Never thought about cloth diapering? Grab a coffee and let's talk. There's a whole new world out there, and for me, it all started with cloth diapers...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cloth Diapers Overview

When my son was born, there was no question what I would put on his bottom 24/7... disposable diapers. What else was there? Weren't those "cloth diapers" at the store supposed to be used as burp cloths? mean people still use those as DIAPERS? Why in the world would they do that?!

Yes, people still use those, but not me. Those rectangular pieces of cotton cloth (prefolds) and even diaper pins are still used, but people who are afraid of that need to realize that there are MANY more choices available to them, and they DON'T have to use disposable diapers! To make it a little easier for you, I will tell you what I've discovered about cloth diapering and the choices available, in hopes that you will find something that sounds appealing enough to make the switch.

So what ARE your options? Below are some examples of diaper types and definitions. While some die-hard naturalists would never use anything else but prefolds and wool diaper covers, you might be more interested in the cloth diapers which are more like disposables, such as all-in-ones or pocket diapers. Or perhaps you are kind of in the middle and prefer fitted diapers with a separate cover. No matter where you fit in, there is definitely a diaper out there that your baby will fit in that you will be happy with, too! Here we go...


These are the rectangular diapers that were once folded and pinned on. They can be made from all kinds of cotton fabrics like flannel, gauze, birdseye, and others. For the most absorbency, they should be made from 100% cotton or hemp. These diapers can also be put on with a "Snappi" or can be laid into a diaper wrap (a special cover) and held on by it. Some people even still use pins! They are available in assorted sizes, and you will find a few popular kinds- Chinese Prefolds (CPFs) Indian prefolds, or Diaper Service Quality (DSQ). From what I have read about the two, CPFs seem to be the more popular, but it always comes down to your personal preference. Prefolds work better the more they are washed and generally need to be washed 3-4 times in hot water to reach acceptable absorbency.
PROS- They are the cheapest solution for diapering, and they can be re-used later on for burp cloths and cleaning rags, or even to diaper subsequent children.
CONS- Unless you use the diaper wraps to put on the prefold, it will require a little more work to get the prefold on (pins, Snappi, etc.) and they will need to be folded correctly if you pin or Snappi. They are also quite bulky. You will also need to use a waterproof cover, or make sure you change your baby immediately after soiling (which you should be doing anyway!)

Contour Cloth Diapers

Contour cloth diapers are a cross between prefolds and fitteds. They can be used in a diaper wrap similar to the way prefolds are held on by the waterproof cover/wrap. They are hourglass shaped like a fitted, but do not have elastic or means of closing attached to them. They must be held on by pinning, Snappi, or diaper wrap.
PROS- Cheaper than fitteds, they are easier to use than prefolds because there is no folding. They are also easy to make yourself, which could save even more money.
CONS- You sacrifice some absorbency by using these instead of prefolds. Compared to fitteds, they will leak more because they don't have the elastic to hold in those explosive poops we all know so well (and if you're new at this...just wait!) This may result in having to wash covers more frequently, because what the diaper doesn't hold in will often get onto the cover. So unless you want to wash more frequently, you will need to purchase a few more covers.

Fitted Cloth Diapers

Also called "fitteds," fitted cloth diapers are hourglass shaped, similar to disposables, and will have elastics along the legs, and probably front and back as well. They are made from either cotton knits or wovens (knit has stretch, wovens don't) and also from hemp. They will usually either snap or close with touch tape or Velcro. Depending upon the absorbency of the diaper, you may need an additional lay-in soaker. The core of the diaper is called the soaker. A lay-in soaker (extra layer of absorbent fabric) lays inside the diaper and will touch the baby's bottom.
PROS- Fitted diapers hold in explosive poops quite well, as long as you have a good fit. They are easy to put on, and come in cute prints if you want your baby to go coverless.
CONS- You may need a waterproof cover. They take longer to dry than prefolds or other diapers that come apart or unfold. (Some are made with a soaker "flap" sewn in just one spot in the diaper so that the diaper will dry faster).

