So, let me tell you a little bit about the different cloth diaper styles out there:
AIO - All-In-One - AIOs are fitted diapers that have a waterproof outer layer. This layer usually consists of fabric that has a PUL (PolyUrethane Laminate) backing, polar fleece such as Windpro, or wool. These are the closest in similarity to disposable diapers since they are a one-piece diapering system. The absorbent soaker material is often sewn into the diaper; it may also be detachable. Read more about AIO cloth diapers here.
AI2 - All-In-Two - AI2s are very similar to AIOs with the exception that the absorbent soaker material is not attached to the diaper in any way. The soaker is usually a second, separate piece that must be used in conjunction with the diaper. The drying time for these diapers is shorter than the traditional AIO. Read more about AI2 cloth diapers here.
Pocket Diapers - Pocket diapers are like AIOs orAI2s. They have an outer layer of a waterproof material and an inner layer of a stay dry material, like microfleece or suede cloth. They close with Velcro or snaps. They have a pocket opening that allows for the absorbent material to be stuffed in the pocket during use and then removed for laundering. The absorbent material for stuffing can be an insert that comes with the diaper or a pre-fold or doubler. Some moms use terry wash cloths. Pocket diapers are a popular choice among cloth diapering moms because you can customize the amount of absorbent material. Read more about pocket style cloth diapers here.
Fitted Diapers - Fitted diapers closely resemble disposable diapers. They are contoured and fitted with elastic around the legs and back. They fasten with Velcro or snaps, and a waterproof cover must be worn over them. They are the next step up from flat pre-fold diapers and much easier to use. Read more about fitted cloth diapers here.
Contour Diapers - Contours are hourglass shaped diapers with no elastic in the legs or back. They must be held together with a SNAPPI® Diaper Fastener, pins, or a diaper cover. These diapers are not waterproof, so a cover will be needed.
Flats - These one-layer diapers, generally made out of 100% cotton gauze, are the most "old-fashioned" choice. They dry quickly and fit a large range of sizes. Folding and pinning are required. Read more about flat cloth diapers here.
Pre-folds - Pre-fold diapers are rectangular shaped diapers that must be folded into the shape of a diaper. They are similar to flats, but have multiple layers with more layering in the middle. They often have 2-4 layers of absorbent material on either side and 6-8 layers in the middle. The amount of layers varies according to the size you choose, generally ranging from preemie to toddler. You may see a pre-fold described as being 4x8x4. This describes how many layers there are in the outer and inner sections: 4 layers in both outer sections and 8 layers in the inner or middle section. Pre-folds are usually the cheapest type of cloth diapers available. They must be used in conjunction with a cover. Read more about prefold cloth diapers here.
Diaper Covers - Covers come in many styles and shapes, but their function is to provide a waterproof outer layer for non-waterproof diapers (all except AIOs). They are often fitted with elastic and fasten with snaps or Velcro. Some covers pull-up, like underpants. Diaper covers are usually made from polyester, Polyurethane laminates (PUL), waterproof nylon, fleece or wool.
If you like several aspects of cloth diapers, but mainly don’t like the laundry aspect of them, gDiapers, which are a hybrid between cloth diapers and disposables, might be the right choice for you. They come with a machine-washable cloth diaper cover with a snap-in liner. Rather than needing to wash the liner, as you do with cloth diapers, you simply flush the disposable liner down the toilet or compost wet ones. These diapers are much less wasteful than disposable diapers, since they don’t add to the landfills. The liners are plastic-free; however, they do contain superabsorbent gel. So, if you’re looking for a gel-free diaper this may not be the one for you. Follow this link to read more about gdiapers: http://www.gdiapers.com/
Green Disposable Diapers
This option is for moms who want the convenience of disposable diapers, but who want a diaper that is chemical-free and/or gel-free, better for their babies, and better for the environment. I used this option for my son when he was a newborn, because I did not want to deal with newborn poopy diapers 8-12 times per day. We still use them whenever we’re traveling or when we are on day-long outings, just for the purpose of convenience.
Here are some options:
This is the one option of disposables that is gel (Sodium Polyacrylate) AND chemical free. It's a cotton-blend diaper made with chlorine-free wood pulp that contains no extra chemicals or gels. Their site says they're "assembled in the U.S. with domestic materials and certified non-chlorine bleached wood pulp from Scandinavian, sustainable, renewable, family-owned forests." Read more about them here: http://www.tushies.com/
These diapers are chlorine-free and hypo-allergenic, but they do contain Sodium Polyacrylate (gel). So, again, for those of you looking for a gel-free diaper, this may not be the right option. This diaper company calls the SAP gel "chemically inert" and claims independent scientific research has shown it is "non-toxic, not carcinogenic, and non-irritating to the skin." However, there are several other studies that state the opposite, as mentioned above. So, the decision of whether to go gel-free or not is really up to each parent. If this is a concern for you, I would suggest that you read both sides of the argument before making a decision. Read more about the diapers here: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/Diapers Nature Babycare:
These disposable diapers are made from corn and FSC-certified and chlorine-free tree pulp. They're 60 percent biodegradable. The corn-based elements are GMO-free and packaging is compostable. I was not able to find anything regarding SAP (gel) on their site. So, I am unsure whether they contain it or not. They are available online or at Target. Read more about these diapers here: http://www.natyusa.com/products/diapers.php
I hope this quick review was helpful for some of you. If you have experience with any of the diapers reviewed/mentioned above, please leave a comment and let other moms know how you like them. Also, as always, please feel free to pose any questions.