Decoding Cloth Diaper Lingo

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We started cloth diapering our son when he was about 2 months old, and we’re still at it 18 months later. When we first started, however, I found all the different cloth diaper options really confusing- especially when they started with the abbreviations! What does it all mean? I’ll break it down for you here.

“All in one.” (AIO) No stuffing or pinning required. This type of cloth diaper essentially functions like a disposable would. (Except that you still wash them!)

“All in two” (AI2)- As the name suggests, these diapers have two parts to them. They typically consist of a cover of some sort and a pre-fold or insert, or of a pocket diaper that needs an absorbent insert. Which leads us to our next one…

Pocket Diaper– These diapers usually consist of 2 layers- one soft, moisture-wicking layer against the baby’s skin, and a waterproof layer on the outside. There is an opening between the two layers (this is the “pocket”) into which you stuff an absorbent layer. These are nice because they are customizable- if you have a heavy wetter, just stick in an extra layer!

Fitted Diapers– These diapers are sized just like a disposable diaper would be (Newborn,S,M,L, etc.). Many women enjoy the snug fit of these diapers. The disadvantage is that you need to buy enough diapers for your baby in every size, so they are not very cost-efficient.

One-size Diapers (OS)- One size diapers come fitted with adjustable snaps or elastic so that your diapers can grow with your baby. Ideally, these diapers should fit a baby from infancy to toddlerhood, so they save a lot of money. The downside? Not as nice as a fit, and chances are they’ll wear out a little sooner as they’ll get their workout every day (though mine are still looking great!).

Inserts– A pre-made insert can be made out of a variety of materials- bamboo, hemp, cotton, micro-suede on top, etc., etc. These are already fitted perfectly to their accompanying diaper system (sometimes coming in separate sizes for different sized babies).

Pre-folds- Take 6-9 thin layers of fabric stacked on top of one another, sew a hem around the edge and two down the middle to divide your rectangle longways into thirds. That’s what a pre-fold looks looks like. It can be used as an insert or it can be secured around the baby’s bottom and paired with a water-proof cover.

Contoured “Pre-fold”– An absorbent layer that’s shaped to fit baby’s bottom, rather than being rectangular. However, it still needs a waterproof cover over it.

Flats– The simplest style of diaper. This is what your grandmothers and great-grandmothers most likely used. It is a large, “flat” rectangle, that needs to be folded into layers (hence how the “pre-fold” earned its name- as if it was pre-folded and sewn in place!) and then secured around your baby’s bottom. Usually paired with a waterproof cover (or, if you’re old school,  “plastic pants.” :))

Snappi– The ingenious alternative to diaper pins. Snappi’s are the new popular method of “securing” a prefold or flat to your baby. A Snappi looks like a “T”, and at the end of each arm is a set of tiny plastic teeth that grab into the diaper fabric to help secure it. Check out this video demonstration to see what a Snappi looks like and how to use it. It’s much more efficient than me trying to explain it.

Diaper Cover- The waterproof or water-resistant layer that keeps the mess from leaking out. This prevents soaking wet clothes. Hopefully. In AIOs or pocket diapers, the waterproof layer is all part of the same diaper and no extra cover is needed. But if you’re using an insert, a pre-fold, or a flat, you need a cover to keep that munchkin dry. They can be made of PUL fabric, fleece, wool, or some other fabric that provides a good barrier between the wet diaper and outside world. They can be purchased, sewn, knitted, or crocheted.

Hook & Loop Closure- For you name-brand people, that’s Velcro. Hook & loop strips across the top of the diaper make for an easily adjustable fit. Many Velcro lovers, however, do say that it tends to wear out a little sooner than snaps.

Snap Closure- Exactly what it sounds like. Multiple columns and rows of snaps adorn the top of these diapers. Longevity is the advantage here; exact adjustable fit is what’s lacking.

Fluff– An affectionate term for cloth diapers and associated products.

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Note that many of these terms can overlap, and that they are not mutually exclusive. For example, one can have an Organic AIO-OS with snaps. Translation? Organic fabric, all-in-one (no stuffing required), one size (diaper is adjustable to grow with your baby), with snaps (as opposed to Velcro). One can also have a fitted AI2, or an OS-AI2. Not all AI2s are pocket diapers- in fact, even a flat and plastic pants can technically be deemed an AI2 system. Some inserts fit diaper covers, some get stuffed in pocket diapers. Flats, prefolds, and even some pre-made inserts can fit a variety of diaper covers. Mixing and matching is fine, as long as the diaper does its duty (no pun intended). Points to you if you followed all this.

My recommendation? Get a cloth diaper trial kit and see what fits your baby and your lifestyle best. Try them out for a couple of weeks, then make a purchase. You’ll be happier if you get a hands on “try before you buy” experience!

Did I miss anything? Cloth diaper gurus, fill me in!

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