A guide to cloth diapers

Not too long ago, cloth diapers were just rectangles of fabric, but the options that are available today are a lot more advanced and easier to use. No matter what your needs are for Baby‘s diapers, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised by the selection of cloth diapers available today. Cloth diapers come in a few styles, which vary by cost, absorbency, and shape.

Flat and prefold diapers

These are the “classic” cloth diaper that your great-grandmother may have used when your grandmother was a baby. Flats are plain squares of cloth, while prefolds are rectangular pieces of cloth that have a more absorbent section in the middle.

  • Pros: These are the most affordable type of cloth diaper. They can also be used as great burp cloths or cleaning rags.
  • Cons: They require a waterproof diaper cover. You’ll also have to fold them and pin them in place using diaper pins or clasps. 

Fitted diapers

Like disposable diapers, fitteds are shaped like an hourglass and fit snugly to a baby’s body.

  • Pros: Very breathable and absorbent. Fitteds come with velcro snaps or snap-closures, so they don’t require folding or pinning. They come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes, and are very adjustable.
  • Cons: Fitteds are not waterproof and require a diaper cover. They can also be expensive depending on the brand. 

Contour diapers

Contours are a type of fitted cloth diaper.

  • Pros: Shaped the same as regular fitteds, and are just as absorbent and breathable.
  • Cons: Contours don’t come with snaps. They need to be fastened with a diaper fastener or pins. They also require a diaper cover. 

Hybrid or all-in-two diapers

These diapers are part-disposable and part-cloth. They have a reusable outer cover, and it’s up to parents to decide whether they want to use a disposable or a reusable insert that they can change out when it’s dirty.

  • Pros: Hybrids are adjustable, breathable, and more absorbent than regular fitted diapers due to an extra layer of fabric in the diaper. They’re a little easier to wash than fitteds and contours, and are better for the environment than disposable diapers. With all-in-twos, the insert gets tucked or snapped back into the diaper.
  • Cons: Hybrids may be more expensive than fitteds. They’re also not waterproof, and require a waterproof outer cover. 

Pocket diapers

Pocket diapers have a waterproof outer cover and an opening for removable inserts.

  • Pros: Pockets come with velcro or snaps and don’t require any extra folding or diaper pins. Many are lined with super-absorbent materials that keep the diaper feeling dry even when it’s wet. They don’t require a diaper cover, and parents can adjust the absorbency by adding more inserts into the pocket of the diaper.
  • Cons: You’ll have to add inserts back into the diaper after each washing.

Sleeve diapers

These are cloth diapers that are a lot like pocket diapers, but they have an opening on the front and back of the diaper.

  • Pros: Inserts come out in the wash, meaning parents don’t have to remove the inserts themselves. Sleeve diapers have all the pros of pocket diapers, too; absorbency, and no need for pins or folding.
  • Cons: You’ll still have to put the inserts back into the diaper once it’s dry. 

All-in-one diapers

These diapers have a waterproof cover, and an an absorbable insert sewn right into the diaper.

  • Pros: Because they don’t require any extra steps, like putting in inserts or folding and pinning the diaper, all-in-ones are very easy to use.
  • Cons: Some take a long time to dry, and for babies who are heavy wetters, a single all-in-one might not be absorbent enough, especially overnight. 

The bottom line

Cloth diapers do generally require more work than disposable diapers, but most of them are really quite simple and don’t require too many extra steps. Because of their convenience, disposable diapers are a good choice for many parents, but parents interested in reducing waste, reducing the amount of chemicals around Baby, and also saving a good amount of money on diapers (disposable diapers end up being more expensive in the long run) often find themselves interested in using cloth diapers.

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