Cloth Diapers 101 – Everything You Need to Know to Get Started
When I first started cloth diapering I was given a set of diapers. When I asked online for recommendations to start purchasing diapers I learned that the options are overwhelming. Which style should I buy? Which brand is the best for our needs? I have been cloth diapering for over 6 years and can break it all down for you!
Cloth Diapers 101 is titled that way because it’s basicially an introduction to cloth diapering. I’m writing this post to help you understand the styles of cloth diapers and pick what’s best for you. Why do some diapers cost $6 and others $40? Is one better than the other? Are pockets right or do prefolds and covers work for you? Here’s a look at different cloth diaper types and what you need to know to get started cloth diapering.
Sizes of cloth diapers
Cloth diapers come in different sizes. Many brands come in a one-size diaper that adjusts to fit different size babies with snaps on the front and on the waist like a belt. These are the best choice for most babies. However, newborn cloth diapers are typically needed for a newborn baby. While many of the one-size cloth diapers say they go down to 8 pounds, I found with my 4 boys that they were too big even though they were all over 9-lbs when born. If you are pregnant and looking at cloth diapers I would recommend getting newborn to start. If your baby is already here and past the newborn phase one size diapers are a good choice for you!
Newborn cloth diapers can be sold when you’re done using them, passed onto another expecting parent or saved for the next baby as you move into one size cloth diapers!
Styles of cloth diapers
Pocket Diaper – Arguably the most popular style of cloth diapers, the pocket diaper works well because you put the absorbent part of the diaper into a pocket. Stick your hand into the pocket in your pants (if you’re wearing pants), see how your hand is between two layers? That’s how a pocket diaper works. The waterproof layer is the outside part and the fabric touching your baby is the stay-dry layer. The absorbent part stays inbetween and can be customized. Have a baby that pees a lot? Stuff more layers into the pocket! Need less absorbency? Put in less layers!
Prefold and Cover
Prefolds or flats and covers are a very economical way of cloth diapering. You can often reuse the cover several times and just change the absorbent part, usually a prefold or flat. What’s a prefold or flat? A prefold reminds me of a dish towel. It’s a rectangle that you fold into thirds like a pamphlet and can be stuffed into the pocket diaper (seen above) or placed on the diaper cover. What this option misses is the stay-dry layer the pocket has which can leave babies who dislike feeling wet miserable.
All in Two Cloth Diaper
Some may say that the prefold and cover is an all-in-two cloth diaper because it’s two parts. However, what typically makes a cloth diaper an all-in-two or AI2 is a detachable insert. Typically the absorbent portion of the diaper gets removed and the cover can be reused if it doesn’t have a fabric liner. If a diaper doesn’t have a reusable shell it’s usually considered an all-in-one or AIO diaper because the whole diaper has to be washed after each use.
The diaper below is a buttons diaper – cover + one of their snap-in inserts but it can also be used with prefolds! See my full buttons diapers review here.
All in One Cloth Diaper
An all-in-one cloth diaper is often referred to as an AIO. An all in one diaper needs to have the whole diaper washed after each use and can have the absorbent part physically sewn to the diaper or can be removed. Having the absorbent soaker sewn to the diaper is nice because you won’t get it lost in the laundry but these always take way longer to dry than a diaper that can be separated like an all-in-two (AI2), pocket or prefold + cover. However, these save on time because you don’t have to stuff pockets or sift through piles of laundry to find the inserts that snap to different diaper brands.
Below are two AIO cloth diapers. The smart bottoms 3.1 AIO which we found to be lacking in absorbency and the Diaper Rite 3.1 which is absorbent, a great price and the inserts snap out for easy drying.
Fitted Cloth Diapers
When I first heard of “fitteds,” I thought it had something to do with the way the diaper fits. It does not! A fitted diaper is often used for babies and toddlers who pee a lot. A fitted diaper is absorbent 100% and needs a cover like wool shorts or the cover seen with the prefold above to make it waterproof. A fitted diaper is multiple layers of absorbent material like cotton and sometimes a cotton blend. It’s frequently made with something like windpro fleece hidden inside to help prevent pee from getting to the outside, but this is not a waterproof diaper.
These are highly recommended for overnight and for babies who don’t last long with a traditional diaper and need more absorbency. Often, these are made by Work at Home Mom (WAHM) shops and custom-made with special fabrics and your requests!
Washing Cloth Diapers
Washing cloth diapers is really simple. If you can wash regular laundry you can wash cloth diapers. If the diaper is really soiled you may want to prerinse it, if it has poop…remove the poop from the diaper unless it’s exclusively breastfed poo (breast milk only poo can go straight into the wash) and if they are very soiled make sure to use enough good detergent.
I’ve personally found that natural detergents don’t work for our cloth diapers and I’m a big fan of All Free and Clear or Tide, but as a PSA searching for information about washing cloth diapers can be a rabbit hole. There are many who give out wash routines like prescriptions…but keeping it simple is often the best route. Remember, our Grandma’s Grandma and beyond used cloth and disposables are only a recent invention clogging our landfils and oceans.
Reputable Places to Shop for Cloth Diapers
If you are buying second hand, please use PayPal and make sure you trust the person and ask questions ahead of time! Scamming and dishonesty does happen more than it should.
Buying new cloth diapers is easy! There are many great small shops with amazing customer service and prices to get you started. Not sure what to buy? If you didn’t fall in love with one of the styles above, you can always buy one or a few of each and try them out. You do not need to have all of one style or all of the same brand! I have a mix of many styles and brands and I like to mix and match based on my mood.
Great shops (my affiliates)
Nicki’s Diapers (USA based)
Diaper Junction (USA based)
Kelly’s Closet (USA based)
Cozy Bums (Canada based)
Lagoon Baby (Canada based)
(Pinterest image below)