This is the first post in a series about how to cloth diaper your baby. Stay tuned for more in the coming days!
Cloth diapering a baby has changed since the days of our mothers and grandmothers. Gone are the diaper pins and stinky pails full of diapers soaking in the laundry room all week. Cloth diapering can be done quite economically or you can turn it into something of a hobby and amass a collection of beautiful prints. If you’re considering using cloth diapers or switching to them, it can seem pretty overwhelming as far as where to start.
The first thing to figure out is what your options are for the type of cloth you’ll want to use. Some people stick to one or two different types, others do a little bit of everything and each type of diaper has its own benefits and drawbacks. I’ll include links to my favorite brand of each style- if you decide to purchase one of these diapers from a link on my page, I’ll earn a small commission to help pay for… probably more cloth diapers.
Prefolds and Flats
This is basically a piece of fabric that you fold up and wrap around baby in some way. Prefolds and flats do all the absorbing dirty work and require an outer cover for waterproof protection. Flats are large pieces of fabric, usually made from cotton or hemp or a combination of natural fibers. When fully open, a flat is fairly thin material while a prefold consists of several layers and is much thicker although smaller in area. Some type of diaper fastener (snappi or safety pin, for example) is usually required to hold the diaper on. Generally speaking, prefolds and flats with a cover are the most affordable cloth diapering option. I have some OsoCozy prefolds that I used seven years ago with Venti that are still in almost pristine shape.
Fitted diapers are usually made of natural fibers like cotton or hemp or some combination. These work similarly to prefolds or flats in that they will require a cover, but they are a more familiar “diaper shape” you may recognize. They often come with snaps, but can also be used with a fastener. Fitted diapers can either come in one-size-fits all with snap adjusters or can be sized based on the baby’s weight.
Diaper covers are used in combination with prefolds, flats and fitteds and provide the waterproofing for the diaper. Covers have no absorbtion included and are fastened with either aplix (like Velcro) or snaps. I’ve also been known to multitask a diaper cover to go around a swim diaper and provide added waterproofing.
Pocket diapers or shells are “diaper shaped” and come with a waterproof lining and a- you guessed it, pocket you fill with your choice of absorbing fabric. Pockets close with either aplix or snaps and tend to have the most variety in designs, colors and prints. Pocket diapers are mostly one-size-fits-all but there are more brands that have come out with different size options. Diapers can be resized by adjusting the waist, rise and leg using snaps on the outside of the diaper.
Doublers or Inserts
Mainly used in pocket diapers, inserts and doublers come in a variety of different fabrics and provide the absorption for your diaper. Insert materials come in everything from cotton, bamboo, hemp, microfiber, even charcoal or a blend of these. Doublers are often added to other types of diapers to help with absorption and can be simply laid inside or stuffed into a pocket.
Hybrids are becoming less common it seems, but are basically a cloth diaper which you can use with disposable inserts or liners. If you’re squeamish about the poop cleaning part, this might be a good option. But beware, this type of system almost never represents a cost savings over regular disposable diapers and still clutters up a landfill (although less so than a traditional disposable). I have never personally used a hybrid system before, but from all my years on the cloth diaper internet circuits, I’ve heard people recommend G Diapers the most.
All-In-Ones or All-In-Twos
The grandma/daycare friendly option in the bunch- these diapers will be most familiar to disposables users as there are no (or very few) movable parts. They can be one-size-fits-all or sized and come with all of the absorption and waterproofing in one package. All-In-Twos have an added pocket to add additional absorption as baby grows. The convenience and user friendliness of this style is absolutely undeniable, which is reflected in the cost- these are the Cadillac of cloth diapers!
Do You Speak Cloth Diaper?
Now that you have a general idea of the styles of cloth diapers, you’re ready to head out into internet-land and begin researching! Slow down, trigger, there’s a few things you’ll need to understand before you head out there:
AIO – All in One
AI2 – All in Two
Aplix – hook and loop, or more commonly, velcro
B/S/T – buy/sell/trade- head out to facebook and get some good deals- pre-loved cloth is the best cloth!
CD – Cloth Diapers (duh)
EBF and EP – Exclusively Breastfed or Exclusively Pumping- this comes up in terms of washing cloth diapers and we’ll discuss why that matters later
Fluff – anything cloth diaper related, you’ll see a lot of “Fluff Bums” out there
FST – Flour sack towels- a super cheap option for inserts or use as prefolds
MF- microfiber, a material used for cloth inserts. As a side note, microfiber should never go directly against baby’s skin and should always be used in a pocket or with another material between it and the skin
Minky – a super soft, velvety material- lots of baby blankets are also made with minky material
Nappy – not American? You might call diapers nappies
OS – One size- a diaper that comes with an adjustable rise, waist and sometimes leg openings
PUL – polyurethane laminate- this is the waterproof lining of a diaper or cover
‘Sposies – Disposable diapers
Stripping – if your diapers are really super horribly ruined, you’ll use a special wash routine to get them back to normal. This doesn’t come up often and we’ll cover this more later (so don’t stress)
WAHM – Work At Home Mom- this is a unique B/S/T term you might see that refers to diapers that are handmade by another mama. Sometimes called wahmies and can also refer to other similarly crunchy creations like wipes, family cloth, mama cloth, breast pads, unpaper towels, etc.