Cloth Diapers 101

When most people think about cloth diapers, they think about the white cloth diapers that their mother and grandmother used, they think about pins and stinky diaper pails, and then they think about how convenient disposable diapers are these days. For many moms that is the end of the thought process on cloth diapers. As new moms we are inundated with information about disposable diapers, which are softest, the most absorbent, the easiest to use. We receive free samples in the mail. There is so much attention to disposable diapers that for many parents (myself included) the easy decision is to use disposables. However, we are here to help parents and parents-to-be understand their options for cloth diapers and the advantages of choosing cloth over disposable diapers.

This is the first blog in a series about cloth diapering. This will introduce you to the options that are available and some of the reasons for choosing cloth over disposables. Future blogs will cover how to cloth diaper (including overcoming a fear of “the poop issue” and stink issues), 10 reasons to cloth diaper, and many more topics!

For me, the big reason to choose cloth is the environment. Most newborns use 8-12 diapers a day, and infants and toddlers go through 6-8 a day. Over the course of the first 2-3 years of their lives, this results in about 6000 disposable diapers per child. For me the thought of contributing those 6000 diapers to the already overflowing trash problem we have in this country was a very hard pill to swallow. And yet, when I was pregnant and looked into cloth diapers I became overwhelmed by the options and to be honest, I was afraid of the “poop issue”. So we used disposable diapers. It wasn’t until I met other families who chose cloth diapers and was able to see them in use that I realized how great today’s cloth diapers are. While I had become overwhelmed by all the options in cloth diapers available to me, it is the options that make cloth diapers a great option for any family.

Of the three Woodland Mamas, we each have used a different combination, Mary uses prefolds with snappis, Emily uses a combination of fitteds and pockets and I use pockets almost exclusively. Each of us has our own reasons for those choices, so read on to see which diaper is the right choice for you, or choose some of each type of diapers to find out for yourself which ones you like the best!

There are three main types of cloth diapers: prefolds, fitted diapers, and pocket diapers.

Prefolds are what most people envision when they think of cloth diapers. They have been available for a long time, and in some ways are the simplest. Typically made of cotton, they are a rectangular piece of cloth with a thick section for absorbency running though the center. Baby is laid on top of the diaper, the front is pulled up to the belly and the front and back are connected with pins or a T shaped plastic item called a snappi (pins are totally unnecessary these days). Prefolds do come in sizes (infant, toddler, and premium) but the snappi allows you to fit the diaper to your baby. While many parents use prefolds without covers when baby is at home, the fabric will leak without a cover, which can be made of waterproof PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric) or absorbent fleece or wool. Although they do require some accessories, prefolds are also the cheapest option for cloth diapering.

Prefolds: $2-3 each, Covers $17 each
Start-up Packages: $250-300
Wash every 2 days:  # prefolds: 15-20; # covers: 3
Wash every 3-4 days:  # prefolds: 25-30; # covers: 5

Fitteds Diapers: Like prefold diapers, fitted diapers are made of an absorbent cotton, hemp or bamboo, come in sizes and can be used with or without a cover. Again, to prevent leaks a cover is necessary. Prefolds come in two options, without snaps, which require a snappy (just like prefolds) and with snaps, where the diaper has a row snaps for closing the diaper. The row of snaps allows for the diaper to be fitted to your child.

Fitteds: $13-15 each, Covers $17 each
Start-up Packages: $550-650
Wash every 2 days:  # fitteds: 15-20; # covers: 3
Wash every 3-4 days:  # fitteds: 20-30; # covers: 5

Pocket (and all-in-one) diapers:
Pocket and all-in-one (AIO) diapers are designed so that they do not require a cover for leak prevention. Both are designed with two layers of fabric, an outer (cover) layer, which prevents leaks and a layer of fabric up against baby’s skin. In addition to these two layers both diapers have an absorbent insert, which is sewn to the diaper in the case of (AIO) diapers and is a separate piece that is placed into the pocket of pocket diapers. Additional inserts can be added to these diapers for overnight or for heavy wetters. Like fitted diapers, pocket and AIO diapers have a line of snaps along the waistband to allow for size adjustments as baby grows. Pocket and all-in-one diapers are available in sizes or as one-size (usually 7 to 35 lb). Pocket diapers are also available in newborn sizes for the 5 to 15 lb range in the first few months of life. These have and additional row of snaps to adjust the rise of the diapers as baby grows. Although pockets are the most expensive individual diaper, they can be used through potty learning.

Pockets: $19-30 each, Covers: not needed
Start-up package: $500-700
Wash every 2 days: # pockets 13-15
Wash every 3-4 days: # pocket 15-20


Even our toys wear cloth! From left to right, the animals are wearing a prefold with a snappi, a fitted, and an AIO,

Even our toys wear cloth! From left to right, the animals are wearing a prefold with a snappi, a fitted, and an AIO.



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