Fluffy Stuff Monday: What types of cloth diapers are there?

What would you do in this situation: Your baby has not napped all day but falls asleep as soon as she’s in the carseat. Alas, you’re in a hurry and must make one quick stop before your final destination. You do not possess a quick-fold stroller in which to carry the bucket carseat. Do you a: remove baby from her carseat thereby waking her up and carry her screaming, though the store or b: carry the carseat by the handle through the store or c: put the carseat, covered in a blanket, in a grocery cart and wheel it through the store desperately hoping she’ll stay asleep? Can you guess which option I chose?

It’s my first Fluffy Stuff Monday post! Don’t lie, I know you’re excited! Here’s the thing about cloth diapering, it can make your
brain hurt! There is so much information and so many choices, where do you even
start?  Somewhere, my friend; the answer
is that that you have to start somewhere! (BTW I’ve added pictures from different diaper brands websites. I’m not getting any financial reimbursement for this, I just wanted to add pictures to show you the different types of diapers and don’t have any of my own yet).

When we were little most of us were probably running around in plastic pants over ginormous flat cloth diapers that had to be folded a hundred times just to be absorbent enough. And they had to be held together by actual diaper pins. Once soiled, the diapers were stored in a bucket full of water until they were able to be washed. Am I dating myself here or do you remember that, at least from pictures? 
Flash forward some 30 years and you have a completely different generation of cloth diapers that are A-much easier to use and 2-much more attractive! There are so many styles and brands to choose from and it can be overwhelming to pick which diaper you want to use. Here are the basics of what types of diapers you have from which to choose.

Prefolds/Flats: Like the ones from Green Mountain Diapers pictured above, these are flat pieces of cloth, similar to the diapers of yesterday, consisting of three panels with a more absorbent panel in the middle. They need to be folded in order to be put on the baby and you need to use a cover or wrap to keep the waste in. There are several different ways people fold and use these, but you typically also need a snappi, which replaced the diaper pin, to hold the prefold together. Nowadays, prefolds are only made in China and India, with the Indian prefolds being more popular due to the type of material and quality of the product. These are the most budget-friendly cloth diapers.

All-in-One (AIO): These diapers are on the other end of the spectrum from the Prefold. They are most like a disposable in terms of ease of use because you typically don’t need to do anything to it, it contains all the absorbency needed and the outside is made of a water-proof cover. You simply put it on baby and once soiled, throw it in your diaper pail and wash! These are definitely daddy-proof diapers! The downside is that they can take longer to dry since the absorbent part is sewn right in to the diaper. These are typically the most expensive cloth diapers.

Pocket: Pocket diapers are made of a waterproof cover and have a pocket in which to insert an insert or soaker. You can add more absorbency as needed, like for overnight or for a “heavy wetter” (aren’t all babies heavy wetters?). These are most similar to an AIO, except for the stuffing required to put the diapers together, but also are quick drying and are easily tailored to baby’s needs.

All-in-Twos (AI2): These are similar to a Pocket diaper, but instead of stuffing a pocket with an absorbent insert, the insert goes directly on top of the cover against baby’s skin. The advantage to these is that you can reuse the cover by changing the insert if the cover isn’t soiled. This can be a more budget friendly option than the AIO.

Hybrid: These consist of a cloth, water-proof outer cover, similar to the AI2 system, but use a disposable, rather than cloth, insert. This can be a good option if you want to use cloth but don’t have easy access to a washing machine, or for travel.

Fitted: Fitted diapers are made of one absorbent piece of fabric and have snaps or velcro on the side to secure to baby. They need to be worn under a water-proof cover, although some fitteds are made quite thick and can absorb a lot of liquid before they are completely saturated. They are practically leak proof, which definitely comes in handy with a newborn!

One Size (OS): Many diapers come in specific sizes, for example newborn and then by pounds (10-18 lbs, 18-30 lbs, etc.) There are many diapers, however, that come in one size and are adjustable to fit a newborn through toddler. This can help you save money, but to be honest, I haven’t seen one that fits an itty bitty newborn really well.

Diaper cover or Wrap: The water proof part that is worn over a cloth diaper.

Polyurethane-Laminated Polyester (PUL)-This is the material most water-proof diaper covers are made from. You’ll often see covers simply referred to as the “PUL”.

Wool soakers/diaper covers- Diaper covers can also be made of wool. These are typically thick pants, they look like funny little shorts that are used on top of a non-PUL diaper such as a fitted. If handled correctly they are leak-proof, and some people swear by them. They do take some extra care and need to be lanolized, but if you’re having a problem with night-time leakage, these could be your solution.

Now that you know what’s out there, how do you know what diaper is right for you? Take a look at your budget, your access to a washing machine, your level of commitment and support (i.e. is your partner on board?), and the needs of your child. If you’re pregnant or starting out with a newborn, you may be able to find a local store that has a newborn rental package. This will help you decide what you do and do not want. I recommend buying a few styles or brands and seeing what works for you. Before we had Roo we had decided to use hybrids, but after we had her we discovered the ease of the AIO! Because of the cost, we ultimately decided to build up most of our stash with Pockets and have been pretty satisfied.

Let me know if you have any questions! Tune in next week for my post on what you’ll need to get started with cloth diapering, including how many diapers you’ll need and what accessories are a must. 

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