Wondering what kind of cloth diaper you should buy? Here’s an overview of the 9 basic types!
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and use cloth diapers and have gotten daddy on board, the next thing to decide is what type of cloth diapers you will use.
There are 9 basic types of cloth diapers. Yes–9! Don’t worry; I’ve given you the basics of each diaper type in this post! In my book, Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, I go into more detail about how to use each of these types of diapers.
Types of Cloth Diapers
Flat diapers are large squares of single-layered fabric that can be folded in a variety of ways. The fabric is usually made of cotton. I have personally never used flats, but I have heard they are not as intimidating as they seem! They are also the cheapest diapers you will find! You must use flats with a cover. Here is a tutorial with various ways you can fold flats.
Prefold diapers are rectangular pieces of cloth folded into three sections. The middle section is the most absorbent layer. Prefolds can be folded around a baby and fastened with stereotypical pins or a snappi, or they can be folded in a trifold and laid inside a cover. You must always use a cover with prefolds. Prefolds are supposed to be a really great diaper for the newborn stage.
Fitted diapers are usually made of cotton, bamboo, hemp or fleece and are very absorbent–but not waterproof. You do not have to fold them yourself like with flats or prefolds, so they are ready-made to “fit” you baby’s body. Fitteds come in snaps or aplix/velcro closures. You must use a cover with a fitted.
I have a few fitteds and really like the ease of washing them. They are ready to use right out of the dryer or off the line. My husband, however, prefers pocket diapers–which require an extra step after laundering. You can find several brands of fitted diapers.
Contour diapers are a cross between prefolds and fitteds. They are already shaped, but they require pins or a snappi for closure. They also require a cover. I used some contours when I had my loan from The Cloth Diaper Foundation. The Cloth Diaper Foundation is now closed, but if you are low income and in need of diapers, check out a very similar diaper loaning organization–Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.
Hybrid diapers are a cross between disposable and cloth diapers. Often, they come with a washable outer cover, and you have the option of using a biodegradable disposable insert or a washable, cloth insert. Gdiapers are probably the most widely-known hybrid diaper system. I did try gDiapers, but I found them pricey and didn’t care for them. To be honest, they were probably my least favorite type of diaper!
Pocket diapers are what I mainly use–although I really like fitted diapers just as much. Pocket diapers are known as “modern” cloth diapers, and they are very daddy/babysitter-friendly. They require no cover and come in either a snap or aplix/velcro closure.
They are called pocket diapers because each diaper comes with a pocket that must be stuffed with an absorbent insert. Most pocket diapers are lined in either fleece or suede cloth–which are stay-dry materials, meaning that your baby will still feel dry even when he/she is wet because the urine passes through the liner and absorbs into the insert that is inside the pocket. Inserts are either microfiber (which should never be placed next to a baby’s body), cotton, bamboo or hemp). I like using fleece or suede cloth diapers during the day and bamboo diapers at night.
Some of the most popular pocket diapers include Bum Genius and Fuzzi Bunz.
7. Sleeve Diapers
Sleeve diapers are very, very similar to pockets. The difference? They have two openings in the pocket–one on each end! The benefit is that you don’t have to unstuff the diaper when it is soiled. You just simply toss the whole thing into the wash, and the washing machine will agitate the insert out! A popular sleeve diaper brand is Thirsties.
All-in-twos are similar to pocket diapers except that instead of stuffing a pocket, you snap the insert inside the diaper. It almost works like a trifolded prefold inside a cover. The inserts usually get clean without having to unstuff them when soiled either. I actually really like all-in-twos, but I only own a couple of them.
All-in-one diapers are a premium type and are usually pricier than the other types. The benefit is that there are absolutely no other steps. They require no covers or stuffing. They are all one piece–just like a disposable! This fact makes them especially popular with dads, grandparents and sitters!
However, I tried a few all-in-ones, and they were not my favorites. They take a really long time to dry, which is a huge disadvantage if you only have a small stash. I’m more tempted to put my all-in-ones in the dryer to speed up their drying time.
