I spent a lot of time during my pregnancy reading. I read online a lot (while at work) and in books while at home trying to keep my feet up and relax. One of the things I researched a lot was cloth diapers. I spent hours picking them out, building my theoretical newborn stash and then actually searching for good prices and finally ordering them.
Since my boy has been born I've had a number of people ask me for cloth diaper advice for themselves or their sisters, neighbors, brothers, husbands, or their sister's neighbor's brother's husband's sister. oh wait - brother's husband? I guess their brother could have a husband....
Anyhow. I have written a number of emails trying to give an overview of cloth diapers and share some of my favorite links and give personal advice so I thought I would post some info about all that here on my blog and then I can direct people to this spot when they want some info. And for those of you that read my blog and have no interest in what I'm saying? Bear with me for a few of these posts and I'll get off the subject I promise.
Cloth Diapers. Not so old fashioned anymore. There are so many different kinds. So this being part 1 I'll just show you the different kinds
There are basically two parts to all cloth diaper solutions - absorption (multiple layers usually) and waterproof-ness (to keep our clothes, sheets, entire lives dry). Some diapers are just the absorbent part so you would put a thin waterproof cover (bought separately) over it and other diapers have both the absorbent part and the waterproof part together.
So now the different types...
The only kind I don't have a picture of to show you is a flat diaper - these are often gerber, birdseye flats. These are the most old fashioned kind of diaper and I don't know anyone who uses them but some people still do. They are literally just a huge piece of cotton that you can fold in lots of different ways (like origami!) to make it fit your little one and have the most layers in the right spots for maximum absorbtion. You would have to put a waterproof cover over the top still.
and onto the rest
Prefolds - a personal favorite and the next most old fashioned type of diaper. They are basically a flat that is already folded up and ready to go. They are rectangular and are just folded up cotton that is sewn into place. Most are 4x8x4 layers, the most being in the middle. Some are less - 4x6x4 and so on... the more layers the more absorbent and the more bulky too. We use 4x8x4 and love them. Besides layers, and size (infant, regular, premium, etc.) you usually have the choice between bleached (white) and unbleached (natural colored) which are softer, and sometimes you can get organic prefolds which are the softest. Gaining in some popularity now are prefolds made of other absorbent fabrics like organic bamboo velour or cotton with organic fleece on the outer layer. You can pin prefolds closed, or snappi (similar to an ace bandage type closure) them which is what we do, or you can avoid either and just lay them down in the cover. If you lay them down they're not snug around the bum so they're more prone to leakage. Since they're just cotton, they need a waterproof cover on the outside.
Fitteds - like the name says they are fitted to fit around the bottom. They look like a disposable diaper but they're made of fabric. They have elastic around the waist and legs to prevent leaking and have the center packed with lots of layers of absorbent fabric. Some of them velcro closed
and some snap close
and some don't have either and instead you can snappi or pin them like you would with a prefold diaper. Some don't have the elastic and instead are more of a shaped prefold called a countour fitted diaper.
Some fitteds (contoured or not) come with an additional piece of absorbent fabric that is designed to add extra absorbency to the middle (and lessen drying time)- these are soakers. Some soakers will snap in
or are sewn in like these on this countour diaper
Fitteds need a waterproof cover. Some moms will leave their children in a fitted diaper without a cover while around the house (with no pants on top). I do this occasionally myself, I do it so that there is extra airflow to prevent a rash but I have to be careful to change them because it'll get the floor (or myself) wet if I go too long without a cover.
Covers - Most are made of PUL (polyurethane laminate) but they are also available in wool and fleece. I have not used fleece but I do have a few wool covers I use in conjunction with my PUL covers. Wool requires a little bit more care to waterproof (lanolizing) but doesn't need washing unless there is a direct stain on it, it's also very dependable and very breathable so it makes a great cover during the summer or winter. Back to PUL though - some covers are made of one layer of PUL and some are two layers or more. The more layers make them stiffer to use but also more durable. There are snaps and velcro options and lots of adorable prints available. One feature that's important to many users are double gussets around the legs. It makes for a more bulletproof leg hole so no poop will get out, but to be honest I haven't had a problem with PUL covers leaking with or without the double gusset.
you can see the double gussets in this picture
and the lack of gussets in this one
Pocket diapers have the waterproof outer and an sewn in piece of microfleece or some other material like that. It's sewn onto the cover on all edges except for a little section on the back that's open. These diapers come with an insert or maybe even two of absorbent material that you stuff into the section in the back for absobency as you need it - hence the whole "pocket" thing. The microfleece inner is nice because it stays soft and wicks the moisture away from the actual bum. Also if you stuff the pocket diapers after they've been washed diaper changes are a breeze, no folding, no nothing, just like a disposable you lay it under the bum and either velcro or snap closed. One of the other great things about pocket diapers is that you can customize the level of absorbency you need. We use pocket diapers at night and put lots of thin, but very absorbent inserts in them (hemp is great for this). Many people will fold up a prefold diaper and stick it in the pocket for added absorbency as well. A lot of day cares will only do this type of diaper too since it's very convenient. You do have to pull the stuffing out of the diaper before you wash it - which can be icky.
and here is a Bum Genius pocket diaper, which velcros. You'll also notice the pocket opening looks a little different for each
Last but certainly not least All In One (AIO) diapers are just like they sound - the absorbent soaker and the waterproofing are all sewn into one piece. This is basically a cloth disposable diaper (which you wouldn't want to dispose of of course) and are certainly the easiest diaper to use. They come in snaps and velcro like everything else and there are some one-sized AIO and sized AIO diapers. This may seem like the best option but it's not for everyone - these diapers take a lot longer time in the dryer, their level of absorbency cannot be adjusted (unless it also features a pocket for you to add absorbency, which many do) and they tend to be the priciest diapers by far. It's a hard decision between money and convenience with these, but it can be helpful to have a few of these on hand for the diaper bag or babysitters who are unfamiliar with cloth diapers to use.
Here's the inside and outside of a AIO sized diaper by bum genius
and here are a just a couple other things about some different features of cloth diapers
Sized vs. One-Size diapers
A lot of diapers these days offer a 'one-size' version. It really just means the rise is adjustable by a series of snaps to make it shorter or taller. This is the front of a bum genius one size pocket diaper set to the medium setting.
While it might sound nice to buy 20 one sized diapers and be done forever it usually doesn't happen that way. There are many reasons that might not work some of which are - they get a lot more wear if used for years, which they don't always hold up well under. Also, they don't usually fit newborns, most one size diapers start fitting around 10-12lbs. Also, committing to a specific kind of diaper doesn't work for most people since you don't know how the fit will be on your child or how your experience will be. Personally, we have 3-5 one sized pocket diapers that we use occasionally and 1 one-sized diaper cover that we use a fair amount. Since these are the only items we've used consistently in the six months since our boy was born they definitely show the most wear of anything we're using right now.
and just a little word about Snaps vs. Velcro - totally a matter of preference, but here are some things to consider - velcro will catch on other parts of the diaper in the wash, even though most with velcro have "laundry tabs" to attach the velcro too while washing, none work perfectly and you can get little snags on other parts of the diaper. Velcro is definitely easier to get the perfect fit because snaps are set in place so you might not have the right fit for your child at the time. Kids can also learn to undo velcro. Velcro will also roll up, get pilly, and generally show signs of wear faster than snaps will.
OK, that's part 1. A little long but I think I got everything in there - let me know if you have questions and I'll put up part 2 very soon