First of all take the Nappy Lady questionnaire to find out which system might be best for you
Wraps and prefolds
This is one of the cheapest ways of choosing, buying & using reusable nappies. Pre folds, inserts, muslins or Terry towel squares with wraps are the most basic and versatile systems to use.
Prefold systems are really well suited to newborn days, but can be continued for any age baby or toddler. You need more prefolds than wraps, changing the inserts or prefolds regularly either when your little one has pooed or it’s wet. You replace the wraps if they get poo on or every 12 hours/5 uses. This means you can often kit out your entire nappy stash for £100-200 for full time use depending on the wraps and inserts used. So much cheaper than disposable nappies & much cheaper than other cloth nappy systems. Another benefit of prefold systems is you can combine many different brands of wraps and inserts, colours and prints giving you much greater choice & versatility than some other reusable nappy systems.
If you choose to use Terry towel squares there is a range of folds and wraparounds you can use which gives you choice to figure out which style or type of fold is best for you & your baby. As an example with boys you add more layers at the front than with a girl where you’d try to keep the whole nappy even. You’ll need some nappy Nippa as & the nappy lady has a fab post on different wrapping options: https://www.thenappylady.co.uk/news/choosing-your-nappy-system/terry-squares-prefold-nappies.html
There are some downsides to this system however: firstly is the time of learning how to wrap & apply prefolds, it’s a little more learning, time & effort than using all in ones for example. Many childcare settings prefer all in ones as well which is something to factor in if you are returning to work. You’ll also need your support network on board with this.
Another downside can be the increased stress & time required when you hit the mobility stage of having a baby. Often at this brilliant (tiring) developmental stage the quicker you can do a nappy change the better. Especially for the children who love to protest all nappy changes (I have had one of these since she was around 8 months old). Sitting and getting the perfect fit, wrap, fold and then putting a wrap over the top would be even more stressful than our two part night nappies or the very quick all in ones/pockets.
This was the system recommended to me when I completed the nappy lady questionnaire while I was pregnant with my daughter. I think mostly based on cost, unsure of returning to work & also because at the time I was considering tumble drying my nappies to get them dry. My hubby however has never 100% been on board (At that time we’d agreed he could use disposables until I had learnt the ins & outs of our cloth nappies) but I decided I’d need a system as close to disposables as possible. This was not only for him but also for my mum (also wasn’t supportive at the time) to be able to use. That said if any future children appear I plan to use cloth from birth now I know what I’m doing & I would use a combination of prefolds with wraps & size one shaped nappies. Mostly because I found the birth to potty nappies were a little big for my skinny legged baby in the first few months of use. Plus I have about a billion unused muslins in our attic which were gifted to us.
So what are wraps?
Wraps are the waterproof outer layer designed to prevent your babies clothes and bedding from getting saturated. They cover the insert, Terry towel, muslin or shaped nappy help to contain the poo & wee. Most wraps have waistbands and stretchy elasticated leg bands therefore preventing poonamis. These shouldn’t leak & if it does it means one of two things: either you need to add more absorbency in the form of boosters, layers or choosing a different material; or the waterproof membrane called the PUL may have gone (with wool wraps it may be that these need lanolising again). Any nappies with PUL should not be tumble dried as it causes it to melt and stops it from working. PUL and elastics are two things you should always check if you buy second hand nappies (Elastics are replaceable if you know how to sew).
There are so many different types of wraps: standard wraps like bambino mio or little lambs. These are often Velcro closure, but many brands do poppered wraps if you prefer. Try to look for side poppers with night time wraps for the day your child decides its time to sleep on their tummy comfortably. Airflow wraps are poppered closure and the gap at the side allows for some evaporation of the urine overnight which can be useful for babies who appear to pee for England, which helps to reduce the saturation level of the nappy insert slightly & can help the nappy last a little longer time wise. Poppered wraps also don’t have to be done as tightly as velcro wraps which are great options if you find you have ‘sock’ marks from having to tighten the velcro around the inserts (usually with skinnier legged babies or vice versa). It also allows for great air circulation which helps to reduce the temperature (where bacteria can grow).
Another option is fleece wraps such as petit Lulu or wool wraps like disana. These have many benefits such as maintaining temperature (cool in summer, warm in winter, again allowing evaporation of urine overnight) as well if you found any problems with either of the standard or airflow wrap options. These are pull up which is a fab design for toilet training, and the designs of these are often really gentle for babies who have delicate skin. Because these are designed to be loose there is no risk of sock marks either.
You can even use a wrap around a disposable nappy to prevent poonami explosions which I have recommended to some parents who haven’t found reusable nappies were right for them.