What are cloth nappies

Cloth nappies always consist of a waterproof layer on the outside. This is permeable to air and therefore breathable, but keeps out moisture. With its bright colours and patterns, this outer fabric makes every cloth nappy a real eye-catcher.

The absorbent material, i.e. the inner layer of cloth nappies, consists of many different materials. You can choose and combine them according to your needs. The most common materials are cotton, bamboo viscose, polyester and hemp.

Modern cloth nappy systems no longer have much in common with the complicated cloth nappies of the past. Today there are many different brands and designs, all of which are easy to use.

Picture: Wrap type

zerohero, eco mini, cloth nappy association, pocket nappy, all-in-one nappy

Picture: Alexandra Schwager

Why are there so many different systems?

The reason is quite simply that the needs are very different. Different needs can be

  • As easy to use as possible

  • as little laundry as possible

  • Suitable for external care for grandparents or the daycare centre

  • Particularly breathable due to sensitive skin

  • No chemicals, only natural fibres

  • Existing absorbent material (such as muslin cloths) should be able to be used

  • and so on.

Each cloth nappy brand has taken one or other of these needs into account and created its own range accordingly. This is how they want to fulfil you and your individual needs!

Cloth nappy systems

AIO - All In One

This nappy is the closest thing to a disposable nappy. The absorbent core is firmly integrated and so the nappy is ready for use without any preparation. Thanks to its uncomplicated design, it is particularly suitable for daycare centres or grandparents. The complete nappy has to be washed after one use and therefore generates a slightly larger pile of laundry than other systems.

Picture: doodush

Picture: hamac paris

AI2 - All In Two (overtrousers)

The All-in-Two system consists of 2 elements. A wetness-protecting outer nappy made of PUL, TPU or wool and an absorbent pad. Individual absorbent material (inserts, prefolds, gauze nappies, panty nappies) is placed in the nappy or wrapped around the child. Overpants are available in different variations with tabs, snaps, Velcro, double leg cuffs, etc. If the overpants are not soiled by faeces, they can be reused with a new absorbent pad, thus saving on laundry.

AI3 - All In Three

The Ai3 nappy is the latest cloth nappy system. As the name suggests, the nappy consists of three layers. An outer nappy, usually made of cotton, a tub made of either PUL or wool, and the absorbent material. The absorbent material is placed in the tub. When changing nappies, only the absorbent material needs to be changed. The tub and the outer nappy can be used several times. This system is particularly space- and laundry-saving.

Picture: miamalina

Pocket nappy

The inserts in this nappy are loose and can be pushed into the opening of the pocket nappy. The inserts can be freely selected and combined. The pocket itself is changed with the inserts with every nappy change. It is advisable to remove the inserts before washing. Similar to the All-In-One, the pocket nappy is also suitable for external carers and is available with different materials and fasteners.

Picture: ecomini

Picture: Elskbar

SIO - Snap In One

Consists of overpants and an absorbent pad, which can usually be fastened with snaps. If the overpants are not dirty, you can simply snap on a new absorbent pad when changing the nappy. This is practical for very mobile children, as the pads cannot slip in the overpants. The laundry pile can also be somewhat smaller.

HÖWI - Panty nappy

This nappy is made of absorbent material only. It therefore requires an overpants. Very high and long-lasting absorbency thanks to plenty of absorbent material. Ideal for overnight or longer nappy changing intervals during the day.

Picture: Culla di Teby

Holding-down nappy

A hold-off nappy holds in place with a waist belt and can easily be folded open at the front to hold it off. If the nappy is still dry, it only needs to be folded up again and there is no need to put the nappy on and take it off. Hold-down nappies are available in different systems.

Text: Nappy pack / zerohero / Wickelspecht

Picture: Popolini

Picture: Easypisi

Would you like to try out cloth nappies before you decide?

Save money with Stoffys

Child age Disposable nappies Cloth nappies Difference
Purchase 0.- 500.- -500.-
1-6 months 512.- 41.- 471.-
6-12 Mt. 490.- 41.- 449.-
12-18 Mt. 466.- 41.- 425.-
18-24 Mt. 373.- 41.- 332.-
24-30 Mt. 443.- 41.- 402.-
30-36 Mt. 222.- 41.- 181.-
Sale -150.- 150.-
Total 2506.- 596.- 1910.-

All prices in CHF

Source: Cost calculator of the nappy manufacturer / Zerohero

Average prices for commercially available disposable nappies in Switzerland were used for this calculation. The costs of the fees for electricity, water and waste are based on the official figures of the City of Zurich. The purchase costs for the cloth nappies are based on an average value of between CHF 200 (second-hand nappies etc.) and CHF 800 (rather expensive brands and systems).

