Cloth diapers are no longer a thing of the past. They are certainly NOT the same as they were back when we were growing up, or when our parents were growing up. They are now a hot booming industry of fashion forward and eco-friendly covers and inserts that are easy on the eyes and pocket-book.
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Oh, there is no way I can do this. It’s too time consuming.” Actually, I thought the same thing at first. I was extremely intimidated because I didn’t know where to start or what I was doing. I became overwhelmed because of the exorbitant amount of information available on the web and YouTube. This is one of the reasons why I felt it was important to break this thing down in a way that is less intimidating and make it fun. There are 4 major types of cloth diapers: Prefold/Flat, AIOs/AI2s, Fitteds, and Pockets. I have my favorites, but I suggest purchasing one of each so you can “product test” and find what works best for you and your baby. Just because someone is in LOVE with one type, doesn’t mean it will work best for you.
PREFOLDS/FLATS: Flat and prefold diapers are the least expensive choice in cloth diapers, costing around $15-$30 per dozen. These diapers require waterproof outer covers, so they are a three-piece diapering system (diaper, cover, closure for diaper). Typically, these diapers are closed with either diaper pins or a Snappi. A Snappi is a little stretchy plastic fastener that has grippers like an Ace bandage. However, another option is to simply lay them in a wrap style cover and forgo the additional closure type. That option is typically used as the child grows and gets bigger. They are absorbent, very economical, easy to launder and fast to dry, can be used as diapers, doublers, pocket stuffers, burp cloths, or clean up rags, and they are available in lots of unbleached and dyed colors. Unfortunately, a cover is required to make the diaper function, you must take the time to fold these diapers before using them. They are not as convenient as an AIO or pockets. They can be hard to use on squirmy babies. Pins and/or a Snappi can be hard to use if you are not comfortable with them. Messes are harder to contain in these diapers IF the covers are not properly placed.
AIOs / AI2s: An AIO, or All-In-One, is exactly what it sounds like. The cover and absorbent inner is attached as one unit. It is a type of diaper that functions completely on its own without the need for extra accessories. This diaper functions like a disposable, except: you don’t throw it away when it gets soiled, there is no separate cover or separate soaker/doubler required, they are super easy to use, they are available in lots of cute colors and prints, and are preferred by many childcare givers. Even with all of these positives, there are a few downsides to these diapers, such as: longer drying time, harder to effectively clean, will “wear” quicker than other cloth diaper types. (Popular Brands: bumGenius freetime AIO, GroVia Organic AIO, and gDiaper)
Pockets: Pocket diapers can be a little hard to explain. With a pocket diaper, there is an outer waterproof layer made of PUL that is sewn to a cloth layer which goes against the skin, and there is an opening left in the back between the two. You put an absorbent insert into that opening, and then you remove the insert for washing and put the insert and diaper both into the wash together. Most brands come with their own inserts, use prefolds, or buy additional inserts. The whole diaper fastens with either Aplix (velcro) or snaps. This system is easy and convenient just like using AIOs. You can have a bunch of diapers with inserts already inside of them at the changing table and in the diaper bag, so you just pull one out and put it on your baby. Childcare providers and babysitters will love these because they are convenient to use. You can separate the inserts from the rest of the diaper for washing and drying, so you get the inserts really clean. Then you can dry the inserts in the dryer, and you can line-dry the rest of the diaper, which means it will last longer. Unfortunately, they can be a bit more expensive than fitteds and prefolds. It can be a bit harder to get the diaper itself really clean. Pocket diapers rarely use natural fibers in the layer that’s against the skin–it’s usually some sort of polyester microfiber which is designed to wick moisture away from the skin. For many people, that is fine, but some people prefer to stick to natural fibers. There are natural fiber pocket diapers available, but they are super hard to find. (Popular Brands: bumGenius, Bummis, FuzziBunz, and Thirsties Duo)
Fitteds: Fitted diapers are exactly what they sound like. Instead of the flat and shapeless diapers, fitted diapers are fitted and snug, usually with elastic gatherings in the legs and waist. These diapers are fitted and snug for a good fit on baby and under diaper covers. They can be washed at high temperatures and separate from covers which makes them easy to clean. They can be very trim for day use or bulkier for nighttime use, your choice! Also, they are available in tons of cute colors and prints. There are very few disadvantages of a fitted diaper. They do not function well without a cover. They are not as convenient as an AIO and can be hard to get very clean if they contain a lot of layers. (Popular Brands: Heiny Huggers, Little Beetles, and Kissaluvs)
Stay tuned for a report on the Costs of Cloth Diapers.