First off, you need to figure out what type of diaper you would like/prefer to go with:
All In Ones (AIO)/All In Twos (AI2): These are like disposable diapers as far as simplicity goes. Very user friendly. All pieces are sewn together and attached so you put it on your baby with one step and take it off with one step. No need for pins, snappis, or a cover.
This is one of my favorite AIO diapers. This is the BumGenius Elemental. You can see that when it is opened, it is all attached.
Pockets: These can be as simple as an AIO when put together. A pocket is a diaper with a waterproof shell made out of either PUL (polyurethane laminate) or fleece. On the inside it has a pocket made up of microfleece, microchamois, suedecloth, velour, minky, cotton, or bamboo. You stuff the pocket with inserts according to the type of absorbency you desire. Most pocket diapers come with an insert or two when you purchase the diaper. Pocket diapers work well for nighttime as they keep your baby feeling dry if the pocket is made from microfleece, microchamoise, or suedecloth, after your baby wets. These three fabrics act as a one-way gate in that the urine passes through and into the inserts, which absorb the urine, but don't come back through the pocket fabric, keeping your baby feeling dry. Also known as "stay dry" diapers. Pockets are my favorite diapers as they tend to be more absorbent than other diapers and they keep your baby feeling dry. If stuffed ahead of time, they are just as simple as an AIO.
This is an example of a pocket diaper, one of my favorite pocket diapers, Rumparooz. You can see in the image to the right, the pocket opening at the back of the diaper where you stuff your inserts. This is a one size (OS) diaper, which means it can be adjusted to fit from birth to potty training by means of a snap down rise. Also, these diapers are the only cloth diaper with a patented inner gusset, which make poop blowouts next to impossible. These diapers have a neat story behind them.
The following video will describe Rumparooz and show how a pocket works and how it is "stuffed."
Another one of my favorite pocket diapers are Fuzzibunz Elite. They too are a One Size (OS) diaper that fit from birth to potty training. They are different from most OS diapers in that they are adjusted through a button-adjustable elastic found in the waist (at the back) and in the leg casings. These diapers only come in snap closure.
You can see in the picture to the right that the pocket on this diaper goes all the way to the very edge, which is nice in that it keeps you from having to clean poop out of the pocket.
Fitteds: This type of diaper looks just like a pocket or AIO, except it does not have a waterproof material on the outside. So, this diaper requires a cover. These diapers are great for newborns and containing breastfed poop, as well as for nighttime from infant on up. This diaper is a great one to make yourself because it can be made from any type of fabric: cotton, terry, velour, bamboo, hemp, fleece, knits, you name it. There are many free and easy tutorials on the web that you can search and find easily if you are interested in going this route. This option is very economical. Fitteds come in snap closure, aplix (velcro) closure, and even without a closure that you can use pins or a snappi to close, and also come in sized or one size versions.
I haven't used fitteds since Boston was a newborn, but these are two of my favorites. To the left is a Kissaluvs size 0 that can snap down in the front until the umbilical stump falls off. To the right is a Sustainablebabyish bamboo fitted. These are amazingly absorbant but a little pricey so I got 3 and reserved these for nighttime use. Never a leak! Bamboo is an amazing material.
Prefolds: These are a flat cloth diaper with three sections in it and multiple layers, the majority of thickness being in the center. These require either pins or a snappi for closure and also require a cover. Prefolds are very economical and can also be used to stuff into pockets for added absorbency, and later on as burp cloths or even cleaning rags. When used as diapers, prefolds wash up very nicely.
Autumn from All About Cloth Diapers explains the prefold system very well:
"Prefolds are an absolute staple that every mother should have in her basket. They are amazingly durable and versatile. A prefold diaper is a rectangular piece of cloth divided into 3 sections. The outside layers contain 4 layers of fabric and the middle contains either 6 or 8 layers. The middle layer is the absorbent layer. You will see the prefolds described as 4x8x4 or 4x6x4. This describes the number of layers in the sections. It does not always mean the 4x8x4 are more absorbent. It is the weight of the fabric that indicates absorbency.
You will find some variations to the number of layers especially if you are purchasing specialized prefolds made with bamboo or velour. In some cases there may be 2 layers of bamboo with an extra layer of hemp in the middle.
Bamboo is a highly absorbent material, therefore needing fewer layers than cotton prefolds. This allows for a trimmer fit as well. It comes down to what you want to pay and how soft a fabric you desire.
Prefolds generally come in three sizes-
- Preemie (4-10pounds),
- Infant (newborn to 15 pounds) &
- Premium/Toddler (15-30 pounds).
There are different types of prefolds out there and many abbreviations for them.
- DSQ simply means that it is Diaper Service Quality versus the type of diaper you would find in your discount store. They are more absorbent than the Gerber brand and are the type that you would pay money for from a diaper service company.
- CPF stands for Chinese Prefold
- Another option for prefolds are Indian Prefolds. Indian prefolds are said to be softer than the CPF and are made of gauze rather than twill.
- There is also the choice of bleached or unbleached. Bleached prefolds are not whitened with bleach but rather with peroxide. Unbleached are in a natural cream colored state. Unbleached do require extra prep time to remove the natural oils in the fibers.
Prefolds can be pinned or snappied on your baby or you can fold it in 3 (trifold) and lay it in a cover."
Flats: Think pioneer days. These were probably the first cloth diapers used. Basically, it is just a large square of fabric that you fold up (you can search the web, YouTube is great, for different folds) and then secure with a pin or snappi (avoid poking your baby with pins altogether). Flats are usually made up of cotton and require a cover.
I have never used flats as cloth diapers. I do have some, but purchased them back when Dax, my first baby, was born to be used as burp cloths. They also make great, soft cleaning rags ;) These can also be folded up and stuffed in a pocket diaper for added absorbency. Flats also wash up very nicely.
Covers: Covers can come in a variety of materials as well, typically they are made out of PUL, but you can also find covers in fleece and wool as well.
Because I only ever used a cloth diaper that needed a cover when Boston was a newborn/tiny baby, these are the only two diaper covers I have tried. The one above on the left is a Rumparooz lil Joey cover and the one on the right is a ProWraps XS/Newborn. Both of these covers have internal and external gussets, which keep everything contained within the diaper. Another cover that is very popular and has been recommended to me (especially for older babies) is the Thirsties cover (below).
There are so many fun colors and prints to choose from!
You can find many video reviews on YouTube, or peruse Kim's website Cloth Diaper Finder for reviews on just about every diaper out there, along with video reviews. For more information on cloth diapers, check out my go-to website for answers to questions by Autumn at All About Cloth Diapers.
My go-to places to shop online for cloth diapers:
If you have any questions, feel free to post it in a comment :)