Welcome back to part 2 of my cloth diapering series! Last time I walked you through what I use to cloth diaper my baby. Today I’m going to define some commonly used terms in cloth diapering (also known as CD online). All this terminology can seem overwhelming at first, but once you know what these things mean, you’ll be one step closer to not being scared of cloth diapering!
Types of Diapers
Flats are the most old-school type of cloth diapers! I may have gone this route if I hadn’t gotten my prefolds for free! They are basically one big piece of single-layered fabric. They are typically a gauzy cotton, but can also come in other fabrics like hemp. These diapers need to be folded, either around the baby and pinned on, or padfolded, to create the layers that will absorb nasties. They usually come in only one size, and different folds are used as your baby grows. These are typically the cheapest types of diapers and the easiest to wash and dry, since they don’t have layers that smells can get trapped between. These require a waterproof cover over top.
Flour Sack Towels. These are a type of flat diaper. Specifically, these are those gauzy white kitchen towels that you can buy for a dollar a piece. Yes you can use these to diaper your baby! Some people solely use FST for their stash!
These are essentially pre-folded versions of flats. They come in different sizes (but you don’t need to keep sizing up! Check out my last post to see how). They will have three sections, with the middle section having more layers and thus being more absorbent. They still need to be folded around the baby or padfolded and laid into the cover, though less folding is involved than with flats. They wash pretty easily since they are not attached to a cover, but they don’t dry as easily as flats since the multiple layers don’t separate. They also require the use of a separate cover.
These are very similar to prefolds, except they are cut to the shape of a diaper inside of a rectangle. They usually have snaps to hold them on the baby to prevent the need for a snappi or pins. These also require a waterproof cover.
These go over flats, prefolds, or fitteds to keep everything that isn’t a diaper dry. They are made out of PUL, wool, or fleece. Covers can usually be used multiple times before washing, as long as they don’t get poop on them. Some parents even use covers over disposable diapers to help prevent blowouts (poop explosions).
Pockets look like a PUL diaper cover, but on the inside there is a sewn in layer of microfleece. There will be a hole or pocket in the back, front, or both. This is where the insert goes. Pocket diapers need to have an insert inside to be absorbent. The “shell” part of the pocket diaper (without the insert) cannot be reused and must be washed after each use. The inserts also have to be removed after each use so that they can be properly cleaned. Pockets are typically cheap and easy to find, which makes them so popular. Once they are stuffed with inserts (which can be done ahead of time, typically once they are all cleaned) they are very easy for caregivers who are unfamiliar with cloth diapers. They wash and dry easier than AIOs and are more customizable, since you can stuff them with whatever you want, included pad-folded flats or prefolds.
All in Ones. These are basically a cloth version of a disposable diaper. There is nothing you need to do ahead of time to get these diapers ready to put on your baby (besides washing). They are usually the most expensive type of diaper. They do not require an extra cover, as they have an outer PUL layer attached. They have all of the absorbent fabric sewn in, making them not customizable, and also harder to wash and slower to dry. Some daycares will only accept cloth diapers if they are AIO style.
All in Twos. This diaper system consists of covers (sometimes here called shells) with a snap-in or lay-in insert. These work similar to pocket diapers in that you can have your shells all prepped with inserts already inside, so they only need to be put on the baby. The covers for AI2s can be reused, since they do not contain the microfleece layer that pockets have. AI2s can also refer to padfolding flats or prefolds inside of covers. This system is very customizable, since you can insert whatever you want into the cover. They are also easy to wash and dry since the inserts detach from the covers.
A lot of these diapers can come in one-size. This means that you only need one size “from birth to potty”, though usually the smallest setting is usually too big and/or bulky for newborns. Most parents either opt for a separate newborn-sized stash, or use disposables until their baby can fit into one-size diapers. The size of the diapers is adjusted with the “rise” to a small, medium, and large size.
Parts of Diapers
This is a set of 3 snaps on the front of the diaper cover, pocket, or AIO. These adjust the length of the diaper. Snap the lowest snaps to the top to make it a “small” size, snap the middle to the top to make a “medium” and leave it unsnapped for a “large”. The rise does not need to be unsnapped before washing, so it can stay in the setting you need until your baby grows.
This is the rows of snaps going across the top, and the corresponding snaps on the wings (the part that goes around from the back). They can be adjusted to fit your baby as they grow by just snapping the wings to different snaps across the front.
This is the elastic around the leg openings. These need to be inside the leg crease (or bikini line) to keep poop from getting out of the diaper. The size of the gussets is adjusted by how far in you snap the wings, and by which rise setting you have snapped.
This is two layers of elastic around the leg. It creates an extra barrier to prevent poop from escaping. Only a couple brands of diapers use double gussets. Some parents swear by them, while others don’t like the fit on their baby.
This is another word for Velcro. Not as many newer diapers use Aplix. The Aplix is typically in place of the hip snaps, so they come on and off more quickly and more similar to disposable diapers. They typically have another piece of velcro inside for the Aplix on the wings to stick onto. These are called “laundry tabs”, in other words they are a place to keep the sticky side of the velcro in place so it doesn’t stick on other things in the laundry. Diaper with Aplix wings will still have snaps for the rise if they are one-size. Some parents have a harder time with the snaps and love Aplix, while others say they like snaps better since it keeps older babies and toddlers from removing their own diapers.
This is a zippered bag made out of PUL material. These are kept in the diaper bag for diaper changes out of the house. They keep dirty diapers from touching other things in the diaper bag and keep all of the moisture contained so that nothing else gets wet. They’re also great for wet clothes or bathing suits.
