So, now that you have decided to go with cloth (or even if you still need some convincing) the next question is this. What KIND of cloth diaper will be the best for you, your family, and of course your little munchkin?
This is an INCREDIBLY debated and personal choice in the CD world. What works best will definitely vary depending on your budget, your need for convenience, the amount of absorbency you need, your child’s body type, your washing routine, etc etc etc.
There are 5 major types of diapers out there. Between Bree and I we have tried all of them in some way and have chosen what is best for us. Do we use the same type? Nope! Are we both happy with our choice? YEP! Read on to find out more on the plethora of options in the cloth diapering world.
Prefolds or Flats with Covers (EG: Green Mountain Prefolds and Osocozy with Bummi’s or Kawaii Covers)
A prefold diaper and a flat diaper are both a large piece of absorbent fabric (usually cotton) that you fold in various ways on the baby. The difference between a prefold and a flat is simply the way the fabric is sewn. Prefolds have multiple layers of fabric sewn together to create a rectangular diaper that absorbs more. Flats are a single layer of absorbant cotton cut in a large square shape. These are what most people associate with cloth diapers, and are probably similar to what our parents or grandparents may have used.
There are several ways to fold each of these diapers. I got my folding techniques from here when I used them with Bug. For us, the bikini twist worked the best when he was small (3-9 months) because it made the diaper the most trim, and created a sort of poop catching pocket. I switched to the angel wing fold at that point because he was more squirmy and I could fold it faster.
After you fold the prefold/flat, you secure it with the traditional diaper pins. But, there is this awesome invention called the “snappi” now which replaces those sharp pins. It is completely pinless! It is tri-sided and has a three little plastic “claws” that grab the fabric to keep it in place. I always describe the fasteners like the ace bandage securing things, attached to stretchy plastic arms.
After you secure the prefold/flat in place, you cover the whole thing with a waterproof cover. These can either be fastened with snaps or aplix. Make sure to tuck in all of the prefold/flat so none is sticking out of the cover to avoid wicking onto baby’s clothes. The covers can be reused throughout the day, just wiping out after each change. So, you really only need 4-6 covers for full time CD in this method.
Pros: Cheap, dry fast, several sizes/aborbency amounts available, and all natural materials
Cons: Bigger for diaper bag, harder to rinse off poop, wetness sits right on babies skin so some redness/irritation may occur for the overnight diaper, more complicated diaper changes=less family/sitter friendly
Fitteds with covers (EG: Kissaluvs and Blueberry)These are contoured pieces of fabric that you don’t have to fold. Like prefolds/flats, they need to be secured before putting the cover on. Some fancier ones come with snaps/aplix on the actual fitted diaper. If not, you would use a snappi or pins. They aren’t waterproof, so they still need a cover just like prefolds/flats.
Pros: Faster than prefolds/flats, easier to fit to baby because of many sizes, less fabric so cuts down on bulkiness
Cons: More pricey in the long run, especially if buying multiple sizes. Still not the most family/sitter friendly
Pocket Diapers (EG: Fuzzibunz, Happy Heinys. Sunbaby, JustSimplyBaby, and Kawaii)
Pocket diapers are similar to AIO diapers, but instead of the absorbent fabric being sewn into the diaper, removable absorbent inserts are placed into a pocket created between an outer, waterproof layer and an inner polyester layer. The polyester layer is the part that touches your baby’s skin and wicks the moisture away, and the inserts absorb all the liquid. When you change the diaper, the inner polyester layer will feel dry to the touch even if the absorbent inserts are completely soaked.
You will commonly find inserts in three different fabrics:
- Microfiber inserts absorb liquid quickly and hold quite a lot, allowing the baby’s skin to be as dry as possible.
- Bamboo liners hold about the same amount of liquid as microfiber with about half of the thickness. A tradeoff for the thinner liners is that they tend not to absorb quite as quickly.
- Hemp liners are said to hold nearly twice the amount of liquid as microfiber and tend to be the thinnest of the group.
With pocket diapers, you simply “stuff” the pocket of the diaper with as many inserts as you need for their wetting habits. A lot of people can get away with just 1 microfiber insert for daytime use, and double stuff at night. Bug is a heavy peer and I need 2 microfiber’s during the day and at night I add a hemp insert with the 2 microfiber inserts to help prevent night time leaks.
