When you think of cloth diapering, do you think of small blankets with giant safety pins and funky looking plastic underwear? That is what cloth diapering most likely looked like for your mom and even more likely for your grandma. But today's cloth diapering doesn't have to look like that. Although it can, if you appreciate the simplicity of this type of diapering. So, what are cloth diapers like today?
There are a variety of types of diapers, so I am going to try to briefly explain the main types.
Type: All in One or All in Two
Commonly referred to as: AIO or AI2.
What is it like: AIO: It incorporates everything you need to diaper your child in one diaper. The layers of absorbency are built into the diaper, and the water proof layer is built in as well.
Advantages: As easy to use as a disposable. Just wash and use.
Disadvantages: Because of its built in thickness it may take longer to wash and dry. It is also not as easy to customize absorbency by adding more inserts.
What is it like: AI2: Can have a variety of options but basically means that there are two pieces that create all the necessary diaper elements. Often there is an insert that snaps into the diaper.
Advantages: It is just about as easy to use as a disposable. Dries quicker than an AIO being that it is in thinner pieces.
Disadvantages: Can still take a little more time to wash and dry. Once again, not as easy to customize absorbency.
Type: Pocket Diaper
Commonly referred to as: Pocket(s)
What is it like: This diaper is made of one main piece and inserts. The main piece is made of a waterproof outer, usually PUL (we will discuss that more later) and then has a piece of fabric that is inside and touches the child's skin. This piece of fabric has an opening, referred to as the pocket. The pocket is either in the front or back. Then you use inserts inside this pocket to customize absorbency. There are a variety of types of inserts and are used for varying purposes.
Advantages: Easily customized as you can add as many or as few inserts as you want. Once the diapers are stuffed, it is as easy to use as a disposable.
Disadvantages: Sometimes can be a bulkier diaper because of all the inserts. Depending on inserts make up, can take awhile to wash and dry. Takes awhile to stuff diapers to prepare to use.
Type: Fitted Diaper
Commonly referred to as: Fitted
What is it like: This diaper is just the piece of fabric but it is in the shape of a diaper. It can have snaps or velcro on it to fasten it on the child. It usually has elastic at the legs and back to keep all that poop in. It does not have a water proof layer on it, so that must be added.
Advantages: The fitted nature with the elastic of this diaper is quite effective at keeping poop in. When the diaper is pooped or peed on, you can usually just wash the fitted diaper and be able to reuse the cover used with the diaper.
Disadvantages: It is not as quick and easy to put on as an AIO, AI2 or pocket. It is a two step process.
Type: Flat or Prefold
Commonly referred to as: Flat or Prefold
What is it like: This is like the old school cloth diapering your mama did. It is essentially a small "blanket"that is folded in different ways to fit on the child's bum. These can be made out of a variety of fabrics and sizes and options. And based on those options, you can fold them in lots of different crazy ways. You can youtube some great videos on ways to fold.
Advantages: Super easy to wash. While this may seem old school, it is really basic and is pretty much the cheapest diapering option. They come in different sizes, and you can often fold these diapers to make them useable for a variety of ages.
Disadvantages: More likely to end up with a poop out, or at least a poop into the cover. If this happens, then you have to wash the cover and the prefold/fitted, thus eliminating part of the simplicity of this diaper option. Also, it can be difficult to get on a squirmy toddler.
Side note: No longer must you use pins with a prefold or flat diaper! There are these wonderful rubber things called snappis that work well with a prefold. More on this in diapering accessories.
Commonly referred to as: Cover
What is it like: This is the piece of the diaper you must have to use with either a fitted, flat or prefold, if you want water-proofness, that is. You can use a diaper without water proof protection, especially around the house. This is usually made of polyurethane or PUL or TPU, thermoplastic urethane. PUL is made with chemical adhesion and TPU is made with heat adhesion. There are debates on which one is better, but it seems that they are pretty close in comparison and thus should not weigh heavily on your diapering choice. These diapers are usually created in the same shape as a disposable diaper and hold onto the baby by velcro or snaps.
Advantages: Unless pooped on, usually can be reused over a variety of diaper changes.
Disadvantages: It is not as simple to use to as the one step AIO, AI2 or Pocket.
Type: Fleece or Wool Cover
Commonly referred to as fleece or woolies
What is it like: These work the same as the TPU or PUL covers but are a more natural option. Both fleece and wool have natural waterproof properties to them allowing them to be put on over a fitted or prefold/flat and keep the child dry. A sufficient amount of inserts or diaper absorption layers must be used in order to effectively keep the diaper dry on the outside. Fleece usually must be washed after every use, but wool has some great properties that allow it to be reused. Wool is naturally anti-bacterial, fungal and microbial. This means that when a wool cover gets wet all you must do is let it dry out and then you can reuse it. It won't even smell! Woohoo! You do however have to put lanolin on the diaper cover before using it to make it effectively waterproof.
Advantages: Wool, Anti-everything and reusable! Both are natural options. More breathable than using PUL or TPU.
Disadvantages: Can leak if there are not enough absorbent layers underneath. Also can have compression leaking, when too much compression is put on a certain area and that spot leaks. Sort of like pushing on a sponge.
Type: One Size
Commonly referred to as: OS
What is it like: This is something that can appear on any diaper that is shaped to fit, so AIO, AI2, fitted, pocket and even covers. This just means that the diaper is made to adjust in width and height to fit your child as they grow. Theoretically, most one size diapers should fit birth to potty training, although some people debate the truth of this for all diapers. For this reason, some companies have created two steps of one size diapers (Thirsties is an example of this). This idea is usually actualized with snaps that are on the front of the diaper, shortening and lengthening the rise of the diaper or with adjustable elastic inside the leg holes of the diaper.
Advantages: Increases length of use of your diaper, making it possible to only buy one set of diapers for your child's entire diapering career
Disadvantages: May be too big for a newborn or too small for a toddler. Thus may not really, truly be a one size.
So, now you know all the types of cloth diapers! Wow! Seems complicated, but also exciting. Definitely not your mama's cloth diapers! And as my mama thinks, maybe too complicated. But I think it's great to have so many options. So, what type of cloth diaper did I choose for King Squishy, you ask. A one size pocket. But I have also used fitteds, prefolds, flats and covers, both PUL, fleece and wool. Tomorrow I will go into more detail as to what brands I have preferred and my daily approach to cloth diapers for the King.
What type of diaper appeals to you the most?