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Cloth Diapers—What you need to know…

Cloth Diapering 101Why Cloth Diapers?

Cloth Diapering has come a long way since the days of pins and rubber pants. Today’s cloth diapers present interested families with a variety of easy-to-use and easy to care for options. Modern cloth diapers are elasticized for snug fits, waterproofed yet breathable and have easy options like snaps or Velcro-like closures. They are just as easy to put on and off as disposables and come with a number of other benefits! Cloth can be better for the environment and easier on your wallet, as well as just plain cute!

 Examples of Benefits

  • Babies who wear cloth diapers have fewer diaper rashes and often potty-train sooner than babies in disposables 
  • Using just ONE cloth diaper a day can save a family $200 per child and save 200 lbs in disposable diaper waste. 
  • Cloth diapering full time (from birth to potty-training) can save the average family $1,400 - $2,000 and diapers can be reused on future children saving even more money!

The Basics

The basic design and construction of all diapering systems—including both disposables and cloth—consist of an external, waterproof layer to contain solids and wetness and an internal absorbent layer which soaks up liquid. How these layers are styled, what they are made of and how they are put together form the basis of the many styles and types of diapers on the market today!

While some people will choose a single brand or style of diaper, many find, upon exploration, that they like to have a variety of diapers in their stash.  Often, deciding which diaper to use will depend on who is doing the diapering and where and when the diaper will be used!  Some things to consider:

Who:

  • An excited mom or dad
  • A daycare provider or sitter
  • A reluctant family member

When:

  • During nighttime or naptime
  • During the day at home
  • On the road for normal daytime activities
  • During extended weekends or vacations

How:

  • For newborns, premature or full-term
  • For twins
  • For heavy wetters or toddlers

Regardless, for full-time cloth diapering of an infant you will need 24 to 30 diapers, while for older babies and toddlers you should have 18 to 24 diapers. With this many diapers, you will only need to wash every two to three days.  Newborns will typically go through 10 to 12 diaper changes a day, while babies six months and older tend to only need 8 to 10 diaper changes each day

Types

There are many different types of diapers that may be best depending on your budget, the age/size of your child and the considerations above.

  • All-in-Ones (AIO) – This is the cloth solution that function most like disposables. An all-in-one diaper combines an absorbent inner lining with a waterproof shell. These diapers are super easy to use, and often a good option for reluctant family or caregivers, however, they lack customizable absorbency and they take very long to dry.
  • All-in-Twos (AI2) - AI2s are very similar to AIOs, except that the absorbent inner layer usually snaps into or lays inside of the diaper. These diapers are also super easy to use and are very slim and easy to travel with but there is an extra step to snap in the liner. They also allow for customizable absorbency.
  • Contours* - A contoured diaper does not have elastic at the legs or waist. The top sides of the contour should be fastened with pins or a Snappi and require a diaper cover. Contoured diapers are generally most appropriate for day-time diapering and are comfortable, however they lack customizable absorbency, can make for a longer diaper change since they need to be fastend and always require a diaper cover of some type. 
  • Fitteds* - Fitted diapers consist of an absorbent fabric (often organic cotton, hemp or bamboo), fitted with waste and leg elastics, that fastens at the waist with snaps or hook-and-loop tabs. Fitteds are not waterproof and are typically used in combination with a diaper cover.  Fitteds are easy to use and some (usually cotton) may be less expensive than the AIO/AI2/Pocket diapers. However, changes can take a little longer since first you put on the fitted, then you put on a cover.  
  • Flats* - Flats are the diapers your grandmother put on her babies. We don't carry them, but they do have a loyal following among some diapering traditionalists. They come in Chinese and Indian Cotton, Hemp or Bamboo and they are generally used with diaper pins or snappies, along with a cover.  They are very inexpensive, however, they require mastering different folds, similar to prefolds. 
  • Hybrids – Similar to an AI2, hybrids are waterproof shells with absorbent inner layers that are interchangeable with disposable inserts.  Most of the disposable inserts are biodegrable and/or flushable.  These can be very convenient when travelling, but do not offer the money saving aspect of full-time cloth. 
  • Pocket Diapers – One of the most popular diaper types, pockets are a flexible diapering system, typically consisting of two parts - the "pocket" which has a waterproof outer layer and a moisture-wicking inner layer that keeps baby's skin feeling dry, and the insert which can be made of microfleece, cotton, bamboo,  or hemp fiber.  These diapers have customizable absorbency making nighttime and naptime wear easy. Prior to washing, the inserts need to be pulled out and after washing you will need to take time to stuff the pockets.  
  • Prefolds* - Prefolds are rectangle-shaped diapers that can be folded in a multitude of patterns to fit your baby. Like Fitteds they are only the absorbent part of a diaper and are usually worn with a diaper cover. The prefold may be fastened with a Snappi or just held in place by the cover. Prefolds are almost always made of cotton, often organic, and are a less expensive, very absorbent option that works well for newborns.However, like Fitteds, changes can take a little longer (though some fold styles are much quicker), and some prefold folds have a little learning curve to get right.

