By now you’ve read part 1 of this series, Cloth Diapers for Beginners Part 1: Why Choose Cloth Diapers, and you’re super pumped about saving grips of cash, while also saving the planet, but don’t know where to start. That puts us at the perfect place to move onto part 2: Cloth Diaper Types!
Cloth diapers have come a long way since our grandmothers used them. Thankfully, gone are the days of safety pins, plastic pants and the need for a diapering service. Modern cloth diapers are designed to be as easy and functional to use as disposable diapers. They have continued to grow in popularity in recent years due to the many benefits they provide.
Today’s cloth diapers are available in 5 major styles. Different diaper companies have slight variances to these styles, but the definition and main features will remain the same across the market. In this post we will break down each of the different cloth diaper types, the benefits and drawbacks they have, and a handful of examples of each different kind. After reading, you’ll have a nice guide to reference when deciding which style of cloth diapers is right for you!
Cloth Diapers for Beginners Part 2: Cloth Diaper Types
Really quickly, I want to go over a few different terms that apply to the different diapering styles below. After touching on them here, I’ll reference them in the diaper types we talk about later.
Cloth Diaper Terms
- Stay-dry inner: The inner part of the diaper that is against the baby’s skin is lined with a synthetic fabric, such as microfiber or suedecloth, which lends to more moisture being wicked away from baby’s bottom.
- Natural inner: Diapers with a natural inner fabric, such as organic cotton or bamboo, do not use synthetic fibers, and tend to leave a wet feeling against baby’s bottom.
- Hook and loop closure: A diaper that fastens using Velcro-like tabs. Hook and loop closure offers the quickest and most “disposable like” diapering experience, however they are also easier for babies to take off on their own when they get a little bigger, and can wear out over time.
- Snap closure: A diaper that fastens using small plastic snaps. Snap closures are more secure and very difficult for a baby to open on their own, though you aren’t able to get quite as custom of a fit.
- One Size (OS) Diaper: A diaper that grows with baby, from approximately 7-40 lbs. These are said to be able to be used “from birth to potty training”. One size diapers are popular because they are versatile and save money, since they last for the entire diapering stage, but can be a bit bulky on smaller babies.
- Sized Diaper: A diaper that comes in individual sizes (NB, S, M, L etc.). Sized diapers offer a trimmer fit, but can cost more in the long run, since you have to buy bigger diapers as baby grows.
All in One (AIO) Diapers
All in one cloth diapers, or AIOs as they are commonly referred to, are the most similar to disposable diapers. Each AIO diaper has everything you need built right in and is ready to put on your baby. The absorbent layer is attached to the waterproof layer, so there is no need to add anything else to the diaper.
All in one diapers are available in both natural inner and stay-dry options. They can be purchased in either snap or hook and loop closure, and come in one size and sized diaper options.
AIO Diaper PROS
- Easy to use
- Closest to a disposable diaper
- No pockets to stuff
- One piece
- Easiest on wriggly babies
AIO Diaper CONS
- Longer drying time
- Can be more expensive
- Entire diaper must be changed after each use
AIO Diaper Examples
Pocket diapers function just like all in one diapers. The only difference is that rather than the absorbent layer being sewn or snapped in place, it is a separate piece that you “stuff” into a pocket opening at the back or front of the diaper. This two piece system allows for quicker drying time than AIO diapers. The pocket opening also allows for extra absorbency to be easily added if needed. This makes pocket diapers a good option for heavy wetters or bedtime diapering.
With each diaper change, you slide the absorbent insert out of the pocket, and place the two pieces into your diaper pail until laundry day. After they have been washed and dried, you can either pre-stuff all of the pocket diapers, so they are ready to grab and put on like an AIO would be, or you can stuff them as you go.
Pocket diapers are available with all the same bells and whistles as all in one diapers: one size or sized options, snaps or hook and loop closure, and generally come with stay-dry inners.
