Choosing a Cloth Diaper
Modern cloth diapers are made up of 2 parts: an absorbent insert (to absorb bub's pee) and a waterproof shell (to ensure that said pee does not get onto your sofa or your lap). The main styles of cloth diapers differ based on how these two parts are put together.
(If you don’t really want to learn about the details and just want us to recommend a type of cloth diaper for you, skip to the end for the TL;DR.)
Types of Shells
Covers (a.k.a. wraps)
A cover is simply a waterproof shell. Think of it like a swimming cap or a raincoat - it’s just one layer of waterproof fabric to cover baby’s bum.
Covers can be paired with any kind of insert. They’re often used with flats (the traditional cloths that our grandmas used on our parents).
(+) Covers can be reused several times before washing (as long as baby didn’t poop). So you don’t need to buy as many - great for the minimalist parent!
(+) Covers cost less than other types of diapers.
(+) Covers are extremely fast-drying.
(-) Because covers are totally separate from the inserts, they can be harder for caregivers (e.g. infant care teachers, grandparents) to figure out how to put on baby. They can also be harder to put on if you have a baby who likes to squirm or a toddler who likes to run off naked.
You can read about the different covers we offer here.
All-in-One Diapers (AIOs)
On the other extreme, you have all-in-ones, where the absorbent inserts are attached to the waterproof shell. This usually looks a little like the diaper has a long ‘tongue’ that you have to fold in before you put the diaper on the baby.
(+) AIOs are convenient because you don’t have to match inserts with the covers (it’s like putting your kid in a onesie instead of a shirt and pants).
(-) AIOs tend to be more expensive because the absorbent inserts are included in the price.
(-) Classic AIOs take longer to dry* (compare drying a sweater to a dri-fit tee - that’s the difference between drying an AIO and drying a pocket diaper).
(-) It is harder to customise absorbency*. Since the absorbent section is attached to the shell, you can’t swap it out for a more absorbent insert. It’s like having your computer screen attached to your keyboard, instead of having a keyboard that you can pair with a larger, better monitor.
*Note: to overcome these disadvantages, many brands have AIOs that have detachable inserts. The inserts will still be attached to the shell with buttons/snaps, but you can detach them if you want to.
You can read about the different AIOs we offer here.
Pocket diapers are the closest thing to disposable diapers. The pocket shell is made of a single layer of waterproof fabric and a single layer of stay-dry fabric. You stuff the absorbent insert into the pocket in between these two layers (hence the name ‘pocket diaper’!).
(+) Most similar to a disposable diaper - extremely easy for caregivers to use.
(+) Pockets are the easiest to clean poop off. Because all the inserts are in the pocket, there aren’t any fiddly layers and folds for poop to get stuck in - you can just spray that single layer, and you’re done.
(+) Like covers, pockets are extremely fast-drying.
(-) You have to stuff the inserts into the pocket before using the diaper and take the inserts out of the pocket before washing. Some people dislike this step or find it too troublesome.
You can read about the different pocket diapers we offer here.
Other types of diapers
Fitted Diapers: Fitted diapers are fully made of absorbent materials. They look like a normal modern cloth nappy, but they require a waterproof cover on top in order to be fully waterproof. The main advantage of this is that they can absorb even more than normal diapers. Many fitted diapers are also sized (small, medium, large, etc), which means they do not have rise snaps (the columns of snaps at the front of the diaper that allow you to adjust the size of the diaper).
Pull-Ups: Pull-up diapers are a subset of pocket diapers. The main difference is that pull-ups have stretchy sides so that they can be pulled up (like underwear!). They are great for toddlers who prefer to be changed standing up, or for potty training. They are pretty hard to use on younger babies who can’t stand up, though.
All-in-Twos (AI2s): AI2s are either covers with a way to attach the insert to the inside (snaps or velcro, usually), or AIOs with a way to detach the insert from the side. The difference is whether the inside of the shell is waterproof (meaning you can wipe any pee off and it’s dry and ready to reuse with new inserts), or not waterproof (you have to change the shell each time you change the diaper).
WAHM diapers: WAHM stands for Work-at-Home-Mum. WAHM diapers are basically handmade at someone’s home. They can be various styles (pocket, AIO, etc). They’re a great way of supporting local mums!
Covers & flats/prefolds are for people who want the cheapest option and don’t mind doing extra steps of folding laundry.
All-in-One diapers (AIOs) are for people who want a fuss-free option.
Pockets are for babies who will have multiple different caregivers (infant care teacher, helper, grandparents), or for parents who like being able to customise the absorbency of the diaper.
We hope this was helpful in getting you started on your cloth diapering journey! Don’t be afraid to reach out if you have any questions - we love talking about cloth diapers and we’re always happy to help.
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We also highly recommend joining the Cloth Diapering Singapore Facebook Group. It’s a great community with lots of excellent resources and a thriving secondhand marketplace.