If you are new to cloth diapering and happen upon one of the many websites that sell cloth diapers, then all the titles, monikers, and nicknames can be quite confusing - I should know! I came into cloth diapering pretty much on my own; there were no brick and mortar diaper stores near me so I had no one to talk to about, and no opportunities to see, these wonderful cloth diapers in person.
A friend gave me three pocket diapers to start my stash and so pockets were all I "knew". Since it was all I knew, it was all I bought - which was fine because I love pocket diapers, my husband loves them and pocket diapers are pretty wonderful. That said it took me a very long time to decode the other cloth diapering terms.
I'm sure there are many other moms who really want to cloth diaper but don't have a clue where to start; it is almost as if the cloth diapering world has its own language of sorts. I'd like to make it easier for you so here's my personal Cloth Diapering Dictionary:
Cloth Diaper Sizing:
One-Size Diapers - One size diapers are diapers that fit a wide range of sizes. Each one size diaper is different in some way, but they all give an average range of weights that their diapers fit. The most common range is 7 to 35 lbs, but some even average around 10 to 40 lbs.
Many different syles of diapers are available as a one size: fitted diapers, contour diapers, pocket diapers, AI2s (all in twos), AIOs (all in ones); diaper covers can come in one size as well. In general cloth diapers and diaper covers are categorized as one size diapers because of their snap placements. A specific arrangement of snaps are placed descending down the front of the diaper or cover, allowing parents to loosen or cinch up the diaper or diaper cover to make it fit baby.
Diapers such as Fuzzi Bunz or Rocky Mountain Diapers have even more areas to modify the fit with built-in, adjustable, internal leg and waist elastic. Other types of diapers maintain their one size title due to the ability to fold down part of the diaper in the front or the back. Prefold Diapers and Fitted Diapers can also work this way if designed to fit a wide range of sizes.
Sized Diapers — "Sized" Diapers are diapers that come in different sizes; much like disposables you can buy in the store, they come in sizes like XS, S, M, L, and XL. People who buy sized diapers generally like them because they are less bulky than one size diapers. Based on the baby's size, some parents find it difficult to fit a one size diaper on a tiny newborn, so if your stash is made of all one size diapers, you may want to have a few newborn (XS) cloth diapers in your stash. Several different styles of cloth diapers are available in actual sizes.
Different kinds of Cloth Diapers:
All In Ones - All In Ones, also known as AIOs, are most like disposables. They require little to no set up before putting them on your baby. Everything you need is already built into the diaper and there is no need to stuff, snap-in, or lay-in any layers of absorbency.
However, because there is so much absorbency within the diaper itself, they can take longer to dry. Some AIO diapers have fixed this problem with fold-in layers of absorbency, which fold closed while the diaper is on the baby. Because these attached internal absorbent layers are affixed in some manner, they can fold out as well to diminish the drying time.
AIOs are ideal for those who are very new to cloth diapering or who are looking for a low maintenance cloth diaper system. I've seen AIO diapers in one size, but they tend to be bulky on smaller babies, so most will purchase them in different sizes as baby grows.
On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), All In Ones are a 9 or 10. Because most AIOs are purchased in varying sizes, you have to buy more of them to cover baby's diapering needs from birth to potty training. On a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), All In Ones get a 1-2. They are the easiest cloth diaper out there to use.
All In Two (AI2) - AI2s are almost as easy as AIOs. Similar to the AIO with one exception, the absorbent layer either lays in or snaps in. This type of diaper can be found in sized and one size varieties. The drying time is much better with AI2s, but they do require the prep work of putting the insert in before putting the diaper on your baby, and removing the soiled insert before washing.
AI2s come in a variety of styles; some are basically diaper covers with flat diapers inside, like the Flip Diapers, and then there are some AI2s like the GroVia Diapers with a snap in insert.
Theoretically, many AI2s can be labeled as "diaper covers" even though they come with specialized inserts. However, you can also use prefolds, fitteds, or contour diapers with them.
On a scale from 1-10 (from economical to expensive), these have a wide range; I'd say they're about a 2-7. Because AI2s are similar to diaper covers, the cover can be used more than once by changing out the insert; this makes them cheaper, on average, than Pocket Diapers or All In Ones. On a scale from 1-10 (from easy to difficult), these are about a 7-8 because they require two steps.
Contour Diapers - Contour Diapers are basically prefolds that contour around baby's legs in an hourglass shape. Contours usually need to be fastened with diaper pins or a snappi and require a diaper cover. They can be found as a sized diaper and also as a one size.
On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), I'd rate them at about a 3-5 because some of them are just as expensive as their fitted counterparts. On a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), I'd rate them at a 5-6 because, though they usually don't require folding, they do require pins or a snappi.
Fitted Diapers - Fitted Diapers, also called "Fitteds", are an amped-up version of the Prefold Diaper. They are basically prefolds that fit your baby and usually attach with Velcro or snaps so you don't have to use diaper pins or a Snappi.
Fitted Diapers come in a variety of different absorbency layers including bamboo, hemp, microfiber, and others. They require a diaper cover.
On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), these are about a 4-5. Fitteds are more expensive than prefolds but are still cheaper than their Pocket Diaper and AIO alternatives. On a scale from 1-10 (from easy to difficult), Fitted Diapers are about a 6-7 because you have to put both the Fitted Diaper and a diaper cover on baby when using this style of cloth diaper.
