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Different Types of Cloth Diapers

Entering the world of cloth diapering (really, parenthood on the whole) requires you learn a completely new language. Here we hit the highlights on what you need to know when it comes to wrapping your baby's bum in cloth.

All-In-One Diapers
All-In-One (AIO) cloth diapers are tops when it comes to convenience. These most closely resemble disposable diapers in comfort, fit and ease of use. AIOs are fitted diapers that combine an absorbent inner layer with an outer waterproof layer in a single piece. Unlike other cloth diaper styles, AIOs don’t require you to stuff in a separate insert.

All-In-One cloth diapers are ideal for out of home use such as traveling, out and about or for the babysitter. These diapers need to be washed after each change.

Pocket Diapers
Pocket diapers have a waterproof layer on the outside and a stay-dry microfleece, organic cotton or hemp inner layer. The two layers create a pocket that can be stuffed with an absorbent insert, prefold diaper or flat cloth diaper. Once stuffed, pocket diapers are like an all-in-one diaper and are very easy to use. Ideal for babysitters and grandparents.

Because you stuff the pocket with the insert of your choice, you can adjust the absorbency to meet baby’s changing needs. Pocket diapers are quick to dry because the insert and the diaper are washed separately.

Snap-to-Fit Diapers
Also called One-Size Diapers, Snap-to-Fit diapers are pocket diapers designed to grow with baby from birth to potty training. This style of fitted diaper features additional snaps to allow for a wider range adjustability.

Because one-size diapers are pocket-style diapers, they do not require a separate diaper cover, but you will need to use an absorbent insert.

Snap-to-Fit diapers are an economical choice as they allow you to purchase fewer diapers than the regular fitted or pocket diapers. Great for families with more than one child in diapers.

Diaper Covers
Typically, diaper covers are made of a waterproof, breathable fabric with soft Velcro-like fasteners or snaps the prevent wetness from getting on baby’s clothing (or whoever happens to be holding him at the time). Diaper covers are used as the waterproof layer around flat, prefold, fitted or contour diapers. Covers do not need to be washed each time a diaper is changed, unless they are soiled. Most people find they can use the same cover for 4-5 diaper changes. These are ideal for covering your child's diaper during the daytime.

For the baby with sensitive skin there are also wool and polar fleece diaper covers. Like their waterproof cousins, these diaper covers are typically contoured to fit baby’s shape and have snap or Velcro-like fasteners. Some prefer these covers for night-time use because they allow skin to breathe better.

Fitted Diapers
Fitted cloth diapers resemble disposable diapers in that they have a contoured shape and gathered edges around the legs. Instead of tape, they secure with either a Velcro-like fastener or snaps. Fitted diapers come in a variety of fabrics and fit baby snugly without the use of pins.

A waterproof diaper cover is necessary when using fitted diaper.

Prefold Diapers
When you think of cloth diapers – this is probably what you envision. Prefold diapers are folded and fastened around baby with pins and then covered with a separate waterproof diaper cover.

Prefolds are rectangular-shaped diapers divided lengthwise in 3 sections. The outer sections usually have a thickness of 4 layers. The middle section can have 6 or 8 layers. This gives pre-folds absorbency in the middle, where it is needed most. You will often see prefolds defined as 4-6-4, 4-8-4 or more rarely 2-4-2. These numbers refer to the layers of cloth in each section from left to right.

Prefolds can also used as the absorbent insert in pocket diapers.

These are the absorbent pads for use in pocket diapers. Most inserts are rectangular or hourglass-shaped and made of organic cotton, hemp or micro-terry cloth. Typically, you will need one insert for every diaper.

Liners are a thin material used between a baby's bottom and the diaper itself. Liners are used to keep messes away from diapers, making clean up easier. New flushable, biodegradable liners work especially well for travel. As an alternative to flushable liners, you can use flat diapers in the same fashion to keep costs down and still keep natural soft fabrics against your baby's skin.

Doublers are thick rectangular pads that can be inserted between your baby's bottom and the diaper to provide extra absorbency. These are ideal for heavy-wetters or night-time use. Doublers are used in addition to an insert in pocket diapers, or as an extra layer in all-in-one diapers. They can also be used with fitted, flat or prefold diapers as an extra layer in the diaper cover.

Flat or Square Diapers
Flat diapers refer to the single-ply, square-shaped diapers like the diapers our mothers and grandmothers used. The types that you find in a store are not effective for use as cloth diapers but they make great liners, burp cloths or cleaning rags.

The water-repelling properties and breathability of wool are what make it popular for use as a diaper cover. Wool diaper covers are ideal for night-time use since it is bulkier than polyester counterparts. Take special care when washing and drying your wool products or they will dry out and become stiff.

Diaper Service Quality (DSQ)
Diaper Service Quality refers to a higher-end quality of prefold diapers. When purchasing prefolds for use as diapers, make sure they state the description: Diaper Service Quality or DSQ. Otherwise they will not be durable or absorbent enough for cloth diaper use. Non-DSQ pre-folds can be used as burp rags.

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