Cloth Diaper 101

When it comes to cloth diapering, there two main components in every style of diapers: absorbancy and a water resistant layer.  It really is as simple as that!  For the most part, you will want these components in your diapers as well.   Below is a brief description of the different styles of diapers. 


Many people think that All-In-Ones (AIOs) are the easiest of all of the cloth diapers available.   These diapers have both the absorbent layer and the water resistant layer sewn together, so you only have to deal with one piece.  The diaper would then fasten onto your baby with either snaps or a hook and loop fastener, similar to velcro.


The All-In-Twos (AI2s) have been referred to as the best of all worlds. This system comes with a water resistant shell, or cover, and an absorbent insert, which often times snaps into the shell.  These covers can often be reused several times before needing to be washed; just take the dirty insert off and snap a clean one on.   There are some brands of AI2s that have what is called a hybrid system.  These brands also carry a disposable insert that can be used inside their shells.  This may be a good option for folks that would prefer to have a disposable option for going on vacations, or just out and about.


Pocket diapers are another 2 piece system, however those two pieces go together and create something very similar to an AIO.  The water resistant shell has a lining sewn on the inside of the diaper.  This lining is often made of a “stay dry” material, so it is great for babies with wetness sensitivities.  This lining does have at least one hole in the end of the diaper, creating a “pocket” in between the water resistant shell and the stay dry liner.  You would then stuff the absorbent part of the diaper into the pocket.  Some people use special inserts and some like to use prefolds or flats.


Flats are the “old school” diaper.  They have been around for centuries, and for good reasons too!  Basically, a flat is a large piece of fabric, generally cotton and generally square in shape.  They are able to be folded many different ways to get just the right fit for baby. Whether pad folded, origami, or anything in between, there are endless possibilities for flats.  Being that flats are only used for absorbancy, you will need to pair them with some sort of water resistant cover.  Back in the day, people would use diaper pins and “plastic pants”.  In today’s world, people often use what is called a Snappi to fasten the diapers on, and then they use a modern cloth diaper cover.


Prefolds are similar to Flats in several ways: they have been around for quite some time, they are generally made out of cotton, and you do need to do some folding in order to use it on baby.  However, much of the folding is already done for you.  Prefolds are sewn together in a way that there are generally 3 sections, with the middle section having the most layers/absorbancy.  There are several different ways to fold a prefold to fit onto baby, including the angle fold and the jelly roll.  These are often fastened with a Snappi, then a modern cloth diaper cover would go over the top.  Another popular way of using a prefold is by doing a pad fold.  You can then lay the pad folded prefold right into the cover then fasten the cover onto baby.  Many people also use a pad folded prefolds to stuff inside of pocket diapers.  There are so many possibilities!


Fitteds diapers are a great option for overnight and heavy wetters because of their amazing absorbancy.  These diapers are generally made up of many layers of natural materials, such as cotton, bamboo, or hemp.   They are sewn together to look like a “regular” diaper, so they do not need any additional folding and are super easy to use.  Fitteds are another absorbancy only diaper, so you will need some sort of cover to go over these to make them water resistant. 


Longies, shorties, and soakers… these are all diaper covers made out of 100% wool and they are made to go over flats, prefolds, or fitted diapers.  These covers are extremely soft, breathable, and antibacterial. They are also amazing at keeping all of the moisture contained within the cover; making these an excellent overnight choice!  And, unless these covers get soiled, they can go up to 2-3 weeks between cleanings.  To get all of these benefits, there are some special cleaning instructions, including a wool wash and lanolizing. 


Modern Cloth Diaper Covers have come a long way since the “plastic pants”.  Today, covers are made using PUL (Polyurethane Laminate) or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane).  These are the materials that make the covers water resistant. This water resistant layer is on the inside of the cover while the outside of the cover is made a a soft material such as polyester.  The outside of the covers come in many different colors and prints.  Covers can either come sized (Newborn, Infant, Toddler) or One Sized (OS).  The One Sized diapers generally have snaps on the front of the diapers that you can adjust to the size that your baby needs.  Covers come with either a snap closure or a hook and loop closure (similar to Velcro).  


Besides the absorbency layer of a cloth diaper and with water resistant layer, there are many different accessories that people use while cloth diapering.

  •  Snappi – a special fastener to use with flats, prefolds, and sometimes fitteds.
  • Cloth Wipes/Wipe Solution – continue your cloth journey with reusable wipes.
  • Cloth Diaper Safe Creams and Ointments – not all diaper creams and ointments are safe to use with cloth diapers.
  • Biodegradable/Flushable Liners – provides a barrier between the diaper and unapproved creams and ointments.  Also helps removing poo from the diaper
  •  Diaper Sprayer – a sprayer that attaches to the toilets clean water line to rinse soiled diapers.
  • Diaper Pail/Pail Liner – to store dirty diapers until laundry day.
  • Wet Bags – waterproof bags to place dirty diapers in while on the go.


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