Cloth Diapering Basics

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all doing well.

Today’s post is going to be about diapering, and more specifically, cloth diapering. I know when people say cloth diapering a lot of you think of the white pre-folds or flat cloth held up with pins and covered with a pair of rubber pants. Well I am here to tell you that isn’t how cloth diapers are any more. These are not you Grandmother’s cloth diapers. You would be surprised how different they are.

One big difference is you have more options now than you did back in the time when it was pretty much cloth, pins, and rubber pants.  You now have a choice of what kind works best for you and your child.

Another nice thing is you no longer have to use a wet pail. For those of you who don’t know what a wet pail is, it was a container (a pail, bucket, trashcan, etc) filled with water and form of disinfectant.  This is where people used to store their dirty diapers until wash day/time rolled around. As you can imagine this could cause many issues, like accidental drowning if the little ones found it, and bacteria build up.  Luckily the new generation of cloth diapering parents have ditched the wet pail for much better options.

Speaking of wash day/time. Once you are ready to wash your child’s diapers even this has become easier. Sometimes it may take a bit of tweaking to get a routine down just like with regular laundry but from the wet-pail to drying a lot has changed in the terms of cloth diaper laundry as well, and for the better.

Another great plus is how much money you can save using cloth diapers instead of or along with in some people’s cases disposable diapers.  Not to mention how much healthier they can be for you child, and the environment in general.

Well, now that you have read through that overview on how cloth diapering has changed over the years I am going to jump into the basics of clothing diaper your child or children. 

Your Style choices

This seems to be one of the biggest differences in cloth diapers from the time of rubber pants. Many people who used old school diapers are amazed at all the different styles of cloth diapers that are out there currently that they didn’t have back when they were diapering their children’s bottoms.

Cover style diapers-

These are probably the closest style of current cloth diapers to what used to be used. Covers are just the outer shells of the diaper. They are made out of PUL (PolyUrethane laminate), wool, and fleece which are all water resistant. The PUL style can be adjusted to fit different age and size children( These were my favorite from Amazon) , or you can buy them for smaller ranges of children like newborns, or toddler age. The Fleece and wool are sometimes adjustable but are most commonly found as a sized option meaning you would need multiple sizes as your child grows. So as an overview you can get:

  • wool covers
  • fleece covers
  • PUL covers

Under the cover style diaper you would need something to absorb the urine and bowel movements.  This is where it gets fun. There are so many options for what you can place in the covers. Some of these options are:

  • Flats
  • FSTs
  • Prefolds
  • Scrap fabric
  • Inserts
  • Fitteds

Flats are large flat  pieces of absorbent fabric that you can fold in many ways to use under a cover. You can fold them to rest in the diaper, or wrap around your baby’s bottom.

FSTs are Flour Sack Towels. You can purchase these almost at any store that sells kitchen items. They are also large flat pieces of absorbent cloth that you can fold in different ways just like Flats.  These are my personal favorite.

Prefolds are squares of fabric sewn together in multiple absorbent layers with three long rectangular sections with the middle section having the most layers.  You can also fold these like you can Flats and FSTs.

You can also use scrap fabric, like old/cheap T-shirts as long as they are 100 % cotton. You cut them into squares like Flats or FSTS and fold them the same way. This is a great option if you are cheap like me and are always looking to save some money. If you use your own old t-shirts you never wear anymore it costs you zero, which is great.

Inserts are many layered absorbent fabric sewn together in a long normally rectangular shape to fit inside your covers. This you don’t have to fold at all. Just stick them in and go. You can also use multiple types of inserts at once if needed, or wrap an insert in one of the above options for more absorbency if you need it.

Fitteds are layers of absorbent fabric sewn together in the shape of a diaper. This you can wrap around your baby like you would any diaper and then put the cover over it.

Now certain folds that wrap around the baby can hold up not being attached when a baby is younger and not really moving all that much, but once they start crawling it is best to use something to keep those folds in place. This is where the diaper pins come in. Some people still use diaper pins to hold the fitteds and other absorbent material in place under the covers, but now that is not your only option.  There are also Snappis and Boingos. Snappis and Boingos are stretchy pieces of plastic with harder plastic on the ends that grab the fabric.  This holds the fabric in place like pins do.

Pocket style diapers-

Pocket style diapers also have the water resistant shell on the outside, but also have a soft fabric inside with one or two openings on the ends. This creates a pocket that you can slide the absorbent material into.  Most the fabric on the inside of the diaper is a form of fleece. This lets the wetness go through the fabric into the pocket where the absorbent material absorbs it but creates a barrier to keep your baby’s bottom from touching the wet absorbent fabric until they are changed.

With Pocket Diapers you can stuff them the same things you could with covers although they are most commonly sold with inserts you can stuff them with.

All in two style diapers –

All in two or AI2 style diapers are almost like covers, but they use absorbent inserts that snap into the outer water resistant shell. You could use these as covers if you wished and not attach the insert and put whatever absorbent material you wanted in them.

All in one style diapers-

All in one style or AIO diapers are very similar to AI2 diapers but the inserts are partially or fully sewn into the water resistant shell. Some even resemble pocket diapers but with the insert sewn into the soft wetness barrier material. That way you can still stuff more absorbent material into the diaper as well. The pocket style AIOs are my favorite go-to for overnight diapers. 


No more Wet-Pails

This is a big step in getting many old school cloth diapers on board with their family members on board with cloth diapering in my opinion. The lack of a stinky health and safety hazard sitting around the house is a big plus.  What is great is you even have option in how you store your dirty diapers.

Dry pails

Like wet-pails these are some sort of container to put your dirty diapers in. The difference is, yes you guessed it! They are dry. No water needed. You can use them just as they are or you can use a trash bag like pail liner which is made out of water resistant PUL fabric just like many of the diapers. You can use a lid but you don’t have to. Many people depending on where you live don’t use a lid and don’t have an issue with stink because of the airflow. You can use the following for dry-pails and many other things:

  • large or small trash cans
  • large or small laundry baskets
  • large or small hampers
  • buckets or pails
Wet bags

The name is a bit misleading. These are not like wet-pails at all other than that they are used for storing dirty diapers. Wet bags are bags made out of PUL fabric like most of the diapers, They either have a drawstring, Velcro, snaps, or zippers to close them, and a handle to carry them with you or hang somewhere in your house to hold dirty diapers. They come in a large array of sizes to suit your different needs.

Laundry Day!

Now I am not going to delve to awful deep into this today. That is a post for another day. I am just going to say. With modern washing machines, and no more wet-pails, and the new styles of diapers washing cloth diapers is much easier. Now you want to make sure you are washing them properly so please check out my next cloth diapering post on washing cloth diapers.  The biggest thing I can say now is use REAL laundry detergent. Not laundry soap or some detergent that is supposed to be specifically for cloth diapers. They often do not have surfacants in it and wont properly clean your diapers.

You can also do a diaper service if you would rather someone else deal with your dirty diaper laundry. That will cost you more. They collect your diapers on specific day launder them and then deliver them back to you.

Save that money. 

Cloth diapering is one of the many ways you can save some money while raising children. Just like every thing else it can be expensive if you care about brand names or the cutest new prints, but if you do want to save yourself a lot of money you can. We did and we love it. This will also be another post , how to save even more money by cloth diapering.


Thank you for reading,

The Momnipresent Mother



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