If you think cloth diapers mean rubber pants and safety pins, think again. Today's cloth diapers are easier than ever to use and they come in a variety of styles to suit just about any family's needs and budget. Here's a breakdown of the different kinds:
These are the classic diapers that your parents or grandparents may have used. Prefolds remain a popular choice because they're the least expensive cloth diaper to use. Instead of diaper pins, though, most cloth diapering families today choose to use plastic fasteners called Snappis or to simply lay the prefold inside the diaper without fastening it.
But prefolds have drawbacks, too. They can be bulky and they need to be folded, which can be intimidating for people unfamiliar with cloth diapers. Prefolds also require a separate waterproof cover. The covers can be reused several times as long as they're not soiled, which makes them an economical choice, but using a separate cover means that diaper changes will take longer and can get more complicated, especially if you have an uncooperative baby.
Contours are similar to prefolds, except that they are shaped to fit your baby, so they don't need to be folded. As with prefolds, you can simply lay them inside a diaper cover or use a Snappi to fasten them.
Because of their similarity to prefolds, contour diapers share some of the same disadvantages: They're bulky and they require a separate waterproof cover. Contour diapers also cost more than prefolds.
Fitted diapers are a step up from contoured diapers in that they have elastic at the legs and back to prevent leaks, making them better at containing messes. That allows you to reuse diaper covers more often and to use covers that aren't made of waterproof materials such as fleece or wool covers. (Some people prefer to use fleece or wool covers because they offer more breathability than polyester or vinyl covers.)
These diapers are known for their superior absorption and they fasten with snaps or Velcro, so there's less of a learning curve than with prefolds or contours. Their superior absorption and ability to contain messes makes them a popular choice for newborn babies.
However, like prefolds and contours, they tend to be bulky and they require separate covers.
Pocket diapers are one of the most popular types of cloth diapers because they're easy to use and dry quickly. These diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer sewn to a fleece inner layer. You must stuff a liner in between the layers for absorption. They come with Velcro or snap closures and some can be adjusted to fit children from infancy to potty training, meaning children weighing between 7-35 lbs. Their fleece liners wick moisture away from the skin, helping to prevent diaper rash.
The major drawback to these diapers is that they must be stuffed before use, which will add time to either your laundry routine or diaper changes depending on when you stuff them. Some people with larger hands also may find pocket diapers difficult to stuff.
As their name would suggest, these diapers contain everything in one -- a waterproof cover and absorbent inner layer. Because of that, these diapers are the most similar to disposables and the easiest to use. This makes them a great choice for people who are intimidated by cloth diapers such as daycare providers, babysitters, grandparents and new parents.
But the ease-of-use of all-in-one diapers can come with a hefty price tag, so these diapers are not a good choice if one of your main reasons for choosing cloth diapers is the financial savings. Additionally, because these diapers contain everything in one that often means it takes longer to get them completely dry after laundering.
Hybrids or All-in-Twos
Hybrid diapers include a waterproof cover that can be used with a cloth or disposable insert. These diapers are fast-drying, easy-to-use, trim, absorbent and economical. Because they can also be used with disposable inserts, they are also a convenient option to use when you're traveling, running errands or don't want to use cloth inserts.
The main drawback to hybrid diapers are that the inserts must be snapped or folded inside before use and the disposable inserts can be expensive.
Whichever cloth diaper you choose, you can rest easy knowing that you're putting less waste into landfills and giving your child a green start to life.