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Cloth Diaper Basics: What IS a cloth diaper?
January 26, 2015 6:50 pm | by

This post is for the cloth diaper novice. In fact, it’s for the people who don’t even really know what a cloth diaper is. This is probably because disposable diapers have saturated the market so much so that many people today have either forgotten about cloth or (sadly) never even heard about this option.

So, let’s go back to the question. What is a cloth diaper? For those who don’t know, a cloth diaper is a reusable piece of fabric that your baby wears to catch waste. So to put it simply, a cloth diaper is just like a disposable but made with materials like cotton, suedecloth, hemp, bamboo, wool and more.

When people think of cloth, they usually think of pins. prefolds and plastic pants, but these diapers have evolved so much over the last few years. In fact, modern cloth diapers like bumGenius and Flip provide more convenience, functionality, and ease of use than any type of diaper before — and yes, this includes disposables.

Benefits of Cloth Diapers

Cost Savings – It’s no secret that cloth diapers are a better option for your budget. The good news here is that cloth diapers are reusable whereas disposables are not.  Cloth diapers are really a one-time expense, but with disposables, you have to pay for a new diaper with each change, which, from birth to potty training, can cost a parent over $1,000 — per child!

Environmental Impact – Did you know that a disposable diaper can take up to 500 years to decompose? Or that a baby in disposable diapers can produce ONE TON of waste? What about the fact that it takes 200,000 trees and 3.4 BILLION gallons of fuel to make disposables each year? Have you also heard that human waste is not supposed to go into our landfills? It’s true. Solids (aka poop) in disposables should be dumped into the toilet (just like cloth!) so that it is treated and removed properly through our water systems. Cloth diapers are clearly more friendly to the environment.

Cloth diapers are cute! Look at a sposie and then look at a cloth diaper and you tell me which is cuter. I think we all know the winner.

Safer for baby – Disposable diapers are made with harmful ingredients like petroleum, dioxin, chlorine, bleaches and more. BTW, dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical that has been linked to cancers and is banned in most countries. Do you want these chemicals touching your baby’s delicate skin? Cloth diapers do not contain harmful ingredients to become absorbent like disposables.

Convenient and Available – When you use cloth diapers, your diapers will be there. All the time. You will never have to make a midnight run to the convenience store to get more diapers for your little one. Now, whether your diapers are clean when you need them, that’s a different story.

NO. MORE. BLOWOUTS. – Cloth diapers feature a secure fit and it is very rare that your baby will have a blowout in one.


Types of Cloth Diapers

There are A TON of cloth diapers available, but sometimes, finding the right system for you can be overwhelming. Here’s a look at some of the options available today.

Pocket cloth diapers: A pocket diaper is usually made of two layers of fabric sewn together to form a pocket that will hold an absorbent insert.bumGenius 4.0 are pocket style cloth diapers. This type of cloth diaper can be as convenient and simple to use as disposables. Pocket cloth diapers do require an extra step after laundering because the insert must be stuffed into the pocket so the diaper will become absorbent. 

All In One (AIO) cloth diapers: AIO style diapers have a waterproof cover with built-in inserts. This means the inserts are sewn into the diaper. bumGenius Freetime and bumGenius Elemental are all-in-one style diapers. Many people consider all-in-ones to be the most convenient style of cloth diaper because there is no need to stuff inserts for absorbency. All-in-one cloth diapers are very easy to use, especially for those who may be resistant or new to cloth.

Hybrid diapers: Hybrid diapers are generally a two piece system comprised of a waterproof outer cover and an absorbent insert. The Flip Diapering System is a hybrid. It consists of a waterproof, one sized fits most, cover and your choice of stay dry, organic or disposable inserts. One benefit of hybrids is that covers can sometimes be used more than once. When the insert is wet only, simply remove it, wipe the cover and replace with a dry one. Another bonus is the ability to change the type of insert without having to purchase an entirely new diaper.

Covers and prefolds: Covers and prefolds are an economical way to cloth diaper. Covers are typically a single layer of waterproof fabric. Prefolds are the classic, original cloth diaper. Prefolds are several layers of fabric with stitching generally dividing the diaper into thirds. With modern covers, there are no need for pins to keep your prefolds in place. To secure a prefold without a cover, you can use traditional pins or a Snappi. Prefolds are usually cotton, with bleached and unbleached options available. Econobum is an economical cover and prefold system, where you can cloth diaper your baby from birth to potty training for a little more than $100.

Flat diapers: Flat diapers are usually a natural fiber, such as cotton or hemp. Flats differ from prefolds in that they are usually a single layer of fabric, without the stitching that prefolds have. Like prefolds, there are a variety of ways to fold your flats and secure them with pins or Snappis. Flats are not waterproof, so you’ll need covers to protect clothing. 

Fitted diapers: Fitted diapers are usually made with natural fibers, like hemp or cotton, and are shaped diaper. These are not rectangles like prefolds or flats, and do not require pins or Snappis. They do require a cover to be waterproof. While not as convenient as an AIO, there are often more natural fabric options in fitted diapers and they can provide a better fit than a prefold or flat.

Trainers: Cloth Trainers are specifically designed to fit older children who are interested in potty training. The Flip Potty Training pack comes with one cover and multiple cotton inserts you can change when wet and just wipe and re-use the cover, much like the hybrid Flip diaper system.

Sized diapers: Each cloth diaper brand has their own sizing system, so be sure to read the weight suggestions for each size before purchasing. FuzziBunz Perfect Size cloth diapers are available in S, M and L sizes. Thirsties Diaper Covers and Kissaluvs Fitteds both come in two size choices.

One-Size diapers: One sized diapers are a shorter way of saying “one size fits most.”  These cloth diapers or covers are designed to fit most babies from newborn stage 8-35 lbs. The way these diapers grow with baby is by having rows of snaps in the center of the diaper that create an adjustable rise. These snaps do not have to be changed at each diaper change, only adjusted as babies grow. 

About the Author

Brittney is a social media coordinator for Cotton Babies. She has three sisters, loves pizza and enjoys listening to obscure bands no one has heard of. Outside of posting on the Cotton Babies Facebook and Instagram pages, she babysits a few cloth diaper-wearing kids and likes playing with her dogs.


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