Archive for the ‘Definitions’ Category


June 6, 2009

There are approximately 100 bazillion different types of cloth diapers (I counted, but lost track at 98 bazillion). I have sorted them into five basic categories.

Flat diapers are named because they have the same number of layers throughout. Usually, but not always, they will be one layer and about 27 inches square. They can be folded and doubled to fit all babies, and they wash and dry very quickly and easily, even if you hand wash and line dry indoors. Additionally, they are very inexpensive. However, the folding can be a lot of work.

Prefold diapers are named because they are thicker in the middle. If you took a flat diaper and folded it in fourths, then lapped the edges over each other, then sewed them together, you’d have a prefold. Prefold diapers require less folding than flats, but they also take longer to dry, and most babies will need two or three sizes from birth to potty training. However, they are still pretty inexpensive, the folding is a lot easier than with flats, and if you have a washer and dryer, the laundry is a snap.

Fitted diapers are named because they have elasticized waists and legs, like disposables. They also come with their own snap or Velcro fasteners. This makes them extremely easy to use, but a lot more expensive and not as easy to care for. However, they are very popular because they are easy to use yet breathable, and some brands (*cough* Mother-Ease *cough*) are a very good value for the money.

All-in-one diapers are named because they are like fitted diapers with their own built-in covers. These work exactly like disposables, except you wash them instead of throwing them away. They are the easiest to use of all cloth diapers but are also among the most expensive, and hardest to care for. The quick-dry versions, which launder more easily, are an excellent choice for daycare, but I believe all-in-ones are overkill for everyday use.

Pocket diapers are waterproof diaper covers sewn on three sides to a stay-dry liner, which 99% of the time is made from polyester, either fleece or suedecloth. The back is left open for stuffing with something absorbent–cotton, microfiber, hemp, old gym socks…you name it. Once stuffed, pocket diapers function like all-in-ones, but the separate stuffing allows them to dry much more quickly. These diapers are extremely popular, so you may want to try them to see if you like them. Personally, I thought that, like all-in-ones, they were overkill for everyday use; additionally, I found the stay-dry liners to be difficult to clean.

Other categories: A preflat is a diaper that is the size of a prefold, but with the same number of layers throughout, often two. A contour is a diaper that is hourglass-shaped, but does not have elastic or fasteners. A prefitted is a diaper with elastics but not fasteners. A pocket fitted is a fitted diaper with a pocket in the back for extra stuffing, or you could think of it as a pocket diaper that isn’t waterproof. (An excellent choice if you want to combine the breathability of fitteds with the quick drying of pockets and the ease of use of both.) An all-in-two is a diaper where you attach the absorbent part to the waterproof part and re-use the waterproof part, making them easy to use but more cost-effective than all-in-ones or pocket diapers where the whole thing must be washed after every use.

Diapers are usually made out of cotton, but hemp, bamboo, and polyester are also used, for various reasons including absorbency and durability. Personally, I think cotton is best, because it’s the easiest to clean. But not everyone agrees with me.

Flats, prefolds, and fitteds can be used coverless for breathability. With flats and prefolds you will have to pin in order to go coverless, unless you have a very young baby, in which case you can use a Snappi, which is a T-shaped, stretchy piece of plastic with teeth that grab the fabric of a diaper. Snappis are great for fastening flats and prefolds under covers, but should never be used coverless with a mobile baby. Pinning is honestly not all that hard, and pinned diapers are among the most adorable. With fitted diapers, just snap or Velcro it on and don’t worry about pricking yourself. I found coverless diapering to be the absolute best treatment and prevention for diaper rash. You do have to watch carefully and change after every pee, so it’s not practical for all the time, but even part-time coverless diapering is GREAT for a baby’s skin. The rest of the time, you will have to use a cover.

Covers made of vinyl and plastic are still around, but for just a few dollars more, you can get far higher quality materials. Nylon is only a little more expensive than plastic but is much softer and nicer and more durable. PUL (polyurethane laminated polyester) is more durable still, enough that most PUL covers can be washed with the diapers, a big plus in my opinion. Wool is the only natural fiber diapering material, is completely breathable, and although it is bulky and requires special care, many mothers swear by it. Fleece is a polyester synthetic that mimics wool in breathability, needs to be washed more often than wool but requires no special care in the washing. In cold weather, I like to use 100% polyester fleece pants as a diaper cover and pants in one.

Covers can be pull-on, front-snapping, side-snapping, or Velcro. All four styles have advantages and disadvantages. I personally prefer front-snapping covers because they are more convenient than pull-ons, easier to figure out than side-snapping, and less likely to cause laundry problems than Velcro. Again, though, all four styles have pros and cons, and different people prefer different styles in different situations.