Fitted cloth nappies(or diapers) are a version of the modern cloth nappy that is easy to use and generally highly absorbent. They are better for the environment than disposables (the jury really is not out on this anymore*) and many people claim their babies get less nappy rash with cloth than with disposables.
Fitted cloth nappies are are fastened using snaps or Velcro tabs, and are shaped to fit your baby, making them far easier to put on than old fashioned flat nappies. In fact, they are on a par with disposables. Some brands have a range of sizes, from premmie up, while others are available in one-size-fits-most.
Many of the best cloth nappies are made using hemp or bamboo, both of which are far more absorbent than cotton, again putting these nappies on a par with disposables. Most people find they need to change hemp or bamboo nappies at a similar rate to disposable nappies. Night-time rated cloth nappies can also be left on all night for most babies.
In addition, using hemp or bamboo makes them far more sustainable than either disposable or cotton nappies. Both hemp and bamboo require far less water to grow than the very water needy cotton, and can generally be grown without the use of pesticides, unlike cotton which is a very pesticide heave crop (unless you buy organic cotton of course). So while old fashioned flat cotton nappies are still arguably better for both the environment and your baby than disposables, hemp or bamboo nappies are undoubtedly better still.**
All in one cloth nappies (AIOs) incorporate a water-proof cover, or if you buy regular fitted cloth nappies you will need a few separate covers, usually made either from wool or PUL, a breathable polyester fabric. Even if you buy one-size-fits-most nappies, you will need a range of cover sizes.
Like the nappy itself, covers can be fastened with velcro or snaps. Some people prefer snaps so that their baby cannot undo the cover, especially for older babies, others perfer velco which is quicker to fasten. Baby Beehinds make an excellent velcro fastening cover in a range of colours, which is my favourite (although for my older toddlers I mostly use Starbunz pocket nappies, which have snaps).
** Although, see also our article on whether bamboo nappies are quite as good as we’ve been led to believe.