Flats. A flat is a large, square piece of cotton, starting around 25″ by 27″ but shrink a few inches after washing. These are what your grandparents and great grandparents used. You have to fold these up and either pin them on, use that clever little snappi, or put them inside a cover. These are the most basic and versatile diaper around. You can use them for almost anything- from rags to diaper inserts to capes (just sew an S on for superman and off your little hero runs, right)? They need a cover if you use them as a diaper and don’t want them to soak through on your kids clothes or leak on the floor. These are wonderful to have around in an emergency basis. I have yet to try these but will be soon.
All these pictures were taken before washing. After they go through multiple washes, or “prepping” I will update with new pictures.
Prefolds. These are like a sized flat diaper, with three panels. The middle panel usually has an extra layer in it for extra absorption. Although these are called prefolds they are not. They are sized, and have three panels, so it is super easy to fold the sides up and just have a rectangle, but that’s best to use as an insert or inside a cover. I have only used prefolds folded up like that and inside a cover. You can also fold these like you would a flat diaper and pin them on. If you do that you still need a cover- or it will soak through onto clothes. Or just let them run around the house in just the prefold when it’s hot out. Change before it leaks.
These do have the upper hand on flats because they come sized, so you can get a tiny one for your newborn or a huge one for your toddler, and have those extra layers in the middle. I won’t give a run down on size here because it seems every company has it’s own sizing policy, with names like premie, standard, regular, premium, premium regular….and well you get the point. It’s just too much! Again, like flats these dry fast, but probably not as fast because of the layers in the middle panel. I’ve tried these a few times and have yet to get it right.
Everyone seems to have a favorite fold with these, same as the flats. Just youtube it and you can watch hours of diaper folding.
Fitteds. This is, I believe, where the more modern cloth diaper began. Someone realized, back when everyone had a machine and could sew on it, that they could cut up a prefold or flat, sew some elastic on it and make the job of folding a thing of the past. A fitted diaper is a bunch of absorbent material, cotton, hemp, bamboo- that can be put against baby’s skin, and is shaped like a disposable. It has elastic on the legs and usually on the back and some even on the front. They have tabs that come around to close it. Some have no closing system, so need a pin or snappi or just to be stuck in a cover. You’ll need one anyway because again, these absorb all the way through and will eventually soak through. Many have snaps or velcro (hook and loop/aplix) on the tabs, so it’s even more user-friendly.
Covers. Covers are designed to go over a diaper to make it water proof. You can put them over a flat, or prefold after it’s been pinned, or just stuff one inside the cover. You can also put them over a fitted diaper to make it leak proof (or that’s the goal, anyway). There are three general types: pul, a thin plastic kind that washes and dries easily and has pretty print options. Wool- supposed to be bullet proof. Rarely needs to be washed, but does need occasional lanonizing to make it water proof. Comes as a cover (pictured) or as pants/shorts/underwear or skirts. And Fleece- works like wool and needs little care. See picture.
Pockets. Pockets is wehre things get really modern. Not that there aren’t modern fitteds (I have a few), but these are even more convenient. These are again, disposable diaper shaped, but instead of being all of thick, absorbing materials, they have two layers. A layer against baby’s skin, and a pul layer. Pul is simply a water proof fabric. They have a gap in the back or front and you put in an insert that soaks up the pee. The fabric against baby’s skin wicks away the moisture, and the insert soaks it up. Like fitteds these have elastic on the legs to keep things from leaking out the legs. Pockets either snap or velcro shut. Once these are stuffed (you need to take out inserts in order to wash it) they work just like a disposable or all in one diaper- put it on baby, snap/velcro shut and off you go.
All in One’s. Also known as AIO’s. these are a lot like a pocket diaper, but the insert inside is sewn in. No need to stuff or unstuff the diaper. These are the easiest to use, most user-friendly diaper out there. Just like a disposable, only with all the benefits of cloth. They take a little longer to dry, because the insert stays inside, and are less customizable on absorbency. But many come with options like “optional pocket” so you can add in extra inserts, or doublers/soakers that go inside against baby’s skin to soak up a little extra, for overnight use or naps or long car rides. These are often easiest for people to use who are new to cloth diapering and want to stay away from folding/pins/covers. They come all together.
All in Two’s. I have no experience with all in two’s and have yet to purchase one. But from what I can understand an All in Two is just like an AIO only it comes with a soaker that you place inside the diaper against baby’s skin. Some snap in some just placed inside.
Hybrids. These are often used by families who want to be more eco-friendly but don’t want to deal with the diaper laundry etc. They are often a shell/cover with an insert that you can throw out/compost (um, would you use human waste in compost that goes on produce? Me neither) or flush (not into the septic tanks please). I’ve never used a system like this, but know some who have. I think they are like pockets- just a gateway into cloth diapering. Although they are advertised as best of both worlds- sposies and cloth, I see the worst of both worlds. The throwaway inserts don’t seem to do much to stop leaks or runny poop, so you end up washing all the covers. And you end up putting poop in the toilet and then dealing with garbage. I would rather just have the garbage or just have the laundry. But that’s just me. These systems are wonderful for some families and are greener than regular disposables.
OK, see my blog posts for more detailed reviews of these different systems, as I’ve made it my goal to try out each one! (barring the hybrid systems).