How do all-in-one cloth diapers work?

Choosing between all the different diaper types out there isn't easy.
Choosing between all the different diaper types out there isn't easy.

New moms and dads have more choices to make than ever before. Do we want to know the baby's sex? Should we go natural? Will we deliver in a hospital, a "birthing center" or at home? Doctor or midwife? Traditional or water birth?

Cloth or disposable?

The choice of "diapering system" is perhaps the most highly debated parenting topic in the mainstream today, and it's not one to be taken lightly. Parents will be dealing with it several times a day, every day, for a couple of years. When you have a baby, diapers are a big deal.

When disposable diapers were first introduced in the 1940s, they were a luxury; by the '80s, prices had come down, availability had skyrocketed and almost everybody had switched to the less labor-intensive option [sources: Kimberly-Clark, FamilyEducation]. With disposables, there was no more washing and folding, no more pinning and far less intimate contact with the uniquely smelly emission that is baby poop. You just wrap 'em up and throw 'em out.

And thus we found ourselves with ever-growing landfills stuffed to the brim with soiled diapers and an eventual environmentalist push for a return to traditional cloth.

The cloth vs. disposable controversy centers on the ecological issue, with both sides claiming victory (it's diapery landfills vs. hot-water washing and diaper-service fuel emissions). But green-minded parents more often opt for reusable cloth. The decision doesn't end there, though. Within "cloth," they have to make a less clear-cut decision: diaper wrap, insert or all-in-one?

In this article, we'll see what makes a cloth diaper an "all-in-one" and learn how it differs from other cloth systems. We'll also investigate the pros and cons of all-in-one reusable diapers.

We'll begin with the most basic question: What's an all-in one?