Cloth Diapers Explained: A Guide To Help You Choose Which Is Right For You and Your Baby

Cloth Diapers Explained: A Guide To Help You Choose Which Is Right For You and Your Baby

Deciding what type of cloth diaper to use can be one of the hardest parts about choosing cloth diapering. There are so many different types of cloth diapers, with more coming out every month. It’s enough to make your head spin! Here we will explain the different types of diapers, and their pros and cons, to help you figure out which is right for you and your baby.

Pocket Diapers –  A pocket diaper is a diaper that consists of a water proof outer layer, a stay dry inner layer and a pocket opening in which to insert a soaker. Pocket diapers are a very popular choice for many reasons. One of my favorite aspects of the pocket diaper is being able to control the amount of absorbency. Most pocket diapers come with an insert usually made with microfiber or hemp. An insert is a rectangular soaker pad that you “stuff” into the pocket opening. You can also use prefolds, flat diapers, or even microfiber towels if you choose. There are many different options you can use when it comes to stuffing your pockets
1. Can be used for outings, day care, nights and are “daddy favorites” because you can control absorbency.
2. Very easy to use: Just pre-stuff your pockets and have them ready to use as needed.
3. Easy to put on baby: Velcro and snap closures make it quick to put on and give a custom fit.
1. You have to remove the soiled insert before washing, which some mamas don’t like.
2. Some mamas don’t like the extra work of having to stuff pocket diapers before use.
3. Not all pocket diapers come with an insert, which is an added cost factor.

All-In-Ones (AIO’s) – AIO’s consist of a water proof outer layer, a stay dry inner layer, and a soaker sewn in. Out of all the cloth diapers, these are the most like disposables because they require no extra work adding inserts or a cover. If you are unsure about stuffing pockets or using diapers that need a cover, AIO’s are a great option.
1. Easy to use. These are perfect daycare and daddy diapers.
2. No extra steps involved, just fasten on baby and go.
1. These diapers have sewn in soakers so they may take longer to dry. To avoid that, look for one with loose soaker (like a bumGenius Elemental).
2. May not be as absorbent as other types of diapers and you cannot customize absorbency like a pocket diaper, unless you add a doubler.

All-In-Two (AI2’s) – These are very much like the AIO’s, but in two pieces instead of one. An AI2 consists of an outer water proof layer and a soaker that either snaps in or lays into the outer shell. Some AI2’s come with soakers that are topped with a stay dry material or can come with your choice of material to use for the soakers.
1. Drying time is shorter because the soaker isn’t attached.
2. Very easy to use, just lay in or snap in soaker and put on baby.
3. Requires no cover because it has a water proof outer shell.
4. Can often reuse cover and just change insert, saving money on buying more diapers.
1. These diapers can sometimes be more expensive. They are often made with more expensive materials such as organic cotton and bamboo velour.

Fitted Diapers – Fitteds diapers consist of a body of fabric, usually made with natural fibers such as cotton, hemp or bamboo. They have a soaker which can either be sewn internally into the diaper or that is separate and snaps onto the diaper. You can choose either snap or Velcro closures, or snapless fitteds that allows you to use Snappi’s or pins to fasten. Fitted diapers require some sort of water proof cover. They are often trim fitting and you can add doublers for extra absorbency if necessary.
1. Dries quickly when it has a snap in soaker.
2. Often fitteds come in cute prints, which can make using them a lot of fun.
3. Can be very absorbent and you can add doublers for more absorbency.
4. You can find covers made with PUL in fun colors and even prints, or you can explore the world of wool and fleece.
1. Takes longer to dry when it has a sewn in soaker.
2. Requires a water proof cover, so not as convenient as an all in one diaper.
3. Can be costly when made out of more expensive materials such as bamboo.

