Life Parenting

Cloth Diapering 101 | How To Choose a Cloth Diaper For Baby

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Cloth diapers have come a long way from when our parents and grandparents used them. They are First-Time-Mom friendly, often times Dad-approved, and economical (especially if you’re planning to have more than one child in cloth).

Thinking about using cloth for your little one? You’re not alone. Cloth diapering has become more and more popular over the past decade or so. Here is some information to help you get started. It is definitely not as painstaking as it can be made out to be.

You’re going to want to decide what type of cloth diaper you’re going to want to use. If you’re like I was, probably something similar to a disposable diaper is best to start, because it makes for less fuss and is a little more familiar. In my opinion, an All In One (AIO) diaper is the way to go here.

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  • All in One diaper means just that. (See above) The piece of fabric that absorbs and the part that prevents leaks is all sewn together in one piece. Pop the diaper on, whether it be by snaps or aplix (Velcro), take it off when it’s dirty, and that’s that. That’s pretty much the plus side to AIO. The down side is that you don’t always have room to add extra absorbency and drying time is longer. All In One diapers are often times made as a One Size (OS) fits 8-35lbs so there’s another plus, that the diaper can be used right up to potty training age.

  • All In Two (AI2) diapers are a bit different from the AIO because the absorbent part can be snapped in the waterproof covering and removed for easy washing and drying. Same options for closure though, snaps or aplix and they too come in OS.

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  • Pocket Diapers (see above) are what make up 98% of my diaper stash. This is similar to the AI2 except that at the back of the diaper is a pocket where you stuff in the soaker, or absorbent layer. Some parents loathe pockets because of all the stuffing before the diaper is able to be used. I don’t mind the stuffing. I’d rather stuff 50 diapers than try to match my family’s socks after a few loads of laundry! The other good thing about pockets is that you can add a few layers of absorbency in there.

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  • There are a few different types of insert available. (see above) 
    The most common is microfiber. There are also soakers made of bamboo, hemp, or cotton. The downside to pockets, in my opinion, is that often the soaker gets shoved to the front of the diaper in the wash so you have to reach your hand up there after a cycle to pull it out. I haven’t quite figured out a way to solve this one (other than handling icky diapers before the wash…)! Like the other types mentioned, pocket diapers are available in OS.
  • Fitted Diapers are a little closer to the way diapers have been done in the past. The soft cloth part is the absorbent part and fits a certain size child. Usually these are marked as “xtra small, small, medium, large, toddler” or sometimes there are just two sizes “size 1, size 2”. Make sure that you check the specifics of the diaper before you buy, so you know which size will fit your child. With a fitted diaper, you snap or velcro the diaper on, and put a separate waterproof cover on top (much like the “rubber pants” some will bring up when you mention cloth diapers). I know of many moms that prefer fitted diapers because they can get away with having a handful of covers and just switching out the diaper underneath throughout the day. Sometimes fitted diapers are also One Size, but I haven’t come across them too often.

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  • Prefold Diapers (see above) also require a cover. These diapers are sheets of fabric with a strip down the middle that has 6-8 layers, usually made of cotton or bamboo. These worked great for us when B was too tiny to really fit in the OS Pocket diapers we had. The thing I liked about using the prefold diaper was that there are a few different ways to fold the fabric to ensure coverage and absorbency where it’s needed. We used nifty little contraptions called Snappis. They are easier and safer than safety pins and give the diaper a nice fit. A couple cons to prefolds, I found, were that they aren’t as absorbent as other options, they can be a bit bulky on a wee one, and there isn’t really an option for OS so you’ll be buying more prefolds as your child outgrows smaller sizes. I did like that they wash and dry pretty easily and quickly and resold fairly fast.

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    Another bonus is that they make great burp rags, soakers in a pinch, and cleaning cloths when you’re done diapering!

Another thing I want to touch on when it comes to choosing your diapers is the closure. Often times you have a choice between aplix and snaps. While this is usually a personal preference I think in the long run, snaps are my preference. Believe me when I say, I know how frustrating it can be to try to put two little snaps together on a squirming child. My 27lb-er gives me a run for my money! I’d rather deal with that than the tabs breaking down, getting clogged with fuzz, or just plain falling off the diaper after repeated use and washes. I will say that it is much easier to get a good fit with the aplix simply because you can attach it anywhere along the strip.

