Comprehensive Cloth Diaper Guide

If you are new to cloth diapering, a mom-to-be that wants to cloth diaper, or just curious about them then you are probably overwhelmed, and rightfully so! Cloth diapers have become so advanced over the past several years, and the options are plentiful. It's hard to know where to start. I decided to compile an easy reference list for anyone that is overwhelmed and wants to learn what's what in the cloth diaper world!

Different Styles of Cloth Diapers

Prefold: Prefolds are rectangular shaped diapers that must be folded. They have multiple layers with some extra layers in the middle of the diaper (the wet zone). You will usually see these with 2-4 layers on the outer sections and 6-8 layers in the middle section. You can get either Chinese prefolds or Indian prefolds. Chinese prefolds are more heavy duty than Indian prefolds. They are generally made from twill with a thicker thread. They last longer than Indian prefolds but are not as absorbent or soft. You have to wash Chinese prefolds about 7-10 times to get the oils out of the fabric to prep them for use. Indian Prefolds are very soft and usually made from gauze cotton. They are more absorbent than their Chinese counter part. Indian prefolds will wear out faster than Chinese prefolds. You only need to wash unbleached Indian prefolds 3-5 times to prep them for use. Pinning or snappi-ing is required and they need a waterproof cover.

Flat: Flat diapers are the classic "old-fashioned" style diaper. They are made with one layer of birds-eye. They can also be found in muslin or flannel. Because they are just one layer they wash and dry quickly. These are a more complicated cloth diapering choice because you must fold them more than prefolds. Pinning or snappi-ing is required and they need a waterproof cover.

Contour: Contour diapers are marde in an hourglass shape for a trimmer fit than prefolds. They do not have elastic in the legs or back, but they fit the shape of the baby. I have been told that contour diapers do not hold in EBF (exclusively breastfed) poop very well. Pinning or snappi-ing is required and they need a waterproof cover.

Fitted: Fitted diapers ale a "step up" from prefolds. They are contoured with elastic around the legs and back. They fasten with hook & loop or snaps. They come in either sized (NB, small, med, lg) or one size (with snaps to adjust the rise, usually 3 sizes in one). Fitted diapers are not waterproof and require a cover.
All In One: All in one diapers are the closes resemblance to disposable diapers. They have a waterproof outer and absorbent inner. They fasten with hook & loop or snaps. No waterproof cover needed. The downside to all in one diapers is they usually take a longer time to dry.

All In 2: All in 2's are similar to all in ones except for the fact that the "soaker" is not sewn into the diaper and can be removed for faster drying time. These soakers either snap or lay in. These diapers fasten with hook & loop or snaps. No waterproof cover is needed.

Pocket: Pocket diapers have an outer layer of waterproof material and an inner layer of stay dry material. These diapers have "pockets" or sleeves where you can stuff the inserts into them. You can stuff them with one or more insert depending on your absorbency needs. These diapers fasten with hook & loop or snaps.

Diaper Covers 

Pull on cover: This is the least preferrable diaper cover. These are usually referred to as plastic pants. They have elastic around the legs and waist and you pull them on. These are not adustable so they might be poufy on some babies. An example is the Bummis Whisper Pull On Pant.

Wrap: Adjustable waterproof cover. These are usually sized or one size and fast with hook & loop or snaps. They can be made out of PUL, wool, fleece, or nylon. Some populare wrap style brands are Bummi's Whisper Wrap, Thirstie's and Thirstie's Duo Wrap, Prorap, and Little Beetle Organic Merino Wool Wrap.

Wool soaker: Wool diaper cover that is either hand knit, wool interlock, or made from recycled wool sweaters. See the diaper fabric guide below to read about wool. Some examples are Aristocrat and Disana wool soakers.

Wool longies: The same as a wool soaker but these are wool pants. Perfect for the winter! Also called woolies. Some examples are Sustainablebabiysh wool karate pants and Aristocrats wool longies.

Fleece soaker: Same as wool soakers except made with water resistant fleece instead.

Fleece longies: Same as wool longies except made with water resistant fleece instead. 

