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The 8 Main Types of Cloth Diapers Explained

Just stepping your toes into the world of cloth diapering, but overwhelmed by all the different choices of cloth diapers out there? 

I was once in your shoes. I remember standing in front of a rack of diapers at a local baby store, just being completely confused and just awe struck that there was so many options when it came to cloth. 

But over the past 4 years I have gained so much knowledge in the world of cloth diapering, and really feel like a pro when it comes to the different styles. 

So let me break it down for you and explain the 8 main types of cloth diapers that are on the shelves today. 

*Just so you know, this page contains affiliate links, and as an affiliate and Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full disclosure here

The 8 Main Types of Cloth Diapers

Listed below are 8 of the different sytles of cloth diapers. We’ll give you an explanation for each, weigh the pros and cons, and tell you which brands we like best. 

1. Flats

Flats are probably what come to mind for most people when they think of cloth diapers. Basically your old “rag and pin” diapers

Flats are essentially a rectangular piece of fabric that can be folded in many different ways. Flats only have one or two layers of absorbent material, so they have a sleek fit, but are not great for heavy wetters. 

Some moms like to use flats as boosters, and you can almost always repurpose them as burp rags, changing pads, or cleaning rags around the house. 

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Trim
  • Can be repurposed
 

Cons:

  • Requires folding
  • Not the most absorbent option
  • Have to be changed more often
  • Requires a cover


Ease of use:

2/5

My favorite flats: I’ve got to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of flats. But if I had to pick one, it would be the Osocozy Unbleached Birdseye Flats

2. Prefolds

Prefolds are another “old fashioned” type of diaper, but they are much more absorbent than flats, as they contain more layers of absorbent material.

Prefolds are an excellent option for the money-concsious mom. Plus, if you really don’t like origami folds, you can always just trifold it like a pad and lay it flat into your cover. 

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Absorbent
  • Can be repurposed
  • Works well for newborns

Cons:

  • Requires a cover
  • Folding can seem daunting

Ease of use:

2.5/5

My favorite prefolds: OsoCozy win by a landslide. 

3. Fitteds

Fitteds are shaped just like any regular diaper, but are solely made of absorbent material, which means you also need to use a waterproof cover over them

Fitteds are a great option for heavy wetters and newborns, and all you have to do is snap it on. 

There are some brands that don’t have snaps, but in that case, you would just use a snappi to secure your fitted. 

Pros:

  • Very absorbent
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Requires a cover
  • More costly than prefolds or flats

Ease of use:

4/5

My favorite fitted: Nicki’s Diapers Overnight Fitted because it makes such an easy nighttime solution. 

4. Covers

If you’re using any of the diapers mentioned above (flats, prefolds, or fitteds) then you’ll need some covers to go with. 

Covers are basically a waterproof shell that go over the absorbent portion of your baby’s cloth diapers. They help contain the mess and prevent leaks with their gussets, elastic, and contour shape. 

Covers are also kind for your wallet, as you can wipe them down and reuse them a few times until soiled before washing

You often see covers with a PUL lining, but you can also invest in some breathable wool covers, that work well for heavy wetters and nighttime solutions

Pros:

  • Contains blow outs
  • Budget-friendly
  • Can reuse a few times before washing
  • Works with prefolds, flats, and fitteds

Cons:

  • Wool covers are more pricey

Ease of use:

4/5

My favorite covers: I really like Rumparooz covers because they have elastic in the back and the front of the diaper. 

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5. All-in-Ones

All-in-ones (AIO) are basically like the name states, a complete all-in-one diaper system. They have a waterproof outer lining and an absorbent inner lining. 

Some AIOs have the insert sewn right into it, so you don’t have to worry about any separate parts, while others have detachable inserts that you snap in and out

If you’re on the fence about cloth diapering or want the easiest possible solution, then these are the diapers to go with. 

Pros:

  • User friendly
  • Great for daycare, daddy, and other caregivers
  • Excellent absorbency

Cons:

  • Longer drying time
  • Higher price tag
  • Can only use once before washing
  • Bulky fit

Ease of use:

5/5

My favorite AIO: This is a tough tie between Nicki’s Diapers Bamboo AIO and Smart Bottoms Organic 3.1 AIO

6. All-in-Twos

If you’re wanting something super simple, but with less of a cost than AIOs, then your next best option would be all-in twos (AI2). 

Again, like the name states, this is a 2 part diaper system. You have your waterproof shell (cover) and then you have absorbent inserts to use with the shell

Since the shell contains no absorbent material, you can usually wipe it down between uses and reuse it a few times before washing. Unless of course baby poops or just really soaks his diaper. 

Most AI2s’ inserts will snap into the shell, so you can easily prep them before use. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the insert moving around on you while you’re changing your squirmy baby. 

With some brands, the inserts are sold separately, so just be aware of that when shopping. You can usually buy starter kits though, and if you really want to you can always just use prefolds, flats, or fitteds with your shell.

I’d have to say, that AI2s are probably my all time fave.  

Pros:

  • Quick drying
  • Cost effective
  • User friendly
  • Can reuse shell a few times before washing (usually)
  • Trimmer fit

Cons:

  • Inserts sometimes sold separately 
  • A little bit higher cost than prefolds and flats 

Ease of use:

3.5/5

My favorite AI2: Easy choice. Best Bottoms AI2 hands down! 

7. Pockets

Pocket diapers are another no-brainer option. There’s no folding required, like with prefolds or flats. 

Instead, you just stuff your inserts into the pocket of the diaper. Pocket diapers have an outer waterproof lining and an inner absorbent lining that provides a barrier between the inserts and your baby’s skin.

