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Types of Cloth Diapers & Covers

Typically, you’ll need two parts to your cloth diapering system – the absorbant diaper, and the waterproof cover. There are a variety of different types of diapers you can choose from:

These are one-layer diapers, generally made out of 100% cotton gauze and are the most “old-fashioned” choice. Not very many sellers carry them, although I’ve seen them for auction at eBay. The advantages are that they dry extremely quickly and fit a large range of size. The disadvantages are the folding and pinning that are required.

This is one of the most popular options. They are similar to flats, but have multiple layers with more layering in the middle. They are referred to as 2x6x2’s, 4x6x4’s, 4x8x4’s etc. These numbers refer to the number of layers in the sides and middle of the diaper (i.e., 4x6x4’s have 4 layers in the sides and 6 in the middle). The Gerber diapers you see at Target and Walmart are prefolds, but they aren’t nearly as absorbent as the Chinese prefolds (CPF's) you can buy on-line.
They come on a multitude of sizes from preemie to toddler. I’ve used infant sized on my newborn, and regular and premium sizes on my toddler. I don’t expect to need larger sizes as the premiums are pretty big. The stitching on the edges of the prefolds are coded to tell you the size (for example, dark green = infant, white = regular, dark blue = premium). The infant sized have been perfect for my newborn from the day he was born up until now (2 months). Since I tri-fold them in wraps, I’ll be able to use them until they aren’t absorbent enough for him (as opposed to fastening them, where I’d be limited by whether or not I could get them around his waist.
I use regular and premium sizes on my toddler. The regulars are very trim and are great during the day. The premiums are quite a bit larger and thicker, but are good for naps and nighttime. Until not too long ago, Julia’s nighttime diaper was always a premium prefold, fleece topped doubler (see below) and a Dappi nylon cover. However, as she’s gotten older, her output has gotten heavier and we’ve moved on to hemp prefolds and Fuzzi Bunz (see pocket diapers below).
I used to always pin my prefolds (see here and here for pinning diagrams and instructions), but lately I’ve been tri-folding them because it’s faster and keeps wetness off of my babies’ waists.
Prefolds come in bleached or unbleached (abbreviated as BCPF or UBCPF). I’ve always gotten unbleached because I like the off-white color, they hide stains better, and I’ve heard that they’re softer. Prefolds need to be pinned, snappi’ed, or folded into a trim fitting wrap-style cover. Hemp prefolds are another variation and are more absorbent but much more expensive than cotton prefolds, but can be a good option for nighttime diapering (Babykicks, Polar Babies, and Mom and Me are some examples). I like prefolds because they store easily, dry quickly, fit a wide range of body types and sizes, don’t have elastic/snaps/velcro to wear out and are very absorbent.

This is another popular option. Fitted diapers have elastic at the legs and back and basically look like a disposable diaper (only much cuter, of course). They can have velcro or snap fasteners, plain or printed outers, and can be made from a variety of materials like organic cotton or hemp. There is a veritable smorgasbord of women making diapers from their homes catering to any size, shape, wetting ability, etc. of your child. They are often referred to as work-at-home-moms (WAHM’s). I’ve never really gotten into fitted dipes, so I can’t give any recommendations, but I often hear raves about Luke’s Drawers, Sugarpeas, Kissaluvs, Motherease, and Fuzbabies.

