“Cloth Diapers” The Series – Part 4: A dictionary of different designs

When most people hear the term “cloth diaper” they usually think of white cotton rag squares that a mid-century housewife could use to wash her kitchen floor with. Thankfully diapers have evolved right along everything else in the world and are much simpler and more attractive.

From Prefolds to All-in-ones and Everything in Between:

That white square rag is also known as the “Prefold” Diaper, meaning you fold it before you put it on the baby. These are the kind that most of our moms used, and also the least expensive option. In my opinion, I wouldn’t even use this to wash my kitchen floor with let alone a diaper, too much folding and snapping, pinning, changing, etc for me plus you still need “plastic pants” over top (otherwise known as a wrap or cover) to keep all the wetness away from their clothes and I don’t know about you, but wearing plastic pants is probably worse then leather pants.

Next up is the “Fitted” Diapers, which are slightly better. These are basically the same material and as their prefold brother, but they have a few upgrades. They are shaped like disposables, and have elastic around the openings and Velcro or snaps to hold it closed (no more safety pin stabs!). You’ll still need a cover for these because there’s no built-in waterproof layer.

The next two diapers are probably the simplest options available. “All-in-one” diapers are exactly that, everything you need is right there, all together, and used exactly like a disposable diaper. You simply slip it under the little bum, close it and let him run away. They are shaped like a disposable diaper with a waterproof (usually with PUL = Polyurethane Laminate) outer layer and an absorbent soaker core sewn right to the soft inner layer (usually micro-fleece or suede cloth) and can be adjusted and closed with either velcro or snaps. The absorbent core can consist of anything from terry cloth, microfiber (like the new cleaning cloth craze), bamboo, hemp, or plain ol’ cotton and obviously the difference in materials effect the level of absorbency (I’ll cover this later). Parent, caretakers & daycares don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to AIO’s because it just is what it is, nothing new to learn! The one downside I’ve experienced with AIOs is the drying time – it’s best to line dry and depending on weather it can take DAYS because it’s so thick.

What’s that? You want customization? “Pocket” diapers! And just like all-in-ones, pocket diapers are exactly what they sound like. They too have a PUL outer, soft inner layer, snaps or velcro, but instead of having the absorbency sewn on permanently – there’s a slit in one end (or sometimes both) in which you simply stuff in your absorbent part (“soaker”, “insert”, “liner”, “doubler” and “pad” are all terms that refer to this). And of course even your options have options here! Inserts can be constructed of cotton, terry, flannel, microfiber, bamboo, hemp and even something called “zorb” (a new matted fiber-type material that is supposed to be thinner but more absorbent then most other materials available)! I’ve used anything from a simple 3-layer microfiber insert to a combination of 4 layers of microfiber and 5 layers of a hemp/cotton blend – it all depends how much moisture you need the diaper to hold (outings vs overnight vs at home). And unlike the AIOs, the thick pad is removed when washing so it dries in much less time.

There’s also “Pocket All-in-one” diapers (sometimes referred to as an “All-in-two”) which have a slit in one end to allow you to slip in an additional absorbent pad for longer car trips or over night.

“Hybrid” diapers are the newest form. Similar to a pocket diaper, instead of slipping the absorbency inside, you simply lay (or snap in) a soaker pad on top. This way when the diaper is used, if the outer part is still clean (no poop) you can just lay a new dry core in and reuse the outer part. You can also do this with your AIOs or pocket diapers by just laying an insert or prefold on top. Although some people do consider this not as sanitary, it results in less laundry and supplies that you’ll need. Most hybrid diapers have a cloth insert ans a disposable option (which I personally don’t consider “cloth diapering”) for when you’re out & about you just take out the used dispoable insert, toss it in the trash and put in a new one… I guess that way you’re not carrying around dirty diapers (intro – the “wet bag” more on this later).

So in the end, it’s all up to you. Price vs simplicity. I personally use mainly pocket diapers, but have a few AIOs (honestly only because they were on a really cheap sale) I think the hubster prefers AIOs because he doesn’t have to worry about it being stuffed correctly (and yes, one time he was peed on because I didn’t stuff them and he assumed it was) but they usually only get used once or twice a week because during the rest of the time they’re on the line drying.

Snaps VS Velcro – The Ultimate Showdown:
I’ve experienced both wearing out at an equal pace, but there are some other things to consider. It’s kinda like comparing clothes with zippers vs buttons… When I first started I preferred velcro, but now I’m finding snaps aren’t as evil as I thought.


- Stronger hold once baby starts grabbing
- Doesn’t catch on other things in the wash
- Can’t scratch or cut into baby’s rolls
- Can often end up lopsided or uneven unless you count the snaps
- You don’t want to push down on baby’s stomach, so you have to put your fingers inside the diaper
- Some snaps are too strong and can rip the fabric if you have to yank too hard, this can also startle a young or sleeping baby

Velcro (aka Applix or Hook & Loop)
- Fast and easy adjust and readjust if necessary
- Can allow for smaller waist adjustment then most snaps
- Remembering to close the ‘laundry tabs’ so they don’t catch on other things in the wash, and sometimes the laundry tabs come loose
- Can scratch or cut into baby’s rolls (although most diaper companies have designed the tops of their diapers with a space between the velcro and the top to avoid this)
- Can pick up lint and other fuzz, so you occasionally have to pick it out like your hairbrush.

One-Size-Fits-All VS Small, Medium Large?
Most companies have both options, so it really comes down to – How often do you want to have to swap out your stash for the next size up? How much will each sized set cost in comparison to one set of one-size diapers? And if you go with one-size, how big/small is your child likely to be on either end of the spectrum? Logan was a big newborn, so I didn’t have to worry about diapers being too big and bulky on him.

One Size Fits All

- You buy one set of diapers, one time, and don’t have to put away diapers that baby’s grown out of which saves money, hassle and storage space.
- If you have a smaller baby, they can be bulky or can leak if you can’t get them tight enough. Some brands have crossover velcro or snaps, other brands have elastics on adjustable buttons on the leg gussets like Fuzzibunz.
- Poor care for your diapers could wear them out after a while. They may fit after 2 years of wear, but they might start to leak due to the wear and tear of washing them 200 times.

- Trimmer fit means being able to wear normal sized pants and onesies rather then one size up to accommodate the bulk. (Although some one-size brands like Thirsties and Rumparooz are really trim anyways)
- You’ll buy up to 36 XS/S diapers, then in 3 months have to switch them out to another 24 S/M diapers, and so on for 2-3 years… This costs more money in the long run.
- If you’re using them again or handing them down, where do you plan on storing all these diapers that are too small?

Next up in this series: Part 5 – Washing & Drying

See other entries in this series here.

3 Responses

  • Jodi Says:

    I love how its complete cloth dipering for the total idiot, you really did a great job explaining EVERYTHING one should know.
    Thanks for taking the time to help others – good on you Ashley!

  • Kat Says:

    Great articles! I have to say that prefolds aren’t *that* bad. They’re certainly a lot more work but they are a great option if money is an issue (there are all sorts of patterns on the internet for making them out of old T-shirts). I use pockets for outings and a hybrid (Flip) at home now but it’s nice to have the prefolds on those occasions that I forget to do laundry!

  • Leela Says:

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