Monday, January 16, 2012

1,000 ways to Cloth Diaper: An overview of CD systems

Truth:  If you are new to cloth diapering the amount of information will seem overwhelming.

I can't tell you how many nights I spent pouring over Internet sites until I was cross eyed and more confused then when I started.  It's almost like another language (and admittedly one that I still haven't fully mastered).  I think any person who understands the ins and outs of CD's should have a degree.  I am not here to tell you that I know it all, or that I even know what works best.  I can only tell you what I have found that works for me.  Over the next several posts I will try to cover everything you need to get started as simply as I can.  So first up...diapers of course.  Keep in mind this is only an overview.  My plan in the coming weeks/months is to cover each of these more in depth.  Right now I just want to quickly cover each so you become aware of how many options are out there and become familiar with some of the terms.

When you look at diapers you will use every day there are basically two categories: 
1.  Diapers that use covers.  These are basically two part systems.  You change the cloth against your babies skin and reuse the covers.
2.  One use diapers.  Same idea as disposables.  You use these diapers once and then the whole system gets washed.

 Diapers that use covers


This IS your mama's cloth diaper.  In many cases it might be what you lived in as a child (if you are in your 30's or older).  Flats are exactly what they sound like.  A flat, squarish piece of cloth that is folded and then pinned/snappied on your baby. 
There are three "folds" for these.  Origami, Kite and Pad.  You can use diaper pins or a snappi (the end attachments are similar to the little metal closures they use for wrap bandages...only plastic.  You simply hook one side, stretch to the other and then hook the bottom...more on this later). 
Flats are cheap, easy to find and versatile.  You MUST use a waterproof cover over a flat.


Prefolds are flat and rectangular.  They have 3 sections with the middle one holding a bit more absorbency than the sides.
They come bleached (white) or unbleached (cream/tan) and sometimes have colored borders to distinguish the size.  There are a plethora of folds you can do and  use the snappi OR you can simply trifold them and lay them in your cover.  Prefolds are affordable and durable.  If you finish using them as diapers they make great dust/cleaning rags.  They can be bulky and intimidating to use at first.  Again you MUST use a cover.

Fitted and Contours

A fitted or Contour diaper is a very absorbent cloth diaper that uses snaps/aplix (fitted) or tabs that you fold over and pin/snappi (contour). 

Fitted little beetle diaper
Fitteds may look like a pocket diaper but they need a cover.  The entire diaper is absorbant which is why it makes a great night time solution (often paired with a wool cover).  They do take a little more time to put on then other diapers but are your best bet if you are having a problem with leaks.  You can even find fitted diapers with pockets or snap in inserts for even more absorbency.  These will be a lifesaver if you have a heavy wetter.

Contours are similar to fitteds but they have no snaps/aplix. 
Pooters Contour
These will need diaper pins or snappis.  They are very useful for newborns who need constant size adjustments.  Contours generally do not offer as much absorbency as fitteds.

All in Two (AI2)

AI2's are waterproof covers (often called shells) that have replaceable inserts (sometimes called soakers).  The inserts/soakers come in a variety of materials and many people choose these systems because they are easy and affordable. 

Grovia Shell
Grovia snap in soaker (insert)
You may even purchase biodegradable disposable inserts (often called hybrid systems when combined with a cover) which can save a lot of space and can be a good option if you have limited use of a washing machine (though I have found these to be somewhat tricky to position correctly for boys).  AI2's often leak more than other systems because the insert can shift.  ** The popular flip diaper system is in the AI2 category. 

With all of the above mentioned system you will need a cover.  Covers come in different closures:  Snap or Hook and loop / Aplix (similar to velcro). 
You can reuse covers until they get soiled.  (If mine get a little damp I will air them out and reuse them as long as they don't smell).  The less you wash them the longer they will last. 
Sometimes they will be sized according to weight or age and some covers will be one size where you can adjust them with snaps or elastic.
On a preference note, I prefer covers that have gussets which is just another layer of fabric inside of the leg gathering that offers an extra bit of protection from leaks.
Bummi's cover with gusset

One Use Diapers

All in Ones (AIO)

AIO's are the closest relative (cloth wise of course) to the disposable diaper.  Each diaper has many layers but they are all sewn together creating a system that requires no stuffing, folding or pinning.

Some AIO's take much longer to dry than other diapers because of all the layers.  They are often pricier than other diapers and if you get the sized diapers (which offer a better fit) instead the one sized diapers (which can be adjusted to go from newborn to potty training) they will have to be replaced several times.  AIO's are the best thing to leave with people who aren't used to CDing (babysitters, grandparents, etc).

There are other styles of AIO's, like the tongue style, where diaper looks like a pocket style (see below) but the insert is attached.  You simply stuff the insert back into the pocket after you wash it (this allows for faster drying time along with the ability to place more inserts into the pocket if needed).  Snap-in-Ones are AIO's with a detachable insert.  The covers are only intended for one time use which is what differentiates them from an All-in-Two.


A pocket diaper is any cloth diaper that has a pocket opening and can be stuffed with any variety of insert. The pocket opening can be in the back, front or even the middle. 
These are popular because they dry fast (many can even be dried in your dryer which is a time saver if you have a smaller CD stash.  Most come with microfiber inserts but you can purchase a variety from hemp to bamboo (and more) that makes the diaper customizable according to your needs. 
Rumparooz Pocket diaper
Pockets are often cheaper than all in ones.  The downside is that you have to shake the insert out after each use and then re stuff them after the diapers are dry.  This can be time consuming (and sometimes frustrating) if you have a large stash.


Sleeve diapers are pocket diapers that have an opening in the front and back.  They still need to be stuffed but the advantage of sleeves is that you don't have to take the insert out because (most of the time) it will agitate out in the wash.  This is great for people who don't like to deal with soiled inserts.  It's also a good "on the go" diaper because you don't have to worry about dealing with a pile of soiled inserts when you get back from town. 

*** A note about one size diapers.  Most of the diapers / covers categories mentioned above are available in "one size" options.  These can be adjusted with snaps, slides (like drawstrings) or buttonholes (where you tighten or loosen around the legs or waist with elastic hooked to buttons).  All of these make a diaper more customizable, which in turn will be usable for a longer period of time however it can make the diaper bulky and more prone to leaks (because of error in sizing). 

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