Cloth Nappy Sizing Made Simple

Cloth nappies are different to disposable nappies in more ways than you might initially realise. There’s the obvious differences like putting them in a wetbag ready to wash, rather than the bin heading to landfill. Or being able to choose not only by brand, but style, colour and pattern. Then there’s the less obvious ones, like sizing… Cloth nappies aren’t (usually!) sized by numbers like disposables, in fact there are there are two main systems of sizing for them, but every brand has their own way of doing things and it can seem baffling to a newcomer!

The main sizing systems are known as ‘Birth to Potty’ (BTP), and ‘Sized’. Simple once you understand what they each mean, but confusing for someone completely new to cloth nappies! I mean, how can a nappy fit both a tiny baby, as well as a toddler whose almost ready to potty train?! Read on to learn more.
Birth to Potty (BTP)
Occasionally referred to as OSFM or One Size Fits Most which is a far more accurate description, but BTP seems to be the abbreviation which has stuck! These nappies are designed to fit both babies and toddlers of most ages. They do this by being adjustable, either by rise poppers at the front of the nappy which is the most common way, or with adjustable rise elastics inside the nappy which are adjusted either like a bra strap, or with buttons.
Note the row’s of three poppers at the front
Rise poppers are the quickest and easiest to adjust (and some also offer the opportunity to ‘hack’ the nappy for a newborn!), but can also be played with by little toddler hands and some people aren’t keen on their aesthetics, whereas rise elastics may be a little more fiddly to adjust as you need to turn the nappy inside out to access the elastics, but they offer a sleeker looking nappy on all size settings, and are even more adjustable to get a fantastic fit as they’re not restricted to the 3 prescribed settings. The rise doesn’t need to be adjusted often no matter which variety you go for, but popper adjustments are the most common.
No poppers required here
Sized Nappies
These are more similar to disposable nappies in that they come in sizes. Each brand has its own sizing method – some have size one, two and three, others will have XS, S, M, L & XL for example. Obviously this means that you’ll have to buy enough nappies for full time use in at least a few sizes. Sometimes the sizes cross over enough that you can get away with skipping a size and for example may be able to move from an XS on its loosest fitting, to a M on its tightest meaning you can buy less nappies overall. With sized nappies there is no fiddling to get the size right, just make sure you have the correct one for your baby and you’re good to go!
Some brands also offer just a Newborn sized version of their BTP nappies, which bridges the early weeks, but they don’t continue offering incremental sizes beyond that.
As always there are advantages and disadvantages to both options, and there’s no one BEST solution -it’s a case of working out which things are most important for you / your child. Here’s a quick run down of some of the main pros and cons to help you decide if BTP or sized cloth nappies might be the right choice for you.
Pro’s of BTP nappies include
– Cost effectiveness. One set of nappies will last you most of your child’s time in nappies. You may need some extras like boosters and liners but if you get the right brand for you, you could easily keep using them for years.
– Size can be changed on demand – you don’t have to get to a shop or waif for an order when you realise you need to move up a size, and if you’ve more than one child in nappies you can change the rise in a matter of seconds.
– It’s more eco friendly to keep the same stash rotating for a few years than to keep having to replace them with new sizes as baby grows.
– Space saving – being able to use just one stash of nappies means you haven’t got to store the smaller / larger sizes whilst not in use so much better if you’re keen on minimalism.
Con’s of BTP nappies include
– They tend not to fit well from birth (although I’ll share the newborn hack soon!) and are usually better suited to babies from around 8-12 weeks of age, they’re also not guaranteed to last until your child is using the toilet as every nappy and child is a different size!
– They can be bulkier on a smaller baby (more so if it’s an all in one nappy – I’ll cover those soon too!) because of the extra fabric
– There can be times when baby seems a bit ‘between sizes’.
– BTP nappies which adjust with rise elastics can be more time consuming to adjust, but once perfect will usually fit for quite a while.
Pros of sized nappies include
– A good fit from day one for most babies when using the right sized nappy.
– Minimal bulk as only as much fabric as is needed for that size is used, absorbent inserts are proportional too usually rather than folded smaller to fit.
– Sleeker aesthetics as no rise poppers on the front.
– Each nappy will get less wear over your child’s time in nappies, meaning they’ll stay in better condition for using for subsequent babies, or for resale.
Cons of sized nappies include
– Needing to replace nappies with the next size up, or buying a set with all of the sizes and storing those not in use.
– Less cost effective overall
Hoping that’s cleared some of the confusion up – but if you would like more support, a place to ask questions (or just somewhere safe to share your addiction haha) why not join our Cloth Nappy Like A Mother Facebook group?
Of course there’s always a workshop – the next one is available here, it’s Saturday 20th October 1-2.30 and for only £12 you can get hands on with different brands and styles, and get a great overview of what’s what! You can even hire a kit (newborn or birth to potty) to get a feel of what might be best for you.
Steph x
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