I remember when I was transitioning from disposables to cloth diapers. There were so many different types that I got so confused.
If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right place.
To help you transition easier, you should first know that there are different types of cloth diapers.
In this guide, I’ll explain the SIMILARITIES and DIFFERENCES between the different types of cloth diapers, their pros and cons, and when to use each.
Whether you’re experienced in cloth diapering or are just beginning your cloth diapering journey, this guide will be useful in helping you determine which is the best for your baby.
10 Types of Cloth Diapers that All Parents Should Know!
There are ten types of cloth diapers that you should know about. Each type of diaper offers different benefits and is meant for specific use cases.
The best diaper for you and your baby is not determined by its price or number of features. It is solely based on how well it meets your specific needs and preferences.
1) Flat Diapers
These are the oldest types of cloth diapers. Flat diapers are something that your grandparents or parents have probably used before and are familiar with.
They’re the SIMPLEST regarding construction, design, and materials. A flat diaper is usually made of absorbent natural fiber cotton.
I prefer using flats because they can be folded and shaped in various ways to suit different needs. You can make varying shapes to customize absorbency and fit, making them adaptable.
These are a great budget cloth diaper option if you know how to find them. Most manufacturers have switched to making pre-folds nowadays.
- Customizable shape
- Dries up quickly
- Tried and tested method
- Need some skill in folding and pinning
- Needs an outer waterproof cover
2) Prefold Diapers
Pre-folds or prefold diapers are very similar to flat diapers, except they have perforations or “pre-folds” that guide you through folding them in a SPECIFIC way.
I’m grateful for these folds because I couldn’t figure out how to fold a flat diaper to save my life.
These pre-folds divide the flat fabric into three panels with multiple layers of fabric sewn together.
The middle panel usually has more layers because it needs to absorb more liquids.
The advantage of using pre-folds is that you can use them for different purposes — the most common being extra inserts for increased absorbency.
The prefold diapers must be folded into a diaper-like shape or other shapes similar to a flat. However, they’re more WIDELY AVAILABLE and more convenient to fold.
They can also be placed inside a waterproof diaper cover. The only thing that needs to be changed is the prefold. Furthermore, the covers can be REUSED.
- Allows you to customize absorbency
- Easy and quick to dry
- Versatile use cases
- The small learning curve for folding (but less than flats)
- Need to pair with cover for waterproofing
3) Baby Diaper Cover
The diaper cover is another essential part of a diaper — specifically with prefolds and flats. This is what makes up the waterproof outer layer.
A diaper cover is usually waterproof with a prefold or folded flat inside because the absorbent inner layer needs to function correctly.
The advantage of using a cover with prefolds or flats inside is that you ONLY need to change the absorbent layer when your baby soils the diaper, not the cover itself.
I like these covers because the creative designs and colors attract my baby’s attention, so he’s motivated to wear them!
- Colorful and fun design
- Highly reusable cloth diapers
- Compatible with many old types of cloth diapers
- Needs inner absorbent material to function properly
4) Pocket Diapers
The next type of diaper you’ll often see in your cloth diapering journey is the pocket diaper. These are very popular because of their CONVENIENCE.
Pocket diapers are two-part diapers that have a waterproof outer shell and inner made of stay-dry materials.
The standout feature of pocket diapers is the openings at either end of the diaper, where you can attach an absorbent insert.
This opening can either be elastic or flap.
Pocket diapers also have inner linings made of suede cloth or fleece. Both materials WICK AWAY moisture from your baby’s skin.
These absorbent inserts can be prefolds, folded flats, or even towels.
These modern cloth diapers combine the usefulness of the old style diaper with the convenience of new ones.
- Quick and convenient to use
- Natural fiber or microfiber inserts
- Closes with snap or hook and loop closures
- Reusable outer layer
- Opening for easy changing
- Can be bulky
- Need to buy your own insert
5) Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted diapers are absorbent diapers made in a contour shape with an elastic waist and openings for your baby’s legs, giving a fitted diaper a snug fit that won’t slide off.
This fitted cloth diaper is great for when I’m on the go! They are easy for my baby to put on and take off to save time!
A fitted diaper is usually made of highly absorbent cloth material. These are also an excellent choice for overnight potty training, especially for heavy soakers.
I must warn you that fitted cloth diapers are NOT waterproof.
They need a waterproof shell to ensure no liquids leak onto the sheets or your baby’s clothes.
However, with the waterproof cover on, the airflow to the baby’s skin might be restricted, so experienced cloth diapering parents usually take them off at home.
- Convenient to put on and take off
- Great overnight cloth diaper
- Fits like a glove but is still comfortable
- Highly absorbent
- Needs a cloth diaper cover to be waterproof
- Takes a while to dry
6) Cloth Diaper Inserts
You’ll often encounter inserts and boosters in your cloth diapering journey. These can be reusable or disposable diaper inserts that give EXTRA ABSORBENCY.
