Kit's Quickie Cloth Diaper Primer
Prefolds- These are the classic flat, rectangular cloth diapers that most people think of when they think "cloth diapers". They have a slight learning curve, since you have to learn how to fold and fasten them onto the baby. Also, they require a cover. They're my favorite newborn diapers because they are absorbent and most of all, cheap. Newborns go through a LOT of diapers, so you want to have plenty on hand or else you might find yourself doing laundry a lot more often than you'd like. Also, they're great for burp cloths and eventually, cleaning cloths. Prefolds are usually cotton (sometimes hemp) and come in bleached (most common) or unbleached. CPFs (Chinese Prefolds) and IPFs (Indian Prefolds) are what I think are highest quality. Prefolds generally come in several sizes: Preemie, Infant, Regular and Premium (same size but premiums are thicker), and Toddler. Most children only ever need infants and premiums. I ordered our prefolds from www.mtdiaperstore.com- great customer service and very good prices. Lots of places sell prefolds.
Kissaluvs size 0- These are infant fitted diapers. A fitted diaper is "baby shaped", like a disposable, and fastens on with velcro or snaps. (Kissaluvs use snaps). Fitted diapers also need a cover. Kissaluvs are relatively inexpensive, but cost more than prefolds. They are soft, very simple to use and are darned cute. Kissaluvs are not as absorbent as prefolds, though. Kissaluvs are readily available from retail sources for cloth diapers. Try checking the websites I list at the end, and check www.kissaluvs.com. Other good (probably better) fitteds for newborns are Muttaqins and Bijou Baby Gear diapers.
Covers- There are many different choices for covers to go over the diapers. The cover will be waterproof or at least water resistant, and will be pull-on or "wrap style" (like disposables- fastened with velcro or snaps). For a newborn, you want several- at least 8 or so. Covers with gussets at the legs are good for containing runny newborn poops. Cheap is good, and I like Proraps- they are cheap, easy to find and they get the job done. I really like Imse Vimse Bumpy Day covers too, though- not as cheap but much nicer feeling. The Bumpy covers do wick moisture however, if the diaper underneath is too soaked. I like fleece covers because they are very breathable- good for keeping away diaper rash. They also wick if the diaper is soaked, even more than the Bumpys. Fleece can be rather bulky. My favorite fleece covers are Sugarpeas. All these covers should be available at retail sources for cloth diapers. Fleece covers can also be custom made by some WAHMs ("Work At Home Moms") who make cloth diapers.
Other diapering needs-
Wipes: cloth or disposable. I use cloth wipes which I bought from various WAHMs. If you use cloth, plain water is fine or you can mix or purchase a wipes solution to wet them with.
Diaper fasteners: for prefolds. I recommend Snappis. No more pins!
Diaper pail: any old flip-top trash can will do, or get a Diaper Champ. There is no need to use a "wet pail" method- just toss the diapers in the dry pail, then throw them in the wash when you're ready.
Diaper pail liners: use trash bags, or get reusable waterproof bags. I use cheap, washable waterproof drawstring bags from the camping section at Target.
Diaper rash cream: if you'd rather not stain the diapers too much, avoid creams that have fish oils in them. Our favorite diaper rash remedies are Burt's Bees Baby Bee diaper cream, Triple Paste and Aquaphor. All a bit pricey, but all work really well. (Especially Triple Paste).
Laundry Detergent: I know, no-brainer- but some detergents leave buildup on diapers, which can make them stinky and cause diaper rash. (Hemp diapers are particularly susceptible to buildup). What works for you will depend on how hard or soft your water is, how much detergent you use and how sensitive your baby's skin is. Many people have good results with plain old regular Tide detergent, if they use only 1/2 the recommended amount. I get great results with the Publix store brand Free and Clear detergent, using 1/2 capfull for a full load. You might need more for hard water. The way to check for buildup is to put clean diapers in a hot water wash (no detergent at all), let it agitate a couple minutes and then look at the water. If there are soap bubbles, then there is detergent buildup. Wash them with plain water until the bubbles are all gone, and start using less detergent. If diapers come out of the dryer not smelling quite clean, then you are not using enough detergent. Oh and never use fabric softener on diapers! Talk about buildup! This may all sound confusing, but I promise, washing the diapers is really no big deal.
Fleece liners: Optional. Microfleece wicks moisture away from baby's skin- so fleece liners are used inside the diaper against baby's skin to keep him/her dry. They're great, especially if you're trying to ward off rash. They can be purchased from cloth diaper retailers, or buy microfleece by the yard and cut out your own. Fleece is like felt when you cut it- it won't unravel.
Doublers: Optional. A doubler is an insert for a diaper that increases the diaper's absorbency. They may or may not have a stay-dry fleece layer on top. If you have a "super-soaker" baby (or less absorbent diapers), you may need doublers.
