March 21, 2012

Choosing Your Cloth Diapers: Features of the Inner Layer

For many families, one of the most powerful reasons for switching to cloth diapers is to avoid chemicals and plastics on a baby's sensitive skin. Many babies are prone to rashes are more comfortable -- and rash-free -- in the soft fabric of a cloth diaper. But what exactly is the fabric in your baby's cloth diapers? Although all cloth diapers function in similar ways, there are many different types of inner layers that offer different features and options. Knowing what your priorities are for the layer closest to your baby's skin will help you choose a cloth diaper that you and your baby will both love.

Stay-dry Layers

Many cloth diapers have an inner wicking layer of a fabric that wicks moisture away, helping your baby's skin feel dry. Common materials for a wicking layer include microfleece and suede.

Advantages of a stay-dry layer:
* Feels dry against baby's skin
* Reduces rash
* Dries quickly after washing

Disadvantages of a stay-dry layer:
* Feels dry, so baby won't notice as much when he wets (disadvantage for potty training)
* Synthetic material
* Prone to buildup from detergent
* Cannot use rash cream

Absorbent Layers

If you prefer natural materials against your baby's skin, then you can opt for a diaper that has the absorbent soaker as the inner layer. Absorbent inner layers are usually made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo. They can have different finishes that affect the texture and feel of the fabric, such as velour or sherpa.

Advantages of an inner absorbent layer:
* Feels wet, so baby associates peeing with wetness, helping encourage potty training
* Natural material
* Often available in organic, sustainably harvested, and chemical-free options
* Easy to wash and unlikely to get buildup

Disadvantages of an inner absorbent layer:
* Wet and possibly cold against baby's skin
* Takes longer to dry after washing than wicking layer

Which type of inner layer is best for you? It depends on your preferences and your baby. Try a few different types of diapers before you decide what kind of inner layer you want for most of your cloth diaper stash.

Lisa C. Baker is a full-time mom and part-time writer in Atlanta, Georgia. She writes about green parenting topics at Organic Baby Atlanta and teaches workshops on cloth diapers and elimination communication.  She's been a mom since 2008 and has never bought a disposable diaper; she hopes she'll never need to!

Photo "cloth diaper insides" by MissMessie (, used by creative commons license.