Drop-flap nappies didn’t really become a reality for us until four months in, when energy levels rose and C started to become more mobile. At nine months, we’re in them all day, if not all night. There’s not a huge amount of choice out there when it comes to nappies for EC (elimination communication, nappy-free, Windelfrei, call it what you will), and I think any company that’s taking the time to produce for this market deserves a huge thumbs up. That being said, the two main brands I’ve tried are vastly different, so I think a comparison is in order.
Flaparaps (Flapawraps, Flapperwraps, Flappawraps!) are designed and made in the UK and available to buy at Jenn’s BornReady site and from TheNappyLady. I own the Purplectly Marvellous PUL model, which I have in the new design and an older one, both of which came to me secondhand. Flaparaps come in a range of different materials, including wool.
Petit Lulu Minimal Nappy Covers/Nappies for EC are designed and made in the Czech Republic. As far as I can tell, they’re a relatively new product that’s available to buy from a few resellers in the EU, including HeldenTragen in Germany, which is where I bought mine. Petit Lulu also manufactures regular cloth nappies and covers.
This is hugely important to some, and less to others, but I think there is quite a significant difference in how the two nappies look. Flaparaps, or tanga nappies as they are affectionately called by the engineer, do not look like regular nappies to me – they are simply so minimal. Flaparaps used to be quite basic in terms of colours and patterns, but there are now some great designs and the wool option is fantastic. Petit Lulus look much more like a conventional cloth nappy, so they don’t particularly attract any attention, and they come in the same range of designs as their regular nappy covers. If I’m not really in the mood to draw (even more) attention, as a back-carrying, not-German-looking or -speaking mum, then I’ve found myself reaching for the Petit Lulu when I know we’ll be out and about around other mums. However, the smart, simple Flaparap design is much more ‘us’.
One quick-dry Flaparap cover will cost you £24.97, and the inserts cost £10.95 for four small inserts or £8.25 for two large inserts. While the covers are quite a big outlay, the inserts are very reasonable. Flaparaps are also starting to become available on the secondhand market, as they’ve been around for a while now.
A Petit Lulu cover alone will cost you a much more affordable €14.90, but the inserts cost a whopping €9.50 each, or six for €50.90. They’re relatively new, so secondhand is unlikely to be an option for a while, and may not be a great idea anyway – I’ll explain in ‘Quality’ below!
All in all, you would probably pay about the same for either of the two systems. If you’re in the market for covers only as you already have an arsenal of boosters, the Petit Lulu would be a much cheaper option. But you should also be able to find a secondhand Flaparap cover for this price.
Quality and materials
Hands down, Flaparaps are the clear winner when it comes to quality. The secondhand Flaparaps I own have been well used, but the materials are holding up fantastically – hardly any pilling on the edging, plenty of stretch in the elastic, and the PUL looks great. From a construction point of view, this nappy is an excellently made workhorse that will just keep going.
By contrast, the Petit Lulu nappies may look lovely when they arrive, but like a polyester jumper, you just know that this product isn’t going to go the distance. The PUL is pretty but thin, and the white base in many of the designs is a huge no no for crawling and shuffling bottoms – it may just be an indication that I need to get the mop out, but mine are already greying after a couple of weeks. The cover is edged with a chunky fleece binding, which is lovely and soft, but is also starting to pill and grey slightly. Within two weeks, the stitching has broken in one place and I will be sending it back for a replacement. However, this did give me a chance to look at the construction – 4mm clear elastic and three-stitch zig zag under 1.25cm fleece binding. There is also a clear weak point in the stitching where the nappy joins to the belt – I’m afraid I can’t see this lasting long – a reinforcing stitch is definitely needed here. Maybe I just received a ‘weak’ cover – I don’t think so, but I’ll update when I get my replacement.
(Background: My son is currently nine and a half months old and is a chunky monkey at 98% for weigh and around 80% for height. Huge thighs, big paunch. Conventional birth to potty nappies are on the largest setting as we wait nervously for the ‘one-year-slimdown’.)
Once again, Flaparaps are the clear winner for me when it comes to fit – they have been meticulously tested and shaped to perfection. They sit comfortably under the tummy paunch, and the waist belt comes in different sizes and can be adjusted easily. That said, we’re on the largest setting now, and ever since I’ve owned them, I’ve found the rise – the amount that tucks up and under at the back of the nappy – to be too short. I would like an extra couple of centimetres. The design relies on the sticky elastic (and a ridge at the back of the nappy in the newer models) to hold the flap in place, and for us, they’re just a shade too short to stay tucked under comfortably. Maybe this is a big-baby thing. Otherwise, the elastic does a great job and the flap doesn’t shift.