These diapers come in a one sized variety that will fit babies 8-35lbs (adjustable rise with snaps) or in sized varieties.
Pros: Easier to use because no folding/pinning necessary, since you only have to snap or Velcro each side shut. Much more sitter/family friendly. Very customizable with various fabrics/amounts of inserts. Cute!
Cons: More expensive than prefolds/fitteds, have to “stuff” each diaper before use, supposed to hang dry, so a longer drying time, microfiber inserts can cause stink issues.
All in 2/Hybrid Diapers (EG: gDiapers, Flip, and GroVia)
An All in 2/Hybrid diaper is considered the best of both worlds to some people.
It consists of a cotton outer layer, and the waterproof liner snaps inside the diaper. You can then place an absorbent material over the waterproof lining. The fabric you place over the waterproof liner is the only absorbent part, so if the child leaks past that, the cotton shell (the whole diaper) needs to be replaced. If they only soak the extra material over the waterproofing liner, you can wipe out the liner just like the covers you would use on prefolds and fitteds.
Hybrids are sized diapers, so you have to buy a new set a few times as your child grows out of them, along with different sized stuffing materials.
The stuffing for these diapers doesn’t go inside like a diaper, but rather lays in the liner. It can be either a cotton/hemp/bamboo piece of material (that is shaped the same as the liner), OR you can use a disposable, flush-able liner. Many people like these for travel and going out of the house because it takes up much less room in the diaper bag than prefolds or pockets. They are also quite trim.
There are also AI2 diapers which are also cotton shells with an extra cotton (or similar type fabric) liner that can be snapped inside for more absorbency. Since there is no waterproofing, you can either cover them with the same covers that you would use for a prefold or flat, or you can just change frequently. Even if there is no waterproofing, you can feel when the fabric on the bottom of the diaper gets a little cool or damp that it’s time to change. Bree uses these types of diapers and only uses the waterproof cover if they are going out or if Evie has on sleepers or pants. When she is just around the house, Belle is usually just in her cute printed diapers with a tshirt, so she can feel when the change needs to happen.
Pros: Trim, disposable option for travel/sitters, only need a few shells, convenient
Cons: Much more expensive because only sized, liners sometimes don’t hold in pee well if you have a heavy wetter, no way to double stuff, not as cost efficient because not full cloth (you still have to buy disposable liners if you go that route).
All in one diapers (EG: BumGenius, Thirsties, and Rumparooz)
All in one diapers are the “easiest” type of cloth diaper. They are exactly like a disposable except you wash them. The shell and stuffing all all sewn together so it’s just one piece you are dealing with. You simply put the diaper on the baby’s butt and either snap or Velcro it on. Nothing to take out after a change, nothing to figure out in terms of absorbency, nothing to separate when you dry.
They can be one size or sized just like pocket diapers.
Pros: Easiest system, and one set can last your entire diapering experience, very non CD user friendly, no extra pieces.
Cons: Most expensive type, slow drying time because you can’t separate it, some people complain it can’t adequately get clean because it’s all sewn shut.
And there you have it, a brief summary of each of the major types of cloth diapers. Obviously, there are other lesser known types as well as SAHM varieties. What works for one family may not work for another because of money, time, complexity, or baby’s body type.
I personally loved prefolds with Bug from 3 months (when we started CD) until about 13 months when he was super squirmy. Then I switched to pockets full time and LOVE them even more. I went straight into pockets with Chica to keep my washing/folding easier and also because it was made known to me by my family and hubby that they preferred the pockets over prefolds. I tried a hybrid diaper and HATED it, because Bug always leaked out and there were too many pieces. It was also aplix and I discovered I’m not a fan of that closure style, so now I have ALL snaps. So, in my house we have 47 pocket diapers to use between 2 kids, each with 2 inserts. Then we have some hemp inserts to increase absorbency for some of Bugs diapers.
Bree actually uses homemade cloth diapers. They consist of a cotton shell with a snap in soaker, so there is NO waterproof part. Sort of like a fitted, but with the option for more absorbency and without the cover. This helps her see exactly when Belle has peed while at home and change her right away. Then, she throws a cover over the whole thing when she goes out to prevent outfit leaks. But, she has also used prefolds in the past, and has all in ones and pockets in her stash as well.
Any specific questions on one (or all) of the types I covered? Any suggestions for things I need to add? Let us know in the comments!