Pail liners are also PUL bags, but they resemble reusable versions of trash bags. They usually have elastic around the top edge, and can be used to line a laundry hamper or other cloth diaper pail. This is where dirty diapers go until laundry day.
A sprayer is something that attaches to the plumbing of your toilet and is used to spraying poop off of diapers after your baby starts solids. You can also use a bidet or bidet attachment.
Biodegradable and flushable liners are made for cloth diapers. These are used as a barrier to catch poop so it can then be flushed, preventing the need to spray diapers. There are also microfleece liners that can be laid over prefolds, flats, and fitteds to prevent baby from feeling the wetness of the diaper and preventing irritation.
This is a rectangular piece of fabric sewn together with multiple layers. They can be made with any type of absorbent fabric used for cloth diapering. These are usually used with pocket diapers or AI2 systems.
These are similar to inserts, but usually are smaller in size and sometimes thicker. They are usually made with a more absorbent type of fabric such as hemp, and are usually added to a diaper to add absorbency for nighttime or road trips.
These are small squares of fabric, usually about 8” x 8” that are used in place of disposable wipes. Don’t be intimidated! They are actually usually easier than using disposable wipes with cloth diapers since the diapers and wipes don’t need to be separated into laundry and trash after use. Simply wet them with water (or a solution if you want to be fancy, but this does take extra time and effort!) either from the sink each time, in a large batch, or with a spray bottle. Check out my post of how I use cloth wipes here(link) and I’ll have a post all about cloth wipes coming up in the series soon.
Snappis are a T-shaped rubbery piece of plastic used to keep a flat or prefold diaper attached to your baby. You can use old school pins instead, but Snappis are great because there’s almost no chance of poking or hurting your baby with them. Attaching the diaper to your baby with a snappi is great during the newborn stage to help keep all that runny poop contained.
Not to be confused with regular fleece! Microfleece is very thin and soft. It is used to make the “pocket” lining of pocket diapers, sometimes lines AIOs diapers, and can be cut to make liners to lay in any diaper you want. Microfleece wicks moisture away, meaning baby won’t feel wet and their skin won’t get irritated, even when their diaper is saturated. Microfleece is not absorbent at all, so it must always be paired with an absorbent material to be used in a diaper.
Just like the microfiber cloths you might use for cleaning around your house, but these are typically sewn in multiple layers as inserts for pocket diapers. These are the most common types of inserts to come with pocket diapers as they are the cheapest to make. They absorb quickly, but don’t hold a large volume and can also release the liquid with pressure. So if your baby is going to be sitting in a carseat for example, that may just squeeze the pee out like a sponge. They do work great in combination with other more absorbent doublers like hemp or bamboo. Microfiber can draw the moisture from baby’s skin and be irritating, so make sure it doesn’t touch their skin directly. Always put it inside of the pocket, or have something else overtop like a prefold or microfleece liner.
These are not the same as bamboo inserts! They are usually just a microfiber insert, covered with an outer layer of “charcoal” bamboo or dark gray bamboo fabric. They work the same as microfiber inserts, but they can touch baby’s skin directly because of the outer layer protecting baby from the microfiber.
Typically what flats and prefolds are made of, though they can be made out of other fabrics as well. You can also find inserts made of cotton. Cotton is more absorbent than microfiber (and can be placed against baby’s skin), but not as absorbent as other materials. Can be used on it’s own. Many people just use cotton, at least during the daytime, with no problems. Can be found in conventional and organic.
More absorbent than cotton and microfiber, but not as absorbent as hemp. It is not always considered a “natural fiber” to use on baby since bamboo has to go through a lot of processing to be made into fabric. Not all bamboo is created equal either, so if you want to use it make sure to do your research on the brand to see what kind of quality it is.
Hemp is one of the most absorbent materials that can be used in cloth diapers. Typically it is used as a doubler for night time. Hemp does not absorb quickly, so it is usually topped with cotton or microfiber.
Polyurthane Laminate. This is the waterproof material that covers, pockets, the outer of AIOs, wet bags, and pail liners are made of. The outside is usually cotton material, and can be a solid color or be decorated with a print. Sometimes the outside is a soft minky material. The inside is covered with a plasticy coating to keep the wetness contained. They are not completely waterproof, so don’t try to fill your wet bag with water and expect it to hold! But they will keep your baby’s clothes, car seat, and the contents of your diaper bag dry.
Wool is another material that can be used as a diaper cover. How can wool be waterproof? It needs to be treated with lanolin, which is the natural oil produced by sheep to keep their wool waterproof and their skin dry. Wool can be reused over and over again without washing (so long as poop hasn’t gotten on the cover), and only needs to be washed and re-lanolized every few weeks. Wool is very soft and breathable, and keeps baby warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It isn’t as reliable waterproof as PUL and can sometimes cause wicking onto baby’s clothes, but it is a much more natural material and more comfortable for baby.
Fleece can also be used as a waterproof cover! It can be reused until stinky or dirty. It does not need any special treatment like wool and it is also much cheaper than wool. However it is not stretchy, and is not a natural material. It is softer than PUL, but not as soft as wool. A great alternative if your baby is allergic to wool. Fleece can also result in compression leaks if the diaper underneath is saturated. It also does not come in one-size, so you will need to buy multiple sizes to fit your baby as they grow.
Thanks for sticking with me through this whole list! Hopefully this helps get you started on your cloth diapering journey and kicks some of the confusion out of the process! Let me know in the comments below what type of diaper looks best to you! And if you have any other questions about cloth diapering or other terms you’d like me to clarify for you, be sure to Ask a Bestie! Be sure to stay tuned next week for part 3 of our cloth diapering series!