Basic Cloth Info
Once you get the hang of it, cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposable diapers!
Cloth Diaper Products:
Covers - made from a waterproof material, covers are just the shell part of a cloth diaper. They need some sort of absorbent material placed inside - inserts, prefolds, or a fitted diaper. Many people choose covers & inserts/prefolds because it is the cheapest way to cloth diaper and very simple! If a cover does not get soiled, it can be reused after changing out the inserts inside when you change baby's diaper.
Pockets - pocket diapers are very similar to covers, but they have a lining inside to go against baby's bum (usually suede cloth, cotton, or bamboo). Pockets also need absorbency added - inserts or prefolds, that gets stuffed into the pocket opening at the front or back of the pocket shell. The pocket itself is the waterproof layer of the diaper. Many people prefer pockets because they're also cheap, and it's easy to customize the absorbency you need as baby grows! With pockets, you need to wash after every use.
Fitteds - made from cotton, bamboo, or hemp, fitteds are some of the most absorbent diapers on the market. The body of the fitted is made from absorbent material, as well as snap in inserts which offer additional absorbency. Hemp is the most absorbent material, so for extremely heavy wetters you want to choose a hemp fitted over a bamboo or a cotton one. Many people prefer fitteds because they have so much absorbency! Most fitteds do not have a waterproof layer on the outside - meaning they need a cover added on top. The exception to this rule is a new style, called hybrid fitteds.
Hybrid fitted - a newer style of diaper on the market, a hybrid fitted is a cross between a traditional fitted diaper, and an AIO diaper. They have a bit less absorbency then a normal fitted, but they do have a waterproof PUL layer sewn onto the outside of the diaper, so no extra cover is needed. Contents of hybrid fitteds vary by brand, but are commonly made with bamboo, hemp, and cotton.
AIO - called an all-in-one diaper, that's exactly what it is! The shell is sewn to the absorbency, so it is a one step process to use. Most parents prefer these because they are the simplest to use! There are a few different styles on the market, but the flap style AIO (like our Cutie Bootie brand) are becoming vastly popular. The flap style AIOs wash and dry a bit better then AIOs that are all sewn together.
AIOs sewn "tunnel style" look like a pocket diaper, as if someone stuffed it with inserts then sewed it all together into the wet zone of the diaper. The tunnel style may need a harsher wash routine to penetrate through all of the layers of the absorbency sewn together, and will take a bit longer to dry in the dryer. The key to purchasing good AIOs is to check the content in them! That will tell you if its enough absorbency for your baby or not, as each child is different.
Trainers - trainers are essentially reusable pull ups! Designed to help your toddler bridge the gap between diapers and undies, trainers are a great step to potty training. Made with absorbency in the wet zone, they will help catch accidents and reduce the amount of laundry parents have to do when potty training. Most styles are pull up (some snap at the hip), so toddlers can begin pulling them up and down by themselves each time they go potty. Trainers are designed to feel different then a normal diaper and let kiddos know that they've upgraded to "big kid pull ups"!
Wet bags - the waterproof version of a laundry bag, wet bags are made with either PUL or TPU fabric. Large bags are great for dirty diaper storage at home or on vacation, and will contain all moisture and smells. Travel and mini sized bags are available as well, for cloth diapering on the go! Perfect for soiled diapers as well as reusable nursing pads, menstrual cloth, gym clothes, wet bathing suits, or anything else messy!
PUL is a type of laminated fabric, Polyurethane Laminate. It can be pronounced P-U-L or "pull". One side feels slightly plasticy, to make it waterproof. It is widely used in cloth diapers, trainers, and wet bags. PUL fabric will last many years, but may separate and become unusable when exposed to extreme heat (called delaminating).
TPU is another type of laminated fabric, Thermoplastic Polyurethane. It is very similar to PUL fabric, and the difference is mostly in how the two fabrics are made. TPU is supposedly more environmentally friendly, but both fabrics are created using an identical heat process. To the touch, TPU is slightly more stretchy then PUL. Both hold up well over time, unless exposed to extreme heat. TPU products have been known to be slightly more expensive.
OS stands for "one size", which is the most common size of cloth diapers. Most companies only make two sizes of cloth diapers, newborn size and OS. Standard OS fits babies 8 lbs to 35 lbs, which is about birth to three or three and a half years of age. Premies or skinny babies may have a hard time fitting in to OS at birth, in which case newborn sized diapers are recommended. If you're expecting a large baby, it may be best to skip the newborn size and jump right in to OS!
NB stands for "newborn size", which is the smaller of the two mainstream sizes. Exact sizing varies by brand, but usually they have guidelines posted for each newborn style of diaper. Commonly NB diapers fit babies 5 lbs to about 12-15 lbs, some a bit larger. For the newborn stage absorbency is less of an issue, since newborns poo and need a change so frequently anyways in the first few months!
MF stands for "microfiber", a white fabric used in inserts or AIO diapers. Read below for more information!
CBI stands for "charcoal bamboo insert". Usually a dark grey color on the outside, they are usually filled with microfiber layers. Read below for more information!