* These types of diapers are not waterproof and require the use of a cover.

Covers

Covers can be used with Contours, Fitteds, Flats and Prefolds to add a water-proof layer to your diaper.

  • Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) - PUL is a synthetic fabric that is coated on one side with a thin layer of waterproof laminate. The fabric is lightweight and is considered breathable. PUL is commonly used for diaper covers (and the outer layer of AIO, AI2 and pocket diapers), as well as "wet bags" that are used to contain wet/dirty diapers. 
  • Wool - Wool is another popular fiber for diaper covers. Wool is naturally breathable, antimicrobial and water-repellant, making it an excellent diapering fiber. Wool covers come in several forms - including wraps and pull-on "shorties" and "longies" and can be among the most high-end of all diapering components. Wool is often "lanolized" or coated with lanolin, which occurs naturally on sheep's coats, to increase its water repellency. 
  • Polyester Fleece - Polyester fleece is used in diaper covers because, like wool, it is highly breathable and wicks moisture away from baby's skin. Though fleece is most commonly used inside a diaper - either as a pocket diaper's inside or as a stay-dry liner - it can also be used as a diaper cover fabric.

Styles

Many types of AIO, AI2, Pocket and Hybrid diapers and varying covers come with these options.

  • Sized – Diapers that are sized generally come in XS – XL, fitting a variety of size ranges (by pounds).  You will need to purchase new diapers as your baby grows, but you often get a better fitting, less bulky diaper when sized properly.  This is also a good option for newborns as some brands fit babies as small as 5lbs. 
  • One-Size - One-size diaper covers typically fit babies from about 8-35lbs, by which weight most toddlers are potty-training. One-size diapers have snaps on front that adjust the rise (height) of the diaper. 
  • Hook and Loop - This is the generic name for Velcro, which is actually a brand name. Aplix is another brand of hook-and-loop. It is a popular fastener for cloth diapers and diaper covers, preferred by many for its ease of use and quick diaper changes. Diapers that close with hook-and-loop should have laundry tabs inside that allow you to press down the "hook" tabs to prevent them catching in the laundry. 
  • Snaps - Snaps are another popular diaper fastener, preferred for their durability and resistance to diaper-bandit toddler fingers.

Accessories

When diapering your baby using cloth, here are some additional helpful items.

  • Diaper Sprayer – a diaper sprayer is a hose plus a sprayer that attaches to the back of your toilet. While not necessary for exclusively breastfed babies’ diapers, with formula or solids, you use this to simply spray off any messy diaper in the toilet. 
  • Inserts & doublers– Inserts are designed to fit inside pocket diapers and doublers provide extra absorbency inside, covers, fitteds, contours and wool covers. They can be made of cotton, microfiber, hemp or bamboo.  
  • Liner- Liners are thin layers biodegradable material that are designed to line the diaper and catch the poop! They can often be flushed down the toilet after each use.
  • Fasteners
    • Pins- Tried and true safety pins are the original fasteners for cloth diapers and can still be used.
    • Snappi- A snappi is a plastic fastener that is used to help secure a prefold or contour.
  • Wet Bag- wet bags are bags that have waterproof interiors and can used to store soiled cloth diapers before laundering. 

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