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Monday, March 7, 2011

Overview of Diapers

OK, I have a confession to make. I spend A LOT of time on Diaper Swappers forums. After much use (and way too many posts) I have found that there is one particular user who I find to be my go-to person to answer any questions on cloth diapers. Therefore, when I wanted to create an overview of cloth diapers, I knew that she would be the person to write this post. She knows so much about all kinds of diapers. 
So I present to you, the overview of cloth diapers, written by Michelle from Green Diaper Demos. Thanks Michelle!

So you have entered the world of cloth diapering. Welcome!! There are many styles out there and there is no right or wrong here, everyone has their favorite and all are well supported in the cloth diapering community. Let’s go over the basics though. We will start from the simplest sewing wise to the most complex.

Flats are a single layer of fabric (usually cotton) that you fold in various ways around baby to make the diaper. This is the original “one size” diaper. You can use pins or a Snappi (a bungee cord type fastener that have teeth like an Ace bandage) to hold the diaper together. 
  OsoCosy Flat Diapers Dozen
Pros: Flats are super cheap and a natural fabric and you can reuse covers with them.
Cons: All the folding can be time consuming for some and they require a cover to be waterproof and do not have a layer that wicks away moisture from baby’s bottom (generally called “stay dry”). These tend to be not very daycare friendly. Also, when dumping poo in the toilet, sometimes you can get a super long soaking wet diaper from it unfolding.

Prefolds are a step up from flats. They are also rectangular (usually cotton but there are also Hemp and Bamboo) and are a couple layers thick but in the middle third, they are several layers thick (this is why they are called “prefolds” because they are like a partially folded flat). However, they do still require some folding to go from a rectangle to a diaper around a baby. With wrap-style covers nowadays though, many mamas simply fold the prefold into thirds any lay in the cover instead of wrapping around baby and securing with pins or a Snappi but both are common even today. 
 Thirsties Duo Hemp Prefold, White, Size One (6-18 lbs)
Pros: Prefolds are also super cheap and are a natural fabric and you can reuse covers with them.
Cons: These tend not to be very daycare friendly and the multiple pieces can be cumbersome for some. They can also be extra “fluffy” in the butt and also do not have a stay dry layer.
Examples: Little-Lion Prefolds, Thirsties Hemp Prefolds, Cloth-eezTM Prefolds   

Contours are a step up from prefolds and are shaped more like a diaper but usually without leg elastic or fasteners. These also still require a cover and use of either pins or Snappis and usually do not have a stay dry layer.
 Kissaluvs Cotton Fleece Hybrid One Size Contour Diaper, Unbleached
Fitteds are shaped like a diaper, contain leg elastic, and have their own closures (usually Velcro or snaps). A cover is still required to make this waterproof but with the two together, this combo is bulletproof when it comes to runny poo!
 Kissaluvs Cotton Fleece Fitted Diaper, Unbleached, 1 - Medium 10-25lbs
Pros: Already in the shape of a diaper so no folding required. It is unlikely that messes will escape both the fitted diaper and the cover and produces a leak-free diapering system. Covers can be used across multiple diaper changes.

Cons: still a multi-piece diapering system and is thus more complicated than other methods out there. This method can also be pretty spendy for an entire stash of fitteds in each size.

Covers are what keep your flats/prefolds/contours/ and fitteds from getting your baby’s clothes wet. Covers can be made of various fabrics from polyurethane laminate (PUL) to wool. They can be pull-on, side-snapping, or a wrap-style.
 Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap, Meadow, Size One (6-18 lbs)
Pocket Diapers are made up of generally a waterproof outer layer sewn directly to a stay dry material lining (this wicks the wetness away from baby’s bottom ) with a removable absorbent core that gets stuffed in-between the two layers through an opening either in the front, back, or middle which gives it its name of a pocket diaper.
 Fuzzibunz One Size Diaper, Apple Green, 10-45 Pounds
Pros: This method is one of the most practical methods of modern cloth diapering. These are great for grandparents, daycare, and babysitters as the diaper goes on just like a disposable but with hooks, Velcro, or snaps. Drying is also quick since the absorbent part of the diaper is separated during laundry. You can also customized how absorbent you want the diaper (like for overnight) by adding additional absorbent inserts.

