Cloth diapers are pretty self-explanatory, right? I mean, they’re just diapers that you wash and reuse instead of tossing in the trash. How complicated could they be? As it turns out, there’s a lot to them, actually! When I decided that I wanted to use cloth diapers for my daughter, I knew literally nothing about them other than the fact that they were more environmentally friendly, less likely to cause diaper rash, and were more cost-effective. Perfect, I thought, let’s buy some cloth diapers!
And then I sat down to choose a few brands to do a test run before investing a lot in any particular one diaper. Boy, are there a lot more options out there than I expected! I was incredibly overwhelmed at first but, once I wrapped my head around all of my choices, I realized how amazing cloth is. There is literally something for everyone! The best way to approach them is to think about how much you want to interact with poop, how much laundry you want to do each week, and how much money you want to invest. So, with that in mind, here is an introduction to the five main types of cloth diapers.
- All-in-ones (AIOs) are the least involved cloth diapers out there and function pretty much like a disposable. There is an absorbent, waterproof cover with inserts sewn right in, so all you have to do at diaper-change time is toss the dirty diaper in the bin and put a new one on. This is a great option for people who want to opt for cloth but would like to keep it as simple as possible (read: dads and daycare). The down side is that they’re typically the priciest option, you have more to wash, and they can take longer to dry
- Fitteds are similar to AIOs but they lack a waterproof exterior. The diaper looks very similar to a disposable, in that it’s just one piece, but you need to add a cover to prevent moisture from wicking out. So, come diaper-change time, you need to put on the fitted diaper and then top it with a cover to keep the pee in. They tend to be super absorbent and breathable, so are often used as a long-nap or nighttime solution. Overall, not much more work than an AIO, but still one of the more expensive options and results in just as much laundry.
- Pockets are exactly what they sound like – a waterproof cover with an inner pocket that you stuff with whichever absorbent inserts you’d like. They work just like AIOs when it comes time to change diapers, but require more effort overall because you have to stuff them with inserts beforehand and often need to “unstuff” them prior to washing them. The upside is that they’re a lot more customizable than AIOs: you can choose the material, thickness, and number of inserts being used in each diaper. This helps to tailor the diaper to each baby’s needs and could potentially save some money, depending on which covers and inserts you opt to use.
- All-in-twos (AI2s) are made up of two pieces, a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert that is either placed or snapped on the cover. The great thing about this option is that, unless there is poop involved, diaper changes just involve swapping out the insert and reusing the cover, which significantly cuts down on the cost and amount of laundry involved. You can also customize the material and number of inserts that you use. The downside is that you need to touch the insert to swap it out and then wipe down the cover. This may not be for the squeamish but it can easily be done with a wipe to minimize direct contact.
- Prefolds are what most people picture when they think of cloth diapers – a piece of cloth folded in three, wrapped around the baby’s bottom, and secured with snaps. Like the fitted diaper, these aren’t waterproof so they need to be paired with a cover. While this option requires the most skill when it comes to learning the folds, it is also by far the most affordable option, cuts down on laundry, and is great for newborns.
Bonus Option- Hybrids! Hybrids are usually AI2s and involve pairing a reusable waterproof cover with a disposable insert. Many of the inserts are biodegradable, so they can be a great option when you’re traveling and need the convenience of disposables but still want to feel good about what you’re putting on baby’s bottom.
My advice? Before investing in one particular brand of cloth diaper, think long and hard about how involved you want to be with your diapering and how much money you’re willing to spend. Then, narrow it down to a few types of cloth diaper and give them a test run before investing in a whole stash. It will give you a chance to find the ones that fit your babe the best and you might be surprised by your willingness to touch a few pee-soaked inserts if it means you can do less laundry (I know I was!).