Types of Diapers

Types of diapers - (or types of nappies):

What are the options for cloth nappies? This page evaluates some of the main styles.

There has been a slow revolution (or fast evolution, if you prefer!) going on in cloth nappy production in the last decade or two. There are now many types of diapers to choose from - in fact a bewildering wealth of choice! This page explores some of the common options, styles and materials used.

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As ever on Greenfootsteps, we try to evaluate which are the greenest and meanest choices - the ones which last the best and are reusable, or keep their resale value.

If you want to use cloth nappies or diapers for your baby some of the choices are really very good indeed.

(Nappies or diapers? Here we use both terms interchangeably, as they are basically the same thing!)

First, a look at some of the main types of diaper available

Types of diaper: Shaped or flat?

Cloth nappies can be either shaped or flat. Here are the main types of nappy if you opt for shaped nappies. (For flat nappies, or pre-folds, scroll down)

Surprisingly, you can buy shaped cloth nappies where one size fits all - well almost! These have expanding waist bindings. The way you fit them to your baby takes up the slack material.

bumGenius is a one-size cloth diaper which is well-liked by parents of the wearers - and presumably by the wearers themselves!

If you want nappies which are more closely shaped to fit your baby's bum, then you will need to buy a range of sizes as your child develops. Some systems have two main sizes, others three, or more. A common range is from around 8 lbs (3.5 Kg) to 16 lbs and from 16 lbs to 35 lbs. 

Types of diaper: All-in-one or two piece?

Shaped cloth nappies can come as a complete all-in-one package or can come as two or more separate components which you put together on your baby. For example, a two piece nappy will generally consist of an inner nappy plus an added plastic wrap.

All-in-one nappies are less common than other types because they are more difficult to wash and dry effectively. Two piece nappies are usually preferred by most mums and babies.

Types of diaper: Prefold nappies (flat nappies)

These are nappies which are slightly shaped to be easier to fit than traditional square terry nappies. They come with a thicker layer of fabric in the middle for extra absorbency. They tend to be quite a lot cheaper than the fitted nappies - a little over half the price, generally. Bamboo fabric is increasingly the best choice as it is so absorbent and because it also has natural anti-bacterial properties. Bamboo nappies are also super-soft!

You can also opt for old-fashioned terry toweling nappies - just squares of cotton material pinned around your baby. These are relatively cheap but are bulky and so not as comfortable as more modern solutions.

Types of diaper:
A compromise between disposables and cloth nappies.

There are also good compromises available between cloth nappies and disposables. The Weenees pouch pant, for example, consists of a comfy, stretchy outer cloth pant made from cotton and elastane. It contains a pouch which clips into place with a small disposable insert - an "eco-pad". The eco-pads sit in the pouch to catch all the solids and fluids.

When you need to change your baby you just change the pouch and pad. The pouches and pants are fully washable and the eco-pads are flushable. They will break down harmlessly in under 6 months. There are no chlorine bleaches, plastics or perfumes, so you are perhaps getting the best of both worlds - eco-friendly kit with the convenience of disposables.

gDiapers make a similar product which is available in the US and Canada. Their liners are fully disposable - you can even compost them! The outer pants are made from breathable cotton and are fixed with soft velcro bands.

Fuzzi-Bunz was the first of these pouch systems. These USA made nappies are available in the UK. They were developed by a mum whose son reacted to urine next to his skin. They have long tabs and many snap poppers in the right places so you can get a good fit and they are available in a large range of sizes.

Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Baby Diapers are available from Amazon [with Amazon frustration-free packaging]. These are eco-friendly disposables. A good choice if the types of diapers on offer for non-disposable nappies has you confused!

See The very best nappies for less expense on the benefits of cloth nappies over disposables.

Types of diaper: Materials

Nappies come in a range of materials, from trad cotton to bamboo, hemp and microfibres. Each has its benefits and disadvantages. Please see Cloth diaper fabric - Nappy materials for your baby's comfort for more on the available choices.

Types of diaper: Accessories

There are also a number of accessories which you will probably want as they make using cloth nappies more practical in different circumstances.

Boosters are extra layers of absorbent material for lining the nappy to give your baby added protection. Boosters are useful for longer spells, such as at night or when travelling.

Nappy liners are another accessory which most parents will regard as virtually essential: they make the washing and cleaning process a whole lot easier. Disposable liners catch most of the poo and most can be safely flushed down the toilet. You can also buy washable ones.

To fasten prefold nappies (or old fashioned terry squares) you can now use a "nappi-nippa" or similar device. These are cunning little grippers which hold the nappy together without any sharp pointy pins to worry about. (I always found managing nappy pins one of the more taxing parts of nappy changing!) Modern mums can just forget all that. There's no danger to yourself or your baby from nappi-nippas and they are easy to use and effective.

Baby wipes

Cloth baby wipes are another useful accessory for your baby's nappy changes. They are re-useable, washable and come in a variety of materials. Over the course of a year they can save you a stack of money and of course they are far more environmentally friendly than disposable wipes. Some of the best ones are double sided so that you can use them for different tasks. Cotton, for example is good for dealing with sticky messes whereas fleece is far more gentle for delicate areas. You can keep separate ones (colour-coded, even) for your baby's face.

If all the foregoing is too much - you can always opt for disposables! There are relatively eco-friendly disposable diapers available, such as the Seventh Generation chlorine free baby diapers 

Many so-called disposables are proving challenging in domestic sewerage systems. It is best to dispose of them in the waste bin, not down the toilet.


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