With cloth nappies, we not only save the immense waste of approx. 6000 nappies, but also a considerable amount of money. Even with the first child, and even more so with each subsequent baby.

Health aspects

Picture: Hinzling

Picture: Kaja Babymode

Picture: Bamboolik

Let us advise you!

Nappy dermatitis / sore bottom

The health benefits of cloth nappies are immense. The first important thing to mention is that with cloth nappies - in contrast to disposable nappies - the carer decides what goes on the baby's bottom. There are no chemical additives in cloth nappies, they are free from parabens (preservatives), lotions and perfumes, to name only a few, whereas disposable nappies are full of chemical additives, packed in a pure plastic nappy. The preconception that cloth nappy babies have more red bottoms unfortunately still persists. On the contrary, babies in cloth nappies suffer much less from nappy rash. Why? Cloth nappies are completely permeable to air, whereas disposable nappies are not. In addition, children in cloth nappies are changed much more frequently on average. Thanks to the short nappy changing interval, the baby does not stay in a wet nappy for long. If you are now thinking "yes, but with cloth nappies the child is lying directly in aggressive urine (Urea) and that is unhealthy for the baby's permeable skin!"; Wrong! Urine per se is a nourishing substance, it is not for nothing that many moisturising creams contain urea as a moisturising ingredient. Of course, this does not mean that the child should lie in a wet nappy for long periods of time. The argument that the wetness in the cloth nappy causes a red bottom is therefore invalid.

Wetness feedback

Another very important health benefit of cloth nappies is the wetness feedback. The baby notices that it is getting wet during excretion. Thanks to this sensation, the bladder-brain connection is trained and strengthened. This physiological process therefore remains in the child's consciousness; it realises that "something is happening in the body". Let's look at a baby in disposable nappies. Unfortunately, the absorbency of today's disposable nappies is extremely good. Thanks to so-called superabsorbents, babies in disposable nappies do not notice when they have peed due to the lack of wetness feedback. This means that the excretion process is pushed into the background for the child in disposable nappies and the connection between the bladder and brain is not strengthened. What does this mean for getting dry? A child in disposable nappies has to cognitively learn the elimination process when becoming dry, which means a lot more work than if it had already been internalised - as is the case with cloth nappies. It is not for nothing that cloth-diapered children are on average dry much earlier than children in disposable nappies. The process of becoming dry can also be supported by regularly holding off the baby from birth. Holding off, also known as nappy-free or elimination communication, promotes body awareness and awareness of the biological elimination processes. Our babies already have a very sensitive feeling for their excretions from birth and for this reason are very happy to accept the offer to eliminate outside the nappy.

Hip development

Cloth nappies also have the benefit of wide nappy changing. Dry cloth nappies make a larger and wider nappy pack than dry disposable nappies. The first thought might be that this is a negative aspect and hinders the child's physical development. However, the opposite is the case, thanks to the wider nappy, the hips of newborn babies can mature better, which is a great advantage.

Testicular temperature

Another advantage for our male babies in cloth nappies that should not be underestimated is the climate inside the nappy. Boys have their testicles outside the body in the scrotum so that they are about 3 degrees Celsius cooler than the body. Thanks to the air-permeable materials in cloth nappies, the climate inside the nappy is pleasantly balanced. In disposable nappies, the temperature increases by around one degree Celsius due to the artificial materials (plastic), which has a negative impact on sperm quality and therefore on the child's fertility. Among other things, it is assumed that disposable nappies contribute to the increasing infertility of men in our latitudes.

Studies on the health benefits of cloth nappies can be found here.


How ecological are cloth nappies really?

Many people are not sure whether cloth nappies are really more ecological than disposable nappies. Most people immediately think of the energy and water consumption of washing. However, if you take a closer look, this doesn't even carry that much weight. The consumption of resources is much more important when calculating the life cycle assessment. According to a study, you save around 40% of CO2 equivalents with cloth nappies.

Save up to 40% CO2 with cloth nappies

Cloth nappy Disposable nappy
Land consumption for raw material (m2/year) 13-40 407-829
Water consumption (m3/year) 48-80 35-71
Energy consumption (kWh/year) 0.2 - 0.4 0.9 - 1.8
Waste production (kg/year) 8-14 720-900

Source: Study on the sustainability of cloth nappies by Rezero and ZeroWasteEurope, 2019
Text and table: WickelArt

Bid: Elskbar

Picture: XKKO

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