Cloth Diapering Basics and How-to

by Dana B. Bryant

Cloth Diaper BasicsAre you considering cloth diapering or just want to know more about it? We know that choosing a type of diaper can be overwhelming if you let it.

Generally, moms looking to cloth diaper fall into two schools of thought -- "more" and "less."

"Less" people want to find a diaper that will fit their child well, and buy a whole stash of that one diaper. Does this describe you? Find two or three different types of diaper that you think would fit well, and are the system you want to use (I.E. pockets, or AIOs, or fitteds), and buy one or two of each. Try them for a few days, several washings, and different situations just as night time and in the car seat. Sell the ones you don't like and get a bunch of the ones you do love.

"More" people want to try everything! Does this describe you? Buying clean and used cloth diapers can save you money. If you don't like a diaper, then you can re-sell for your purchase price and be out only the shipping costs.

To make getting started less daunting, we've put together a description of what's out there on the cloth diaper front.

Types of Diapers

Cloth diapers come in two basic types -- ones that need a diaper cover and ones that have a cover built right in.

Is cost your biggest concern? You'll want to consider flat of pre-fold diapers. They're the most economical choice in the market. With practice and creative folding, you can become a diaper pro.

Flat and Pre-Fold Diapers

Flat fold diapers need to be folded many times to get them into a cover or onto a baby. This simple square of fabric can be birdseye cotton, cotton jersey or hemp. Diaper pins or a Snappi® hold the diaper in place.

Prefold Diapers

Prefolds were invented by a mother in the 1950s.They have a thick panel already sewn into the center of the diaper. The prefold diaper is usually secured with diaper pins or a Snappi®.

Contour Diapers

Contour Diapers have a typical diaper shape, so you won't have to fold them to make the diaper fit the baby. They may have a center soaker sewn in. Contours have no leg or back elastic and are usually secured with diaper pins or a Snappi®.

Fitted Diapers

Fitted Diapers have a form-fitting shape. They come with elastic sewn in around the legs, and usually have elastic around the front or back as well. Fitteds come with their own snap or Velcro® closures.

Fitteds can be made out of a wide variety of materials such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo. This flexibility allows for variety and creativity, fun patterns and colors.

Diapers with Their Own Covers

Are you looking for a diaper that's daycare and husband friendly? You might want to consider pocket, all-in-ones or all-in-twos. There more expensive, but as easy to change as a disposable diaper.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket Diapers get their name from the pocket formed between the layers of the diaper. Inserts are stuffed between an outer waterproof cover and an inner liner that wicks away moisture from the baby. Pocket diapers have elastic around the legs, back, and sometimes the front of the diaper. They come with their own closures, which can be snaps or some kind of Velcro-like closure The outer is generally made of PUL (polyeurethane laminate). The inner layer can be made from fabrics such as microfleece, suedecloth, or bamboo velour.

All-in-One Diapers

AIO's are baby-ready. They include an outer waterproof layer, inner absorbency, leg elastic, and closures. All-in-One diapers are sized diapers NB to XXL. All-in-Ones take longer to dry and are a more expensive diaper option but require no other inserts or covers.

All-in-Two Diapers

AI2's similar to All-in-One diapers, but are in two pieces instead of one. The waterproof outer and the inner absorbent part are detachable for washing and drying. Some All-in-Two diapers have shells that can be re-used without washing.

Diaper Cover Know-How

If your cloth diaper systems doesn't already have covers, you'll need to a few. Covers can be used over and over again until they actually look or smell dirty.

Here is a quick rundown of some types of covers. They get more expensive as the list goes down:

Pull on covers: Picture old fashioned plastic pants.

Velcro covers have velcro tabs similar to a disposable diaper. Velcro allows for a custom fit of the cover.

Snap covers are constructed similar to velcro covers with PUL, but secure with plastic snaps instead.

Longies are wool or acrylic pants that also function as a diaper cover. They can be made from recycled wool (an old sweater), crocheted, or knitted.

Shorties are wool or acrylic shorts that also function as a diaper cover. They can be made from recycled wool (an old sweater), crocheted, or knitted.

Skirties (a wool skirt) are wool or acrylic skirts that also function as a diaper cover. They can be made from recycled wool (an old sweater), crocheted, or knitted.

How did you get started cloth diapering? Do you have a favorite diaper? Tell your peers and shout it out!