Here’s an example: suppose you’re using fitted cloth diapers overnight, and your baby is a heavy wetter.
In that case, you might want to add disposable inserts so that the fitted diapers aren’t overwhelmed.
Soakers are a common type of hemp and cotton insert. Boosters are another type of insert to help soakers when there’s a lot of liquid.
There are also microfiber and Zorb materials used in inserts, but you should add another layer of fabric between them and your baby’s skin.
Used alone, they might dry the skin too much.
Whether using a soaker or a booster, these are cloth diaper tools you can use to make your pocket diaper, fitted diaper, or other styles of cloth diapers more absorbent.
- Works with any cloth diaper style
- Adds an extra layer of absorbency
- Allows you to customize absorbency and moisture wicking
- Adds another step to the cloth diapering process
- Disposable inserts are not environmentally friendly
7) All-In-One Diapers
All-in-one size diapers (AIO cloth diapers) have the entire diaper in one. I don’t need to add inserts or a cloth diaper cover to complete an AIO diaper!
AIO diapers are the easiest and most convenient of cloth diaper types because all-in-ones have an absorbent interior and waterproof exterior.
Functionally, I find this type to be as convenient as a disposable diaper.
You only need to snap or loop them onto your baby securely and then do the same when urine passes.
The only difference is that you must wash the all-in-one-sized diapers while you throw away disposable diapers.
I recommend AIO diapers to anyone who is just starting or has multiple children.
- All-in-one features combine the best of all other diapers
- The most convenient to use of all diapers
- No need to add inserts or change out a soiled insert
- Multiple closure types (hook and loop or snap)
- Need to change out the whole diaper after it gets soiled
8) All-In-Two Diapers
All-in-two diapers are very similar to all-in-ones.
The difference is that the insert can be removed, while they cannot be removed in all-in-ones.
When your baby soils themselves, you only need to change the insert, not the whole diaper. However, the hassle is removing the whole diaper to change the insert.
Functionally, they are similar to pocket diapers but don’t have a window or flap to change them from the outside.
However, they’re usually better fitting than pocket diapers.
They have a benefit over all-in-one diapers because only the inserts must be tossed into the wash every time it’s soiled. I recommend having 3 inserts for every diaper.
- Diaper covers are reusable
- Custom-fitted diapers wrap around your baby securely
- Slimmer than all-in-ones
- Only need to change the inserts
- Not all inserts are compatible with other all-in-two cloth diapers
9) Hybrid Cloth Diapers
Hybrid cloth diapers usually combine MULTIPLE FABRICS and materials to make diapers that have the best qualities of each material.
Some hybrid diapers use a cotton-based inner layer to help with absorbency, a polyester fleece layer to help with waterproofing, and a heavier print fleece layer on the outside.
These cloth diapers are especially useful when your baby is sensitive to moisture. Some other cloth diaper types aren’t as good at moisture-wicking as hybrid cloth diapers.
Different types of hybrid diapers fit differently.
Some are more loose-fitting and resemble more of a pocket diaper, while others are more snug, like all-in-one size diapers.
- Great at both moisture-wicking and absorbing liquid
- Keeps your baby’s skin comfortable and dry
- Combines the best aspects of different types of fabric
- Can be expensive
- Some models are not compatible with inserts
10) Bonus – Combining Multiple Types
The best type of cloth diaper is one that combines different types.
For example, I’ve used an all-in-one diaper with a prefold folded into an insert to increase absorbency.
You can also use all-in-two cloth diapers with a booster on top of the absorbent insert they already have.
A cloth diaper isn’t only restricted to what comes in the box. You can mix and match different fabric types to get your baby’s desired result.
As your baby grows, it’ll also need different absorbency levels—especially when potty trained.
Sized vs. One-Size Diapers
Besides the different types of cloth diapers, there are also different ways that cloth diapers fit a baby.
There are two types: sized and one-size diapers.
For sized cloth diapers, the manufacturer will usually indicate the weight or age of the baby for which the diaper is made.
The range usually starts from newborn-sized diapers to cloth diapers meant for toddlers.
Getting the right size is CRUCIAL for the perfect fit.
Compared to one-size diapers, sized ones are usually better fitting if you get the correct size for your baby.
However, you’ll need to buy new ones when your baby grows.
One-size diapers are great for use when the baby is neither too big nor too small. One size may not fit if your baby needs newborn diapers or larger toddler-sized ones.
However, the ADVANTAGE of the one-size diaper is that you usually only need to buy that one size.
The adjustments on the diaper itself will move along as your baby grows.
