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Cloth Diapers 101

Cloth Diapering 101 - Cloth Diapers 101

Cloth Diapers 101 Graduate

Cloth diapers are just as easy to use as disposable diapers, however there is a bit of a learning curve when you're just starting out. Don't worry, Cloth Diapers 101 will introduce you to the four main cloth diaper systems and help you get started with a system that works for you. We hope Cloth Diapers 101 is the beginning of your love affair with cloth diapers!

Cloth Diapers 101 - Lesson 1: Cloth Diaper Systems

Lesson 1 is an overview of the four main cloth diapering systems, listed in alphabetical order. When you start researching cloth diapers you may be overwhelmed by the choices. Between mass-produced and WAHM-made (Work at Home Mom) cloth diapers there are literally hundreds of cloth diaper styles to choose from! But don't worry; all of these diapers can be divided into four main cloth diapering systems. After reading about the four main systems below, check out Types of Cloth Diapers for in-depth information about each specific type of cloth diaper.

The All-in-One System

All-in-one diapers (aka AIOs) are a one-step diapering system that is easy to use. They are shaped like disposable diapers and consist of a waterproof outer layer with attached absorbent layers; hence the name "All-in-One." Cloth Diapers 101 All-in-one System All-in-one diapers are put on just like disposable diapers: Open the diaper, lift baby's bottom, slide the diaper underneath, close the diaper and off you go! Like disposable diapers, all-in-one diapers come in different sizes so you'll need to buy bigger diapers as your baby grows. All-in-one diapers are available in a wide range of prices, but average about $15 each. Although all-in-one diapers aren't the cheapest option available, keep in mind that they do not need a separate cover so you're saving money there. Many families like to have some all-in-one diapers around for grandparents, babysitters, and for use at daycare.

The Fitted with Cover System

Fitted diapers are a two-step system that is fairly easy to use. Like all-in-ones, fitted diapers are shaped like disposable diapers, however unlike all-in-ones, fitted diapers do not have a waterproof layer. Cloth Diapers 101 Fitted System Using a cover over fitted diapers provides the waterproof layer, as well as double protection against leaks and blowouts. Fitted diapers can also be used under fleece or wool for ultimate airflow. Fitted diapers are put on just like disposable diapers, but because they require a cover there are two steps: Open the diaper, lift baby's bottom, slide the diaper underneath, close the diaper, then repeat with the cover. Although there are One Size fitted diapers available, most fitted diapers and covers come in different sizes so you'll need to buy bigger diapers as your baby grows. Fitted diapers and covers are available in a wide range of prices, from $5 up. Because covers can be aired out and used several times before washing you won't need as many covers as diapers so you'll save some money there.

The Pocket with Insert System

Pocket diapers are the newest addition to the cloth diapering world. A one-step diapering system that is easy to use, pocket diapers feature an opening so you can put in whatever amount of absorbency you want. Cloth Diapers 101 Pocket System Pocket diapers are shaped like disposable diapers and consist of a waterproof outer layer, a stay-dry inner layer, and absorbent insert that you stuff in the pocket. (Or use them unstuffed as swim diapers!) Once stuffed, pocket diapers are put on just like disposable diapers: Open the diaper, lift baby's bottom, slide the diaper underneath, close the diaper and you're done! One drawback to pocket diapers is that the synthetic inner layer is more susceptible to detergent build-up that affects absorbency, waterproofing, and retains odors. If you choose the Pocket System be careful to launder your diapers correctly. Pocket diapers are available in One-Size style and in various sizes that provide a perfect fit as your baby grows. They are available in a wide range of prices that average about the same as all-in-one diapers.

The Prefold with Cover System

Prefold diapers are hands-down the most economical choice, but also have the biggest learning curve. Prefolds are rectangular shaped, with extra layers in the middle third to provide extra absorbency. Cloth Diapers 101 Prefold System Prefolds need a cover to provide the waterproof layer. Prefold diapers can be folded into many different ways before being secured with diaper pins or a Snappi. If you're not up for pinning, fold a prefold diaper into thirds, place it in a cover, and put it on just like a disposable diaper. Prefold diapers come in many different sizes; infant and premium are two of the most popular. Be aware that the prefold diapers available in local stores are best kept for burp cloths and not used as diapers; for best diapering results choose Diaper Service Quality (DSQ), Chinese Prefolds (CPF) or Indian Prefolds (IPF). Prefold diapers average about $2 each, and covers average about $10 each, but remember that covers can be aired out and used several times before washing you won't need as many covers as diapers.

Cloth Diapers 101 - Lesson 2: Choosing a System

So now that you've read about the four main systems, how do you know which system is right for you? That's not an easy question because the answer will be different for every family. The best way to choose is to start with the system that you think will best suit your family and lifestyle. Buy a few diapers to try the system for a little while and see how it works for your child and you. Trust us, you don't want to go out and spend a lot of money buying a complete stash until you know what type of cloth diaper will work! Keep in mind that each brand of diaper will fit each child differently so if your first few diapers don't work you don't need to change systems, just try a different type of cloth diaper.

Cloth Diapers 101 - Lesson 3: Combining Systems

You don't have to stick to only one cloth diaper system; go ahead and mix things up! You may want to try fitteds or prefilds with covers at home and all-in-ones or pockets when you're out and about. If you have more than one child in diapers you may need a different system for each child because of skin sensitivities or body build. You may find that one system works best when your child is younger and another system works better when your child is older. You may be into variety like I am, and have to try a little of everything - that's cool too! No matter what system or combination of systems you choose, have fun with it and remember that you're not doing rocket science; it's just diapers. If one thing doesn't work try something else!

Cloth Diapers 101 - Lesson 4: Ready? Set... Go!

Ready... You've read up on the four main systems of cloth diapers?
Set... You've picked a system to try?
Go... Shopping of course!

Figure out how many cloth diapers you need, then start buying. Many families are try a wide variety of styles without spending lots of money by purchasing used cloth diapers. Some families look for cloth diaper packages to get their stash started, while other families prefer to buy their cloth diapers one at a time. Whichever way you choose, have fun picking out your cloth diapers!

Cloth Diapers 101 - Lesson 5: More Information

Feel the need to do some homework? Check out these helpful articles:


Happy Cloth Diapering!

Amy Sue

Amy S. Nogar - Owner Zany Zebra Designs, LLC
Cloth Diapering Expert and Advocate

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Cloth Diapering 101 - Cloth Diapers 101

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