Cloth Diapering Basics – All About Diapers

Cloth Diaper Series

Posts in this series:
Getting Started
All About Diapers
All About Covers
Other Diapering Methods

What are the pros and cons of the different kinds of diapers on the market?

I’m going to let Coleen handle this one since she’s the expert – I’ll just put my $.02 in here and there!

Coleen:  Some thoughts to consider as you read through the different kinds of diapers – there are many one size diapers available today.  While it is nice to have just one set of diapers for your baby, there are a few drawbacks.  Sized diapers offer a trimmer fit with less chance of leaks.  They also last through multiple children since they are not being washed as often.

Here is a quick overview of the different styles of cloth diapers:

-Prefolds and covers are the most economical choice, but might be little trickier to put on your baby than an all in one. You can either fold the prefold in thirds and lay it in the cover or fasten it with a Snappi. The great thing about prefolds is that if the cover doesn’t get soiled, you can reuse it for several changes.  (see Amy’s video on how to use a prefold with snappis)

-Two part diapers systems are very similar to prefolds except they have an insert that lays in the cover instead.  Just like prefolds, you can often reuse the cover for several changes.  Some types even have inserts that snap in to the cover to help keep them in place.  They can be a little more expensive than prefolds, but are easy to use.  (Amy:  You’ve heard me talk before about MotherEase diapers being the first diapers I ever used…they fit into this category.)

-Fitted diapers and covers are super soft and great at preventing leaks.  You can reuse the covers for several changes, but do have to fasten two pieces with every change.  (Amy: these are my favorites for newborns!)

-Pocket diapers have an insert that you stuff into a pocket. They go on in one piece just like a disposable and you will need a new diaper for each change. They dry quickly and are easy to use, but it does take a little time to stuff all the pockets.  (Amy:  These are my favorite travel diaper and I-don’t-feel-like-cloth-diapering-but-I-will-anyway diaper!)

-All in Ones/All in Twos are most like disposables and you will need a new diaper for every change.  They are all one piece and don’t need to be stuffed. All in Twos have an insert that snaps to the cover. Some versions do take longer to dry, but they are very convenient.

How do I choose the right diaper for my baby? 

Coleen:  Start by deciding what type of diapering system you think will work best for you, and then look at all the available brands.  It really helps if you are able to see the diapers in person!  If you are looking at sized diapers you will need to know how much your baby weighs and their measurements may come in handy to make sure you are buying the right size.

Amy:  As I mentioned in the Getting Started post, it helps to know another cloth diapering mama and see what she uses and how she uses it; however, you also have to do what works for your family.  If Daddy or Grandma will be changing a lot of diapers, then you might want to invest in All-in-Ones or Pocket diapers as they are easier for those unfamiliar with cloth diapering.  Or maybe you are after the cute factor or the most economical route.  I use a variety of diapers on my babies – fitteds/covers for the newborn, one-size & prefolds for older babies, pocket diapers for traveling and for Daddy & Grandma. :)

How do I prep prefolds?

Prefolds need to be washed in hot water at least three times. The diapers should be dried in between washes to help them shrink and quilt properly.

How do I use a snappi?

Amy:  Pinning prefolds is pretty much a thing of the past.  No more sticking pins in bars of soap or running them through your hair or running the risk of poking baby.  Snappis are an amazing invention that I love dearly!  You can see how they work in this video: How to Use a Prefold with a Snappi.

What is the difference between snaps or hook and loop closures?

Amy:  A quick clarification before I let Coleen tackle the pros and cons of both of these types of closures…snaps are typically resin or plastic, not metal, hook & loop is what we’ve come to know as Velcro, only a softer, more baby-friendly grade of it.

Coleen:  I think that hook and loop is easier to fasten on a wiggly baby and much more adjustable, but it does show wear quicker than snaps. Snap diapers are going to stay looking brand new.  Some people also prefer snaps since they make it harder for your baby to get their diaper off by themselves.

What are One-Size diapers? 

Coleen:  One size diapers are designed to fit your baby from about 8 pounds through potty training.  They can be bulky when you baby is brand new, but get trimmer as your baby grows.  Different brands adjust different ways.  Most use snaps on the front of the diaper to adjust the rise like bumGenius or Rumparooz.  Others have adjustable elastic like FuzziBunz or Softbums which allows for a nice, snug fit on newborns.

Amy:  Personal interjection here – Again, this is where I started, but I started on an older baby and found when it came to my newborn, they just didn’t fit the way I wanted them to.  So, I used fitteds and covers during that newborn stage and transitioned to my one-size diapers when baby was about 4 months old.

