Cloth Diapering 101: Types of Cloth Diapers and their Accessories

Hi! My name is Erin and write a frugal lifestyle blog over at View From Our Terrace.  I have put together a series of posts on cloth diapering that includes information about types of cloth diapers and their accessories, how to clean cloth diapers, and finally the cost of cloth diapering.  I hope that this mini-series proves to be helpful and informative!

Baby in cloth diaper

Image courtesy ethan john @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

One of the best ways to save money when you start having kids is to use cloth diapers.  Diapering your child is one of the most costly expenses in the first few years.  By polling a few friends of mine, I figured out that most people spend around $1300-$1500 total to diaper one child using disposables.  Spread out over 2-3 years, this does not seem like a lot.  But what if you are planning on having multiple children?

Additionally, many people are concerned about the environmental effects of disposable diapers.  There are disposable diapers out there that are much gentler on the environment, but those come at a premium cost.

If you are nervous about the up-front investment of cloth diapering or the laundry situation or anything else, stick around to find out that while yes, it is a bit of a different lifestyle than traditional diapering, it really is not all that bad!

Image courtesy no film @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

Image courtesy no film @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

What is Cloth Diapering?

Cloth diapering is a style of diapering that has been around for hundreds of years.  It recently came back into style in full swing during the last decade or two with numerous improvements in look, feel, and functionality.  I found a cool “timeline” of sorts on the history of cloth diapering, if you would like to check it out.

The down and dirty basics are that you spend a little more money upfront to purchase a set of diapers that can be washed and reused throughout the life of diapering your child (and hopefully more than one child if needed!).

Types of Cloth Diapers

There are multiple types of cloth diapers.  Many say that you will not know which type you like best until you test some out.  In my mind, this meant that I would need to buy multiple diapers, some that I would potentially not enjoy, and thus waste money and time.  

I suggest doing your research, think about what aspect of cloth diapering is important to you (cost, environmentally-friendly, ease-of-use, etc), and go from there.  Take a look below at the different types of diapers out there and some of the companies that sell them.

Flat cloth diapers.

Image courtesy Amy Selleck @ Flickr Creative Commons, click image for source.

Pre-folds and Flats

Pre-folds and flats are the diapers that you probably think of if you are not very familiar with cloth diapering.  They most closely resemble the old-school style of cloth diapering.  They are both basically pieces of cloth (usually cotton) that are folded in a variety of ways to create a diaper or diaper insert.  

They are usually fastened with safety pins or a Snappi.  Both must be used with a cover.  These would be your cheapest option for cloth diapering.  I have heard that they also work best for newborns.  

Image courtesy Brittany @ Flickr Creative Commons, click image for source

Image courtesy Brittany @ Flickr Creative Commons, click image for source

Contours

Contour diapers are one I had not heard of before doing some further research, but they appear to be a cross between a fitted (see below) in that they are already molded to be shaped like a diaper, have the look and feel of a pre-fold.  They require pins or Snappis to close and also a cover as they are not waterproof.  

Image courtesy MissMessie @ Flickr Creative Commons, click image for source.

Image courtesy MissMessie @ Flickr Creative Commons, click image for source.

Fitteds

Fitted diapers are nice because they easily fit to your baby.  They are usually made of cotton, bamboo, hemp or fleece.  While they are very absorbent, they are not waterproof so a cover (easiest would be the pull on “plastic” ones or wool) is needed in addition to the diaper.  

I own three fitted diapers and bought them solely for the design (and spent too much money!) – Harry Potter and Game of Thrones – but overall I really like how they fit and feel – just wish they were waterproof on their own.  

Image courtesy basietrane @ flicker creative commons, click image for source

Image courtesy basietrane @ flicker creative commons, click image for source

Pocket Style

Pocket diapers do not require a cover, but they do have a pocket on the inside that must be stuffed with the absorbent layer before each use.  There are many different types of absorbency layers you can use depending on your preference or absorbency level needs – microfiber, cotton, hemp, or bamboo.  

The inside of the diaper (and the part actually touching your baby’s skin) is usually fleece.  Snaps or velcro are used to close the diaper.  

Sleeve Style

Sleeve diapers are another style of diaper that I am not as familiar with.  It is basically the same as a pocket diaper, but with two openings for the insert instead of one.  What does this mean?  You don’t have to pull the insert out before throwing in the wash – it will work its way out on its own!

