Here’s How Cloth Diapers Really Work
Here’s How Cloth Diapers Really Work
May 11, 2021

Here’s How Cloth Diapers Really Work

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Here’s How Cloth Diapers Really Work.
Here’s How Cloth Diapers Really Work

If you’ve ever talked to a cloth diapering parent, they’ve probably said something to you like “No seriously, they’re so much easier than you think!” And it’s true. Cloth diapers have come a really long way since the days of having to put them together with safety pins.

But that doesn’t exactly explain how cloth diapers have changed and why it matters. So we’ve partnered with Charlie Banana to break down the basic anatomy of a cloth diaper. Here’s what you need to know about how they work.

Charlie Banana Cloth Diaper Elements

The ABCs of Cloth Diapers

Outer Shell: Every cloth diaper is made from two parts: a waterproof outer shell and an absorbent inner lining. The absorbent lining wicks moisture away from your baby’s skin, and the waterproof shell keeps that moisture from getting…anywhere that isn’t your baby’s diaper.

Prefold, Fitted, Pocket and All-in-one: You can learn about the different styles of cloth diapers (including the pros and cons of each) right here. But here’s the basic rundown of what sets them apart:

Prefold Diapers: Prefolds are your old school fold-and-fasten diapers. The most affordable of the bunch, they come with a steeper learning curve (and can also be used as liners for fitted diapers).

Fitted Diapers: With fitted diapers, the lining and shell are separate elements. You fold a piece of absorbent cloth and place it inside the shell to assemble your diaper.

Pocket Diapers: Pocket diapers like Charlie Banana go onto your baby almost like a disposable diaper, but feature a pocket that you can fill with reusable inserts to control the absorbency.

All-in-one Diapers: All-in-one diapers are the most similar to disposable (other than the washing and reusing part) because the shell and lining are connected as one piece.

Reusable Inserts: If you’re using a pocket-style diaper, the insert is the part of the diaper that absorbs moisture. They can be made out of hemp, microfiber, cotton, fleece—anything soft and absorbent.

Charlie Banana Deluxe Reusable Inserts (3 Pack) - One Size, 3


Disposable Inserts: Disposable inserts are meant to be thrown away and can help transition from disposable diapers to cloth. For minimal cleanup, place a disposable insert inside the diaper lining (or on top of the pocket in a pocket diaper) similarly to how you would use a menstrual pad.

Charlie Banana Disposable Inserts (32 Pack)


Disposable Liners: Disposable liners are thinner and less substantial than inserts, and they aren’t designed to absorb wetness. Instead, they can act as a barrier between solid waste and your baby’s diaper, making cleanup a little easier. Because they’re thinner, disposable liners cost about ⅓ of what you’d spend on a disposable insert, and can be used as wipes as well.

Charlie Banana 2-in-1 Bamboo Diaper Liners & Wipes (100 Pack)


One-size Diapers: One-size diapers like Charlie Banana are designed to fit babies from birth until roughly potty training age (it’s one of the reasons they save you money!) They do that by making the diapers super versatile with extra side snaps and adjustable leg elastics:

Leg Elastic: On Charlie Banana diapers, the leg elastic adjusts like a bra strap, so you can make it smaller or bigger as your baby grows (and there are handy markings that indicate the size so you’re not guessing). The leg elastic is meant to be snug so that nothing can escape (as long as there aren’t any red marks on your baby’s skin, it’s not too tight).

Side Snaps: Have you ever noticed that cloth diapers have a ton of snaps on the side? Those snaps allow you to adjust the length and width) of your baby’s waistband, so it can shrink to newborn size and expand to toddler size without any extra parts.

And the XYZs of Accessories

You don’t necessarily need every cloth diaper accessory under the sun. But they can make the job easier. Here are some of the products that successful cloth diapering parents swear by:

Wet Bag: When you’re out and about, you’ll need a place to keep dirty diapers (can’t just toss them in the trash!). A wet bag separates diapers from the rest of your belongings until you get home.

Charlie Banana Wet Dry Bag - Cactus Azul

Diaper Sprayer: Newborn poop is water soluble (especially if your baby is getting breastmilk) and can go straight in the washer. But once your little one starts drinking formula or eating solids, you might need a little extra help removing solid waste. While the “dunk and swish” is a tried and true method, a diaper sprayer can help you avoid getting your hands wet.

Smarterfresh Brass Diaper Sprayer


Splatter Shield: If you opt for a diaper sprayer, a splatter shield will keep the water (and anything inside it) from splashing onto you or your bathroom floor.

Spray Pal Cloth Diaper Splatter Shield


Spatula: You’ve definitely seen a spatula before, but probably never used one like this. A silicone spatula (like the kind you might use while baking) is often used to remove solid waste if a gentle shake doesn’t do the job first.

8.5" Silicone Spatulas (Set of 5)


How to Choose the Right Diaper

While cloth diapering is much easier than it once was, only you’ll know if it’s the right choice for your family. And pro tip: there are plenty of parents who opt for a hybrid system that uses disposables part time and cloth part time. Head over to Charlie Banana to learn more about how cloth diapering works IRL and then create your cloth diaper kit.

This post is sponsored by Charlie Banana. Babylist’s free site, apps and emails are made possible by our sponsors. We limit our sponsored content to relevant partners that offer products and services we believe in and use ourselves.

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