What’s your favorite type of cloth diaper?
My eBook, Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, is a 200+-page handbook that will tell you all you need to know to have a successful cloth diapering journey! To read more about this book, click here.
Thanks for the review. I wish this had been around when we started almost 2 years ago.
We love our GroVia diapers. I bought the For Life package for my first son (who is now 23 months) and a few extras during their seconds sale so I would have some extras when we had our second one. (He is now 9 months.) They are organic cotton, extremely durable and soft. They are bulkier than traditional diapers. They also take effort in the laundry department. We found that starting a sanatize wash right before bed allowed the diapers to clean and that when we got up, we would send them through a couple of rinse cycles, one with vinegar to make sure there was no soap left and then would be dry by noon the next day with very little work. (Well I did have to push a few buttons.)
My oldest was potty trained by 17 months but we still use the diapers for car rides (in case he falls a sleep) and at night. They work great with the extra insert for the bigger nighttime moments. We have rarely ever had a blow out.
Now that they are almost 2 years old, a few of the velcro has cracked or needs replacing but I plan on using my snap press when the time comes to replace them.
I have one Grovia AI2, and I really like it as well! I did try one Grovia AIO, but I didn’t care for it too much. That is so neat that you can repair them with your snap press yourself!
I love this post. It’s a very concise and easy-to-understand synopsis of cloth! I love my BG Freetime AIOs. They dry quickly because the insodes are attached at either end so they dry quickly! And they are $1 to $2 more, so I find it worth it not to have to stuff! 🙂
Thank you, Heather! I have never tried a Freetime, but I’ve heard they are fabulous!
You’re reinforcing negative stereotypes about fathers not being invested in their children and/or too incompetent yo handle a fricking diaper.
Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents
Fitteds with covers are my favorite – because really, the cover are SO STINKIN’ CUTE!!! And I’m with you – all-in-ones take WAY too long to dry.
I love fitteds as well…Will…not so much!
Thank you for such a great post! I have wanted to take the plunge into cloth diapering but need to get my husband on board! This post definitely helps to understand all of the different options available to us. One quick question: you said that you are tempted to put the all-in-ones in the dryer…is there a disadvantage to doing that? Besides the fact that line drying is more economical and environmental friendly? In other words, does it hurt the diaper to dry it in the dryer? Thanks!
Jamie – I don’t have all-in-ones but mine have a lot of fabric. Here’s the deal with dryer (at least for most of the ones I have used and my friends have): You cannot use high heat. You need to use medium so it can take a while. During the winter we hang them by the woodstove and all that water goes into the air (an added bonus) and during the summer drying them on the line is nice. The sun kills any lingering bacteria and there is no cost to dry them. That said, I do use my dryer on mine, not always but when I need things to be easy. The all-in-ones tend to be bulky and take time.
Side note, my husband wasn’t too keen on it but I was determined so we forged ahead. He loves them. With breastfed babies, the diaper can just get thrown in the washer machine and rinsed (with poop) or just wasted (pee). There is nothing special to do. Once the baby reaches an age where you start feeding them solids, the diaper has to be scraped into the toilet or using a rinser (attached right to the toilet. You can get the kits for like $40 or so.) Depending how soon you are giving solids, it really isn’t much of a problem. Most moms will also agree that using cloth speeds the potty training. (My 9 month uses EC and refuses to wear a wet diaper when he has a diaper on and my 23 month old stopped wearing diapers at 14 months -see above comment.) My husband’s biggest concern was out in public. I don’t know about other options but the GroVia have a disposible insert that is compostable or you can toss it. It is a great option if you are in an airport. Good luck!
What great tips, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing!
Besides the economical and environmental reasons, I like to line dry my diapers to keep them nice for longer. Sometimes I do soften them in the dryer though–or I toss them in there when I get lazy/super behind on laundry! I hope you can start cloth soon!
Thanks so much ladies! Everything in this post and the comments is so helpful!