Cons: My husband says the only thing he dislikes about these diapers is that you have to pull the insert out prior to placing the used diaper in the pail or wet bag. There are exceptions though as some pocket diapers are made such that the insert falls out on its own in the washer machine. Also, the repeated stuffing of the absorbent core  (also called insert or soaker) into the pocket diaper annoys many mamas and you only get one use out of entire diaper before it needs to be washed again.

All-In-Twos (AI2s) A waterproof material for the outside forms a cover over an insert (the trifolded prefolds with a diaper cover would be considered an AI2). Some have a snap to keep an absorbent liner in place.
 Softbums Dry Touch Microfiber Basic Pack
Pros: This method is great because you can reuse the cover (as long as it is not soiled) and just switch out the insert. Drying is quick since the absorbent part of the diaper is a separate piece. This makes for a pretty inexpensive yet convenient diapering solution.

Cons: For newborns with explosive runny poos, you need to have extra covers on hand since the covers will get soiled more often.

All-In-Ones (AIOs) Similar to the pocket diaper except the absorbent inner is sewn in. There are no separate pieces to this diaper, all are sewn together. (Some AIOs have the absorbent piece snap in, but it would not be considered an AI2 because the cover part is not designed to sustain more than one use between washings)

Pros: The ultimate in convenient easy cloth diapering. Simply put on baby and then when used, put in a pail or wet bag. No inserts to stuff, no folding, no bunching etc. These are great for grandparents, daycare, babysitters and are completely Daddy-Proof! 

Cons: These are usually pretty pricey and take a long time to dry and you only get one use one use out of the diaper before it needs to be washed again.
BumGenius! Organic Diaper - Clementine
I hope this helped go over the basics out there. As you can see there are several styles that meet different needs. The first question you have to ask yourself is what your preferences for cloth are. Is it budget (flats/prefolds)? Is it convenience (AIOs)? Or maybe your needs are somewhere in-between (pockets/AI2s)? You also don’t have to choose an entire stash of one style of diaper. Many mamas have found it helpful to have a variety for different needs (naps, babysitters, overnight, etc.) and it is all up to you how you want to do it, so HAVE FUN with it!! There are so many cute prints and colors out there. One way to do this is with a Trial Program where you try out several different styles and brands of diapers and return what didn’t work for you for very little risk.


  1. Hi! I would love your suggestions for a super soaker. We currently use a pocket but even when it's stuffed twice our little one leaks both day and night (during the day we change outfits every two-three hours because of her diapers).

    Do you have a go-to diaper that really absorbs? Our little one is 3 months old and weighs about 12lbs. One-size-fits-all seem to be humongous on her.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Ah, I have a super soaker too, so I feel your pain. I went through several outfits a day until I found the Ragababe AIO. That thing is very absorbent. And if you need more you can lay a liner, doubler, or insert on top and get extra absorbency. Since then I haven't gone through clothes anymore.
    Another possibility is the Flip Organic. That works very well.
    For nights I do a Ragababe with an insert laid on top or a bumgenius (or some kind of pocket) stuffed with a Superdo. You may want to check out the Superdos and Loopydos. Those are great. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  4. For super soakers, I like fitteds since the whole diaper is absorbant rather than just along the crotch. Thirsties Fab Fitted duo is awesome because it also has a pocket (which we stuff with a thirsties hemp insert when we use overnight). SoftBums Omni is also a great choice because you can stuff the pocket with an insert (bamboo and hemp are nice options since they are trim yet super absorbant) and you can snap in a regular "pod" on top.


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