Today, there are hundreds of cloth diaper options on the market. While these options mean cloth diapering is much easier, more flexible, and more customizable than in the past, so much choice can be a little overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out what option would be best for your family. So here is a fairly comprehensive list of the different types of cloth diapers you can find today and shared information about how they work, their pros and cons, pricing, laundering, how many you’ll need for a complete stash, and examples of each kind of diaper. If you have any questions or would like clarification on anything, feel free to post them in the comments!
Table of Contents
One Size vs. Sized Diapers
One-size, or OS, diapers have adjustable sizing built into the diapers so the same diaper can be used on a child starting when they are 8-10 lbs. and generally lasting until the child is out of diapers, unless you have a large toddler or a late potty trainer. In addition to the adjustable waist setting (the snaps or velcro which goes horizontally across the waist of the diaper), which virtually all cloth diapers have, one-size diapers also have a means to adjust the rise, or how long the diaper is. Most OS cloth diapers use a series of snaps along the front of the diaper which can be adjusted to make the diaper longer or shorter. FuzziBunz OS diapers are a popular exception. The FuzziBunz OS diaper’s rise setting is adjusted by lengthening or shortening elastic bands around the leg holes in the diaper.
One-size diapers can be a big money-saver. You can make it through the majority of your child’s diapering years with the same 24-36 diapers. However, one-size diapers may not work very well for very small babies or very large toddlers. You may also struggle to get a good fit with some one-size diapers as your baby grows.
Examples: Alva Baby Cloth Pocket Diaper, bumGenius 4.0 One Size Diapers, FuzziBunz One Size Diapers, Thirsties One Size Pocket Diaper, Oh Katy One Size Pocket Diaper, Rumparooz Reusable Cloth Pocket Diaper, Happy Heinys One for All Cloth Diaper, Grovia Hybrid, Flip Diapers, Best Bottom Diapers
Sized diapers do not have adjustable rise settings, although most have adjustable waist settings. The standard sizes for sized diapers are “newborn”, “extra small” or “XS”, “small” or “S”, “medium” or “M”, “large” or “L”, and “extra-large” or “XL”. With sized diapers, you are guaranteed to get a snug, tailored fit from the time your child is a newborn until they are potty trained and will not have to worry about adjusting the size of the diaper. However, you will have to buy a brand new stash of diapers every time your child goes up a size, which can be expensive depending on what kind of diapers you use. (Very expensive for AIO or pocket diapers, relatively inexpensive if you’re using flats or prefolds.)
Actual sizes for both sized and OS diapers will vary by brand. Make sure to check the weight range listed on the packaging, and read reviews to see if the diapers run large, run small, or work better on certain baby and toddler builds to find the best fit for your little one.
Snap vs. Aplix/Velcro/Hook-and-Loop Closures
Most diapers have one of two types of closures, either snap closures or velcro closures. (Aplix, velcro, and hook-and-loop all mean basically the same thing.)
Diapers with snap closures will typically have two rows of plastic snaps along the waist band to secure the diaper in place of the sticky tabs you’d find on disposable diapers. You have to snap each individual closure into place one at a time at each diaper change, which can take time both to get each snap secured and to get the setting just right for a snug, but not too snug fit. The benefit of snap closures is they are very durable, hold up well under repeat use and repeat washings, and are more likely to last the lifetime of your diaper. The downside to snaps is they are tedious and time-consuming to secure.
Diapers with velcro closures have a strip of female velcro across the waist and male velcro on the wings that come across the front of the diaper. When you secure a diaper with velcro closures, you just pull the wings in at the waist until the waist is snug, then press the male velcro tabs into place across the female velcro strip at the waist. The benefit of velcro closures is that they are extremely fast and easy to secure, no precision required, and the closures work most similarly to disposable diapers, which make them very accessible to non-cloth diaperers. The downside to velcro closures is that with repeat use and repeat washing, the velcro can become worn out and doesn’t secure is easily. The velcro can be replaced or switched out with snaps at some point, either of which you can do yourself or send off to someone else to fix, but in my experience, velcro closures typically start to lose their effectiveness after about 6 months of use, even when you are very careful about how you use and launder them.