Good Luck Jamie. If your husband needs any more convincing, just have him check out some of the mom blogs and ask questions. I just learned yesterday that another couple I know is using the cloth diapers and the husband was the one who wanted them! Encourage him to reach out. The resources for cloth diapering are expanding quickly as more and mroe parents go this route.
I don’t recommend flats or prefolds if you have a very squirmy or hyper child. I found it almost impossible to get them on and to get a good fit. If we have another child, I think I’ll try the all in one’s.
Thanks for the tips!
My favorite diapers are definitely my pocket diapers, but I received a lot of prefolds when our second daughter was born in July so I am getting used to those and starting to like those alot as well 🙂 I wish this post would’ve been around two years ago when I started cloth diapering, I will definitely point friends who have cloth diaper questions here!
Thanks, Lisa! I did a ton of research when I started out!
My youngest is 24 now and my oldest 27. I had 4 doz. cloth flats to use and had 2 kids in diapers twice. had to use rubber/vinyl pants as covers or it was disposables. the latter takes 550 yrs. to decompose so don’t understand anyone who uses them when there are such neat cloth diapers out there. They are so fantastic and so easy to take care of. Wish these had been available long ago. If I have gr. children someday I hope to make some to use at least while I babysit. I refuse to use anything else here anyway. Thanks for describing each kind of diaper.
Deb, I bet it would be such a blessing to your kids to make diapers for your grandchildren! A lot of grandparents these days prefer disposables, so it’s neat that you don’t!
I’m all for keeping the environment liveable so that’s why I will refuse to use disposables if I’m watching g. children someday. No other way here.
I like fitted diapers with a cover best! I did sew up some pocket diapers for going to church or town this time around. (baby #4 due in Dec.!) My husband wanted me to use cloth diapers, BUT he almost never changes a diaper and uses the disposable ones on the rare chance he does. 😉 It has saved us quite a bit of money over 3 children. I also like that they are almost blowout proof!
I find they are more blowout proof as well!!
LOVE pockets and sleeves. Never really got into fitteds with my son (now out of cloth!), but would love to try next time around!! Building my stash until that day comes. 🙂
I kind of wish I had built in more sleeves to my stash….it’s so great not having to unstuff!
My favorite is prefolds, which are easily made into contures with some basic sewing skills. My least favorite is the hybrid diapers… we tried gdiapers… hated them… Hey if you are compiling a post of diaper washing or the like, I have a post you could use about the dreaded ammonia stinkies!
I wish I could sew! I would love to link back to your post, Tamra! Can you give me the link? Thanks!
Sure thing. http://lifeslemonadeblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/cloth-diapers-ammonia-stink.html
Such a helpful post! I honestly know know very little about cloth diapering and all the options with it, so I enjoyed reading this.
I hope it helped, Audrey!
Elizabeth - The Messy Organic Mum
Thanks for the great tip about the Rockin Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer. I haven’t heard of it but it nice to know that they are starting to make some great products to help us cloth mummies out!
Another great thing to help with the stink is to use wetbags. We have a large one from the GroVia line and it never smells … unless I don’t close it. I simply wash it out with the rest of the laundry. You can see my cloth washing tips here: http://www.themessyorganicmum.com/2012/11/cloth-diapering.html
I love our Wahmies and PlanetWise wet bags! I have a hanging one from Fuzzi Bunz as well…but it doesn’t close, so now i prefer not to use it.
I must have missed the first post about cloth diapers (planning on going to read it now), but I read your post on Convincing Dads to Use Cloth Diapers. That post is the reason I’m even CONSIDERING using cloth diapers! After I read it (and learned that there is such a thing as an “all-in-one” cloth diaper), I became interested. I left a status on my facebook page asking if any of my friends used cloth diapers, and what advice/thoughts they had on them. I think that update got the most responses of any status I’ve ever put up — and if it didn’t, it definitely was in the top 5! I learned a lot from them, but I was a bit lost on the different types they kept mentioning. And then you posted this about all the different cloth diapers!!! Thank you! I’m actually really excited now about the idea of trying them! 🙂
Aine, you sound JUST like me from 2 years ago! I was so excited to try once I learned about modern cloth diapers! And I asked a TON of questions!
