The Pros and Cons of Cloth Diaper Types
- What: Cloth Diaper Choices
- Why: Decide what works best for you
- Where: Amazon, online, or in store
You’ve decided to give cloth diapers a try. But now what? Let’s do a little background. First, understand the main two parts of any diaper, cloth or disposable. The absorbent inside part collects pee and contains poop, and the outside cover (when working and used properly) prevents pee and poop from leaving the diaper area. Different substances can be used for absorption, but that’s another topic for later.
Cloth diapers come in three basic types. Once you know what the different types, you can narrow down the best brands and features for your particular bundle of joy. Let’s start with the cloth diapers that require the least effort on a parent’s part.
1) All-in-one Cloth Diapers:
There’s a reason these diapers are called all-in-one. There’s no assembly or extra work beyond laundering required. The absorbent part permanently attaches to the cover portion.You take a diaper, put it on your baby, and remove it when soiled. Then you clean it, and repeat. Over and over and over again.
All-in-one diapers offer the convenience of disposable diapers with less guilt. They are super simple to use and daycare centers and alternate childcare providers can use them with no instructions needed. They offer one-stop shopping and much fewer decisions to be made.
The downside? All-in-one cloth diapers cost more, and you have to clean them between each use, so you need more of them. Also, all-in-one diapers don’t offer many options to increase absorbency. For instance, if you need more absorbent diapers overnight, you can’t put two all-in-one diapers on, one on the top of another. (If you’re having a hard time picturing it, that’s about as silly as putting on two disposable diapers on top of each other.) Since the cover permanently attaches to the insert, they also have more bulk.
Finally, because it’s all in one piece, all-in-one diapers take much longer to dry. If you go this route, and particularly if the inside absorbent part attaches on both sides (in case you can’t tell, if the diaper leaves a flap hanging when you hold it up, you’ve got one side sewn down, not two), I highly recommend flipping the diaper inside out after washing and before putting them in the dryer so they dry faster.
2) Pocket Diapers:
Pocket diapers have two separate parts: the cover and the diaper inserts. The cover consists of an outside waterproof layer and an inner lining. At the top back of the diaper is an open seam that allows you access to the “pocket” between these two pieces of fabric. You stuff the absorbent inserts into the pocket of the diaper and voila! You have yourself a pocket diaper.
Pocket diapers feature an inner lining made from a moisture wicking material that keeps the cloth next to your baby’s skin dry. Pocket diapers cost less than all-in-ones, and the absorbency can be adjusted as needed by stuffing the pocket with more inserts.
But you have to stuff the pockets with the liners after every wash. While that’s not a dealbreaker, the disadvantage comes when you need to put them into the dirty diaper pail. Before you can complete that step, you have to separate the insert from the cover. It’s not a huge deal, certainly for wet diapers, but for poopy ones it’s a definite drawback. Drying time varies, depending on the exact material you use for the pocket cover and the inserts.
For prefold diapers, you buy the parts separately. While most pocket diapers come packaged with a least a couple inserts and you can certainly buy more (without buying additional covers), diaper covers rarely come with any kind of inserts. You buy the diaper itself, which is the interior absorbent portion, and then you choose which covers to buy. You fold the inserts (Curious about this? There’s lots of options and preferences on that, too!) and lay them inside a cover. In many cases, the cover holds the diaper insert in place. Otherwise, you pin it closed or use a Snappi to keep it in place.
Prefold diapers cost much less compared to the other options. Because the pieces are separate, you can choose the features and the price point of the covers and inserts individually. Prefolds dry much faster and the diaper covers themselves can air dry in a matter of minutes. Prefolds also offer tons of absorbency adjustments, since you can fold them in different shapes and layer the inserts on top of each other to increase absorbency.
But folding and placing them into diaper covers can take more time, and you have to make more choices both in diaper covers and inserts. Assembling the total diaper can be confusing for people who don’t use them regularly and figuring out what works best for you and your baby can take time and cause confusion.
Hybrids aren’t so much their own category as a sub-category of the others, but I wanted to include them for the sake of completeness. Hybrids offer a reusable cover and disposable inserts. You can also put reusable inserts into a hybrid, but then they are just a normal cloth diaper.
If you’re on bed rest or otherwise have a lot of time to kill reading online about cloth diapers, here are a couple of good guides and reviews for various types and brands.