All-In-Ones (AIO)

AIO diapers are popular for those that want to just put a diaper on a baby similar to a disposable and not have to worry about inserts or covers – everything is already there!  These would be popular with someone who does not want to deal with all the extra components of the other types of diapers (think dads or grandparents).  

I have not tried one of these, however I have heard that they take a long time to dry, so some convenience is lost in that respect.

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Image courtesy Audrey @ flickr creative commons, click image for source.

All-In-Two (AI2) or Hybrid

This is the style that I ultimately narrowed my search down to and chose for the majority of my diapers.  AI2 diapers come with a cover and snap-in cloth insert.  I loved this idea because many times the cover can be reused for multiple diaper changes.  Plus, the covers adjust to three different sizes for most brands so you will not have to buy different sized diapers.

Image courtesy CatEyedKP @ flickr creative commons, click image for source

Image courtesy CatEyedKP @ flickr creative commons, click image for source

Hybrids are very similar to AI2s, but also have the option of using a disposable insert in place of the cloth insert.  These styles do have a higher initial investment cost and can run you more money in the long run if you choose the disposable insert route, but they do cut down on some of the environmental impact.

In the end, I own only two different styles of diapers and I really enjoy them.  I do not know if I would enjoy another type more, but by forcing myself to choose one or two types, I did not give myself the option to be torn between all the different styles.  

There are many people that build up a “stash” of diapers of all types and styles.  It is really just your preference and how much money you are willing to spend.  I bought my hybrid diapers as part of a bundle which was definitely the cheaper way to go than buying a few diapers here and there.

If you are truly looking to save money with cloth diapers, then do not let yourself get distracted by all the potential benefits and pretty patterns (it is easy to do!).  Do your research, figure out what you need, and stick to that.

Now let’s switch gears slightly and take a look at the accessories that go along with cloth diapering.

Cloth Diaper Accessories

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Wet bag for soiled diapers. Image courtesy basietrane @ flickr creative commons, click for source.

There are a few accessories that you will definitely need to cloth diaper effectively, but also some that are just nice to have.  Make sure you build these costs into your initial investment estimate.

I have marked the items with an * that I believe are absolutely necessary.

*Wet bags – basically a waterproof bag that holds dirty diapers until laundry day.  You will need a small one for the diaper bag and a larger one for the changing table at the minimum.

*Cloth diaper-safe diaper creamGroVia makes a great one that smells amazing too but there are a few others out there as well.  You don’t want to put most brands of diaper cream on cloth diapers because it will cause a build up on your diapers and affect the absorbency. 

Cloth wipes – these are exactly what they sound like, wipes made from cloth.  Many people who cloth diaper also use cloth wipes.  I have not personally tried them, but am thinking about it for my next baby.  I think I would definitely still have disposable wipes around for the messier diaper changes.  Some people make their own, but you can buy some as well.  

Diaper liners – these are great for catching solids and can easily be dumped into the toilet.  While not necessary, they have definitely been a helpful addition to our routine.

Diaper sprayer – these can be bought or made easily if you are handy.  This is basically a hose that attaches to your toilet to spray off your diapers once your baby starts solids.  

Boosters – these are additional pieces of material that you can add to your diaper to increase wear time or absorbency.  Many people use boosters overnight so that there are no leaks.  

Our bundle that we bought came with some and we did not need to use them until our daughter was about 8 months old or so.  Some people need to use them almost right away.  You can buy boosters in a variety of materials such as cotton, hemp, fleece, microfiber, etc.

*Disposables – yes this is on my list!  There are definitely people out there that NEVER use disposables, but I think that is pretty hardcore and not necessarily the norm.  I have bought a couple of packs of disposables over the past year for travel or when my daughter had a yeast infection.  Some people use disposables at night.

Many of these accessories only need to be bought once or once every 3-6 months, so in the end there is not much additional cost.  Plus, you still have to buy extra things when using disposables, so the cost probably is not much different in the end.

Image courtesy futurestreet @ flickr creative commons, click for image source.

Image courtesy futurestreet @ flickr creative commons, click for image source.

I hope you learned a lot about the different options out there for cloth diapering!  The next part of the mini-series will be dedicated to the dreaded laundry topic.  I promise it really is not that bad!  

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact me at erin@viewfromourterrace.com.

 

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