I am so thrilled you are considering it! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We go through phases where I bring the sposies back out–like during sickness or travel (although I have traveled with them before). Next year, I’m planning to write about how to build your stash (I don’t recommend getting all of one kind up front before you know what you really like!) and then we’ll delve into the wash routine and trouble shooting washing issues! The posts will run every Friday!
Thanks for sharing the different types.
It’s a pleasure!
I got a giant pack when we had my son from cottonbabies.com. It was a birth-to-potty training pack along with 2 packs of prefolds and some snappies. Most of the diapers are Grovia shells with snap inserts, which are fabulous because most of the time you can just change the liner and snap a new one in! We use BumGenius and Fuzzibunz pocket diapers for night time, with 3 inserts. I like the BumGenius better. However we use disposables when going out, because doing the wet bag thing is kind of difficult. How do you manage going out with cloth?
Elizabeth - The Messy Organic Mum
Depends on where we are going. Usually we just bring a wet bag in our diaper bag. As the diapers get dirtied, the clean one get less and less so it all fits nicely. The GroVia line also makes the disposible inserts and we have used those on occasion but I don’t mind the cloth at all. If we are going for a whole day then I usually make sure to change diapers before walking away from the car so I can leave extras and dirties there. Overall, I haven’t found cloth to be restrictive. The one time we used disposibles instead of our cloth was when we flew to Chicago for 2 days. Logan didn’t wear them and Lucas only wore them when he was in the car. I brought 12 diapers with us and returned with 5. One was lost to the airplane when I dropped it in the toilet though so I don’t count that one. 6 disposibles over 2 days with airports and 2 kids seemed like an exceptable exception for us.
What trouble are you having that makes using the wetbag difficult? Are you using a small one?
I’m using Bumgenius flip right now but want to try Charlie banana…doyou recommend it?
I haven’t tried Charlie Banana, but I have heard great things about them. 🙂
Alisha @ The Savvy Bump
Thanks so much for this series! When I was pregnant with my daughter, I really wanted to cloth diaper but I could never figure it out. I just didn’t understand all the terminology – prefolds, inserts etc. We are hoping for another baby in the future and I’m excited that I finally found someone who can get me on the cloth diaper train. =)
Yay! I hope you will cloth diaper next time around! 🙂
So I have a three months old little girl. I started out with flats, which I did not have success with. I then received a stash of gerber pocket diapers but found their quality had changed. I then received a stash of Alva baby, and no matter what I did, they leaked, which a lot of moms reported. So we took a break. I purchased the e-book last week and it was so helpful. I made a purchase of a set of Kawaii and will be receiving them this week. I just wanted to share that they are having a great sale this week. I was able to purchase a set of 28 pockets and 56 inserts for $100 dollars less than they were. This will be a great week to start!! And what’s even better, the kit includes 5 different styles of cloth which I think is a great way to start. Thanks so much for the book, for now I feel a lot more confident than before. The link to the website is www.theluvyourbaby.com.
Thanks so much for sharing about the sale, and I’m SO glad to hear you’ve found the book helpful!!
Very Very helpful. I’ve been all over the internet trying to figure cloth diapering. You explained everything so simple. I’ve decided to go with pockets. Now all I have to do is figure out which brand is the best.
Don’t forget Cloth for Every Bum and The Rebecca Foundation. They are both cloth diaper lending services. Cloth for Every Bum is local while the Rebecca foundation can ship diapers to you.
Many thanks for the tips !
I found a very good deal of some all-in-ones but I would rather use natural fiber as inserts, such as cotton or hemp.
Do you know if just placing the insert between the baby and a Bum Genius freetime would work, meaning that it would stay where it is supposed to, and not move around and create leaks?
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