Common Fabrics: listed from least absorbent, to most absorbent.
Microfiber (MF) is the least absorbent of all the materials used as cloth diaper absorbency. These are a bright white color. Most commonly seen in the form of inserts, these "MF" inserts are usually given away for free with pockets. They can be beneficial if your child is not a heavy wetter, and you have more absorbent inserts to pair them with. On their own, microfiber inserts are known for getting compression leaks - because when compressed, they will ring out like a sponge. Think of trying to get your baby into a car seat, buckled in to a stroller, or snug in a baby carrier.... Yuck! For that reason, most parents avoid microfiber. Some cheaper brands make their AIO diapers with microfiber fillers inside, so always be sure to check the content of diapers before you purchase them! MF is also known for having issues with washing, and often retains smell.
Charcoal Bamboo Inserts (CBI) is a step above MF in absorbency, but only slightly. They are a dark grey color, and look like fleece on the outside. The name is a misnomer, because the amount of bamboo in the fabrics is so minimal! These inserts are usually 2-3 layers if MF in the middle, with the dark charcoal colored fleece wrapped around the outside. To the eye and the touch they seem nicer then traditional MF inserts, but the increase in absorbency is so slight, it's generally not worth the additional cost. Some brands do sell CBI inserts that are true charcoal bamboo in all of the layers, but to know you would have to cut an insert open and feel it. Even inserts that are bamboo fleece in the middle don't compare in absorbency to real bamboo inserts. CBI inserts are known for also having wash issues, but many parents prefer them because the dark color hides stains.
Some pockets and AIOs are lined with charcoal bamboo fabric, which is a great option for parents wanting something extra soft against baby's bum. AIOs with charcoal bamboo as the sole absorbency will likely not have enough absorbency for most babies.
Cotton is used in many inserts, prefolds, AIOs, fitteds, and pockets. Sometimes it is bleached white, or sometimes unbleached it appears more of a natural/tan color. Cotton is used often because it's cheaper then bamboo or hemp, but it is a slight step down. Cotton absorbs a bit less then bamboo or hemp, but more then microfiber does. It does not get compression leaks, and cotton is known to wash well. It is a bit more bulky on the bum them bamboo or hemp is. Unfortunately cotton is not known for lasting as long as bamboo and hemp does. As its washed over the years it gets small holes in the fabric, much like your favorite cotton t-shirt from high school. Small holes do not affect the absorbency of the item.
Bamboo Cotton is a blend used for inserts, prefolds, fitteds, or in AIO diapers. Bamboo cotton is usually bleached white, but some unbleached blends may be available (a natural/tan color). Bamboo cotton is made of 60% bamboo and 40% cotton, making it quite absorbent! Bamboo is about 40% more absorbent then even the best cotton, and holds up better over time! Bamboo cotton fabric is usually a knit blend, which looks like tiny stitches. It is less stretchy then bamboo terry, but bamboo cotton has been around longer in the cloth diapering world. Because the bamboo cotton blend has a higher cotton content, it generally does shrink from the dryer. Bamboo cotton inserts often get the shriveled look around the edges after years of use. Unfortunately they can be a bit more stiff, and may also develop holes after years of use (think of your favorite cotton t-shirt from high school).
Bamboo Terry is a blend used for inserts, prefolds, fitteds, or in AIO diapers. Bamboo terry has a higher bamboo content then bamboo cotton, so it has quickly become more popular in the cloth diaper world. Bamboo is about 40% more absorbent then even the best cotton! Bamboo terry is made from 70% bamboo and 30% cotton, making it quite absorbent, and nice and stretchy! It has a looped look, much like a terry washcloth. Since bamboo is an all natural material it washes well, is very trim on the bum, and won't get compression leaks. Bamboo is the preferred material for many cloth diaper users! It holds up well over time.
Hemp is the most absorbent material out there, but also the most expensive. Hemp is used in inserts, prefolds, fitteds, or AIO diapers. Hemp is generally unbleached, and a tan/natural color. Hemp is blended with cotton because it is naturally rough material, the standard blend is 55% hemp and 45% cotton. They do shrink slightly from the dryer, but it depends on the brand. Usually drying on low heat or hanging to dry will reduce the amount that the inserts shrivel and shrink. Hemp is the most trim option, and best for heavy wetters! Unfortunately it is a slow absorbing material, so for most babies a topper insert is required - of a different material that absorbs quickly. Without a topper insert as a buffer, your child may have leaks in their diaper. Any other material can be used as a topper - for heavy wetters bamboo paired with hemp is recommended! If treated well, hemp can last for years, it holds up well over time.
One drawback of hemp is that it needs many washes to become fully absorbent, due to the natural oils in the fabric. All products can be used after one wash, but beware they may not become fully absorbent until after 12-15 washes! To be as eco-friendly as possible we recommend using regularly and just changing baby often until maximum absorbency is reached, rather then washing 12 times back to back. Think of how much water that would be wasting!
*For any specific cloth diaper questions, please feel free to reach out! We at Cutie Bootie are always happy to help you in your eco-friendly journey.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org