There are certain things I am passionate about, and cloth diapering (CDing) is no exception. I became interested in CDing while pregnant with my daughter, and quickly became addicted to the cute styles, however, the different options were overwhelming to me. I didn't know what AIO, OS, prefold, pocket or fitted meant, I and I certainly didn't know what options would work best for me and my family. So, I am going to break down the different options for diapering, and try to make it as easy as possible for anyone who may be interested in cloth diapering.
First I will explain sizing. Keep in mind all babies grow at different rates. Some babies are full in the waist and thighs, whereas others maintain a leaner, skinnier frame. When possible, try to measure your babies waist and thighs and/or go by weight. Some diapers companies use age as a way to measure, which may be less accurate. Here are some approximate weights vs size that I have averaged/compiled from various diapers.
One-size (OS): This is a diaper that adjusts with 2-3 layers of additional snaps. The snaps make it possible to change the diaper from a size small to a size large, without buying multiple size diapers. Although these diapers usually cost more money, they last longer and can be used for more than one child in the event you have multiple children in diapers. This diaper should last you from birth (approx 2months) to potty learning.
Cloth Diaper options:
1.) Prefolds(PF) or Flats
Prefold refers to a rectangle piece of cloth that has a thicker center for added absorbency. Most prefolds have a 4x8x4 measurement, with the first and last numbers referring to the number of layers on the right and left side of the prefold and 8 layers for the middle section. Prefolds can still work great with less layers, but often need a doubler (see below for more info) for added protection. Prefolds come in bleached (white) and unbleached (natural) fibers. Both work well, although the unbleached tend to last longer since the fibers have not been chemically weakened by the bleach. Organic fabrics are now commonly available at a higher cost, but for many people the benefits of organic fabrics out way the cost. Among organic cotton, hemp and bamboo are becoming more commonly used as a prefold fabric because of it's ability to absorb more wetness.
Chinese Prefolds vs. Indian Prefolds:
Chinese Prefolds are made in China and tend to be a bit sturdier and will last a bit longer. They are made with a slightly more durable fabric. Indian style is made in India or Pakistan. These are usually softer and a bit more absorbent, but will not hold up to as many washings. They also "quilt up" more when washed, although both styles will plump up and become softer when washed. The differences are subtle and no matter which you choose you can't go wrong as long as they are diaper service quality (DSQ). This means that they are made to stand up to industrial strength washing.
Flats simply refer to a prefold that has equal number of layers throughout, without a bulky middle section. Flats are usually less absorbent for this reason, but work great as "stuffers." PREFOLDS REQUIRE A DIAPER COVER.
Fitted diapers are a contoured or tailed fitted diaper that requires no folding like a traditional prefold diaper. It typically fits snugly against babies body and secures with snaps or velcro/aplix, although some fitted diapers come without snaps or velcro and close with either a snappi or pins. This gives a more customized fit. FITTEDS REQUIRE A DIAPER COVER.
Pocket diapers are a contoured diaper that usually consist of three layers. An outer waterproof shell, an inner fleece (or similar material) that touches babies skin and a stuffer or doubler that goes inside the pocket between the outer and inner layers. Since pockets are waterproof, they do not require any additional cover. Since the inner stuffing is removed for washing, the diaper tends to dry quicker than other diaper options.
4.) All-in-Ones (AIO's) and All-in-Two's (AI2's)
AIO's are diapers that consist of an outer waterproof shell, and a number of inner, absorbent layers. There usually is no need to stuff like a pocket diaper, unless you have a heavy wetter and need added protection. AIO's are the closest thing to a disposable diaper and are typically the easiest cloth diaper to use. AI2's are similar to AIO's, but have a removable insert much like a pocket, making it easier to dry.
5.) Hybrid Diapers
Hybrid diapers are an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional disposable diapers. They come with a cover which can be used multiple times during the day unless soiled and is washable. Covers can be used with cloth inserts or biodegradable inserts.
Covers are typically used over prefolds or fitteds, since neither is waterproof. There are many different styles of diaper covers, including wool, fleece and PUL. Some PUL covers can simply be wiped cleaned between uses and can often be found as a OS, which will work from birth to potty learning.