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Cloth Diapers | An Overview Of All Of the Types & Options

With the help of Everything Birth, I was able to throw my very first cloth diaper workshop in December.  The turnout was great and everyone had a lot of fun.  As I gear up to get cloth diaper information out locally, I had to find a way to include my readers too.

Everything Birth is an online store that also offers a program called Diaper Parties.  What exactly is a diaper party?  A diaper party is a chance for attendees (moms & dads (to-be too!), friends, grandparents, etc.) to have a chance to see and learn about modern cloth diapers.  Party reps come equipped with a whole variety of diapers and accessories that you can see, touch, experiment with and learn from.  It’s a great way to open dialog, share thoughts and ask questions.  At the closing of a diaper party attendees can place orders, this is much like I imagine other in-home sales parties to be (though I’ve never attended any others).

As the party was going, one thing that struck me was that while there was so much to look at and see, it was also a lot to absorb at once.  Diapers were quickly being passed around to inquiring minds and the types of diapers began to blur into one another.  Does this one need a cover?  What about that one? Do I need pins?  What’s a snappi?

I started to think of cloth diapers as being like a clothing selection.  They’re are a few basic pieces, some slight variations and a whole lot of different brands.  I thought that perhaps breaking it down into the main types might help keep things a little more managable.  With that in mind, I started rounding up supplies.  While I do own a few types of diapers, it wasn’t quite the selection I was hoping to show you.  Everything Birth was kind enough to loan me the diapers that I didn’t have in order to give a more rounded view of the options (thank you!)

Below you will find a full 20 minute video breaking down the main types of diapers: all-in-ones, pockets, all-in-twos, fitteds, prefolds and covers.

If you don’t have time to catch the full video, or don’t need to, you can find small clips that show just one type at a time here on our Cloth Diaper Overview playlist.

All-in-ones are the most like disposables.  They incorporate cover, insert and closure into a one piece system.  These can be found with microfiber soaker interiors or natural options like cotton, bamboo or hemp.    These diapers can be found in one-sized systems, multi-size systems (often two sizes that are each adjustable in the way that a one-sized diaper is), and sized systems (x-small through large/x-large).  They can be found with snap or hook and loop closures.

Pocket (or Sleeve) Diapers
Pocket diapers are similar to all-in-ones except that the soaker is separate from the cover system.  This allows the soaker and ‘pocket’ to be washed separately.  This type of system also allows for easy adjustments for absorbency needs.  Heavy wetter?  Add an insert.  Not so much?  Use a smaller insert. Pocket diapers must be ‘stuffed’.  They come with inserts (microfiber, cotton, hemp or bamboo) and you will place the insert into the pocket or sleeve and then put the diaper on your baby as usual.  Once the diaper is soiled the insert must be removed before washing pocket diapers.  If you have a sleeve style diaper (opening front and back of diaper) you will not need to remove it as it will come out in the wash.  These diapers also come in one-size systems, multi-sized systems and sized systems with snap or hook and loop closures.

These systems are similar to pocket diapers except that there is no pocket and the insert is simply laid or snapped into the cover.  If the insert is snapped in, you will want to unsnap it before washing.  These systems come in one-size options generally available in snaps or hook and loop.  The the inserts on some brands can be purchased in different sizes – again generally in both synthetic and natural fiber options.  Most of these types of diapers are meant to have the option of being used with a disposable insert – making them a ‘hybrid’ diaper.  The disposable option is a lay in disposable pad just like the main soaker area of a disposable diaper.

Fitted diapers are structurally similar to all-in-ones except that they need a cover.  They are generally made of natural fibers though there are a few that use microfiber soaker layers.  These tend to be more absorbent than their other diapering counterparts.  As opposed to one soaker layer, the entire diaper is absorbent.  These are available most commonly with snaps but also hook and loop and come in one-sized, multi-sized and sized options.

Prefolds are what you might have originally had an image of when thinking about cloth diapers.  They are a rectangular piece of fabric with a thicker center layer.  You can fold these into thirds and lay them into a cover or you can use a Snappi or pins to fold and put them on baby.  These do require a cover to be waterproof.  These are the most economical option, are very durable and wash well.  These can come in sizes or a large one-size fits all type.  Using one-size can create lot of bulk on smaller babies.

PUL covers and Wool
You use these covers over fitteds and prefolds.  PUL covers are the modern day version of ‘rubber pants’ except that they are nothing alike because they are a million times better and do not leak!  PUL stands for polyurethane laminate and is almost exclusively a polyester material.  PUL covers come in snaps and hook and loop.  One-size, multi-size and sized.

Wool is the natural option for covers.  When lanolized, wool is waterproof and will not leak.  You can make these yourself or buy them.  They are sized like clothing.  You can find them in soakers (like underpants), shorts, longies (pants) and even skirts and overalls!  These come in knit, crochet, machine knit and interlock. These are generally used as part of an outfit, no pants needed.  To find out more about wool, please check here.

Soakers and Inserts
These are the main absorbent party of any diaper.  These come in microfiber, cotton, hemp or bamboo.  Most commonly these are seen in one-sized options that are adjustable, though they can also be found in sized versions.

Thank you again to Everything Birth for loaning the additional diapers used in these video demonstrations!

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