Cloth Diapering 101
If you’ve just begun searching for cloth diaper information, you are probably feeling overwhelmed by all the choices! You’ve come to the right place!
The Mama at Go, Baby, Go! Has put together a cheat sheet of cloth lingo to get you started:
Abbreviations: What do they mean?
- PUL- Polyurethane laminate. Polyester fabric that has been laminated to make it waterproof. TPU is a similar product, the polyurethane having been applied to the polyester using heat instead of chemicals.
- AIO- All-in-one. These are diapers that have everything you need to put on the baby in one convenient package. AIO’s tend to be more expensive and wear down quicker because of the heavy duty washing & drying.
- AI2 or Hybrid- All-in-two or hybrid diapers usually have 2 parts: the waterproof outer cover or shell & the absorbent inner portion. The absorbent layer usually snaps in or connects in some way to the waterproof outer. These are also called hybrids because many of the brands have a disposable option that is flushable or biodegradable.
- OS- One-size diaper. Meant to fit babies from approximately 8-35lbs. A row of snaps along the front allow you to adjust the rise as the baby grows while the fastener tabs usually allow crossover at the waist for a tight fit.
- PD- pocket diaper. This is a popular style of diaper that allow you to customize the absorbent portion of the diaper. There is a layer of waterproof PUL sewn together with a layer of soft fabric (microfleece, suedecloth, organic hemp fleece, etc) leaving an opening or pocket in which you stuff an absorbent insert (microfiber, hemp, cotton, etc).
- PF- prefold diaper. Prefolds are the workhorse cloth diaper and the most affordable option. Look for DSQ (diaper service quality) in either regular 4x6x4 layers (3 sections of the diaper, with the center being the most absorbent) or premium 4x8x4 layers. Sizes range from newborn to toddler fitting babies from 6lbs up to 40lbs. Preemie size is available for babies under 6lbs. Need help folding a PF?
- NB- newborn size, generally 6-10lbs but varies by brand.
Terms: What do they mean?
- Contour Diaper- Usually an absorbent fabric cut to a contour shape, rather than a rectangle like a PF. Can have fasteners like snaps or velcro, or none at all.
- Fitted Diaper- This is a type of diaper that is shaped to “fit” a baby much like a disposable. It can close with snaps or velcro and may have elastic leg openings to improve fit and contain messes. It can also be an AIO or PD, or it can be a diaper that requires a waterproof cover. Can be sized or OS.
- Cover- This is the waterproof layer of a two-part diaper system. It can be made of PUL, organic cotton, wool, fleece, etc. Closes with snaps or velcro and often has leg gussets to contain messes. Can be sized or OS.
- Soaker- This has two meanings: 1. Soaker refers to a cover made of fleece or wool. These types of covers are not completely waterproof, but “soak” in some of the wetness without wicking. 2. An inner layer of absorbent material in a diaper.
- Insert- This is the absorbent part of the diaper, made from microfiber, hemp, cotton, etc. And are typically used to stuff pocket diapers. Inserts made from natural fibers can be simply lain in a waterproof cover.
- Liner- This also has more than one meaning: 1. Absorbent liners (also called doublers) increase the absorbency of any diaper. (for instance, using a NB PF in a larger PF makes it a liner or doubler for overnight absorbency) 2. Some liners are not absorbent, but allow moisture to pass through & keep solids on top where they are easier to remove from the diaper. Can be biodegradable &/or flushable or reusable (made from microfleece or flannel).
- Wet bag- tote bags made from PUL are reusable bags for storing dirty or wet diapers. Can be washed with the diapers.
How do I choose the right diapers?
We always recommend trying out several brands and styles first, before investing in a large package. You can do this by purchasing several types brand new, and returning what you don’t like. You can also check for gently used diapers here. You can also try out one of our rental packages if you live in the San Antonio area.
Which ones should you try? That depends on your reasons for using cloth. Do you want only natural fibers to touch your baby? Then you’ll like Prefolds, fitted diapers or All-in-Ones.
Are you making the switch to save money? Then prefolds are definitely what you are looking for!
Do you want something convenient that a reluctant partner will be willing to try? Pocket Diapers or AIO’s are best for ease of use!
How many diapers do I need?
It depends on how often you want to do laundry. For a newborn, we usually recommend 36. You will change a baby's diaper 10-12 times a day until they are around 2-3 months. With 36, you will wash every 2.5-3 days. Save money by renting a diaper package. For an older baby, you will be changing diapers 6-8 times a day, so you will not need as many. Most parents find 24 is a good number, giving them plenty of diapers to space out washings.
How much will it cost?
That depends on the type & brand of diaper. Here are basic prices for popular diaper packages:
- For 36 Infant PFs and 6 PUL Covers you will spend approximately $185.
- For 24 bumGenius Pocket Diapers you will spend approximately $400.
- For 48 Thirsties Duo AIO Diapers (a two-size system) you will spend approximately $500.
- For 24 AIO diapers, you will spend approximately $550.
What else do I need?
* Cloth wipes - it makes sense to use cloth wipes if you are using cloth diapers. There is no need to separate the wipes from the diaper with all cloth. Just throw both in the pail & wash together.
* Wet bags - Small bags are a must-have for the diaper bag! Store your used diapers then wash the bag along with the diapers. Pail liners make wash day so easy & mess-free! Just turn the bag inside out into your washer and throw the bag in, too. No touching the yucky, smelly diapers!
* Liners - Exclusively breastfed babies’ poo doesn’t need to be removed prior to washing. It dissolves away in the wash. Once your baby starts solid food, sometime around the middle of the first year, flushable liners make it easier to remove solids before washing.
What about the poop? I am grossed out by the thought of touching it!
Exclusively breastfed babies’ poo doesn’t need to be removed prior to washing. It dissolves away in the wash. Once your baby starts solid food, sometime around the middle of the first year, flushable liners make it easier to remove solids before washing. No need to touch anything! Even easier & better is a diaper sprayer. Hold the diaper just inside the toilet, spray it off and toss it into the pail. Even without either of these, removing the poop from cloth diapers isn’t as gross as you might think. A simple swish in the toilet gets most of the large pieces off and the washer takes care of the rest. Just think about the gross ingredients in disposable diapers & how you are keeping that off your baby!
Can I still use cloth diapers when going out? It seems like a lot of trouble.
Modern cloth diapers make diapering on the go just as easy and convenient as using disposables. We prefer pockets or all-in-ones for the diaper bag, but many parents find their prefolds or fitted diapers and covers travel just as well. Simply bring a wet bag along, put your dirty & wet diapers in the bag, then dump them in your pail or washer when you get home. Dirty diaper worries? Liners make it easier to flush most of the mess, but even if you wait until you get home to deal with the poop, a sprayer takes it right off, or you can dunk a little to get the big pieces off. Diaper systems like Gro Via or Flip have a disposable insert option that many parents like.
How do I wash my diapers?
Recommended wash routines vary by manufacturer, but here is a basic routine & the one we use at Go, Baby, Go!:
1. Cold rinse with no detergent. This keeps stains from setting.
2. Hot wash/cold rinse cycle with detergent. Only use 1/2 of the recommended amount, unless it is specifically made for cloth diapers.
3. Doing another cold rinse with no detergent is optional.
4. Hang to dry in the sun to remove stubborn stains or tumble dry.
We recommend choosing a detergent we sell, because they are free of enzymes, phosphates, optical brighteners & any other additives that can cause build-up issues in your diapers. Build-up= Stinky, leaky & otherwise unpleasant diapers.
How do I fold a prefold?
Anything else you need to know? Just ask us!