Okay, here goes!
Cloth diapers basically come in two styles. Now this last statement might get me in some trouble, because the lines between styles of cloth diapers are really grey. For the sake of keeping this simple, however, you will have to run with me. I call them the "classic cloth diaper" and the "modern cloth diaper."
The first style of diaper I want to show you is the classic cloth diaper. Basically, this is more along the lines of what your grandma is imagining when you tell her you want to try using cloth diapers. The most common version of this style is the prefold.
Prefolds are made of layers of cotton fabric which have been sewn together for maximum urine absorbency. These are by far the most economical cloth diaper option available. A single prefold, on average, costs $2.
How does it work? The classic way prefolds are used is that they are folded all fancy-like, then wrapped around baby's bottom and pinned closed. Yes, you got it right. There is nothing there to protect you, or the floor, from getting wet once the diaper gets soaked through. There is also nothing to keep poo contained inside. This is why your grandma cringed when you said "cloth diaper." Pretty sure I would cringe, too, if this was my only experience with them.
Lucky for our generation, someone came up with a brilliant idea - make a waterproof cover! And put elastic around the legs and the back! So this is how you do with a prefold instead - fold it in into thirds and place it inside the cover. Then the cover is snapped onto baby.
[Note: there are parents who still do the prefold sans cover. I have nothing against them choosing to diaper that way. For most parents jumping into the world of cloth diapers, however, using just prefolds is a really scary idea.]
There are two variations to the prefold. Why? because innovative moms have found ways to make the prefold idea work better. Names for these variations that you will find are "fitted diaper" and "contour diaper."
Contour: essentially, the prefold grew some curves. The point of this design is to contour around baby's bottom, thus doing a better job of keeping poo on the absorbing part and away from the cover.
Fitted: This variation is a contour diaper that had closures put on it - either snaps or velcro. Why? some moms preferred to have their contour diaper stay put better. Fitted diapers also usually have elastic sewn in around the legs and the back. This makes it harder for poo to leak out.
[Okay, so time for my honest opinion. I have all three variations, and have used each one. Honestly, the only reason I see the need for the contours and the fitted diapers are if you have no interest in using a waterproof cover. Some parents don't use covers, and they have their reasons for that. I am not one of those parents. I like my covers.]
What makes this first style category confusing is that the cloth diaper companies label them as "diapers." They are diapers by definition because they absorb. However, none of them have the waterproof cover. Don't forget that crucial piece of information. No waterproof cover.
Whew. You made it halfway. Now go take a quick potty break and then come right back!
The second style of is the modern cloth diaper. Remember the three basic parts of a cloth diaper? Liner, insert, cover. In modern cloth diapers, all three of these parts are packaged together. This style of diaper is commonly labeled by the cloth diaper companies as the all-in-one.
Here is an example of the all-in-one. The liner and cover have been sewn together, with one end open, which creates a pocket. The absorbent insert is stuffed in-between the liner and cover, and the diaper is then ready for baby.
But the all-in-one is technically made of two separate parts! I know, I know. I feel the same way. Technically, the diapers with the pocket in-between the liner and cover are call "pocket diapers." True all-in-ones have the insert sewn either inside, or attached to the liner like a tongue.
However, I like to consider all these variations "all-in-ones" because all the pieces come together from the manufacturer. When you buy an all-in-one, regardless of the variation you choose to buy, all three parts of the diaper will be provided - liner, insert, and cover.
This style of cloth diaper is what most cloth diaper users consider to be the simpler style. These diapers are designed to mimic disposables in convenience and effectiveness. All-in-ones are a great style of diaper to use if you want to try using cloth diapers but are feeling a little intimidated about the whole thing.
So what exactly is the different between the two? Its really a matter of preference. I use both styles regularly - a prefold with a cover when Kiddo is awake, and an all-in-one when she is asleep or when we go out. They both work pretty darn well. Here are a couple things that are different about the two styles:
The classic style is the cheaper style of cloth diaper. You can re-use a cover with three or four inserts before you need to wash the cover. This style also tends to be the more natural/organic variation.
The all-in-one is more like a disposable diaper. When the diaper gets dirty, you simply throw the whole thing into your bin, and put another diaper on. This is the kind of cloth diaper you show when trying to convince your husband or the babysitter.
What's the same? Both styles work, and they both have adorable patterns.
Reader response time! This is a chance for my experienced cloth users to help out the new cloth diapering parents - what style is your favorite, and why? My favorite is the modern cloth diaper with the attached tongue. Why? Because all the parts are attached together, but the diaper dries quickly because the tongue comes out of the pocket. I look forward to hearing your responses!
Alright, think you can do this cloth diaper thing? Click on the link to head over to Part Three of the Poop to find out!