When you think of cloth diapers, do you think of old-fashioned cloths wrapped around baby’s bottom and secured with a pin? While this style of diaper is still an option many families choose today, it is not the only option. There are new, modern cloth diaper types that can make using them less daunting.
Modern cloth diapers have come a long way, and many of them are JUST as easy to use as disposables! This is post number two in a How to Cloth Diaper series (catch the first post here) that will explore different cloth diaper types that may work for your family.
Note: I also have an interactive “Which Style of Diaper Is Right For You?” quiz that can help you learn more!
Prefolds and/or Flats + Covers
The first style I will get into is prefolds/flats and covers. These are what most people picture in their head when they think of old-school cloth diapers. However, these have come a long way, too, and are actually pretty easy to use.
Flats and prefolds are generally known as one of the more economical options for cloth diapering. If you are hoping to save serious bucks by cloth diapering, you may want to look into these diaper styles first.
Flats and prefolds are made from natural fibers, usually cotton.
Flats are a large square of single-layer fabric that can either be wrapped around the baby and secured with pins or snappies, or it can be folded like a pad inside a cover.
Prefolds work the same way, but they may be thicker than a single layer of fabric and the middle section of a prefold is usually even thicker to hold more liquid.
Both of these types of diapers need covers because there is no waterproof layer. Covers can come in either hook and loop (velcro) or snaps for closure.
As for sizing, prefolds typically do not come in one-size options (although your covers can be one size!) You will need to buy different sizes as your baby grows. While that means more purchases, prefolds are relatively cheap.
Most flats are usually one size, and you will just fold it differently for different sizes of babies. Pros of this are that you don’t need to buy different sizes as your baby grows, but cons are that it’s harder to customize the fit.
Fitteds + Covers
Fitted diapers are a popular option for cloth diapering because they are extremely absorbent. Because of how absorbent they are, they are a popular nighttime option.
They are also easy to care for and wash. Like prefolds and flats, they do not have a waterproof layer on the outside, so you will need a cover.
Most fitteds go on easily like a regular diaper and may have hook and loop or snap closures.
There are both one size and sized options in the world of fitteds. Fitteds prices range depending on brand and if you purchase individual sizes or one size.
Fitteds are typically priced higher than flats and prefolds, but they require no folding or pinning.
Pockets are one of the most popular choices in the world of cloth diapers for many great reasons. They are also the style I started out with when I bought my initial stash of diapers.
Pocket shells are an outer waterproof layer (like a cover) with an inner moisture-wicking material (such as fleece or suede) sewn together with a pocket opening in which to put inserts. Most pocket diapers will come with microfiber inserts, but there are many other insert options you can purchase independently.
Pocket diapers are awesome for the following reasons:
- Easy to put on and use–they go on like a regular diaper and close either with hook and loop or snaps.
- Ideal for daycare or other caregivers to use as they are not intimidating.
- You can customize the absorbency with different insert types.
- While they are a little more expensive than prefolds or flats, they are cheaper than all-in-ones.
In my opinion, pockets offer a little more bang for your buck. They are versatile and the shells can also be used as diaper covers if you do have some prefolds/flats, or want to use it as a swim diaper.
All-in-ones are another popular option. These diapers tend to be the most expensive of any other option, but depending on the brand you go with will still save you money over disposables.
All-in-ones work just as they sound. It’s one piece diaper that does not require stuffing inserts. Many people love that they are low-maintenance. They have many of the same perks as pockets, such as being a great option for daycare or other caregivers.
However, they are not as easy to customize absorbency (though some all-in-ones are designed in a way in which you could add more inserts if you choose).
Above you can see some different ways all-in-ones are made.
Some may have one flap that gets tucked inside a pocket, however that flap is sewn on so it is considered an all-in-one diaper.
Some may have two flaps that get folded over.
There are others that don’t have any flaps at all! You can find an all-in-one diaper to meet your preferences, and what you think your preferences are may change once you get into using them more.
Hybrids & All-in-Twos
Some hybrids have options that can make them 100% cloth, too. Essentially, it is taking a cloth diaper/outer shell and pairing it with the insert of your choice, which may be disposable or cloth.
This photo is the Flip system with reusable microfiber inserts.
It’s important to note that microfiber should never touch a baby’s skin! When the diaper gets wet, microfiber will wick away the moisture, but also the moisture from baby’s skin, causing a rash.
The Flip microfiber inserts have a layer of suede on one side–that is the side that should face up in the diaper.
I love using the Flip system and have had a lot of success cloth diapering small babies with it.
When my oldest was just over 7 lbs, he did well with Flips! Because they aren’t as bulky, I was able to get a better fit around his chicken legs.
However, newborns do poop a lot, and while you can just replace the insert if you change a pee diaper, if the diaper has poop, you will need a whole new shell. If you plan to use Flips (or any system requiring covers) with newborns, you will need lots of covers!
Is that all?
Not quite. The diaper options I described above are the most common, but there are lots of unique diapers out there or crosses between two other types of diapers that you can find and experiment with using. Many WAHMS (work at home moms that sew amazing diapers to sell) have come up with unique hybrids between different types.
What Do You Recommend?
As far as what I recommend, it really goes back to your reasons for cloth diapering and your family’s lifestyle.
For most of my babies’ lives, I was a working mom and they attended daycare. For that reason, we mainly used pockets and have been very satisfied with them. However, I do have some all-in-ones, prefolds, flats, fitteds, and hybrids, too. They have all served a purpose in my home.
If you are nervous about this cloth diapering thing but want to give it a try, I recommend pockets or all-in-ones. They are very easy to use (not that the others are difficult) and go on the most like disposables.
If you want to save as much money as possible, I recommend flats or prefolds with covers. All-in-twos can be an economical system, too. Look into bumGenius Flips, Grovia Hybrids, or Best Bottom Diapers.
The most important point I want to make is this:
If you haven’t started cloth diapering yet, I do not recommend buying your whole stash at once with one type of diaper you think you’ll like the best.
You will find once you start using them that you like certain ones more than others, or certain brands fit your baby better than others. I do think it’s a great idea to keep your eyes peeled for sales and do some stocking up for sure, but don’t put all your eggs into one basket until you have fully tried them out.
I hope this helps get you going in the right direction for choosing your diapers! For those of you already diapering, what is your favorite kind to use? Share them in the comments below and help out beginners! Also, feel free to drop any questions you may have!
Stay tuned for the next posts in this series on cleaning your diapers!