The All-In-One, or AIO, is the easiest to use cloth diaper, which is most similar to disposable diapers in regards to functionality. The inner absorbent material of the AIO is sewn onto the outer waterproof material creating a one-piece diapering system.
To use an AIO cloth diaper, simply put the diaper on your child. When the diaper is ready to be changed, throw it into the diaper pail and put a new AIO on your child. That’s it. These diapers function in the same way as disposables, except that they are thrown into the laundry to be washed & reused, rather than being thrown into the trash.
The All-In-Two, or AI2, is the most customizable diapering system. This type of cloth diaper has two separate parts, the inner absorbent material, and the outer waterproof material.
There are two main types of AI2 systems.
The first type of AI2 has an outer waterproof material with a sewn in absorbent body on the inside & will come with a removable soaker pad. The difference between an AI2 and a true AIO is that the AI2 soaker pad can be snapped in & out. This “snapping in” of the soaker pad is an additional step that you must take with an AI2 system.
Sometimes these type of diapers are advertised as AIOs, because technically you could leave the soaker pad in and it would function the same as an AIO, however, I have found that the soaker pad sometimes comes off during laundering. Some people like to be able to remove the soaker, because it speeds up the drying process, while others prefer a true AIO system for the simplicity.
Another benefit of the removable soaker, is the ability to customize the absorbency. Maybe you’d like to use a flat or prefold in place of the included soaker pad. If you need more absorbency for overnight, just snap in your overnight insert and you are set. Perhaps you prefer a different type of fabric such as hemp, cotton, or bamboo. The options are limitless for the AI2 system.
The AI2 system also allows you to use the same waterproof cover for multiple diaper changes. When it is time for a change, as long as the cover doesn’t have any poop on it, you can toss the wet inner material into the diaper pail and reuse the cover with a new insert/soaker/prefold, or whatever type of inner absorbent material you are using.
Pocket diapers are a popular choice for parents who prefer a “stay-dry” cloth diaper. This type of diaper has an outer waterproof cover with a sewn in polyester inner. There is a slot, or pocket, in between the waterproof outer material and the polyester inner. This is where the absorbent material gets stuffed in.
There are a lot of options for this inner absorbent layer that goes into the pocket, but commonly pocket diapers will come with a microfiber insert. However, you can use whatever type of absorbent material you prefer. Cotton, hemp, and bamboo inserts can be swapped out with the microfiber. You can also use flats or prefolds inside of the pocket.
The polyester inner liner is typically made of fleece or suedecloth. These stay-dry materials wick the moisture away from baby’s bottom. The urine goes through the stay-dry layer and down into the absorbent material that is inside of the pocket, leaving the liner and baby feeling dry.
The stay-dry feature of the pocket diaper is a big selling point for this type of diaper, though I would like to note that there are stay-dry liners on the market that you can add to any cloth diaper system.
Unlike AI2 diapers and regular diaper covers, the outer waterproof cover (shell) of a pocket diaper cannot be reused for multiple changes. Once the pocket is soiled, potty or poop, the whole thing has to go in the diaper pail. Get a clean shell and stuff a clean insert in, and you are good to go.
One drawback of most pocket type diapers is that the insert has to be removed from the pocket of the soiled diaper before going into the laundry. Yuck. There are some brands of pockets that can be thrown right into the wash and the insert will agitate out during laundering.
A diaper cover is simply the waterproof outer layer of the diapering system. A cover is used over flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers. If you are holding a baby and using any of these types of diapers without a cover, it won’t be long before you get wet!
Covers are typically made with a material called PUL or TPU. This is a plastic coating that is bonded with fabric to create a waterproof material.
If you prefer to use non-synthtic diapering materials, you can opt for wool diaper covers. You can read more about the benefits of using wool in an article I wrote here.
Covers are available in both snap and hook & loops closure.
A flat diaper is a big, square, thin, single layer of absorbent material. The flat is layed out and then folded. A popular method of folding flats is called the “pad fold” or “trifold”. It’s super easy to do, and you simply lay the pad folded flat into a diaper cover, then snap or velcro the diaper cover onto baby.
Another method is to fold the flat and then fasten the flat onto the baby with pins, a snappi, or some other kind of fastener. Once you have the flat fastened onto baby, then you put the diaper cover on.
The benefit of this method is getting a better fit, and better containment when baby poops. There are a TON of ways to fold flats. It takes time to learn and do, but some people find it rather fun.
Flats are easy to clean, dry very fast, and are incredibly inexpensive. They are also multipurpose. I use flats as burp cloths, nursing covers, and blankets.
A Prefold diaper is a retangular shape that is comprised of several layers of absorbent material. Typically a prefold is sewn in three sections, the middle secton having the most layers. You might see a prefold described as 4-8-4 ply. This means that the two outer sections have 4 layers of material, and the middle section has 8 layers.
The three sections are what give the prefold its name. You lay the prefold out flat and then it easily folds into thirds. This makes the prefold version of the pad fold, which again is just laid right into the cover and then put onto baby.
Like flats, you also have the option to fasten the prefold onto the baby before putting the cover on.
Prefolds are also easy to clean and dry.
A fitted diaper is like a prefold that has been cut into a contoured diaper shape, elastic has been added to the waist and leg holes, and some have snaps.
Fitteds make great overnight diapers because they have the super absorbency of a prefold diaper with the added protection of a great snug fit.
If your fitted has snaps you simply snap it on and then put the diaper cover over it. If you opt for a “no-closure” style fitted, then you will need to fasten it before putting the cover on.
Cloth diapers come in different sizes. Depending on which type of system you choose you may have several sizes to choose from.
Almost every type of cloth diaper will have a newborn size available. Though babies typically grow out of newborn size quickly, this size makes for a really nice fitting cloth diaper that isn’t super bulky.
Another cloth diaper term is “one-size”. A one-size diaper is made to fit a baby from birth to potty training. Generally these type of diapers will have several snaps on the outer cover, which will allow you to adjust the fit of the diaper.
“Sized” cloth diapers fit much better. Prefolds are commonly available in several sizes, though other diaper systems can be sized as well. Manufactuers will give you age/weight recommendations for each size.
The waterproof outer material of a diaper will have the option of snap closure, or hook & loop closure.
Snaps are aesthetically pleasing, durable, and fit well. I find them more cumbersome to put on than hook & loop.
Hook & Loop, or Aplix, or Velcro. Why are there so many names for this closure? Whatever you like to call it, this closure is easy to use, and quick to put on. With two children in diapers, I prefer velro. I do find that sometimes the fit is lacking, and the top of the waist can sink down inside of the diaper. This causes the baby’s skin to rub against the velcro and the PUL can get damp. If you put the diaper on properly, you probably wont have this issue.
The choice of closure really comes down to personal preference. I have gone back and forth. Both serve their purpose, and you might like to have some of each.
Cloth Diaper Accessories
Diaper Pail & Pail Liner – For storing soiled diapers.
Wet Bag – For storing soiled diapers in the diaper bag.
Fasteners For Flats, Prefolds, Fitteds – Pins, Snappi, Boingo
Cloth Safe Diaper Cream/Ointment
Nice To Have:
Cloth Diaper Sprayer – For spraying poop off of diapers before throwing into pail
Disposable Diaper Liners – Makes poop cleanup less messy/easier
Doublers – Boosts absorbency of diapers