For anyone who was awaiting the next part of my cloth diaper series, I’m so sorry because you’ve almost certainly had to move on to new sources for information since this took me so long to post. This is way overdue, but I didn’t want to ditch the whole series altogether. My hope is that this information will be helpful to someone, even if it’s many months or years from now.
As I mentioned in my last cloth diapering post, when I started doing cloth diaper research I learned that this was a whole world I never knew about. One of the hardest things for me to pick up and to find good explanations of was all the vocab required to understand what people were talking about. Some of the sources I was using to learn about cloth diapers were not even useful because they would throw around terms like doublers, flats, and pocket diapers and I had no idea what this stuff meant! So the whole goal of this post is to clear you up on the terms you’ll hear about cloth diapers so that as you move forward you will be able to make sense of what you’re reading or hearing.
Cloth diapering terms:
Prefolds and flats – These are probably what you picture when you think of cloth diapers. They’re the old fashioned kind that people used to pin on, but nowadays people use a snappi (explained below) to hold the diaper on and then cover that with a waterproof cover, or just lay the flat or prefold in a waterproof cover which will have a snap or hook and loop (Velcro) closure and that will hold the diaper on. Prefolds usually just need to be tri-folded, but flats are larger and need more folding. They are both usually made of cotton.
Snappi fastener (usually just called a snappi) – This is what people use to hold a prefold or flat in place if you are doing a more complicated fold than a tri-fold. I have never used flats, and I always tri-fold my prefolds, so this is something I have never used, but it is a fastener that doesn’t have any pins involved and I hear they are easy to use. Here is a link to a set sold on Amazon that has pictures of how they look and how they are used.
Covers – This is what people put the prefolds and flats in to make them waterproof and to hold them on. The covers have either a snap or hook and loop closure. Covers can usually be used more than one time in a row because when the insert (explained below) is soiled you can just replace it with a fresh one. You may want to run a wipe down the inside of the cover if it feels damp, but you can often use them two or three times in a row, at least with older babies that aren’t making as big of messes ; ). Below is a picture of the inside of a cover and the outside as it would look with the snaps set to a medium sized setting.
Inserts (sometimes called soaker pads) – Can be made of several different materials – cotton, bamboo, hemp, charcoal bamboo, and microfiber are common – and this is the absorbent part of any diaper it is used in. These can be placed in pocket diapers or covers, depending on the specific insert. A prefold or flat could be referred to as an insert, as well as the more common type that would be put in a pocket diaper which I have a link for here. Below is an example of a cover with a tri-folded prefold in it.
Pocket diapers – This is probably the most common type of cloth diaper. They have an outer waterproof layer, an inner soft layer (which goes up against baby’s skin – usually micro-fleece), and there is a pocket between those two layers where you slip an insert in (like the one linked to above). Pocket diapers always come with an insert. As opposed to covers with inserts where you can use the cover more than once if it doesn’t get soiled, pocket diapers cannot be used more than once since the micro-fleece (or whatever soft inner layer your diaper has) is still getting soiled even though it’s not absorbent.This picture should give you an idea of how a pocket diaper works. I have the insert pulled halfway out so you can see the different parts of the diaper.
All-in-Ones – These diapers have the waterproof layer and all the absorbency connected in one piece (as the name suggests). You don’t need to add an insert or anything to it. Simply put it on the baby just as you would a disposable. Below is one example. This particular all-in-one has absorbent flaps, which help it to dry a lot faster, but everything is still connected and you just line it up down the middle. Some all-in-ones do not have flaps and are completely sewn together.
Fitted diapers – These diapers tend to be very absorbent because the entire diaper is absorbent, rather than just having an absorbent insert down the middle. It has snaps built into it and is similar to an all-in-one, but the difference is that it is not waterproof so you need to add a cover over the fitted diaper. Here is a link to a fitted diaper. I have not used these particular diapers, or any fitted diapers for that matter, but I know a lot of people like these for nighttime.
All-in-Twos – A prefold or flat with a cover would be considered an all-in-two system since it’s two pieces that make up the complete diaper. There are also diapers that have waterproof covers with inserts made for them that snap in which are all-in-twos, as well as pocket diapers.
Doublers – These are just smaller inserts that you can add to any diaper for some extra absorbency.
Wet Bags – These are the waterproof bags you throw the soiled diapers into until washing day. They hold in the moisture and the stink. They get washed right along with the diapers. They have large versions which you can use at home or for long trips and small versions to throw in your diaper bag for on the go.
Pail Liners – These serve the same purpose as the wet bags, it is just an alternative method where you place this liner inside some sort of trash bin or hamper. It is also washed along with the diapers just like the wet bags
Prepping – This is simply washing the diapers after you have purchased them to prepare them to be used. The only reason it really has a name is because this is a little more than just one wash like you might do with clothing. Depending on the materials your diapers are made you may need to approach this prepping stage differently in order for them to start out as absorbent as possible. Some materials will have natural oils on them when you purchase them that you’re better off getting cleaned off before you start using them because it will hinder the absorbency. More on how to do this in a future post!
Stripping – This is just a heavy duty wash that you only need to do periodically if your diapers are smelling bad or not absorbing well. Sometimes you’ll get build up of either laundry detergent or maybe urine if they haven’t been washed properly, and this will cause your diapers to either smell terrible or not work well. Again, more on how to do this in a future post.
Cloth wipes – This is pretty self-explanatory but I had no idea cloth wipes existed until I had already spent substantial time on cloth diaper research. There are flannel wipes, cotton wipes, bamboo wipes, many different materials, or you could use any kind of cloths you want. I would highly recommend anyone cloth diapering to use them because they just get thrown in the wash with the diapers anyway, and it’s actually inconvenient to use disposable wipes with cloth diapers because then you need a separate place to put the dirty wipe that needs to be thrown away since it shouldn’t be thrown in the wet bag or pail with the diapers. For me the cloth wipes were way easier. I’ll touch on how to use these again in a future post.
I believe that is all (or at least most) of the terms you’ll hear in relation to cloth diapering that need some explaining. I hope this all made sense and is helpful for either figuring out what items you need, or how to use what you have already purchased. I know this is a lot of information, and if you’re someone who is trying to retain it all you may be overwhelmed, but trust me, soon it will all be second nature and you won’t even have to think about it. I recommend using this post as a reference and not trying to remember everything!