In the past, adjustment systems weren’t as good, so the difference in fit between one-sized diapers used to be noticeable and affect the leakage performance of the diaper.
Nowadays, one-size diapers have adjustment systems and elastic bands that adjust much better to your baby’s size.
Types of Cloth Diaper Fibers
There are different types of fibers used in organic cloth diapers. These are different depending on what purpose they serve on the diaper.
Bamboo fiber is usually used inside the cloth diaper for absorbing liquids. They are durable, sustainable, and eco-friendly materials.
They are highly absorbent, breathable, and hypoallergenic, meaning babies with sensitive skin won’t get rashes when using bamboo fiber.
The downside to bamboo fiber is that it’s MORE EXPENSIVE than other fibers and stains easily.
White won’t look as clean even after washing it a few times.
Cotton is the traditional material for making the inner layer of cloth diapers. They’re also highly absorbent and can hold a lot of liquid for a long time.
Not only are they hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin while being breathable, they’re also A LOT CHEAPER to produce than bamboo.
However, the one downside is that they aren’t that durable, especially compared to bamboo. This is why you’ll usually see bamboo-cotton blend fabrics.
Hemp fiber is a newer fiber used in cloth diapers because of its wide availability and low environmental footprint.
They require no pesticides and herbicides to be grown and are WIDELY AVAILABLE because of their versatility and can be used in many ways.
They aren’t as absorbent as cotton or bamboo but are the MOST DURABLE out of the bunch. You’ll also see hemp and cotton blends in newer cloth diapers.
The BIGGEST ADVANTAGE of using polyester fiber in the inner layer of a cloth diaper is that they dry quickly and don’t allow moisture to stick to the baby’s bum.
This is also a DURABLE material; however, it does tend to pill (little balls of fabric that bunch up on the fabric’s surface after a wash).
Microfiber polyester eliminates this problem and is THINNER and SMOOTHER than regular polyester.
Fleece is a budget-friendly fiber with outstanding characteristics for an outer layer of a cloth diaper, including moisture-wicking, durability, and breathability.
It also keeps your little one warm and can be washed easily without the tendency to pill (unlike regular polyester).
Wool has different strengths compared to fleece. It is warmer and provides EXCELLENT insulation, evidenced by its use in many winter clothes.
They’re also very soft and naturally moisture-repellant, although most manufacturers add additional treatments to make them waterproof.
The biggest advantage is that it is odor-resistant, meaning that smells from your baby’s soiled diapers won’t spread throughout your house.
Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) Fiber
This fiber is usually used along with fleece or wool fibers. It’s a thin layer of waterproof material that is also STAIN RESISTANT.
It’s also used to make a wet bag, diaper bag, burp cloths, and other fabrics to help your cloth diapering journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know more about the different types of cloth diapers, you might still have more questions about how they work or how to use them.
I’ve answered the most commonly asked questions below.
How Many Cloth Diapers Should I Start With?
Depending on your baby’s age, you should generally stock up with 2-3 days’ worth of diapers.
If I were to give a rough estimate of how many you’d need, it’d 20 diapers for newborns, infants need 14 diapers, and toddlers need between 4-8 diapers.
What are The Easiest Cloth Diapers To Use?
The easiest cloth diapers to use are ALL-IN-ONES. They work similarly to disposable diapers but are washable and reusable.
However, pocket diapers are also an excellent convenient option if you want to change the insert without removing the diaper.
Fitted diapers are best if you want diapers that act like prefolds but are more convenient.
How Many Times Can You Reuse Cloth Diapers?
Any cloth diaper can be washed and reused often, but they have limits.
You’ll start seeing performance degradation and the fabric breaking down from 400 washes onwards.
What Are Cloth Diapering Covers?
Cloth diaper covers are the waterproof outer shell that some diaper types need because they’re not waterproof on their own.
They allow your baby to sleep peacefully without wetting their clothes or bed.
How Do I Use Cloth Diaper Covers?
With flats and prefolds, you’d need to fold the fabric layers to cover your baby. Then, you’d have to place a diaper cover over them to secure them.
These usually have snap, hook, and loop closures that help fasten the diaper together.
However, it acts like disposable diapers on all-in-ones and all-in-twos, only needing you to put the whole thing on your baby once.
What Are the Best Cloth Diaper Covers?
I recommend covers that are usually made of wool.
While they’re more expensive than fleece covers, they can block out foul odors and are softer to the touch.
Whether you’re getting pocket diapers, all-in-twos, or any other types I’ve mentioned, they each serve a DIFFERENT PURPOSE.
They all have pros, cons, and features that you’ll have to balance with the cost to see if you’ll use them.
Whichever you choose, your priority should be your baby’s needs. I think it’s worth paying more to make your baby comfortable.