Parenting Tips: A Guide To Using Cloth Diapers

You want to use cloth diapers but don't know the difference between a CPF and an AIO. Information on different materials.

Cloth diapers today are quite different from the cloth diapers of even a generation ago. Though you can still buy and use flat diapers and plastic pants, there is an easier (and better) way!! This article will provide you with an overview of the diapers available on the market today.


There are many types of diapers available today. We will start with the cheapest and work our way up.

Prefold diapers. Prefold diapers are usually made of cotton or hemp and come in only a few sizes (infant, premium, and toddler). They are often called "CPF" diapers, which stands for "Chinese Prefold," though there are several types (European, Egyptian, and Chinese). Prefold diapers consist of a rectangle of fabric that is serged together on the two shorter ends. The diaper is usually 4 layers thick, with an extra 2 or 4 layers down the middle for extra absorbency. Prefold diapers can be folded in many different ways to fit your baby. They can be held together with traditional diaper pins or with a snappi (see "accessories"), or they can simply be folded into a diaper cover and held in place by the cover. Prefold diapers are the cheapest cloth diapering option, and also the most versatile. They may be folded in many different ways to fit your baby, you can just buy one size if you desire, and they will last through dozens of children. They must be used with a cover.

Fitted diapers. Fitteds are created to look like disposable diapers. They have elastic around the leg openings, and usually at the back and/or front, as well. Some fitted diapers require the use of pins or a snappi, but most are held closed with hook-and-loop tape or snaps, which can be quite handy. Fitted diapers are slightly more expensive than prefold diapers, and are less flexible. However, they are more convenient and easier to use for people who are accustomed to diapering with disposable diapers. They must be used with a cover.

Pocket diapers. Pocket diapers consist of one waterproof layer on the outside, one moisture wicking layer on the inside, and an opening in the front or back (the pocket). When in use, this pocket is stuffed with a prefold diaper or a special stuffer to absorb moisture. The moisture wicking layer keeps baby dry and pulls moisture through to the absorbent layer. Once used, the absorbent "stuffer" is pulled out for laundering, allowing everything to get very clean and dry more quickly than an All In One. Pocket diapers are a great compromise between fitted diapers or prefold diapers and All In One diapers.

All in One diapers. An All In One (AIO) diaper is exactly like a disposable diaper, only it is washed instead of thrown away. The AIO has everything you need - the waterproof layer on the outside and the moisture absorbing material on the inside - all in one diaper. These diapers are the diaper of choice for babysitters, daycare, or grandparents. However, they do have their drawbacks. They are the most expensive type of diaper you can buy, and they can be hard to wash and dry.


Most cloth diapers require the use of a cover. Like diapers, there are many cover options available on the market today. They come in three main materials and in two main styles.

Styles. Diaper covers come in two styles - pull-on pants or wraps. The pull-on pants are just like they sound - little waterproof pants that are pulled on like shorts. The main drawback to pull-on pants is that if they get poop on them, it can be difficult to remove the pants without spreading the poop all over. Wrap covers fasten together in the front or on the sides with hook-and-loop or snaps. They go on like a disposable diaper (and like a fitted diaper), which many cloth diapering families find to be easier.

Materials. Diaper covers come in three main materials - PUL, fleece, and wool. Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) is fabric that has been laminated with polyurethane to make it waterproof. Unlike the plastic pants of a generation ago, PUL is softer, somewhat breathable, and far less "plastic" feeling. They don't crinkle like plastic pants did, either! Fleece makes a great fabric for diaper covers, as well. Certain types of fleece are naturally water-repellent. Fleece is soft and breathable, allowing air to circulate to your baby's bottom. However, fleece can wick if compressed, such as in a tight-fitting onesie or in a car seat. Wool is naturally water-repellent and is also anti-microbial, which makes it ideal for diaper covers. Wool is also breathable, and the wool used for diaper covers is not hot or scratchy.


It doesn't end with diapers! Take a look at the variety of accessories available to complete your cloth diapering layette.

Cloth wipes. If you've chosen cloth for your diapers, it only makes sense to choose cloth for your wipes, as well. Cloth wipes are available in many materials and most are made to fit into standard wipe containers. As an added bonus, you can make your own wipe solution, or simply use water, so your baby isn't exposed to the harsh chemicals found in disposable wipes.

Liners. Moisture-wicking liners are a great purchase, especially for parents whose babies have sensitive skin. These liners, usually made of a special kind of fleece, are meant to be placed on top of the diaper, next to baby's skin. They wick the moisture through but stay dry on top, keeping baby's skin feeling drier.

Snappi fasteners. These diaper fasteners are the modern-day replacement for diaper pins. A snappi fastener is made of stretchy plastic shaped like a "T" with short plastic hooks on all three ends. The hooks hold the diaper in place so mommy doesn't have to worry about sticking the baby (or herself) with pins.


Cloth diapers can be purchased from a variety of places. First, though, it's important to note where you do NOT want to purchase diapers. You do not want to purchase diapers from any of the major chain stores. The diapers they sell are meant to be used as burp cloths and are not absorbent enough for use as actual diapers. Some cities have stores that sell cloth diapers - these are usually specialty stores that focus on the natural parenting market. Try looking in the yellow pages under "cloth diapers."

Usually, however, you'll be buying your diapers online. Online auction sites such as Ebay, KiddyBids, and WAHMChicks are excellent sources for both new and used diapers. Additionally, there are many online retailers of name-brand cloth diapers and hundreds of work at home mom-owned websites selling handmade diapers. Simply do an internet search for "cloth diapers" and scroll through the list that comes up.

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