The Basics of Using Cloth Diapers

I have a confession to make.  I have been avoiding writing about cloth diapers because I feel like a total faker.  Yes, I do use cloth diapers, but… I also use disposables.  There have been times where I have used cloth exclusively, but, although I wish it wasn’t true, I have just found that a combination of cloth and disposables has been the best option for us, especially since I have had 2 kids in diapers for almost a year now.

So, if you’ve thought of using cloth, but weren’t sure you could commit to it full time, hopefully you’ll see that making the switch is not an all or nothing thing. There, now that that’s out there, I feel like I can move on with this post. :)

Because cloth diapering really is such an extensive topic (I could probably cover just that for an entire month!) I’m going to break this up into a few posts, to cover all the information, but try not to give you information overload.  So, let’s get started. 

Getting Started with Cloth

Starting with cloth diapers can definitely be a little overwhelming.  If you have looked into cloth at all, you realize that these are not the cloth diapers that our mom’s may have used on us or our siblings.  There are SO many different options for cloth diapers now, and 99% of them don’t require using diaper pins.  You can definitely find a cloth diapering system that can work for you and your family!

Main Components
Cloth Diapers are basically made up of 2-3 main components.

  • The outer cover or shell – the water-proof layer that keeps your baby’s clothing from getting wet/soiled.  This is often made of PUL, polyurethane laminate, a plastic type material.  But, covers can also be made out of wool or fleece.
  • The inner absorbent layer – this absorbent core can be made out of microfiber, hemp, cotton, bamboo and there’s probably more that I’m missing.  This is the part that does the fun job of absorbing your little one’s *ahem* output, shall we say.
  • Finally, some diapers have a layer on top of the absorbent layer that make them feel drier against baby’s skin.  This later can be suedecloth or fleece, and helps to wick moisture away from baby’s bum so they don’t feel as much like they’re wearing wet diaper.

Okay, now that you know the main components, there are several different ways these components can come together to make up a cloth diapering system.
AIOs or All-in-Ones
These are probably cloth diapering at it’s simplest and easiest.  An AIO diaper is just that, the outer water-proof layer and absorbent layer are all together in one piece that goes on much like a disposable.  The only AIOs that I have experience with are Bum Genius, but there are lots of different brands out there.

  • Pros – One piece, easy to put on and take off. Easy for non-cloth users, like hubby, grandparents, nursery workers, to use. Usually have the inner wicking material, so they help to keep baby feeling dry. Easy for using out and about. Probably the most trim-fitting type of diaper.
  • Cons – May not be as absorbent as other types of diapers.  Take a lot longer to dry because all of the absorbent layers are sewn together.  Probably the most expensive form of CD, and usually they are sized (S, M, L) so you have to buy a different set of diapers as your baby grows. Sometimes velcro closures or elastic wear out so you may not be able to use for multiple children, or will need to be replaced. Usually made out of synthetic materials, not as breathable on baby’s bum.

We have a few small size AIOs that we used when we first started cloth diapering.  They are definitely the easiest way to transition from disposables to cloth.  They are nice to have on hand for the diaper bag and for others, who aren’t used to cloth diapers, to use.  But, for us, the cost prevented us from using this type of diaper more.

Pocket Diapers
These are pretty similar to AIOs, except that the inner absorbent core is not sewn into the diaper.  There is a pocket that you stuff with an insert that makes the diaper absorbent.  This is probably the most popular type of cloth diaper and the kind that I use the most.  There are tons of brands out there including Bum Genius, Happy Heiny’s, Fuzzi Bunz, and Blueberry, just to name a few.

  • Pros – Easy to use. Can customize/adjust absorbency of diaper based on need.  Easy to wash and quick to dry. Often come in a One-Size option, so you only have to buy one set of diapers for the whole time you are diapering your babe. Also usually lined with wicking material to keep baby’s bum dry.
  • Cons – Have to “stuff” before the diaper will be absorbent, and on the other hand, have to “un-stuff” dirty diaper in order to wash.  Sometimes velcro or elastic may wear out so may not last through multiple children, or will need to be replaced. Usually made out of synthetic materials, not as breathable on baby’s bum.

Like I said, these are the diapers that we like and use the most. Although, I have to “stuff” the diapers every time before I can use them, I usually stuff them all at one time and then they are as easy to use as an AIO.  I also like how quickly they dry and that I can customize the absorbency for my baby’s needs.

I usually stuff our Bum Genius and Happy Heiny diapers with a prefold, because I have found that to be the most absorbent, but I also often use a microfiber insert because they make the diaper more trim fitting.  If you buy a One-Size type of pocket diaper these can be pretty economical because you can use them from about 6 weeks old through potty training.

Here’s a picture of both of my babes in Bum Genius 3.0 Pocket Diapers.  Kaelyn was 32 months and Brenden had just turned 1 year, so they really do fit a wide range of babies!

Fitted diapers are just the absorbent material of the diaper.  They can be made out of cotton, hemp, bamboo, fleece or microfiber.  They close with either snaps or velcro and must be covered with a waterproof cover.

  • Pros – Easy to clean. Can get diapers that are more absorbent for heavy wetters, overnight, etc. Usually cheaper than pockets or AIOs. Will usually last through multiple children.  Natural materials are breathable on baby’s bum.
  • Cons – Need 2 parts, the diaper and the cover. Can take a long time to dry. Many are not lined with wicking material, so they can feel wet against baby’s bum, not as easy to use out and about. May be bulky on baby’s bum.

We use fitteds around the house and like them because they are fairly economical, are absorbent, and pretty easy to change.  You do have to do two steps when changing, diaper and cover, but you don’t have to fold and attach, like you do with a prefold.  I also like that when it’s warm out I can let my babe’s go around coverless, with just their fitted diaper on and it lets air circulate around their bum and helps if they have diaper rash.

