, and ask questions.
(from Kindred #23, p18)

Try a nappy or two before committing to a full set. Consider fabric type, colour, style, washing and drying requirements, price, quality of the nappy, environmental impact of the product, ease-of-use, health (is the fabric used something you want next to your baby’s skin around the clock?), and sizing (will it fit your baby for long, or do you need a set in several sizes?).

Modern cloth nappies are a joy to use. They’re easy to put on, soft and cuddly and come in all the colours of the rainbow. Washing them is no big deal. It’s just like washing towels, sheets or clothes. The washing has to be done and it works in with your daily routine so that you have nappies clean and dry and ready for baby to use. The only thing I found is that when I had my first sets of fitted real nappies, they couldn’t go in the dryer and they were very thick with multiple layers of flannelette. In our North Queensland wet seasons I found it difficult to get them dry because it rained for weeks on end. I later purchased nappies which could go in the dryer, and learned to revert back to the good old terry squares with a nice, snuggly cover for those very wet weeks.

Covers aren’t required for most all-in-one nappies. Covers themselves come in a wide variety of styles and fabric types and colours. These are part of your nappy system. There are also liners and boosters for within the nappy – to make changing easier, for baby’s comfort and also to increase the absorbency of the nappy for outings and night use especially. Another nappying requirement is wipes. There are regular wipes from the supermarket, eco-varieties of the same, or cloth wipes. Cloth wipes are often flannel squares with an overlocked or hemmed edge. Or bought face washers! They’re useful again and again and no problem to wash with the nappies. Lastly, you might need a wet bag to carry used nappies home from outings. This is simply a water-proof bag, usually drawstring, which is handy when you’re a no-plastic-bags household!

If you or someone you know can sew nappies, covers, liners, boosters, wipes and wetbags – you will save yourself a fortune! There are free printable patterns online for all of these items, or by looking at those available for purchase, you can make them up yourself. See Ottobre Designs Magazine Printables and scroll through the projects to see one example of a fitted nappy pattern and a pattern for a ‘wool diaper cover’. When searching online for patterns, include the U.S. term ‘diaper’ in your search. Patterns for these items are also available for purchase.

To purchase nappies and accessories, you can go to your local department store, baby boutique, some health shops or look online. There are online stores for large businesses and a variety of options to buy from cottage industries as well. Using the forum links above, you should be able to find an online supplier to suit your nappy preference and budget.

If you’re not ready to use cloth or prefer to use both real and disposable nappies, please consider the type of nappies you purchase. There are more earth-friendly disposable options in the supermarket, and even greener nappies such as Safeties, Moltex and Bamboo Nature brands.

And if you’d like to avoid nappies altogether – look up Natural Infant Hygiene or Elimination Communication. This is something we didn’t really know about when our babies were little, but did naturally with our children from the summer that fell around their first birthdays. All of our children were using the potty and/or toilet before their second birthdays, depending on when they began and showed interest.

Best wishes to you in your quest for the perfect nappy system. Enjoy these short years of your children’s lives and I hope you can manage to lessen the impact on the planet and budget using some of the options outlined above.


  1. Hello Bel! Lovely post. It's so interesting to me to read what is happening on babies bottoms nowadays. I'm sure the young mums will love this information so they can keep their baby in comfort and be kind to the planet at the same time.

    Everyone, check out Bel's blog. She's an experienced homeschooler with six children so she has a lot of experience and gladly shares it. : )

  2. I love my MCN soooo much, I wish it had been around when my first babes were in nappies 15 and 13 years ago :)

    Great info for the new to MCN Bel, I'm sure we will get a few converts!!!

  3. I love my MCN's! I fondly remember sewing 20 or 30 while I was pregnant, in bright flannel colours and putting our daughter straight into them as soon as we got home. Unfortunately we stopped for a few months when she got a bad nappy rash, and a useless doctor told is it was because of cloth nappies. Pfft. Went totally back into them when she was about 12 months old, and haven't looked back. I bought a few, but have made most of them, and there is no way I'd be putting plastic against my babies skin (I hated all those crystals that leaked out onto her too), when I have another option!

    Go Cloth!


  4. We've just made the change to modern cloth pocket nappies and they're absolutely brilliant. The inserts are an organic cotton/bamboo mix and you just can't believe how absorbent they are, not to mention how comfy they are for baby. I don't wear paper pants, so why should he? They're so easy to wash and I use the dry pail method eliminating the old hassle and waste of nappy soaker solution and it just works so well. I've used 2 disposables in the last 3 weeks. I estimate our household garbage has reduced by 40%. No matter how you do your sums, these nappies are the only ones that make sense. I've still got a bunch of terry squares there just in case it ever rains again....

  5. As some of you may know (if you've visited my blog) my husband and I are in the process of adopting. I already have a bin full of cloth diapers. Most are the preformed velcro ones. Another mummy was given them and never used them so I've been given them. What a money saver.
    And much better than all that plastic and chemicals on baby's bum.

  6. Hi there Bel - I'm still single and have no children yet, but using cloth makes a lot of sense, in terms of money, health and ecology!

    And Rhonda - thank you, again, for all your posts and tips on simple living! I enjoy your blog so much.

  7. A great post Bel :)

    I used cloth nappies when my daughter was born (11 and a half yrs ago) and was one of the few using them then out of everyone I knew with babies. They were just the "good old" terry towelling ones ~ the fancy ones weren't available then ~ it's great that there are more options now.

  8. Thank you for the information, Bel! I'd not heard of nappies before and will enjoy doing a little research :) Blessings! Q

  9. Hi quinne!
    'Nappies' is the term used by those in the UK and Australia etc for what are referred to as 'diapers' in the U.S. Once upon a time, all nappies/diapers were cloth. :)

  10. Love the informational posting about the diapers! I am a 30 yr old work at home mom of two (5, and 16 mo) and I decided to use cloth diapers with my second child. With my first, I just didn't think I could figure it all out, but as I got older (and wiser -ha ha) I realised it was just a commitment thing, and that I COULD do it! I have purchased some of my diapers, but most have either come from yard sales or I have made them using the chloetoes pattern. I love the way they're so cute on my son's little bum, and they're so easy really. It also makes me feel better knowing I'm not filling up the landfill with poo and plastic and chemicals! I don't want to be a part of that if I can help it. Anyway, great post! Em

  11. Good on you, Em! And if a busy WAHM can do it, anyone can... Thanks so much for commenting.


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