Many pockets come with microfiber inserts, so this barrier is essential, as microfiber shouldn’t be placed directly against your baby’s skin.This barrier also helps wick moisture away from your baby’s skin, helping to prevent diaper rash

Unfortunately, because of this absorbent barrier, you’ll only be able to use these diapers once before washing, like with AIOs. 

Stuffing pockets may seem time consuming, but pre-stuffed pockets actually make a great option for working moms, as they’re super easy for other providers to use

Most pockets usually come with 2 inserts, but sometimes inserts are sold separately so just be sure to pay attention. And like with AI2s, you can really stuff whatever kind of insert you want into it

Pros:

  • Caregiver friendly
  • No origami folding 
  • Barrier wicks moisture away from baby’s skin

Cons:

  • Requires stuffing
  • Can only use once before washing
  • Higher price tag
  • Bulky fit

Ease of use:

3/5

My favorite pocket diaper: BumGenius 4.0 and BumGenius 5.0 pockets

8. Hybrids

Honestly, hybrids are basically the same thing as AI2s

It’s a two-part diaper system that has inserts or soakers that you secure into the waterproof outer shell

Soiled inserts are switched out with each diaper change, but the shell can be reused multiple times between washes. 

Hybrids are easy to put on and take off your baby, and you can easily adjust to your baby’s absorbency needs by switching out different kinds of inserts. 

Most hybrids include reusable cloth inserts, but you can even get eco-friendly disposable inserts if that better suites your lifestyle. They’re also just great for traveling. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Covers can be reused 
  • Quicker drying time
  • Trimmer fit

Cons:

  • Pricer than prefolds and flats 
  • Inserts sometimes sold separately

Ease of use:

3.5/5

My favorite Hybrid:You can’t beat the quality of the GroVia Hybrid

What About the Different Types of Cloth Diaper Inserts?

When it comes to cloth diaper fabrics and inserts, you pretty much have 5 different options: 

  • Cotton: Cotton is one of the most absorbent materials and also probably the comfiest for your baby. You’ll find cotton a lot in prefolds, but some AIO are also made with organic cotton.  
  • Hemp: Hemp is another great option if you’re needing something more absorbent. Most of the time, I see hemp in inserts. The only downside to hemp is that sometimes it can feel a little more rough against the skin. 
  • Bamboo: Bamboo is another natural material that is often found in inserts. Many AIO’s are also made with bamboo. I’m usually a fan of bamboo, but I’ve got to say that I’ve been disappointed with charcoal bamboo in particular. It just doesn’t seem to have the greatest absorbency. 
  • Microfiber: Microfiber is usually only seen in pocket inserts, as these shouldn’t be placed directly against your baby’s skin. These aren’t the most absorbent option and they are essentially a synthetic material. However, it is quite cost-effective and works well for normal wetters. 
  • Blend: Many times you’ll notice inserts, AIOs, and sometimes even prefolds and flats made with a blend of natural fabrics. For example, “cotton and hemp,” “bamboo and hemp,” you get the picture. 

Snaps vs. Hook & Loop

Along with different fabric options, you’ll also need to decide if you want your diapers to close with snaps or hook & loop

Hook & loop is also referred to as aplix, but most people know it as Velcro. Velcro is nice for grandparents, dads, and other caregivers. It’s extremely easy to use, and babysitters aren’t intimidating by it. Especially if it’s an AIO with Velcro. 

However, on the flip side, Velcro doesn’t have the durability that snaps have…..even if you’re making sure to fasten your straps to the washing tabs when cleaning. 

Snaps are great for littles who like to take their diapers off. However, they could be too much for someone with arthritis. 

I would recommended getting most of your diapers with snaps, but having a handful with Velcro to make life easier on your baby’s caregivers. Of course, if your baby is in a daycare that isn’t very familiar with cloth, you many want to get more with hook & loop. 

Where Can I Find All These Different Kinds of Cloth Diapers?

We used to have a local shop that sold cloth diapers, but that went out of business (huge bummer!). So now, my all-time favorite place to buy diapers is online at Nicki’s Diapers

Nicki’s is great because they carry SO MANY different brands and styles. They have FREE shipping on orders over $10 and give out free gifts if you spend over $49. 

They even give you reward points for every purchase made, which you can eventually cash out for a Nicki’s gift card. They even have some killer Black Friday deals each year. 

Not to mention, they have a 15 -day try, wash, love or return policy and donate a diaper to a child in need for every Nicki’s Diapers brand purchase made. 

If Nicki’s doesn’t have what I’m looking for, then I’ll usually check The Crunchy Bean or Amazon

When Buying Your Diapers...

Whenever I talk to someone who’s just starting with cloth diapers, I always recommend buying a few different brands and styles to see what they like best before purchasing their entire stash

It’s also important to remember that different styles and brands may fit differently as your baby grows, and you may like certain diapers better than others at times. 

And if saving money is your main goal, do try not to get addicted to all those adorable new-release prints! Easier said than done, I know. 😉 

All Your Cloth Diaper Types

I hope this post gave you a better idea of all the different cloth diaper options out there.

If you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck, then I’d probably go with prefolds or flats and covers. If you’re needing something super simple to use for your baby’s caregivers, then I’d go with AIOs or pre-stuffed pockets

But I’d have to say that my favorite diapers are AI2s or hybrids, because they’re cost effective, efficient, and versatile to your baby’s absorbency needs

But everyone is different and each baby has their own unique needs, so it’s definitely a good idea to try out a few different styles and brands before building your entire stash of fluff. 

Did You Find This Post Helpful?

Did this post help you get a better feel for all the different types of cloth diapers out there? Share your favorite types of cloth diapers in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms. 

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