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CLOTH DIAPER SYSTEM COMPARISON Cloth Diapers have come a long way from the ones our mothers and grandmothers used. There’s a large selection of styles now to fit a variety of tastes and needs. While it’s wonderful to have all these choices, it can be hard to decide what will work best for you. Below you’ll find the different styles available along with their advantages and disadvantages. First as a quick overview, you need absorbent fabric close to baby to absorb bodily fluids: fabrics like flannel, hemp, cotton fleece, sherpa, birdseye, velour, terry, and knit – we always prefer sticking to the most natural fibres possible to reduce the risk of skin reactions. Then, you need a waterproof or water resistant cover to keep baby’s (and yours) clothes dry. Covers are generally made from wool, polyester fleece, PUL (polyurethane laminate), or nylon. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call all covers “waterproof” in the table below, though technically wool and fleece are water resistant. Description Advantages Disadvantages Flat with Flats are the most basic diaper you can buy. It’s simply Flats are the most economical choice. Since They do take more time to learn to use and waterproof one large layer of fabric. You have to fold it quite a bit they are a simple design, they don’t have elastic while some people can get a great fit, cover to get it to fit baby. (There are many types of folds) It to wear out, snaps to break off, or Velcro to lose others never get the hang of them. You do must be pinned or Snappi’ed on (A Snappi is a rubber its stickiness. They dry very, very quickly, so have to fold them and changes will take device that has three arms with small hooks on the end. you can skip the dryer altogether to save a little longer than with an AIO or pocket diaper. You hook two arms into the diaper fabric at the waist money. and one into the fabric at the crotch. It will look like a “Y” when you’re finished.) Prefolds with Prefolds are made of absorbent fabric and are One of the biggest advantages is cost as these They do take more time to learn to use waterproof rectangular in shape with extra layers of fabric down are much cheaper than fitteds, pockets, or them than it does to learn to use some of cover the middle. They have no elastic and must be folded to AIO’s. Another huge advantage is longevity as the other styles. Some people never do get the correct shape to fit on your baby. They do not have with flats. People who are really good with quite as good a fit, so they have more poop snaps or Velcro/aplix, so they must be pinned or prefolds get as good a fit as fitted diapers. blowouts, which means more soiled Snappi’ed on. Some people simply lay the prefold in a covers. You do have to fold them which tight fitting cover, though they don’t always stay in can take longer. place on active toddlers. Fitted with Fitteds are entirely made of absorbent fabric, with the As a general rule, fitteds cost less than AIO’s or The main disadvantage is that it takes waterproof exception of a few that come with stay-dry inners. pocket diapers. Fitted diapers are very good at longer to change your baby since you have cover They have snap or Velcro/aplix closures. They have containing messes. If poop leaks out of the to put on a separate diaper and cover. It’s elastic at waist and legs to give you a good fit. After diaper, then the cover acts as a back up to keep only a few seconds, but it can seem longer you snap the fitted diaper on, you then have to put a it in. (Disposables don’t even have that!) You when trying to change a squirmy or diaper cover over it to keep anything baby sits on dry. get complete coverage with a fitted since the protesting baby. fabric goes all the way around baby. AIO’s (All‐in‐ These diapers have the absorbent layers of fabric sewn They are especially great for babysitters, As with disposables, you do have to ensure One’s) to the waterproof cover, so the diaper and cover are all- grandparents, or others who don’t regularly a really good fit, or leaks are more likely in-one. They use either snaps or Velcro/aplix (a brand change baby’s diaper since they are so simple. than with systems that use separate covers. of hook and loop closure) to close the diaper. There is True AIO’s generally take longer to dry elastic at the waist and legs. AIO’s are the easiest than other cloth diaper systems since the diapers to use and most resemble disposables in style. waterproof layer doesn’t allow air to circulate very well, and drying the waterproof layer can shorten its life span (it will lose its waterproofness over time). Description Advantages Disadvantages AIO’s with The soaker is the middle part of the diaper that has the These diapers are very easy to use, but you will One problem is that most soakers have no lay-in or most layers of absorbent fabric. In this case, the entire need to explain the importance of the soaker and elastic, so if you have a poop blow out, the snap-in absorbent part is called the “soaker,” and it’s usually how it needs to be in the correct place to work shell will get soiled and can’t be reused (so soakers either rectangular or hour-glass shaped. Basically, you to those who aren’t familiar with them. (If the pack two if running errands). Also, since have a waterproof outer shell that snaps or velcros on. soaker is folded down with a boy, for example, the soaker only covers baby through the The soaker is separate and completely removable. It you’ll have major leaks since his wet zone middle of his or her body, if your baby snaps onto snaps at the back of the outer shell, so it’s won’t be covered.) Since the soaker is sleeps on his side, you’re more likely to lying on top of the cover or outer shell. detachable, this set up has a shorter drying time have leaks than with a system where the than true AIO’s and solves the question of how diaper goes completely around the body. clean the AIO will get. Also, you can reuse the Especially, if you have a little boy – his outer shell more than once as long as it isn’t aim can entirely miss the soaker if the soiled. You just snap in a clean soaker. diaper is loose and he’s sleeping on his side. Pocket (or This is similar to the snap-in soaker AIO. However, the Once stuffed, this set up is as easy to use as a Stuffing the diaper can be a little bit of a envelope) absorbent part of the diaper is an insert that goes true AIO and is as good for babysitters and hassle, though, since you need to be sure to diapers between a stay-dry layer of fabric which is the inner others. Baby’s bottom feels nice and dry cover the width of the diaper well to and a waterproof layer of fabric which is the outer. The because of the stay-dry inner layer. Also, you prevent leaks. Some people do not like inner and outer are sewn together like a cover except can stuff it with as little or as much fabric as pulling the wet insert out for washing. The there’s a hole in the back or front waist where you you need depending on the situation. Pocket inserts do need to be pulled out for insert the absorbent fabric. The inner is usually made diapers are also nice for long car rides since washing in order to get clean. For side of either polyester fleece or suedecloth. Both fabrics they keep baby’s bottom so dry. sleepers, you have the same potential for allow liquid to pass through while giving your child a leaks as you do with a snap-in soaker AIO, more stay-dry feeling than cotton. You can stuff the and you need to be sure to get a good fit in pocket diaper with the manufacturers’ inserts or use the legs to avoid poop blowouts. any absorbent fabric you have on hand – dish towels, microfiber towels, prefolds, old t-shirt, etc (if fabric is a cotton and polyester blend, be sure to keep polyester content to 25% or under, or the fabric won’t absorb enough). We highly recommend buying a few diapers in different styles or taking advantage of a Try Before You Buy program to find out what works best for you and what you enjoy using the most. If you decide against prefolds or flats, you can always use them in a different system as a night-time doubler. If you decide against fitteds, AIO’s, or pocket diapers, there’s a large market for used cloth diapers online which has only grown every year. Also when buying fitteds, AIO’s, or pocket diapers, buy from a few different manufacturers as each brand will fit differently. What works for a short, chubby baby may not work for a tall, slender baby. And keep in mind that you can always use fitteds or prefolds at home and AIO’s or pocket diapers when going out for a long period of time. Also, be sure to price compare over the “life” of your system rather than the price of individual diapers. Once you find your system, you’re set! Your baby will appreciate the softness of his or her cloth.
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