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About the author

Chantal

Chantal is a mom to a 4 year old boy, 2 year old girl and a new little one born in 2014. She lives in Maine, where she enjoys photography, writing, and traveling.

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24 Comments

  • This was a good blog post to new cloth diapering. My first born was born a month ago and I just started cloth diapering. I don't have many cloth diapers yet, but I like the idea of cloth diapering. Thank you for explaining all the different types. It can be so overwhelming to cloth diaper when first getting into it. And I agree with you! Snaps are the best! I have two diapers with snaps and they are by far my favorite compared to velcro. I think the snaps actually fit better and aren't as bulky around her waist as the velcro.
  • I started off with prefolds and covers. I like them, but I didn't realize how many other easier options there were.
  • i spent a month researching before taking the leap into cloth diapers. we decided on an entire stash of pocket diapers. while i do love pockets, i wish i had been open to more of a variety...i was just so convinced that pockets were the end-all-be-all.
  • It's good to know that more people are going back to cloth diapers, when my kids were little, we almost always had to use cloth.
  • Thanks for the awesome run down! I've been mulling over cloth diapers since my first child and really wanted to do it with my second but the boy just poops way too much for me to even deal with it, LOL. I would love to really try cloth with our next baby. I'm trying to get in my research now and I think that pockets might be the way to go for me too. I'm leaning towards AppleCheeks - they have a pocket but the way it's designed the inserts are agitated out in the washer so you don't have to mess with pulling them out. Plus, I love how trim the pocket diapers are. I just can't imagine using prefolds with all of the other options out there. Tamara recently posted..Financial Literacy for Youth {and a Free $20 for Your Kids Savings Account!}
  • Thank you for this info I am interested in getting started with cloth diapering so this wasva helpful place to start I think id like to try the ai0s
  • I think it's so important for Mamas like you who have a captured audience to highlight the benefits of cloth diapering not only as a valued green choice for our little ones but also it's good for the pocket book. Lots of Moms seem to think cloth diapering is like it was decades ago but so much has changed and now there are new systems that make it super easy to cloth diaper! Thanks for the good read. Jessica Bleasdale (JACB) sexxyjessi at hotmail dot com
  • I waited way to long to start cloth diapering! I have a 2 year old and 11 month old, and started about two months ago and I LOVE it! I wish I would have been more informed about how easy it is now. Glad I came across your blog :) melissa recently posted..5 Years of Love
  • Courtney- I figured I'd be doing more laundry anyway, with a kid in the house. I was right! An extra load or two once or twice a week isn't that bad. Actually it's my favorite load to do, hehehe.
  • i love this post, havent decided if im gonna do any cloth diapering, seems like a bit of a pain to have to wash them over and over
  • I also thought prefolds were bulky and not for me but I know a lot of people love them. It really is so much about preference and what works best for you and your baby. I really like the grovia's with snap in soakers! This is a nice intro for anyone curious to start!
  • THANKYOU! my daughter started the cloth diapers on her little 5 month old, they both live with us. Being a mom of 6 I know nothing about cloth diapers! I will pass this post onto her. She is still in the dark about what kinds to use and how to actually SAVE money while diapering. I am so proud of her for doing this and thinking about being economical AND saving the environment.
  • Beth, you are so lucky that you only have to strip twice a year! That's awesome! I strip about once a month. I agree about those odd fits with the snaps. Usually it's not too big of a deal to be in between sizes, as he often wears pants that fit snug.
  • I love my cloth but I do think snaps and aplix are a personal preference. I have both and prefer aplix over my snaps. My lo is really small for his age and I can't get the snaps to fit him right. With aplix I never have that problem. And I have had my aplix for over 4 years and have never had to replace them at all. They are in great shape and I pick the fuzz out of the tabs when I strip (every 6 months). So depending on the fit, aplix works for some better than snaps.
  • wow- great post! i wish i had read something like tgis when i first started experimenting w/ cloth on my little guy a few mo ago! all the lingo was really confusing! i appreciate your pros/cons too- thx for the awesome, informative post. annae07 at aol dot com
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