The No Fuss Guide To Real Nappies


We all know making the switch to real nappies could save your family a fortune (around £500 per baby and another £250 if you use cloth wipes too). And it is so much better for the environment and there are a lot less chemicals on your baby’s skin.

But do you get confused by all the jargon? Are you lost with working out what you actually need? Do you know your all in one from your all in two? Or your flat nappy from your shaped nappy?

Don’t stress, Arabella’s No Fuss Guide to Real Nappies is here to help.


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Nappy Types


Confusingly, brands use different terms but this glossary should help you sort your nappy styles out.

In short, your nappy system will comprise of an absorbent part, a liner to help dispose of the contents and a waterproof wrap to keep it all contained.


Flat Nappies

The good old terry square and its slightly more modern cousin, the prefold. As the name suggests, terries are squares of towelling fabric that can be folded in lots of ways and secured with a nappy pin or nippa. They are highly cost-effective, last forever and are super-fast drying. With a bit of a learning curve, they are nonetheless a great choice for newborns or for those on a budget.



Are made from a durable tablecloth like material and are already shaped into a rectangle that you fold and tuck inside a wrap. Again, they are very hardwearing, easy to wash and dry and can be great if you are on a budget.


Shaped nappies

Sometimes called fitted nappies, shaped nappies are cut to look like a throw away nappy and are simply placed around baby and fastened, usually with poppers or hook and loop tape so there is no need for pins or folding. They may come in different fabrics, such as cotton or bamboo, which will affect their absorbency and drying time.
Shaped nappies may also come in different sizes (so you buy different sizes to fit just as you do for baby clothes) or as one size/birth to potty, which will fit most babies from newborn to 2 ½ or 3 years of age.

Flat and shaped nappies will need waterproof wraps or nappy covers to go over the top of them to prevent leaks and keep everything contained. Another name for this system of separate nappy and wrap is a 2-part nappy.

All in one nappies


Are shaped nappies that have the waterproof part already attached to the absorbent part. They are simply placed around the baby and fastened like a shaped nappy with the advantage that there is no need for the second stage of adding a wrap.
This makes them quicker to put on which can be a real bonus in the middle of the night or with a wriggly baby.

It does make them more expensive though and some find that not all brands wear as well as 2-part nappies as you are washing the wrap every time. All in ones traditionally take longer to dry than 2 parts as they feel bulkier and can’t be separated out on the line.


Manufacturers responded to this by creating stuffable/pocket nappies and hybrid nappies. A pocket nappy comprises of a waterproof wrap with a fleece liner attached that has an opening in the back, creating a “pocket”. A rectangular or hourglass shaped booster is inserted into the pocket before the nappy is put on the baby, just like an all in one.
As with all in ones, the whole nappy will need washing at each nappy change but the big bonus is the drying time. As the nappy is separated out, it can be super-fast to dry, meaning you need to buy less nappies.


Hybrid nappies

Sometimes called all in 2s, hybrid’s are among the newest styles of nappies available. Each brand works slightly differently but there will be a waterproof outer (often called a shell) that will have poppers for various sized inserts or soakers to be snapped to. They are highly flexible as you can choose inserts for day/night/heavy-wetters etc. Their advantage over pocket nappies is that you can often reuse the waterproof outer and just pop in a new insert at nappy change time.


What else will you need?


Once you have chosen your style of nappy (and wrap if needed), you won’t need much else.

Boosters can be added to all nappy systems and will increase the absorbency of the nappy without adding too much extra bulk. Perfect for overnight or heavy-wetters.

Most parents will also add a liner to the nappy, either paper which can be thrown away (NEVER flushed, no matter what the packet says) or reusable that can be washed along with the nappy.

A nappy bucket with a close-fitting lid or a large waterproof bag will be needed to store the dirty nappies until washing.

It’s also a good idea to have a couple of wet nappy bags to use while you are out and about – you pop the soiled nappies in them until you get home.

And that’s it really. Unless you’d like to use washable wipes too – squares of fabric that you dampen with water to use instead of wet wipes. They’ll wash with the nappies so it’s no extra work and with the average family spending over a £100 a year on chemical laden wet wipes, you’ll be quids in too.

If you’d like to find out more about real nappies and how to make the switch, check out: Go Real, The Real Nappy Information Service 

Arabella writes about crafts with kids, cooking, growing and other eco-friendly things that are useful to people outside of Exeter too – check out her Mummy Musings. 



Arabella is a 40 something mum of two strong girls aged 14 and 6, living a life of beaches, pets, cycling and green things in Exeter with Mr Husband.

A lawyer by training, Arabella helped 1,000s of families find the right real nappy system for them when she ran her eco-parenting business. Now she is the editor of Exeter Baby Activities the ultimate guide for families in Exeter. She gets a real kick out of sparking connections; putting local businesses in touch with families; spreading the news about exciting family friendly events and celebrating all that is fabulous about glorious Devon.

You can find Arabella and Exeter Baby Activities at:



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