Since I’ve been pretty faithful to prefolds this whole time, I’ve spent most of my obsession trying to find the perfect diaper cover. For a long time, Dappi pull-ons were it. They are very trim, leak-proof and cheap. However, Julia’s bottom has become more sensitive and the one thing she really needs is breathability. Finding a cover that is breathable, trim and leak-proof has proven to be a long, but fun, process.
But let me back up and mention that there are several different styles of covers: 1) wrap – this refers to covers, which can be velcro or snap closing, that fasten in front, like disposable diapers. Bummis SIWW, Bumkins, and Proraps are examples of wrap covers. These can be used with fitteds, pinned prefolds, or unpinned prefolds; 2) side closing – these are usually snap closing covers, but there are some side-aplix covers out there. They can be used with fitteds or pinned prefolds. The Motherease Air-flow, Sugarpeas, and Polarbabies Happy Pants are just a few options in this category; 3) pull-on – Dappi pull-ons, Bummis whisper pants and Aristocrats are examples of pull-on covers. Pull-ons have the advantage of being quick and easy to get onto a squirmy toddler (even if they’re standing up), but they have the drawbacks that they can only be used with fastened prefolds or fitted diapers. Also, if you’re unfortunate enough to get a poopy blowout in a pull-on cover, it can be pretty messy.
Covers also come in a variety of materials. One of the most common is polyurethane laminate (PUL). This is a polyester fabric with a waterproof coating applied to it. It’s trim and relatively leak-proof, but not that breathable. Bummis SIWW, Airflows, and Proraps are PUL. Waterproofed nylon is used in Dappi pull-ons, Bummis whisper pants, and Bumkins. This is the trimmest, and in my opinion, the most leak-proof material. However, it also not that breathable and takes a little TLC (it shouldn’t be washed in hot water and should be line-dried). Then there’s polyester fleece (used in Polar Babies, fleece Sugarpeas, fleece Stacinators, etc.). Fleece can be very breathable (depending on what type it is. I believe it’s polar fleece, Windpro, Windbloc from most to least breathable). However, it’s pretty bulky and can wick moisture onto clothing if it’s compressed for a long period of time (like during a long car ride). Finally, there’s wool, which a lot of people consider to be the ultimate cover material. It’s natural, breathable, moisture-resistant, and anti-bacterial. Fuzbombs, Aristocrats, Sugarpeas wool, Stacinator wool, Lambkins, and Bizzy B’s are examples of wool covers. Here's an excellent review of the different types of wool covers, written by Karla (lifetapestry) at the MDC boards.
Here's my quest for the perfect diaper cover. It's not over yet -- I'm still trying to find the perfect combination of fit, trimness, and comfort.

All-in-Ones (AIO's)
All-in-ones are the absorbent part of the diaper and the cover combined into a single diaper, just like disposables. Again, there are a million WAHM AIO’s to choose from. The only one I’ve ever tried is the All Together Deluxe AIO, and I think they’re great. They’re trim, fit my kids well, hold in runny poops, are relatively inexpensive, and easy enough for husbands and babysitters to use. They have snap closures, so there’s no velcro to wear out, and they can take a real beating, unlike a lot of other AIO’s that need special care. I’ve used the same size M ATD’s on Julia and then Isaac for over a year now, and they still look and perform like new. They’re also relatively inexpensive compared to other AIO’s. That said, a lot of people don’t like the fit of these on their kids, and they aren’t absorbent enough for heavy wetters. In fact, I put away Julia’s L’s because she was soaking though them fairly often, which is why we now use premium prefolds and Bumkins. No more leaks!
The advantage of AIO’s are their ease of use. However, the biggest trade-off is trimness and quick drying time at the expense of absorbancy. Here's a great list (with pics) of some WAHM AIO's that are available, put together by Leighanne (mcimom at MDC).

Pocket Diapers
There’s one other category of diapers called the pocket diaper. These have a layer of fleece sewn to a cover (either fleece or PUL) with an opening in the back so that the inside of the diaper can be stuffed with any absorbant layer from CPF’s, to specially made stuffers (like Joey Bunz), hemp prefolds, or even hand towels. The biggest manufacturer of this style of diaper is Mother of Eden, which makes Fuzzi Bunz (FB). I just bought a few to use at nighttime and I think they’re fantastic. I stuff them with my Mom and Me soakers and then they’re as easy to put on as an AIO. The fleece lining wicks moisture away from babies' skin, leaving it dry to the touch. There are also WAHM pocket diapers with cute prints (for example, Happy Heinys).
Pocket diapers can be a little tricky to care for. Click here for my repelling fleece saga.

Doublers and Liners
Doublers are used to add absorbancy to your diapers. They're a great solution for naptime and overnights if you don't want to get a whole new diaper just for these heavier wetting situations. The only ones I've ever gotten are Waddlehoppers from Katies Kisses. These work great, but I think now you can get a better deal at SMJAE. I don't use doublers at the moment because my prefolds are doing fine at naptimes, and I'm using the Samuel's Soakers at night.
I used to also use fleece liners, but have recently ditched them to simplify my system even further. The advantages of fleece liners is that they keep your baby's butt drier than being directly against wet cotton, and poop tends to peel off of them. Also, if you do get a sticky poo, you can just swish the liner in the toilet rather than the whole diaper. You can also get flannel liners to get the easy swishability effect without the polyester (some babies are sensitive to polyester, and some moms are purists about not using synthetic fibers), or you can buy flushable liners that you just take out and flush. I've found that my daughter actually had more rashes when I used fleece liners and that poop peels pretty easily off of her prefolds. If she has a particularly squidgy mess, I just throw it in the bin and let the washing machine worry about it. Some people find this gross and either dunk their dipes or install a sprayer on their toilet that can be used to hose of the offensive matter. It's all up to you. Also, for what it's worth, I find that when my toddler's been eating well (i.e., a lot of whole grains, fruits and vegetables) her BM's are very well-formed and easy to dump.

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