Prefold Diapers –  Prefold diapers consist of several layers of an absorbent material, usually cotton, sewn together. A prefold has three sections, with the middle being the thickest and most absorbent. When you see a prefold described as “4x8x4” this means that it has two outer sections of 4 layers of material and one middle section with 8 layers. They are a two-step system and require a water proof cover. Prefolds can be fastened with either a Snappi, pins or can be trifolded into a cover.
1. An economical choice. Prefolds cost considerably less than other types of diapers.
2. Wash easily, dry quickly, and are very durable.
3. Can add absorbency by using a doubler or folding an insert inside of it.
4. There are many different folds you can learn to make a more customized fit on your baby.
5. You can find prefolds in other materials that can be more absorbent such as hemp or bamboo.
1. Have a bit of a learning curve, so prefolds can be intimidating at first.
2. Not very daycare and daddy friendly because of the learning curve.
3. Not all mamas think prefolds are as absorbent as other types of diapers.

Flat Diapers – A flat diaper or more commonly known as flats, consist of one layer of an absorbent material, usually birdseye cotton. These diapers are probably the type of diapers your grandmother used and are making a huge comeback now. Flat diapers are like a prefold that hasn’t been sewn all together. To use a flat diaper, you fold it so that it takes on a shape to fit around your baby, making an absorbent layer where it’s needed. There are many different folds that you can learn and you will be surprised at how fun using these diapers can be.
1. Wash very easily and dry very quickly. No worry about stripping or special washing techniques.
2. Very economical – cost even less than prefold diapers.
3. The original “one size” diaper.
4. Can be “trifolded” into a cover like prefolds for maximum absorbency.
5. You can add a doubler or layer two flats together for added absorbency
6. Flats make great, inexpensive doublers and pocket stuffers.
7. Some mamas love to dye their flats and you can have fun learning different folds.
1. Have a learning curve to use, even more so than prefolds.
2. Are not daycare friendly.
3. Often times require added absorbency, especially for toddlers and heavy wetters.
4. Require a water proof cover.

Setting Up A Cloth Diapering System
You may be asking yourself if should you pick between fitteds or pockets, prefolds or AIO’s. Before you make a decision you might want to consider this: you don’t need to stick with just one type of diaper. You may want to use one, two or even three different types of diapers to suite your needs. If you have a your child in daycare, you may want  AIO’s to make it easier for the provider. If you know you and your baby will be spending a lot of time and home and want something simple, you may prefer fitteds and wool. If daddy is leary about trying cloth diapers, you may want to have a stash of pockets just for him. If you are on a tight budget and need to save money, prefolds or flats are very economical. Choosing diapers to best suite your daily schedule will help you set up the perfect cloth diapering system. Mom’s Milk Boutique has an awesome 30 day cloth diaper trial program to make this choice a little easier. Have fun mamas!

by Beth Eckert, guest contributor and cloth diapering mom to 5 boys.

Wanna learn more about cloth diapers from Beth? Visit her blog at

3 Responses to “Cloth Diapers Explained: A Guide To Help You Choose Which Is Right For You and Your Baby”

  1. Krissie says:

    good article….and I disagree with Emily………MOST (notice the all capitals) not all, but MOST dads are not interested or don’t want to try cloth diapering. I would guess that most dads do not even CHANGE the diaper in the first place. My husband has been very good about changing diapers since the hospital, however had said several times from the get go that he refused to use cloth diapers. I have the bum genius aio’s and he doesn’t mind using those at all since they are so close to disposables. Washing them is a different story….I know he wouldn’t break them down, nor would I expect him to do so since I was the one who wanted the cloth diapers in the first place. SO, he throws them in a wet bag and I pull them apart and wash them and we’re both happy.

    I think this article was geared towards the MAJORITY of people which means that MOST people MAY have a learning curve with the more involved cloth diapers and MOST dads would rather use a disposable than figuring out how to use a cloth diaper (which is why the AIO’s are DADDY FRIENDLY!!!)

  2. Emily says:

    My only complaint about this list is the “learning curve/daddy friendly” comments. My husband will reach for a prefold before any of the fancy ‘daddy friendly’ dipes. Soulds a little condescending to dads out there imo.

  3. Terry says:

    Very nice article on cloth diapers.