|Photo from madehow.com|
Now let’s discuss the different types of cloth diapers in terms of the parts of a disposable diaper, with the plusses and minuses of each.
An all-in-one (AIO) cloth diaper is equivalent to a disposable diaper, except it’s reusable! It has a waterproof shell on the outside, probably something like polyester laminate, that fastens closed with Velcro or snaps. In the middle is the absorption, could be natural (cotton, bamboo, hemp) or synthetic (polyester). Then a stay-dry layer that rests against your baby’s skin, which will be made of a synthetic fabric. Here are some examples. I do not have a favorite all-in-one cloth diaper. Now for the plusses and minuses.
Prefolds with covers is the other end of the spectrum. The waterproof shell is the diaper cover, which is usually made of polyester laminate with Velcro or snaps. The absorption is provided by the prefold, which is basically a very thick rectangular piece of cotton cloth. Don't worry about why they are called prefolds. You can fold it in fancy ways, but I just fold it in thirds and lay it inside the cover, fasten the Velcro on the cover, and I'm done! There is no stay-dry layer. My favorite cover is a Thirsties cover – lightweight, very waterproof, and double leg gussets (2 sets of elastic at the legs which help to contain those pooplosions). I like unbleached prefolds – they absorb more and are better for the environment.
+ Cheap, cheap, cheap! By far the cheapest option
Last but not least is the pocket diaper. Pocket diapers are halfway between the all-in-one cloth diaper and the prefold with a cover. The pocket diaper is made of a cover and insert. The cover is both the waterproof shell AND the stay-dry lining, with a hole or pocket between the two – like an all-in-one diaper with nothing in the middle (no absorption). You stuff the pocket diaper with the absorption of your choice. Pocket diapers come with very absorbent synthetic inserts (rectangular white thing pictured above) that you can stuff inside the pocket to serve as absorption. You can stuff the cover with EXTRA absorption (extra inserts/doublers made of synthetic material or natural material like hemp, or even just one of your prefolds) for naps, overnight, long car rides, etc. So pocket diapers are a little more versatile than all-in-one diapers. Since you cannot reuse the cover (as you can with prefolds and covers), since the cover gets dirty with each using (remember part of the cover is against the baby's skin), about the same amount of laundry as all-in-ones, but faster to dry than all-in-ones since the insert is removable. My favorite pocket diaper is the BumGenius. I use it at night, stuffed with the synthetic insert plus two hemp inserts.
+ Easy: if you stuff ahead of time, just like a disposable
+ Medium expensive
- Lots to launder
Guess which cloth diapering system is my current favorite? You will find devotees of every variation of cloth diapers.
Some other great introductions to cloth diapers (types, laundering, cost, etc.):
Jillian's Diapers New to Cloth Diapers?
Cotton Babies Cloth Diaper Basics
Diaper Jungle Cloth Diaper Guide
The Eco-nomical Baby Guide (book) has a great introduction to cloth diapers.