Best diaper for overnight? 

Coleen:  Right now my favorite overnight diaper is a Softbums with an organic bamboo insert and doubler.  Sometimes I will stuff microfiber and hemp inserts in to a pocket diaper.  I have also wrapped a prefold around a microfiber inserts with a cover or stuffed in a pocket diaper.  A hemp or bamboo fitted with a wool cover works great for heavy wetters.

Amy:  Boy, am I glad Coleen answered this question as I have yet to find something I like.  I will definitely be trying her suggestions!  (and in case you are wondering, I currently put my babies in disposables at night! *gasp*)

changing table

How many diapers do I need?

Coleen:  You are going to need more diapers for a newborn than a toddler, but I would say that 18-24 is a comfortable amount to wash every other day.

Amy:  I try to have 24 newborn diapers on hand and I manage with only about 12 toddler sized diapers.

Have more questions?  Leave them in the comments section and we’ll do our best to help out!

sweet little blessingsDon’t forget, you can get 10% off any order of any size from now until 2/22/12 using this coupon code: SWEET

And Coleen is graciously giving away a $75 Gift Certificate to her shop!
(if reading via email or reader, click here to enter the giveaway!)

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53 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering Basics – All About Diapers

  1. I used cloth diapers with many of my babies . . . but not all.

    Back in the day, I used pre-folded diapers and Gerber diaper wraps. I also loved Bumpkins all-in-one diaper/wraps. However, I have not changed diapers in about 5 years now! :)

    However, my son and his fiance are getting married in May and trusting the Lord with their family size, so I think I’ll enter this giveaway! ;)

  2. I had our fifth baby on June 18 and shortly after started cloth diapering her. She is, sadly, our last but I am so glad that we made the decision to CD her. We use fuzzibunz. They are adorable, they don’t leak, so easy to deal with. I have 12 and wash every other day. I never have to use disposables.

  3. I am due with my 7th baby in 3 weeks and would love to win this. We haven’t had a baby for over 5 years and I do not have small diapers. :-)

  4. This post has been really helpful. I am currently pregnant with my first, and know that I am going to cloth diaper, but the options are a little overwhelming. Thanks!

    I do have one question though, why is it that no one has mentioned flat fold diapers? Is it just because neither of you have personally used them?

  5. Oops. I forgot to say that I love saving money, and putting something natural on my baby’s bottom. We tend to have candida problems and I think they’d be worse if we used disposable.

  6. We cloth-diapered with our 3rd and will with our 4th (in May) as well. I am looking forward to cloth-diapering again. We use disposable trainers and at night too – never could find a toddler system that was agreeable to mom and kid.

  7. I would have to say that Kawaii’s Bamboo blue label diapers are my fave CD. My babies sleep between 10 and 12 hours at night almost from birth. That’s a looong time to be in a diaper, BUT my babies wake up with dry clothes and bedding using the Bamboos. I just insert one of the bamboo inserts inside the pocket and fold another in half and place from the middle to the front of the diaper (tummy sleeper). No more changing bedding for me! Thought I’d put my $.02 in : )))

  8. wouldn’t baby be uncomfortable at night with all the extra inserts you’d have use to keep him dry? And even during the day, are cd more comfy for baby? I know the feel is softer than a disposable,but you also have more bulk. Don’t you? Would you have to change them as soon as they got wet so it wouldn’t leak? sorry for all the questions. I’m going to reread everything as I feel like I’m still confused. I guess it’s from 11 years of using Huggies. : (

    • If you cloth diaper from birth, they are used to the extra bulk at night. You will find that you can’t generally put baby in “jeans” (or at least not the size they would usually wear) because the diapers are bigger. However, I have less blowouts with cloth than I do with disposables. And again, I’m going to try Coleen’s suggestions for overnight b/c I have yet to find something I like for overnight. Oh, and you DO change baby more often (not because they leak, but because you do want them to be as dry as possible); however, you SHOULD change baby more often in disposables too because of the chemicals in the diapers, but people don’t because they stay dry.

  9. I am trying to find something that will fit a 40lb 4 year old for overnight. She has some medical issues and wets the bed every night. Disposable cause rashes. I have not been able to find anything that fits. Everything I see online has a max weight of 40 lbs. I want something that will fit up to a 6 year old.

  10. Hubby and I are still in the planning phase for baby #2. I hope to use CD. I tried gDiapers with DS, but I didn’t care for their disposable/flushable inserts and they cost as much as Pampers, so there wasn’t even a cost advantage. But I see that they have cloth inserts now. I am wondering if anyone has experience with those, and what thoughts you have about them?