Diaper bag: I include this to mention that you will need a larger one than most folks, since cloth diapers take up more room than disposables do. Or, use disposables when out and about.
That about covers what I'd recommend for cloth diapering an infant. There are loads more diapering options, but personally I think it's better to wait for those until baby can wear a size medium in diapers- babies just grow out of the newborn and small sizes too quickly for more expensive diapers to be worth it. But once in a size medium, it's fun to find what other kinds of cloth diapers work best for you. Which brings us to. . .
Older Babies and Toddlers:
Prefolds- you already know about these. They're still what makes the bulk of our stash. Once baby makes firmer poops, a fastener is not entirely necessary- some people just trifold the diaper and lay it in a wrap-style cover, then put the cover on.
Contour or "Prefitted" diapers- need a cover. These are a cross between prefolds and fitted diapers- they are contoured to fit baby (so no folding), but they do not have snaps or velcro. You can use pins or a snappi, just like prefolds. They are usually simple, inexpensive diapers.
Fitted Diapers- need a cover. Kissaluvs are an example, but many find that those aren't great for older babies. There are an astonishing array of fitted diapers available, mostly from WAHM cloth diaper websites. They can be made of cotton, hemp, bamboo, in a variety of fabrics- hemp is popular because it is super-absorbant. They come in different sizes and fasten with velcro or snaps. Babies are shaped differently, so some "brands" of fitted diaper will fit your baby better than others do.
Note: some fitted diapers are a "one-size" system- one size of diaper fits your baby from birth to potty training. This can be very simple and economical, IF the diaper fits your bay's shape well. A popular one-size system with good reviews is Motherease (www.mother-ease.com). Another option are "two-size" systems- a popular one are Sugarpeas diapers.
Pocket Diapers- these are shaped, like a fitted, but do not need a cover. They do need an insert or "stuffer". Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer and a microfleece (or other stay-dry fabric) inner layer. In between these layers makes a "pocket" in which you stuff something absorbent (the insert or "stuffer"). You can purchase special stuffers or simply use microfiber towels from the automotive section of Target or WalMart. Pocket diapers secure with snaps or velcro, and when stuffed they make an "all-in-one" diaper that is just as simple to put on as a disposable. These are extremely popular, and the most popular pockets are Fuzzibunz, which are readily available. Other easy options are Bumgenius (available in a one-size option), Swaddlebees, Happy Heineys and Drybees- but there are lots of different kinds.
AIOs- "All In Ones". These are like pockets, but you don't have to stuff them. They are usually the most expensive cloth diapers, but are the simplest to use. They are truly "all-in-one- waterproof layer on the outside, absorbent inner lined with a stay-dry layer inside. The absorbent inner might be all built in (simplest, but takes a long time to dry!) or might snap in, so that it dries faster. I have Very Baby and Lucy's Hope Chest AIOs, which are nice, but I prefer pockets.
Covers- again, there are a ton of options. In order from most to least waterproof, yet least to most breathable, some fabrics used are: PUL, nylon, wool & fleece. My favorite covers are wool, though they require separate washing by hand. Fleece is super-breathable too, but might wick if the diaper is soaked. PUL is breathable enough for most babies, and is very waterproof. I recommend Bummis Super Whisper Wraps- and they come in cute prints too!
Other stuff- a mini sprayer that hooks up to your toilet, for spraying off poopy diapers. MUCH nicer than the "dunk and swish" technique! And possibly flushable rice paper liners- some people swear by these for dumping poop with no mess.
I guess that covers older babies. We use mostly prefolds and some fitteds during the day, pockets and AIOs when out and about. At night it's super-absorbent fitteds with an Aristocrat brand wool cover. AIOs and pre-stuffed pockets are also excellent for other caregivers, preschool, or nursery staff who need a no-brainer diaper. I like fitteds or prefolds with a wool or fleece cover because my babies are rash-prone, and that's very breathable.
Some good cloth diaper retail websites:
and there are more. . .
A few great WAHM cloth diaper sites:
and that's just the beginning. . .
Some good websites for info on cloth diapering:
These are the forums for the Baby Bargains book. Check out the "Butts" forum. This is where I have learned just about everything I know about cloth diapers. There is a "CD 101" thread, you can search past threads for specific keywords, and you can join and ask questions- everyone is very helpful!
Again, forums where you can find answers to cloth diapering questions. These forums also discuss lots of other aspects of natural parenting- they're great but I don't visit them, because they are big and I get sucked in!
A pro-cloth diaper organization's site with loads of useful information
More than you ever wanted to know about cloth diapers! Also very useful CD product reviews
A mom's cloth diaper info site
All kinds of great info, including a pictorial on folding cloth diapers
More help folding prefolds
TONS of useful information- especially on washing and detergents