Pocket Diaper PROS
- Easily adjust level of absorbency
- Easy to use
- Once “stuffed”, they go on similar to a disposable diaper
- Good for heavy wetters or for bedtime use
Pocket Diaper CONS
- Added step to stuff absorbent insert
- Entire diaper must be changed with each use
Pocket Diaper Examples
Hybrid / All in Two (AI2) Diapers
Hybrid or All in Two (AI2) diapers are a 2 piece diapering system. They consist of a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert that snaps or lays inside the cover. The waterproof surface of the cover is exposed under the insert (rather than a pocket or all in one’s natural or stay dry lining), so unless the cover gets soiled, it can be wiped clean and reused over multiple diaper changes with a clean insert. It is usually suggested to have 3 inserts for every 1 cover, so this diapering system can prove to be more affordable than AIOs or pocket diapers.
Inserts can be purchased with a natural or stay-dry lining. Some hybrid diapering systems even offer disposable inserts, which can be used for the occasional time when you need to use non-cloth diaper friendly rash creams, or do not have access to launder diapers. The diaper covers come in snaps or hook and loop, and are available in one size or sized options. Depending on the brand, the absorbent inserts themselves are either one sized, or sized.
Hybrid / AI2 PROS
- Less expensive than AIOs or pocket diapers
- Trim fitting
- Covers are reusable over multiple changes
- Option to use disposable inserts
Hybrid / AI2 CONS
- Absorbent inserts are often times not interchangeable between different brands
- Waterproof material can be against baby’s skin in places, making them hot and sweaty
Hybrid / AI2 Examples
Fitted diapers are contoured diapers made up of several layers of absorbent cloth. They are not waterproof, and require a separate waterproof cover to be worn over the top of them. Since the entire fitted diaper is made of absorbent material, they are great for heavy wetters or bedtime diapering.
You will need one fitted diaper for every diaper change, but unless soiled, the diaper cover can be reused over multiple diaper changes. Similar to AI2 diapers, a good rule of thumb is to have 1 cover for every 3 fitted diapers.
Fitted diapers typically come with natural inner fabric, though a handful of companies offer stay-dry options. They come in both OS and sized options. Fitteds are available in both snaps and hook and loop, or a third option, neither. Diapers that do not have snaps or hook and loop will need to be fastened using another method, such as a snappi, boingo or diaper pin.
Fitted Diaper PROS
- Very absorbent
- Good for heavy wetters or as a bedtime diaper
- Easy to use
- Diaper cover can be reused over multiple diaper changes
Fitted Diaper CONS
- Requires a separate cover
- Two step system can be difficult with wriggly babies
- Longer drying time
Fitted Diaper Examples
Prefolds are one of the least expensive cloth diapering options. They are probably what you picture when you think of “old school” cloth diapers. Prefolds are a flat, rectangular absorbent cloth, made up of several layers of fabric. They can be used in the simplest form by “trifolding” them into a slender rectangle, and laying it into a diaper cover, similar to an AI2 system. They can also be folded around the baby, and fastened with a snappi, boingo or diaper pin.
Prefolds do not come with snap or hook and loop closure, so unless used as a trifold, they require another method to fasten them. They require a separate cover to be waterproof (same 3:1 rule as above). Generally prefolds do not have a one size option, and typically come in natural fibers, rather than stay-dry options.
Prefold Diaper PROS
- Smaller initial investment
- Faster drying
- Can be re-purposed as burp cloths, dusting cloth, etc.
Prefold Diaper CONS
- Requires a separate cover
- Usually requires sizing up as baby grows
- Not as user friendly as other diapering options
Prefold Diaper Examples
Diaper Cover Examples (for use with fitteds and prefolds)*
*Mama tip: If you just aren’t ready to get on board with cloth diapers, do yourself a favor and at least pick up a couple of diaper covers to put over your baby’s disposable diaper. You will thank me later when it saves you from countless blowouts!!*
First we talked about why you should choose cloth diapers, and now we’ve covered the different types of cloth diapers. Stay tuned for Cloth Diapers for Beginners Part 3: How to Use Cloth Diapers. If you’re not on our VIP email list already, sign up HERE so you don’t miss the next part of this series!
Do you have questions about cloth diapers? Leave a comment below and let us know!