    • I have a couple gdiapers. I really hate them. I use prefolds in them. They just don’t fit great causing leaks and the Velcro wears out quickly.

  11. What I love most about cloth diapering is the cost savings and the knowledge that I’m doing something great for my baby by avoiding chemicals in disposables. I also love the fact that I’m not throwing all those yucky diapers away, and the cute factor makes me smile!

  12. Just a few questions: I have used cloth diapers in the past and my kids always end up with terrible diaper rash, even with constant changing (we’re talking 12 or more diapers a day!). How do you keep your kids from getting a rash? Also, how do you clean your diapers? My cloth diapers always end up smelling bad and badly stained. I always cleaned mine by washing once in cold and once in hot, both times with homemade laundry soap, and I washed them everyday(!). I have used both flat and pocket diapers and really like the pocket diapers but I don’t like my little ones to have rashes all the time and they don’t get a rash at all with disposables.

    Thanks for putting together this series, I find it very interesting. God Bless!

    • Betsy – Sounds like whatever you are smelling in the diapers is what is causing the rash. You probably need to do what is called “stripping” your diapers which basically means washing and washing in hot water – no soap – until they come clean. You can also check out Mama’s Laundry Talk for other ideas on washing cloth diapers that are smelly. You also might need to change the diapers more often just be on the safe side of not letting them sit in the wet diaper too long.

    • Could it be a sensitivity to the fiber content of the diapers/covers? Or perhaps to the soap you use in your detergent, the wipes, or to anything you put on them when you do a change? If you have hard water, it could also be a sensitivity to one or more of the minerals in it. If that’s the case, a healthy dose of vinegar in the wash should help.

      I’m with Amy that stripping is probably in order. In the mean time, I’d get some pieces of cotton flannel and use them as flat folds to see if fresh fabric does the job.

      • Almost forgot. If you are using a diaper pail system that keeps the diapers wet between washings, that might contribute to keeping nasty bacteria around, regardless of how you wash. Since you wash the diapers so frequently, stain setting shouldn’t be a problem. You might want to try keeping the soiled diapers in a canvas bag (lots of air circulation) between washings (wash the bag with the diapers), and then line dry them in as much sun as you can find.

  13. We love to use cloth dipes! We haven’t found a good solution for night time either. I’m gonna try out some of Collen’s suggestions.

    • After the newborn stage, most babies only “go” when they are waking up–that’s part of the premise of elimination communication, fwiw. If you wake up when they wake up, you have an opportunity to change them as needed through the night.

    • I have 2 issues w/ every nighttime diaper I’ve tried: 1 – Too bulky & 2 – too wet for too long on baby’s skin. In fact, the second often wakes baby or causes ammonia burns. Not good. I have not used wool yet, but I’m not sure what to put with it. Would love some suggestions! :)

      • I know a lot of time has elapsed, and you’ve probably found a solution by now, but I thought I’d respond anyway. I, too, used to have to use sposies at night from about 12 months old onwards (for about 6 months) Then I found a solution for us. I’ll be up front, I don’t have a heavy wetter, just an average wetter.

        Anyway, I use an Alva pocket (coloured snaps with suede cloth inner, which keeps baby drier than fleece IMO) with 1 microfibre insert and 1 bamboo insert. That is absorbent enough for us, but we were getting severe ammonia burn, so used spouses for months. Then I found out about raw silk liners, bought some off etsy. Fantastic – no more ammonia burn. So now we’re full-time cloth again.

  14. I’ve cloth diapered for 9 years now and have always used diaper pins. In all those years, a baby has been stuck only twice, and I’ve been poked a handful of times. They’re much easier to find, cheaper, and have a shorter learning curve. I understand that many are intimidated by pins and would prefer the Snappi, but diaper pins should at least be mentioned as an option!

  15. We are expecting our first baby in one month. My mother is going to be our daycare and has started to make me nervous. She cloth diapered over 30 years ago and hated it. She keeps arguing with me about the care of the diapers. She uses her homemade detergent that has oxy clean in it as well as lavender oil and a product containing bleach. She swears that it’ll be diaper safe. I’m trying to make an easy care guide for her to use if she has to do any laundry. Ideas? I need to keep it super simple and to the point.

    • OxyClean is diaper safe. I do a rinse, hot wash with soap, and another hot wash without anything (you could use vinegar here if you like). Then dry with no dryer sheet. It’s not difficult. The worst for her might be the initial cleaning off of poop. I purchased a diaper sprayer to deal with that. ;)