At work, I sometimes have to give cloth diaper 101s. Sometimes its one-on-one with a customer and sometimes it is a class of about 5-8 people. But regardless, I usually give the same speech. 🙂
A few things before I go into the different kinds of cloth diapers.
Diapers can be made with either natural fibers or synthetic fibers. Natural fibers include cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Natural fibers need to be prepped before using. (See my post here on prepping cloth diapers.) Synthetic fibers are usually a microfleece layer covering a microfiber layer. These are stay-dry diapers. The microfiber absorbs the wetness, while the microfleece keeps baby feeling dry. (A word of caution: NEVER have microfiber directly against baby’s skin. The microfiber absorbs so much moisture that it will dry out baby’s skin and leave a bad rash.) Microfiber stay-dry diapers tend to be bulkier than natural fiber diapers, because you need more microfiber to absorb the same amount of moisture as a natural fiber.
Closures: Diapers and covers can have 2 different types of closures: Snaps or Velcro (aka Aplix, aka hook & loop.)
Basically, a cloth diaper is 2 parts. The cloth part and the waterproof cover. How those parts are put together depends on what kind of diaper you have.
If you have an All-In-One diaper, those 2 parts are sewn together to make one piece. All-In-One (or AIO) diapers are the most simple to use, and one that I recommend to people who want to start out with the least complicated diaper as possible.
An AIO goes on like a disposable diaper, comes off like a disposable. The only difference is that instead of tossing it in the trash, you toss it in your diaper pail for the wash.
Pocket diapers are like AIOs in that they are a one-time use between washes. Most pockets tend to be a microfleece pocket with a microfiber insert, but you can add any fiber insert you want. I personally love a Kawaii or Rumparooz stay-dry pocket with 2 bamboo inserts. The purpose of a pocket over an AIO is basically to provide a pocket to stuff any inserts you want to use.
The next type are called All-In-Two systems. I usually call an all-in-two the transition diaper. 🙂 It is the waterproof cover and the cloth in 2 separate pieces.
All-In-Twos (or AI2) are different from covers and prefolds or inserts in that the cover and insert for an AI2 is usually made by the same company. GroVia and Best Bottoms make inserts that snap into the cover, whereas companies like Flip (from Cotton Babies) and Capri (made by Blueberry) simply make a cover and a cloth insert you lie in the cover. (For picture purposes, I only have a GroVia AI2.)
With AI2s (as well as covers and prefolds and/or fitteds), you can reuse the cover (or shell) for up to 3 diaper changes, as long as it is not soiled. If it is wet, you just wipe it out or, as in the case of the GroVia shells, let it dry. You just throw the used insert in the diaper pail and snap in a clean one. (If baby pooped on both the insert and the cover, you will need to change both.) Some people use 2 or 3 covers in a day, and rotate between diaper changes, letting 1 or 2 dry while baby is wearing the 3rd.
The next kind of diaper we have is covers with prefolds and/or fitteds.
Prefolds are the cloth piece and are the diapers that your grandmother and great-grandmother used with their kids. 🙂 It is simply 2 pieces of cloth that are sewn together in a way that the middle is double (or sometimes triple) layered. With prefolds, you must use a cover! A prefold is only the cloth part.
There are lots of ways to fold a prefold. When I first started using cloth with my daughter, I simply trifolded the prefold and laid it in the cover. As she got older and needed more surface area, I started doing a diaper fold and fastened it with a Snappi. Both of those worked for me, but the beauty of prefolds is you can find whatever works for you and go with it. 🙂
Also included in this category are flats. Again, you fold these to however works best for you. Flats are not as thick as prefolds and are usually just one layer. But they tend to be bigger than prefolds, so you can fold them to add extra layers.
Fitted diapers are another diaper that you have to use a cover with. Again, a fitted is just the cloth part! You need the separate cover.
A fitted diaper can either have snaps or not. I have a few of each. For the snapless, I, again, use a Snappi.
Fitteds are great for nighttime diapering. They are thick, super absorbent, and stop leaks. They are bulky, but that is not really a problem when baby is sleeping. 🙂
A note on covers: There are quite a few different covers out there, but they are primarily in 2 categories: Synthetic and wool.
Synthetic are usually a polyester outer lined with a waterproof PUL or TPU lining. Both PUL and TPU have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Some examples are Rumparooz (my personal favorite), Thirsties, and Flip.
Wool covers (or soakers) are knitted wool that you have to lanolize in order to give it the waterproof, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal properties. Lanolin is a naturally occurring fatty wax that is in the wool before the sheep is sheared. During processing for yarn, the lanolin is removed. Wool covers take a little more work, as you need to lanolize them about every 2 weeks. (I plan on doing a separate post on wool care and use. 🙂 )
Covers can also come in different sizes. For example, Rumparooz come in a newborn size and a one-size. Eco Posh Wool covers and Thirsties Duo-Wraps and come in a size 1 and a size 2. Thirsties covers come in extra small, small, medium, and large.
I would also highly recommend covers with a double gusset on the leg. This gives added protection against leaks. Rumparooz, and Thirsties Covers and Duo Wraps are covers with double leg gussets.
That pretty much covers the different kinds of diapers. Next Monday I will do a post on the accessories you need with cloth diapers and then hopefully follow up the next week with a post on comparing costs between the different kinds of diapers and accessories. 🙂
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments on this post and I will do my best to answer them. 🙂