Diaper covers are shells with a waterproof lining that you use over flats, prefolds, fitteds, or inserts. Their purpose is to cover the absorbent part of the diaper so that no moisture escapes the diaper. If you purchase a diaper cover, you will need to make sure you also purchase flats, prefolds, fitteds, or inserts to go inside the cover.
The nice thing about diaper covers is that you can reuse diaper covers through multiple changes. Unless the diaper cover gets dirty or it’s been through several changes already, you can just wipe out any moisture and then reuse it with a fresh flat, prefold, fitted, or insert. This saves money, because covers tend to be the more expensive part of the diaper, and you don’t need to buy as many of them as you do flats, prefolds, fitteds, or inserts. You only need 5-10 covers for 2-3 days of cloth diapering. You will need 24-36 of the flats, prefolds, fitteds, or inserts, though, to round out your stash for the same time period.
Another benefit of diaper covers is that you can separate them from the rest of the diaper before they go into the dryer and allow just the covers to air dry, which will help preserve the waterproof lining on the cover.
All in One Cloth Diapers
All in One Cloth Diapers, or AIOs, are the easiest and most basic option for cloth diapers. The diaper comes with everything built in: a waterproof outer layer, layers of padding for absorbing pee and poop, and a layer of fabric to wick moisture away from baby’s skin. These diapers require no inserts, no covers, no snappis, no special tricks in the wash. You put them on your baby as is, and when they are done you take them off and can toss them straight into the wash. Once they are through the wash, you can stick them right back on your baby.
AIOs typically are more expensive than other kinds of diapers, and you will need to purchase 24-36 cloth diapers if you want to go the recommended 2-3 days between loads of diaper laundry. AIOs also tend to take longer to dry, because of the extra sewn-in layers of padding.
All in Two Cloth Diapers
All in Two cloth diapers, or AI2s, consist of a waterproof cover and an absorbent insert which lays in or snaps into the cover. AI2s are a very simple cloth diaper solution. Because the insert absorbs most of the wetness and takes the brunt of most poop containment, the cover itself can often be wiped out and reused a few times between diaper changes. All you have to do is put in a fresh insert. Some AI2s, like the Grovia Hybrid, come with both cloth and disposable inserts. It can be nice to use the disposable inserts for things like air travel, where lugging around a big wet bag of dirty diapers in an airplane and airport may not be very appealing.
Inserts and covers in AI2s can be washed together or separately. The benefit of washing your covers separately is that you can air dry them, rather than put them in the dryer, which will extend the life the waterproof layer in the cover. The inserts can also dry more quickly when you wash them separate from the cover because you can crank up the heat on your dryer higher when it’s just the inserts without having to worrying about ruining the waterproof layer in the cover.
You may have to purchase the inserts and covers for AI2s separately. It depends on the brand. Look for “shell only” or “cover only” on the label of the diaper or listing. This means you will need to purchase the inserts separately.
AI2s can be a little less expensive than AIOs or pocket diapers, because you don’t have to purchase as many of the covers, which tend to be the more expensive part of the diaper. 5-10 covers and 24-36 inserts will probably be sufficient for your stash.
Pocket diapers have two parts. The outer shell is a waterproof cover with a liner sewn inside. The liner is usually made of fleece or some other fabric which is intended to wick moisture away from baby’s skin. In between the waterproof cover and the liner, there is a pocket–hence the name–where you stuff an absorbent insert. The inserts can be made from a variety of materials, including microfiber, bamboo, hemp, and more. The idea behind a pocket is that the insert soaks up the moisture, the waterproof cover keeps the moisture from leaking, and the inner liner keeps the moisture from irritating baby’s skin.
Inserts and covers can be washed together or separately. The benefits of washing separately are that keeping the shells out of the dryer help preserve the waterproof lining and that the inserts will dry faster and you can use a tiny bit of bleach if you need to on just the inserts. You can put the inserts back in the diapers either immediately after you finish doing laundry or individually at each diaper change.
The benefits of pocket diapers are that they are good at keeping baby’s bottom dry and they are easy to put on and take off baby. When pocket diapers are stuffed, they are as easy for non-cloth diaperers to use as AIOs. One of the drawbacks to pocket diapers, though, is having to make sure all the inserts are removed from the shells when you launder them in order to get them completely clean and then having to stuff the inserts back in the diapers after they’ve been washed.
