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A Beginner's Guide to Cloth Diapering

A Beginner’s Guide to Cloth Diapering



Cloth diapering is a popular choice among new parents. While it may seem daunting at first, using cloth diapers is actually quite simple once you get the hang of it. Cloth diapering offers a wide range of benefits for both the baby and the environment. In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about cloth diapering, including the types of cloth diapers available, how to choose the right one for your baby, how to care for and maintain them, and more.


What are Cloth Diapers?

Cloth diapers are reusable diapers made out of natural fibers and man-made materials which can be washed and put on the baby’s bum over and over again.

Otter Original Pocket Diaper & Kid's Day Tee by The Tiny Otter
Otter Original Pocket Diaper & Kid's Day Tee by The Tiny Otter


Part 1: Types of Cloth Diapers

Before we dive into the details of cloth diapering, it’s important to understand the different types of cloth diapers available.

Here are the most common types of cloth diapers:

1. Pocket Diaper

The pocket diaper is definitely one of the easiest systems! It’s a two-part system consisting of a water-resistant diaper shell with a pocket and inserts. There is a pocket opening where you can put in inserts. The outer shell is made of a PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric to it to be leak-proof. The fabric used for the pocket lining is usually a stay-dry material e.g Suede, Mico-fleece & Athletic-Wicking Jersey (AWJ) as it’s closest to the baby’s bum to prevent discomfort. You have to put the entire diaper- shell & inserts into wash after each change.

The Tiny Otter - Otter Original Pocket Diaper - Otter & Friends
Otter Original Pocket Diaper by The Tiny Otter
The Tiny Otter - Cloth Diaper Inserts
Cloth Diaper Inserts by The Tiny Otter
2. All-in-Two (Ai2) Diaper

The AI2 consists of an outer shell which is of PUL fabric and detachable inserts. The shell can be wiped down & reused for another 3-4 insert changes. Inserts are snapped on & detachable. However, if there’s any poo blowouts where the gussets are stained, it’s best to replace the shell. Similarly, if the Ai2 shell (also known as a diaper cover) is used overnight, it is to be thrown into wash the next day. Like the pocket diaper, it is also a two-part system. The key difference is that since there’s no pocket sewn in, the wipeable PUL cover makes for few diaper changes. This is a more economical option as you would need to stock up on just inserts as you would need less covers.

Ai2 cloth diaper
Ai2 cloth diaper
3. All-in-One (AiO) Diaper

This cloth diaper resembles a disposable diaper. They are the most convenient

option. The inserts are usually sewn into the outer shell. This set up means there is no need for stuffing or snapping back of inserts after wash. As the inserts are not detachable, the whole diaper requires a longer time to dry. They also tend to more expensive versus others.

AiO cloth diaper
AiO cloth diaper
4. Flat

This is a big piece of cloth which can be folded in any shape to customize absorbency. They are usually cotton or bamboo blends which could be made stretchy or non-stretchy. They are the cheapest option and dry incredibly fast! However, you need to get yourself familiar with how to fold them the right way e.g. Pickman fold, Origami fold etc. Pair it with a diaper cover to ensure no leak.

Stretchy hand-dyed flat
Stretchy hand-dyed flat
5. Preflat

It is shaped accordingly with wings to wrap around baby’s waist and secured usually with a Snappi. There’s less folding as compared to flat. It is usually made of stretchy material (e.g. bamboo, cotton & spandex) to ensure a good fit.

Stretchy hand-dyed preflat
Stretchy hand-dyed preflat
6. Prefold

A 4x8x4 layered piece of rectangular cloth. You can do a simple trifold or make a simple angle fold to be wrapped within a cover. It’s usually made of a non-stretchy material.

Prefolds in varied sizes
Prefolds in varied sizes
7. Fitted Diapers

The main difference versus other diaper systems is that the whole fitted diaper is fully absorbent! A cover is needed as it has no waterproofing layer. They may come in different sizes and can be paired with a diaper cover or wool pants. They are great options for overnight diapering. However, they tend to be bulky and take the longest time to dry. They also tend to be more pricey versus other systems.

Fitted cloth diaper
Fitted cloth diaper


Part 2: Choosing the Right Cloth Diaper for Your Baby

Choosing the right cloth diaper for your baby can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that every baby is different. Each system has its own pros and cons too.

Credits: Michal Bar Haim Credits: Michal Bar Haim / Unsplash


Here are some factors to consider when choosing a cloth diaper:

1. Size

Cloth diapers come in different sizes, so it’s important to choose one that fits your baby well. Most cloth diapers are also one-size-fits-most. Check the baby’s waist and legs to ensure a snug fit. For more details on fitting, check out our fitting guide here.


2. Absorbency

Different types of cloth diapers have different levels of absorbency. Consider your baby’s age, how often they need to be changed, and how heavy their wetting is.


3. Fabric

Cloth diapers are made from a variety of fabrics, including cotton, bamboo, and microfiber. Consider the softness, durability, and breathability of each fabric.


4. Drying Time

Some cloth diapers take longer time to dry than the others. If laundry is your worst nightmare, have a bigger rotation stash to give yourself more breathing space to get them all prepped and ready on the bum. If not, consider to invest in a dryer.


5. Ease of Use for Caregivers

Cloth diapers come with different types of closures, including snaps and velcro. Consider which closure is easiest for you to use and which will provide the best fit for your baby. Consider also the prep time needed to assemble the cloth diaper and if there’s any folding required. Support and buy-in from the caregivers are important to ensure that cloth diapering is a breeze for the whole family.


6. Pricing

Cloth diapers vary in price range. All-in-ones and fitted diapers are generally pricier than other systems. Flat is the cheapest option.


Part 3: How to Use Cloth Diapers

Using cloth diapers is easy once you get the hang of it. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Prep the Diapers

Before using cloth diapers for the first time, you need to pre-wash them (cover and inserts) to remove any manufacturing residue. While it is true that the inserts made of natural fibres take at least 6-8 washes to reach full absorbency, we recommend only 1-2 washes before using them to save on water. The tip is to reduce the time between diaper changes from 2-3 hours to 1-2 hours.


2. Change the Diaper

Like the disposables, it is recommended to change the cloth diapers every 2-3 hours. When it’s time to change your baby’s diaper, remove the diaper cover and the inserts within the pocket if using a pocket diaper.


3. Dispose of Waste

If your baby has solid waste, dispose of it in the toilet. You can use a bidet spray to spray the poo down. For any stains, you can rub any soap on them.

Put the soiled diapers into a pail with holes (for good ventilation) for the next pre-wash.


Part 4: Caring for Your Cloth Diapers

Sending The Tiny Otter's cloth diapers for a prewash

A soild wash routine is key to ensure that the diapers are clean and fresh to be put on the bums again.

Soiled reusable diapers go through 2 rounds of washing to be clean and ready to be worn again.

1st wash: Pre-wash (a short cycle: 30 min-1 hour)

2nd wash: Main wash (the longest cycle: 2.5- 3 hours)

Whether you are using eco/plant-based or commericial detergents, the right laundry dosage and laundry load are important to clean out the diapers thoroughly.

For fitted diapers and inserts, you can choose to dry them under the sunlight or put them in the dryer.

For diaper covers/shells, to protect the PUL from delamination, air dry them indoors and they do dry quicker than inserts!

The Tiny Otter cloth diapers line drying on a pole
The Tiny Otter cloth diapers line drying on a pole

For more detailed instructions on how to care and wash your cloth diapers, check out our comprehensive washing guide.

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