These are the old-fashioned square shaped diapers that must be folded and attached onto baby using diaper pins or a snappi.  But, they are not the Gerber cloth diapers you can find at Target or the grocery store.  They are much higher quality than that. They are usually made out of cotton, but you can also find them in hemp and bamboo.  They also must be covered with a waterproof cover.

  • Pros – These are the most economical (cheapest) type of cloth diaper. Easy to clean and dry. Will definitely last through multiple children. Natural materials are breathable on baby’s bum.
  • Cons – Need 2 parts, the diaper and the cover. Have to fold before putting on baby and use pins or snappi. No wicking material, so they can feel wet against baby’s bum. Not very hubby, grandma or babysitter friendly.  Not very easy to use out and about. Can be bulky on baby’s bum.

I bought prefolds to increase the number of diapers in our stash so that we could cloth diaper full time, and when Kaelyn was about 3-6 months old, we used cloth diapers exclusively. I actually was surprised that I really didn’t mind them too much.  Although they are not as easy to put on as an AIO or pocket, they were not as hard as they seemed.

And you really can’t beat the price – a dollar or two for a prefold, or $10+ for a fitted, and even more for AIO’s and pockets. We still use prefolds around the house occasionally, and I love using them to stuff my pocket diapers.  I definitely think it is worth it to have a few of these on hand.  My favorite place to buy prefold is from Green Mountain Diapers, their prefolds are cut to measurements that are a much better fit on babies.

Okay, hopefully you’re not too overwhelmed yet.  This is basically what you need to know to get started with choosing cloth diapers.  Obviously, each of the different types of cloth diapers have their pros and their cons, so you just have to figure out what is most important to you – cost, convenience, absorbency, ease of use, etc. and decide which diapering system works best for you. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll find that you like and use each of them for different reasons and at different times.

Check back next week when we’ll cover some of the basics for using cloth diapers on a day to day basis.

Have you considered using cloth diapers for your little ones, or is it overwhelming to you?  Do you have any questions about cloth diapering I can help answer for you?

Frugal Fridays @ Life As Mom


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FuzziBunz cloth diapers


  1. says

    I just got some new cloth diapers from nurtured family last week. That is the first time I ever used them. I am also a part time cloth diaperer :) Right now I am full time because my daughter is only 5 months. I’ll admit though, probably once she starts eating solids, or becomes a more heavy wetter, or if I start working more, I will use disposables on occasion. At least that is what happened with my son. I had someone tell me once before I made my decision about cd’s that it had to be all or nothing to be worth it, now that I’ve done it I have to disagree with her. Great informative post by the way.

  2. says

    My little one potty trained last fall and sadly no new baby yet, and I’m finding that I actually MISS hanging diapers out on the clothesline! I loooooved my Happy Heiney’s, and ended up using microfiber towels folded together to stuff. I found I could really hold down the stink if things dried out since I only washed every other or third day. I used disposables at night once my daughter started sleeping through because she wasn’t a great sleeper and I wanted one less thing to possibly wake her up. :>)

  3. Elizabeth says

    We have a son 18 months, and we’re trying for #2. We didn’t do cloth diapering at all for babe #1 – I’m very intimidated by it. But with this one hopefully coming – I’ve been trying to look into it! Thanks for this post – it’s helping me on my way!

  4. Naomi says

    I just found your site and am loving it! I too part time cloth diaper (I love Bumm Genius) and have been hesitant to admit it because people often act like I’m nuts for cloth diapering at all or nuts for not cloth diapering exclusively. I’ve enjoyed reading and relating to your posts. What I really enjoy is you honestly about your family’s faith. So few “green” blogs are also Christ centered. Keep posting- I can’t wait to keep reading!

  5. Virginia says

    I would like to consider cloth diapers but I am a little bit concerned about washing them. I mean how does it work?… I don’t have kids but have myself changed diapers to my 1 year old nephew and I know that sometimes a baby that age just poo about 3 or 4 times a day?… And its a lot of poo… I really want to consider cloth diapers but how do you do it honestly?. Do you have to have how many diapers in the house for one baby to make it confortable for you to do the laundry once a week?. Do you put the diapers in a container with water before putting them on the washing machine or what?…. I guess you have to wash them separately or so…

  6. says

    Thank for the extremely detailed description of various cloth diapers! Figuring out and choosing can be so overwhelming, but with more information out there, it will be easier for people to choose cloth.

    I wouldn’t worry that you use a combination of cloth and disposables. Some days we just have to do what is easiest. Even if you only use two or three cloth diapers in a day, it’s still two or three less going into our landfills.

  7. says

    Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established blog.
    Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but
    I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any points or suggestions? Thank you

  8. mom of seven says

    I love the idea of cloth, but I read about how is clean the diaper after yeast infections and diaper rashes , etc. I have had 7 children and we do use disposables (okay, stop screaming) :), but NONE have ever had yeast infections or diaper rashes!!!!! I see these as serious CONS to cds!


  1. […] Cloth Diapers – we use cloth diapers on both Kaelyn and Brenden. (Although I do have to confess that K wears a disosable for naps and bedtime – she got used to them when we went through a period where we were not using cloth.) […]

  2. […] Cloth diapers are more economical than disposables in the long run, but they require a greater upfront commitment.  One way to ease the cost is to buy used diapers. Yes, this may seem gross to some, but really, you're little one is just going mess it up right away anyway. I have purchased many of our cloth diapers used and have never had a problem with the quality.  The best place I have found to buy used cloth diapers is […]

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