Pocket diapers tend to be more expensive than AI2s, prefolds, and flats, but less expensive than AIOs. Like AIOs, you will need 24-36 pocket diapers (shell + inserts) to have a stash that will last 2-3 days.
Examples: bumGenius 4.0 One Size Diapers, FuzziBunz One Size Diapers, Thirsties One Size Pocket Diaper, Oh Katy One Size Pocket Diaper, Rumparooz Reusable Cloth Pocket Diaper, Happy Heinys One for All Cloth Diaper
Fitted diapers are the absorbent guts of a cloth diaper without the waterproof outer layer. They look very similar to AIOs and pocket diapers, in that they are full diapers that snap or velcro at the waist. You can find both sized and one-size fitteds. However, with all fitteds, you will need to purchase a separate diaper cover to put over the fitted itself to keep the diaper from leaking.
The benefit to fitteds is that they are very absorbent, with full coverage for your baby, making them ideal diapers for heavy wetters and for overnight diapering. The drawback to fitteds include that they are typically a little more expensive, especially since you have to buy the diaper covers separately, and they take a long time to dry, because they are so absorbent.
You can purchase a full stash of fitted diapers, which means 24-36 fitted diapers, along with 5-10 diaper covers if you want to use fitteds exclusively. Due to the cost, though, you may only want to purchase a handful of these to use for overnight diapering and find a less expensive option for daytime diapering.
These are your grandma’s cloth diapers, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Flats are large squares of single-layer cloth which can be folded and secured in place with diaper pins or snappi to form a diaper on a baby. Flats are typically made from cotton or other absorbent fabric, and you can find a wide variety of fabrics, including organic fabrics, to choose from. All flats must be used with some sort of diaper cover to provide a waterproof barrier against leaks.
The benefits of flat diapers is that they are very inexpensive and one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, options for cloth diapers. Flats tend to be one-size, so the same diapers should work for your child from newborn through potty training. They dry very quickly because they are only a single layer of fabric. If you plan to hand wash your diapers, flats are definitely the way to go. Flats also can easily double as rags or burp cloths, because they are simple squares of fabric. The drawbacks to flat diapers are the learning curve to find the best methods for folding and securing the flats to maximize absorbency and minimize leaks and the amount of time it can take to diaper a child, because you will have to fold and secure the diaper as you are diapering. I highly recommend searching YouTube for video tutorials on easy methods for folding flat diapers if you choose to go this route.
24-26 flat diapers, 5-10 diaper covers, and either diaper pins or snappis will be enough for a full stash, and given how inexpensive these diapers are, you can easily diaper a child with flats and simple covers for under $200.
Prefold cloth diapers are similar to flats, in that they are plain rectangles of fabric. However, they consist of multiple layers of fabric sewn together, often with a thicker strip down the center of the diaper to increase absorbency. In other words, they take some of the folding out of using flats, hence the name “prefold.” They still require some folding to use, though, and as with flats, they require a waterproof diaper cover to prevent leaks and either pins or snappis to secure the diaper closed.
The benefits and drawbacks of prefolds are very similar to those of flats. Prefolds are a very inexpensive option for cloth diapering, albeit slightly more expensive than flats. You can still save a lot of money, though, by using prefolds. Prefolds dry more quickly than AIOs and have the benefit of being able to hang dry the diaper covers, which preserves the waterproof lining. Prefolds do require you to learn how to fold and secure them to maximize absorbency and minimize leaks, can take a bit of trial and error, and can be more time consuming to put on as a result. Again, hit YouTube for great tutorials on best methods for using prefolds.
As with flats, you can have a complete stash with 24-36 prefolds, 5-10 covers, and a few pins or snappis to secure them. Prefolds come both in sized and one-size options, though, so if you go with the sized option, you may have to buy multiple sets of prefolds to make it from newborn to potty training.
Examples: OsoCozy Indian Cotton Unbleached Prefold Cloth Diapers, Gerber Birdseye 3-Ply Prefold Cloth Diapers, Bumkins Cotton Infant Prefold Diaper, Bummis Organic Cotton Prefolds, Thirsties Duo Hemp Prefold