The downside of the great fit in the Flaparaps is the limited space this then leaves for the insert. Having a boy, it’s important to get the insert wedged right up in front, and folding and placing the insert can be a bit of a precision job. The Flaparap inserts are fab and can be folded to any size or shape, but with a boy, I like a bit more absorbency at the front, and the super-trim design makes it difficult to achieve this without the cover being pushed up and away from the body. It also make it a challenge to use ready-shaped non-Flaparap inserts, such as boosters from other nappies – as they can be too bulky. Again, maybe some of this is a big-baby problem.
By contrast, the Petit Lulu cover is about as basic as it gets – an elasticated rectangle attached to a belt. Any shaping is achieved with elastic around the gusset. The nappy is designed to be worn with the flap at the front, but it can be just as easily turned around and used as a back-flap nappy. This is a very great plus if you’re looking for a cover to use with a baby baby, that’s still on their back for nappy changes, or a toddler that has no time for that sort of thing and needs changing while climbing furniture.
The flap is tucked under the fleece belt, which can be adjusted simply by tying a knot in the elastic, and fastened with poppers.
There are a number of popper settings and, oddly, we use the smallest setting to achieve the same ‘under-paunch’, low-rise fit. This baffles me slightly, as I can’t work out what size child could
possibly use the largest (or longest) popper setting – I should imagine it would be for a child two years plus. The popper/settings system has the advantage of security, but 1. poppers. say no more, and 2. you risk being between settings and having a gaping nappy or a nappy that rides down at the front or back.
The huge upside of the Petit Lulus is that the basic rectangle shape means that you can fit almost any booster in here, including really quite large boosters that effectively make this a nappy you could leave on for much longer if needed. I haven’t tried Petit Lulu’s boosters, which are meant to fix in place with *another* popper, but I also haven’t found the popper necessary to hold an insert in place.
Overall, the Petit Lulu offers fantastic flexibility in terms of front or back flap and use with other shaped inserts (you can still easily use other folded inserts with Flaparaps, although the absorbency on Jenn’s inserts is great) but the tradeoff is poor fit. The cover slides about a bit and requires regular tweeking to re-cover an exposed cheek or fix a gape at the crotch. With a crawler/cruiser this is fine … I’m not sure how it would work if said child is currently running away from you though …
Everyday EC use
Somehow, I’ve found myself using the Petit Lulus over Flaparaps, in spite of the clear quality and fit issues, and I think I’ll miss it when I send it back for a replacement next week. I don’t even like the ‘fun’ design, but somehow this nappy is just easier to use right now (heavily sleep deprived from summer heat, teething, general baby madness). The fleece belt feels more comfortable and less diggy than the Flaparap elastic, and is definitely easier to slide on and off (too easy? I can see an older baby having no problem breaking free, but also having no trouble pulling it down (if not up again) to take themselves to the potty). The engineer never got on with the little clasps on the Flaparap belt, although wrestling a baby into a tube of fleece also seems a bit beyond him! Another clear advantage of the Petit Lulus is that the plastic shell and microfleece binding really minimises wicking from a pee miss … Wicking has been a big problem for me with the PUL, quick-dry flaparaps, so much so that I’m still not brave enough to use it when I’m carrying out and about or not able to potty as often as I should.
I think this is the essential difference between these two products. The Flaparap is excellently designed for full-time EC use – the fit and quality are so superior. But if you lapse during the day, or are afraid of wicking, you’re likely to change to a regular nappy or at least change to a new, dry Flaparap cover. The Petit Lulu is able to cope with a much lazier approach to EC, handling a couple of pee misses (depending on your insert) without any, or much less, wicking and looking and feeling much more like a regular cloth nappy. I have real doubts about its durability, and the fit is pretty poor, but it’s an ideal cover for the part-time EC-er.
Does the Petit Lulu make you a lazier EC-er as you know you can get away with misses? And does the Flaparap push you to EC better and more regularly as you have to change immediately to avoid wicking? Who knows 🙂
For now, I’d say that neither product is 100% perfect for us – I’d like to see a little more length at the back of Flaparaps, a bit more room inside for inserts and no fear of wicking. I wouldn’t invest significantly in Petit Lulus as I don’t think they’ll last, but I will continue to use them for their anti-wicking properties and the fact that right now, I’m whacked and part-time is all I can manage.
Realistically, I’m going to fire up the sewing machine and make a hybrid of the two 😀