Flat Diapers - Flat Diapers are probably the oldest style of cloth diaper on the market and are very similar to Prefold Diapers, except less layers and more surface area. Flat Diapers require more folding and are folded differently according to the size of your baby. These cloth diapers attach with pins or a snappi and come in different materials.
Flat Diapers require a diaper cover and they usually come in just one size. On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), I'd rate these at a 1-3. On a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), I'd rate them at a 10.
Hybrid Diapers - Hybrid Diapers are diapers with cloth diaper covers that use either cloth or environmentally-friendly disposable inserts. The GroVia One Size Diaper is a hybrid system because you can buy disposable inserts for them in addition to the cloth inserts already included.
If you diaper with disposable inserts full time, then on a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive) Hybrid Diapers would rate a 10, because you'd have to continuously buy the inserts. If you use them as AI2 diapers, they are much less expensive (See AI2 up top). If using disposable inserts exclusively, on a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), they would rate a 8-10 because they have two steps; washing is easier when only the cover has to be washed.
Pocket Diapers — Pocket Diapers are almost as easy as AIOs and similar to A12s (All In Twos). Pocket diapers have a pocket or a sleeve to stuff one or more absorbent layers. These diapers require prep work before putting them on your baby, and many of them also require the removal of the absorbent insert before putting the diaper in the wash, however, pocket diapers dry much quicker than other styles of cloth diapers.
A great thing about pocket diapers, is you choose the type of absorbency, and also the level of absorbency, your baby needs. These diapers are especially great for night diapering and for heavy wetters.
On a scale from 1-10 (from economical to expensive), pocket diapers are about a 6-8; even though each diaper is about the same price as an AIO, it's easier to find pocket diapers in a one size. On a scale from 1-10 (from easy to difficult), these are about a 2-3 because they require the extra step of stuffing the insert before wearing, and un-stuffing the insert before washing.
Prefold Diapers - Prefold Diapers are the most common and well-known cloth diaper. Flat with a thicker, more absorbent, panel in the middle, prefolds are usually folded in three before they are put on the baby.
Prefolds usually come in different sizes, but it is possible to use a larger size on your baby and adjust the fold as baby grows. In essence some might consider prefolds a one size diaper.
You fasten prefolds with diaper pins or better yet, snappi diaper fasteners. Prefolds can be found at your local baby store, but the higher, diaper service quality (DSQ) prefold diapers are found online or at your local diaper service.
Prefolds are usually made of 100% cotton, but can also be found in other, absorbent materials like hemp and bamboo. These diapers always require a diaper cover!
On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), prefold diapers are definitely a 1, and sometimes a 2 or 3 if you buy prefolds made of hemp or bamboo. Prefold Diapers are, by far, the cheapest cloth diapering solution. On the other hand, some think they are also the most "complicated" because they require special folding, as well as pins or a snappi to secure closed. On a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), I'd rate them at a 9 or 10.
Diaper Covers - Diaper Covers are a waterproof outer layer wrapped around a Fitted Diaper, Prefold Diaper, Contour Diaper, or Flat Diaper. Diaper Covers come in a few different materials including PUL (basically a polyester fabric lined with a waterproof layer of plastic), wool, and fleece.
On a scale of 1-10 (from economical to expensive), I'd rate them at a 3-5, or even lower, because you can use the same cover for many diaper changes. On a scale of 1-10 (from easy to difficult), covers themselves are generally very easy to put on, making them about a 2 or 3.
Soakers - Soakers are Wool Diaper Covers; natural, breatheable, and yet amazingly waterproof! I have also heard the term "soaker" used when referring to the absorbent layer of an AIO diaper. Either way, it's something highly absorbent.
Diaper Doublers Diaper Doublers are another name for an insert used in conjunction with another insert, but they are usually smaller than regular inserts. Often Diaper Doublers are used for heavy wetters or for night diapering.
Inserts Inserts are most popularly used with Pocket Diapers. They are comprised of a couple of layers of extremely absorbent fabric such as cotton, microfiber, hemp, etc…that is stuffed into the sleeve or pocket of the diaper to give it absorbency. The great thing about inserts is you can customize your diaper's absorbency depending upon which insert you use. In addition, you can lay them inside an AIO if you feel it needs more absorbency, you can use AIOs within some covers as a diapering system, or you can lay them in AI2s.
Mama Cloth Mama Cloth refers to cloth menstrual pads. There are many different types of mama cloth varieties available, many of them made by the same people who make your favorite diapers!
Wet Bag - Wet Bags are waterproof bags used to hold soiled cloth diapers and/or other wet things (such as bathing suits and towels). A small wet bag can be placed in your diaper bag for short trips, and a larger one can be used instead of, or inside of, a diaper pail. The great thing about wet bags is you can throw them in the wash with whatever cargo they carry. Also, any bad smells stay inside the bag. They are a great, and necessary, cloth diapering accessory to have.
I hope after reading this you feel much better informed about what to buy for your little munchkin. After all, you probably are here and reading because you want the absolute best for your baby. Cloth diapering can offer you that, all the while being easy on the environment and your wallet. So go ahead. Take the plunge. Buy a few different kinds of cloth diapers and see for yourself how wonderful they are. You'll get hooked on them, I promise you! I certainly have.