So you’ve looked at cloth diapers. You’ve heard the many benefits of using cloth. You decide to look at a cloth diaper store online…and OH MY GOODNESS! There are so many types and kinds! What on earth is a prefold? Why do you need to cover some and not others? What’s the difference between an insert, a doubler, and a liner?? Aren’t they all the same thing? What about AIO? Or an AI2? And then there are the accessories: snappis, pins, wet bags, hanging bags, pail liners, deodorizers, wipes, wipes solutions…
It can be a daunting task, figuring out the lingo and deciphering what’s really necessary versus what isn’t necessary at all. Before you go back to those scary online places, take a deep breath. Because we’re going to take your hand and walk you through it, like any good Sister would.
Are you breathing? Good. Just wanted to make sure before we head into the world of cloth…
Types of Cloth Diapers
On every cloth diaper website, there is a menu. In that menu, there are words like “AIO,” “Pocket,” and “Fitted.” Some sites have great hints and tips for each page while others don’t. Kelly’s Closet (link in the left sidebar) has excellent descriptions of each type of diaper. Here we have compiled a short list of the types of diapers as well as a few things you should know about each one.
AIO- “All-in-ones;” These diapers are already put together, no stuffing or pinning required! They go on like disposables and come off like disposables. The only difference is that you have to wash them afterwards. They are one of the most expensive diapers out there, but even buying these pricier diapers will save you money as opposed to buying disposables! They also take longer to dry. Great for dads, grandparents, babysitters, or newbies because you don’t need a cover. Some diaper brands for this type are BumGenius, Swaddlebees, itti bitti, Grovia, and Envibum.
AI2/Hybrid-”All-in-twos;” These diapers come with a shell that usually has snap-in inserts. These inserts can be washable/reusable or disposable. You can buy both types of inserts or just one. (Some people buy the disposable inserts for traveling or when out and about.) The shells are reusable and washable. These diapers are also great for dads, grandparents, babysitters, and newbies because the inserts snap in. Some diaper brands for this type are Flip, Grovia, Best Bottoms, and BumEssentials.
Pocket-These diapers have three parts: a cover, a layer of fabric that keeps the moisture off of the baby’s bum, and an insert that goes between the two (in a pocket). This pocket can usually fit a couple of inserts. With some brands, you do not have to pull the insert out of the pocket before you wash because it comes out in the agitation. However, you do have to stuff the inserts into all brands. Once stuffed, though, the pocket diaper is as easy to use as an all-in-one, so it’s great for dads, grandparents, babysitters, or newbies too. You do not need to buy a cover for this type of diaper. Some diaper brands for this type are Fuzzibunz, BumGenius, Happy Heinys, Knickernappies, Rumparooz, Thirsties, and Babykicks.
Fitted-”Fitteds;” These diapers are the most absorbent diapers out there! They are also quite versatile because while they are not waterproof (and require a cover to be waterproof), many people have had success with using them coverless during the day. And when you do need a cover, there are so many options! Some fitteds need pins, others don’t. They come in sized or one-size options. Lots of fitteds are made with super-cute fabric prints, too! And when you pair them with wool covers, they are virtually leak-proof, even for heavy wetters! These aren’t as dad-friendly, but they’re still fairly easy to manage. Some diaper brands for this type are Kissaluvs, Thirsties, Happy Heinys, Mother-Ease, Babykicks, Sustainablebabyish, and itti bitti.
Prefold-These diapers have layers of fabric that are sewn together to make a smaller rectangle (smaller than flats). They still require minimal folding, and you can use either pins or snappis to secure them. Many moms prefer to “pad fold” (fold into thirds) and then just place inside of a cover without securing them. This works better for older, not exclusively breast fed, babies. These are one of the most economical and versatile ways to cloth diaper. You can use the fold that’s right for your baby at that time! You also have the option of which covers to use (or even, when you’re at home, to go coverless for a bit). But you do need a cover when out and about! There are two main types of prefolds: bleached and unbleached. The bleached have less natural oils in them, so they take less time to prepare (usually 1-2 wash/dry cycles on hot). Unbleached have more natural oils, taking at least 5-6 wash/dry cycles on hot, but they also last longer and stay softer over time. Some prefold brands have several sizes while others have one or two. What you use depends on your resources and your baby. Some dads like these, but others appreciate the easier types, especially since you have to learn folds for these and find a way to secure them, even if it is with a cover. (And if your hubby isn’t one of them, don’t fret! Our hubbies don’t change cloth either!) Some brands for this type are Econobum, Bummis, Osocozy, Little Lions, Green Mountain Diapers, and Thirsties.
Flat-These are the diapers that your grandmothers used! They are large squares of material (usually Birdseye weave cotton) and can be folded numerous ways to fit your baby. Like the prefolds, they can be fastened with a pin or snappi or they can be pad folded and inserted into a cover. These are the most economical way to diaper period. It’s also the most versatile, since even the smaller flats can be folded in a way that works for newborns and toddlers. They’re also the most durable. You cannot ruin a flat, even if you do use bleach, vinegar, or a regular detergent. You can always start over with your flats! They do require a cover, though, and are not always dad-friendly. Warning: finding and trying out new folds can become addicting! Some diaper brands for this type are Osocozy, Little Lions, Swaddlebees, imagine, Hemp Babies, and Sustainablebabyish.
Cover-A cover goes over your fitted, prefold, or flat and makes the diaper waterproof. Covers are made in lots of ways. There are wool covers that allow for air flow and air dry during the day while requiring little maintenance, fleece covers that also breathe but require washing after use, and covers that wipe off so that they can be reused (unless it gets really dirty or wet). Some are fastened with snaps, others with aplix, and still others pull on. Some are side-snapping, too. There really is a wide variety of covers to choose from! For more information on wool covers, keep an eye out for our Care and Keeping of Wool page! Some brands of covers are Thirsties, Flip, Econobum, Kissaluvs, Little Beetle, Blueberry, Happy Heiny, GroVia, Bummis, Dappis, Rumparooz, Weehuggers, AppleCheeks, Mother-Ease, and Sustainablebabyish.
Newborn-These diapers are specifically for newborns. Most have a snap-down umbilical cord cut-out to help protect it during those first days. Most diaper brands have a newborn (or even preemie) size. Some diaper brands that do are Rumparooz, Fuzzibunz, GroVia, Bummis, Happy Heinys, and Kissaluvs.
Swim-These diapers work just like disposables, keeping the poop in and the wet out. Generally speaking, a pocket diaper would work just fine for swimming, but chlorine will ruin the waterproof layer. The Sisters suggest either using a pocket diaper that you don’t want anymore or forking out the big bucks on a swim diaper if you’re in the pool a lot during the summer. Some brands of this type are Bummis, AppleCheeks, and Imse Vimse.
Trainers-So you’ve used cloth while your child was in diapers. When you get to potty training, what then?? Cloth trainers, of course! While these feel like the real deal, they also have hidden absorbency soakers for accidents. Some brands that offer trainers are Blueberry, Little Beetle, Kissaluvs, Bummis, Happy Heinys, and Super Undies.
Whew!! It’s a lot to take in at one time, isn’t it? If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, take a break. Come back later. Look again. We plan on adding more links to help you find what works best for your family, but in the meantime you can ask on Twitter using the hashtag #clothdiapers. Trust me. You’ll get answers! Or shoot us an email. We’d be more than happy to answer your questions!