Diaper Fabric Guide

Cotton: Cotton is one of the most common diaper fabrics in flats, prefolds, and fitteds. It is usually in the form of flannel, terry, velour, jersey, sherpa, gauze, birdseye, and fleece (sweatshirt fleece).

Hemp: Hemp is more absorbent, stronger, and more durable than cotton. Many people love using hemp in diapers. It's also anti-microbial. Hemp fabrics used in diapers are usually a hemp/cotton blend.

Bamboo: Bamboo is similar to hemp in the fact that it's anti-microbial and more absorbent than cotton. Bamboo is very soft and will not hold odors. *There is some information going around about how the production of bamboo is not eco-friendly, which totally sucks :(

Microfiber: Microfiber is an extremely absorbent synthetic fabric usually used as inserts or the inner layer of diapers. It is generally compromised of 75% polyester and 25% polyamide  You should not let microfiber lay against a baby's skin because it will dry it out.

Microfleece: Microfleece is 100% polyester. It is a moisture wicking fabric. Used next to baby's skin to baby feeling dry and comfortable even when the diaper is very wet. Resistant to staining.

Suedecloth: Has many of the same qualities as microfleece except it's a bit thinner. Suedecloth doesn't pill and stays new looking longer than microfleece.

PUL: Polyurethane laminate. Fabric that has been coated with waterproof laminate and used in diaper covers or for diaper outers.

Velour: Velour is similar to velvet. It has a dense weave and short pile making it extremely soft. Most velour used in cloth diapers has a polyester backing for durability. Some popular cloth diaper velours are cotton velour (CV), organic cotton velour (OCV), and organic bamboo velour (OBV).

Windpro fleece: Windpro is a popular fleece from Malden Mills. It was designed to keep out wind and water while still allowing air circulation. Windpro is available in light, mid, and heavyweights. Heavyweight is great for night time diapering or heavy wetters, while light and mid is perfect for daytime. Usually used as a diaper outer or for fleece diaper covers.

Minky: Minky is a plush, fur like microfiber fabric. It is used in both inner and outers but is not waterproof. Usually, if used as an outer, there will be a hidden layer of PUL to make the diaper waterproof.

Wool: Wool is like no other fabric because it is breathable, water repellent, and water absorbent all at the same time. The natural lanolin that occurs in wool makes it water repellent. The lanolin is also antibacterial, thus neutralizing the urine smell in a diaper cover. You can use a wool cover, let it air out, and then use it again and again. Wool covers do need special care, but they only need to be washed once or twice a month. Wool is great because it's a natural fiber so it's breathable for baby!

Common Diaper Terminology & Acronyms

AIO: All in one diaper
AI2: All in 2 diaper
OS: One size diaper

DSQ: Diaper service quality (high quality, usually pertains to prefolds)

PF: Prefolds

FOE: Fold over elastic (stretchy binding used to bind some diapers and diaper covers)

Hook & Loop: Velcro like fasteners. Many diaper companies use either Touchtape or Aplix brand hook & loop.

Snaps: Most diapers that use snaps use polyactel resin snaps. Snaps outlive hook & loop and are more durable. 

Inserts: Inserts are the absorbent soaker pad for the diaper. 
Doublers: Doublers are smaller than inserts and used with inserts to increase absorbency.
Liners: Liners are thin layers of cloth or paper that are placed inside the diaper to aid in the cleaning of solid waste. They are usually flushable and biodegradable.

Diapering Accessories

Diaper sprayer: Sprayer hose that hooks up to your toilet for spraying off soiled diapers. You don't need to clean them off until your baby is not EBF (exclusively breastfed), and a diaper sprayer is by no means a necessity. If I ever need to rinse a diaper off I just do it in the tub!

Pail liner: A pail liner is a waterproof diaper pail sized bag, usually made out of PUL or nylon. Used to put your soiled cloth diapers in until laundry time. You wash the liner with your diapers.

Snappi: Diaper fastener that's easier than pins for some. Grips the fabric with teeth and the arms stretch to hold the diaper tight and in place.
Diaper pins: Traditional diaper fasteners. Many have a plastic locking top. 
Cloth wipes: Exactly what you think they are! Baby washcloths used to wipe your baby's bottom! 

Originally published on Le Petit Owlet