I have read several stories lately of people who investigated cloth diapers while they were pregnant. They were so overwhelmed with the volume of options and information that they gave up and went with disposables. This post may be elementary for some, but I hope to simplify the cloth diaper world for beginners.
Some Definitions with Pros, Cons, and Examples
AIO: All-In-One. This diaper is as simple as it gets. Every part of the diaper is in one piece. There is no insert to remove, no folding or pinning or cover needed. Just snap or Velcro the diaper on and your baby is good to go.
Pros: A lot! Easy to apply, easy to wash, no stuffing or extra parts to put together before use.
Cons: This type of diaper typically takes longer to dry as all of the absorbent layers are stitched in place.
Tip: This is a great choice for beginners who are nervous about cloth diapers. It is also one of the best options for grandparents, daddies (well…some of the them), babysitters, nursery workers, day care, etc. It is super simple to use.
Pros: Easy like the AIO, but dries faster because the diaper separates into two parts
Cons: You have to put the two parts together before you can use the diaper. This may mean snapping in a soaker or stuffing an insert in a pocket. It’s not difficult, but it is an extra step in preparing your diapers.
Pocket Diaper: This is one of the most popular styles of cloth diaper on the market today. It consists of a pocket and an insert. The pocket has an outer layer which is waterproof, and the inner layer is usually a stay-dry type fabric (wicks moisture from baby’s bum to keep him dry). The insert could be made of any variety of fabrics. The insert is stuffed into the pocket opening and it absorbs the pee.
Pros: Fast drying time as the insert is removable. No diaper cover needed. Easy & quick to fasten to baby. Customizable absorption – just add more inserts or boosters for heavier wetters or night times. Baby’s skin is not touching the wet insert; therefore baby stays dry and rash is kept at bay.
Cons: Insert should be removed prior to washing (a few select styles agitate out in the wash). This is usually easy – grab a corner or simply shake the insert into the pail. The insert must then be stuffed into the clean pocket before use.
Hybrid Diapers: Hybrid diapers are a system of cloth diapering that provides different options for different situations. Usually there is a waterproof cover or shell which can be reused multiple times. There is an absorbent insert that goes inside the cover/shell. When the insert is soiled, you just put in a clean insert and reuse the cover/shell. Many times these diapers also have a disposable (biodegradable) insert that can be used for on-the-go (travel, day care, etc.).
Pros: It’s nice to have the option of a disposable insert in some situations. These systems are usually cost effective because you don’t have to have one cover for each insert. You purchase fewer covers and more inserts, thus spending less money. It is also fewer items to store and wash. Many hybrid systems are also one-sized, so you don’t have to purchase different sizes of covers as your baby grows. (See below for a descriptions of one size).
Cons: In my experience, if the baby poops, it gets on the shell. For smaller babies you may need to purchase more shells or wash more often as the shells will get soiled more frequently.
Fitted Diaper: This diaper is usually, but not always, a sized diaper. (This means that you will have to buy more diapers as your child grows.) The diaper is cut to fit the baby and eliminate bulk – it is fitted. The diaper usually snaps or velcros on your baby. There is no waterproof outer layer, therefore a diaper cover is required.
Pros: Often these diapers are made of hemp or bamboo which are very absorbent, especially for heavy wetters. You may be able to get a better fit because the diaper is sized.
Cons: In my experience, fitted diapers are more bulky. This can be awkward on a newborn or small baby. A diaper cover will be needed. This is not only an extra expense, but an extra step in putting the diaper on your baby. You will likely need to buy several sizes of fitted diapers in order to use them from birth to potty training.
One Size Diaper: Any of the types of diapers described here can also come with a one size option. This means that the diaper is adjustable to allow the rise and legs to grow with your baby, fitting them from birth to potty training. The adjustability may be through adjustable elastic or a snap-down rise with several settings. One size diapers generally begin fitting around 8 pounds through 35 or 40 pounds, but each brand is sized slightly different.
Pros: One Size diapers are the best budget option because your baby will wear the same diapers all the way to potty training, and you do not have to buy other sizes.
Cons: Because these diapers will be in use longer than sized diapers (and thus washed more frequently), you may not be able to use them on as many children. Some children who are particularly skinny or chunky may get a better fit from a sized diaper.
Organic Diapers: These diapers are made of an organic fabric, such as organic cotton. Organic fabrics can be super absorbent, and they also give you the peace of mind about what is touching your baby’s skin.
Pre-Fold Diapers: These diapers are similar to the ones used by our moms. Pre-fold diapers are made up of several absorbent layers, usually cotton. There are three panels, and the center panel has more layers than the side panels. There is something very nice and simplistic about using a prefold, and they are very economically priced. Pre-fold usually come in sizes, so it is necessary to buy more as your baby grows. The best part about “modern” pre-fold diapers is that you don’t need pins anymore! You can just lay the diaper in a cover and snap it on, or you can use a Snappi fastener for a more secure fit.
Pros: Cotton is absorbent, yet breathable. It is easy to care for. Pre-folds are priced well, so if a pre-fold gets ruined it is easily replaceable. They dry fairly quickly.
Cons: You do have to fold a pre-fold. (Pre-fold just refers to the fact that there are already more layers in the center). It takes a little more effort to put this diaper on your baby. You need a cover, because the diaper is not waterproof. These diapers can be bulkier than pocket diapers. The diaper is not stay-dry, so your baby may get wet skin (depending on how long you go between changes). You can convert pre-folds to stay-dry diapers by using a liner.
This series will be continued next week. We will investigate fabric options, diaper covers and economical options regarding cloth diapers.