Cloth Diaper Covers

A cloth diaper cover is a waterproof outer cover that fits over the cloth diaper to help protect your baby's clothes and bedding. They are made of vinyl, PUL (polyurethane laminate), Pro-care, wool, fleece, acrylic...generally anything waterproof or that doesn't hold water can be made into a cover. You will find covers that snap on, Velcro (or touch tape) on, or even pull-on. Covers are more commonly used at night or for outings. Some people will never go without a cover, others only use them when necessary. Some covers are also "wraps" that will actually wrap a prefold or contour diaper on so that you can skip the pins.
PROS- Will protect clothes, bedding, or car seats from getting wet, especially for "heavy wetters." Can be reused; they don't have to be changed as often as diapers so you don't need that many.
CONS- Can be an extra step in the diapering process. Lets less air get to baby's bottom. They don't hold up as well as diapers and usually need to be laundered differently.

All-In-One Cloth Diapers

These are just what they say- the diaper and cover in one. Very much like a disposable, there is only one step to the diapering process. With All-In-Ones (AIOs), the waterproof fabric is attached to the cotton/absorbent part and all are laundered together.
PROS- Great for day care, church, or dads who refuse to use anything else. Easy to use.
CONS- It is difficult to get these clean. Water can't circulate to the innermost core of the diaper, and water can't come in through the waterproof part, so you can imagine what hangs on inside the diaper. It is also difficult to dry them and when it stays a little damp deep in the diaper...I won't even go there. Let's just say things will grow. The waterproof fabric will wear out faster, as you have to launder it along with the other soiled part. If you can find an AIO with a sewn in flap soaker, that would be your best bet. But I would not use these for full time use!

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers are the newest type of diaper on the market. Generally, but not always, the diaper is made with a fleece lining and a waterproof polyurethane laminate (PUL) outer. All edges are sewn together, except for an opening in the back, which is where the "pocket" comes from. Inside the pocket you can put anything from prefolds to custom made inserts to microfiber towels. You can even put a kitchen towel in it if you get desperate!

When the diaper is soiled, you simply remove the insert and put both pieces in your pail. A clean pocket diaper and insert must be used each time. In a pinch, however, I have been known to lay a towel inside a "wet" pocket diaper and it worked just fine. The benefit of fleece, or other polyester fabric such as microsuede, is that because these fabrics don't hold onto wetness, the baby's urine flows through the lining and is absorbed by the insert inside the pocket. It pulls wetness away from baby's bottom like a disposable diaper (but without the gel!)  Because the diaper can be disassembled for washing, some are even making cotton pocket diapers because they dry faster, and some prefer natural fabrics like cotton.
  • They come in lots of styles, so you are sure to find one that fits your baby well.
  • You can adjust the absorbency for your baby by using extra inserts for heavy wetters, or fewer for light wetters.
  • They are very adjustable, and are available in one size options as well. 
  • They hold in poop and pee very well as long as you have a good fit.
  • The pocket diaper is a great choice for dads, babysitters, and day care workers who want a one step diapering process.
  • They are the more costly choice. Custom designed diapers are the most expensive on the market, but as a basic diaper, pocket diapers are generally at the top of the list.
  • It is more difficult to tell if a baby is wet in a fleece lined diaper. Other caregivers will not know your baby needs changing unless they take the time to notice how a wet insert feels (sort of a heavy feeling).
  • Some choices do not hold up well. Avoid diapers with a cotton PUL outer if you plan on using your diapers for another baby. These are usually the cute prints (some prints are not cotton- make sure you ask). Cotton PUL pocket diapers will fall apart much, much faster than those made from synthetic fabrics. Cotton also wicks, so even though the waterproofing is laminated onto the cotton, wetness will find its way around the front of the diaper and wet baby's clothes in the process. Cotton PUL diapers are better for daytime use for this reason. Nighttime diapers get more saturated, and they are more likely to wick the wetter they get; daytime diapers are typically changed before they get this wet. 
Fuzzi Bunz, the first pocket diaper on the market, was once known as a nighttime diaper, but people quickly realized that they make a great full time diaper. The microfiber inserts are a favorite for many pocket diaper users because of the high absorbency rate while keeping the diaper trim as well. Others prefer hemp inserts, or a combination of microfiber and hemp. While hemp is a natural product, the hemp inserts don't hold up as well as the microfiber inserts.

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