There are lots of different types of cloth diapers on the market, but did you know that each type is good for a different reason? Some are easier to use than others. Some are more expensive. Others can really help you save money. Read on to find out which diapers are right for you.
There are four main types of cloth diaper: all-in-one, pocket diapers, fitted diapers, and folded diapers. All-in-ones are just how they sound. They are all one piece with nothing extra to buy. Pocket diapers are covers with a liner which you can stuff with removable absorbent liners. Fitted diapers look like a regular diaper with snaps or Velcro tabs, but need a separate water-proof cover to go over them. Folded diapers are square or rectangular (some are contoured) and must be folded to fit your baby. They require additional waterproof covers to go over them and usually need additional fasteners such as diaper pins.
All-in-one diapers are generally the most expensive and the easiest to use. They also require longer drying times and must be dried in a dryer, not on a line. All-in-one diapers work just like a disposable and require no folding. Once used, just wash, dry, and reuse them again.
Pocket diapers are the second most expensive. They consist of an outer layer which is waterproofed and connected to an inner layer which is generally non-absorbent. An absorbent layer is then inserted into the pocket between these layers. Inserts can be purchased for this purpose or you can use any type of cloth to stuff them such as dish rags, old cut-up towels, folded cloth diapers, and wash cloths. The insert must be removed for washing and the diaper re-stuffed once dry. The diapers generally run from $15-$20 each and can be line-dried in sunny warm weather, but may require machine drying for the thick inserts. Drying time is longer than for most other diapers.
One size diapers are generally “one size fits all.” They usually will not fit a preemie or a very small baby. Some brands may not fit a very large toddler. A waterproof cover is used over these diapers. Most have a buttoning system that allows you to change their size as your child grows.
Snap-in diapers are a new style of diaper that is becoming more popular. With this type, you buy three or four covers in each size you need and several inserts which snap to the inside of the covers and can be unsnapped for washing and the cover used again with a new insert.
Fitted diapers are similar but do not snap into the cover. Fitted diapers work like most one-size diapers, but must be purchased in various sizes. They snap or Velcro on like a disposable and then a cover is used over them.
The oldest style of diapers are the folded diapers, but when used with the new style of covers, they are just as quick and efficient as any other two-piece diaper. Once folded, the diaper is placed inside the cover and then the cover is fastened onto the baby. If you are using the old style of plastic pants or if you are using any other style of pull-up diaper cover such as wool soakers, it will take a little longer to change the diaper and it will have to be fastened with diaper pins or something similar. Snappi fasteners are inexpensive, quick, and easy to use and are preferred by most.
There are many styles and shapes of folded diapers. Prefolds are the most popular and easy to find. They have a thin absorbent pad sewn into the center. These require less folding than flat diapers.
Depending on the brand, you may have to buy different sizes of prefolds and you may have to use diaper doublers separately for heavy wetters. While many parents do not like the Garber brand of prefolds because they are so thin, I found this to be their most appealing quality as I could use just one for a newborn and then double them up and fold two together for an older baby without having to purchase either separate sizes or doublers for nighttime use.
Flat diapers are large squares of fabric that are folded several times into the size and shape you need. Flat diapers are the least expensive type of diaper. They are also the fastest drying.
The third type of folded diapers really are not folded at all. They are called “contoured diapers” and are basically prefolds that have been cut to shape to fit between baby’s legs. These diapers are put directly on the baby without folding but must be secured with pins or a Snappi and must be purchased in separate sizes.
When purchasing diapers, it is a good idea to buy plenty so that you do not have to do laundry every day. I found I needed a minimum of 24 diapers for a newborn, but 48 diapers served me much better. I bought 48 Gerber prefolds and used them one-at-a-time on my newborn when she was going small amounts very often. I was then able to double them up (essentially now I had 24 diapers) when she got older and was going in higher quantities and less often. If you buy diapers with separate covers, four covers in each size seem to be about the magic number. I found diaper pins to be time-consuming and frustrating and opted for a Snappi fastener instead.