I'm confused... what types of cloth nappies are there?
Cloth nappies have come a long way from the giant terry towel nappies of the 80s - so it is understandable that you might be confused by the wide range of nappy options available. I've written up a mini flow chart that might help you decide, but I strongly suggest reading this article in full before making a decision.
You might even want to try a few different styles and brands to see which ones you like best (luckily we have automatic bundle discounts).
My personal preference was flats/fitted nappies with covers during the newborn period then all in one (AIO) for daycare/grandparents and all in two (AI2) for us to use.
A nappy cover is the non-absorbent out shell of the cloth nappy. These are used with a flat or fitted nappy, or sometimes snap in inserts - anything that needs a waterproof shell to protect against leaks.
Generally, covers are one size fits most (OSFM) so they can be used from birth to toilet training. They are fast drying and don't have any absorbency which means that you can wipe them out and use them a few times before washing. This makes them an affordable option.
However, the flat/fitted and cover combination can also be a bit bulky in comparison to other nappy options. Folding flats can also be a bit overwhelming although with practice you will be a pro in no time! The Australian Nappy Association has some very helpful guides that show you how to fold flat nappies.
All-in-two nappies have two parts that can be separated - the waterproof nappy shell and the absorbent inserts. They are usually pocket nappies (where there is a pocket sewn into the shell where you stuff in the inserts) or snap/lay in nappies where the inserts either have snaps that clip them to the shell, or the inserts lie in the shell.
These are by far the most common type of nappy meaning they are easy to find and easier to resell than AIOs. As they are separate parts it means you can mix and match inserts to find the level of absorbency that is most suitable for your child. Pocket nappies usually have an athletic wicking jersey or microfleece liner which wicks the moisture away from your baby, keeping them drier. As the inserts can be separated from the shell they are much quicker to dry than AIOs.
Generally, AI2 nappies are OSFM so they will last from birth to toilet training. Most are front snapping, however side-snapping AI2 versions are also available.
The only negatives we have encountered so far are that matching up inserts to the correct shells, and then stuffing the inserts, can be a bit time consuming.
Fitted nappies are sized and completely absorbent making them an excellent option for heavy wetters. As they come in multiple sizes, it is easy to get a really good fit. We found them particularly helpful for the newborn stage as well as overnight.
However, this absorbency comes at a cost. They take by far the longest to dry of any of these nappy options. As they come in different sizes it also means you have to purchase multiple nappies as your child grows.
One Size Fits Most (OSFM)
OSFM nappies have two sets of snaps - ones around the waist that adjust the tightness of the nappy; and ones at the front of the nappy that adjust the tightness around the legs. We made a fit video to help ensure you are able to get the perfect fit!
While each brand is different, generally they fit from about 4-16kg. This means that often they don't fit newborn babies, however there are some hacks available online to help address these issues.
While some people are able to add extra absorbency into their normal day nappies, most people required a dedicated night nappy. A night nappy is one with a lot more absorbency than day-time nappies.
Night nappies are often fitted (absorbent all over), or multiple inserts, paired with either a waterproof or wool cover.
Once you dive into the cloth nappy rabbit hole, you will see WAHM written everywhere. These are handmade nappies from makers at working from home. These come in a variety of types (all those listed above) so there is something for everyone. As they are handmade, you may be able to pick the fabric and customise the nappy to suit your preferences.
However, as they are handmade there are very limited numbers available which means they can be a bit tricky to get your hands on!