Cloth Diapers: What kind do I want?

Posted by Tracey Valade on Sunday, November 4, 2012 Under: Educational
Hello and welcome!

This is the first of many informative posts to come. II hope you enjoy it!

Cloth Diapers: What kind do I want?

This is one the most asked questions I get these days. So I am going to do a brief overview of them for you here. I am going to include the kinds I have used only, what my thoughts are on each one (pros, cons, recommendations of brands).

Prefold Diapers

This is the "oldest" form of cloth diapers. It has been used by many mothers for many years. Though it has changes a little.

A Prefold cloth diaper is a single diaper that has an absorbent layer in the middle of 3 sections. It is folded into various folds to creat a shape that fits the needs of your child. It is secured with diaper pins or a Snappi. They are the least expensive of all diapers.

Prefolds come in different varieties, fabrics, sizes, and weights. Most prefolds will have a 4x8x4 sort of identification – the first and last numbers tell you how many layers of fabric there are on the right and left sides of the diaper and the middle number tells you how many layers of cloth in the middle. Different quality of diapers will have different number of layers. The quality of your diaper will make a huge difference in how well your diapers work, how long they last, and how happy you are with a cloth diaper system.

4x8x4 are the Cadillac of prefolds. 4x6x4 Prefolds also work very well, particularly when enhanced with a doubler. Prefolds with fewer layers are less bulky, dry more quickly, and are cooler in warm weather. Be forewarned that
babies with a strong urine stream or large urine output may be able to blast straight through a 4x6x4 before the fabric has a chance to absorb and stop the flow.

Easily washed. Just throw it in the washing machine with a diaper friendly detergent (you can add bleach,or some essential oils as well for just prefolds). It can be stored in a wet or dry pail as there are no elastics. It can be line dried, laid out lat to dry or put into a dryer. You can adjust the size easily by adding more folds or removing them, it can be adjusted for absorbancy by different folds, adding boosters, or it can also be used as an insert in pocket diapers. You can choose from various covers such as wool, fleece or PUL. You can get various colors now as well if dyed (what might effect absorbency). You can also use them as a burp cloth. They last a long time, and have easy resale.

Needs a cover to be waterproof. It can be complicated or time-consuming to fold the diapers onto the baby, especially if they wiggle. (Snappis help with this.) In my experience, they also are more likely to leave a rash then any other diapers, unless there is a liner placed over them. If buying online the shipping also tends to be more then other diapers. As they are not waterproof they do require a cover.

I don't have a particular brand to recommend, as they all seem to work the same to me! But I do recommend unbleached for better absorbency.

Pocket Diapers

A pocket cloth diaper is a diaper with an outer shell, usually made of PUL or sometimes fleece, and an inner liner sewn into the diaper, usually fleece or suedecloth. There is an opening in the front of back of the liner, to insert the absorbent part (the insert) like a pocket, hence the name. The inserts can be microfiber, bamboo, hemp, cotton or zorb (a specialty insert that is only available at specific retailers) or any combination of them. It can be anywhere from a single later to up to 6 layers of fabric and you can put one two or even three inserts in the pocket of the diaper depending on how much absorbency is needed. There are a huge number of brands, colors, and patterns available. You can get them in sized or OS (one size) options for sizes, and you can get them with snap closer or velco (aplix or hook & loop) closer. Snap closer can come in 1 or 2 row snaps (I recommend 2 rows).

Out of all the types I find these dry the fastest. You can line, lay flat or dyer dry the inserts. You can line dry or lay flat the outer shells. I find the liner sewn in helps a lot if rashes as it pulls wetness away from the skin. I find they are easy to wash as well and easy to remove stains from the shell. I like the versatility in the various styles, patterns and colors. I like the fact on the OS you do not need to buy as they grow with your baby, and for many of the sized ones they last a long time as well, specifically medium. I like that the cost of them is usually low as well, even shipping.

Having to stuff the diapers can take awhile, especially with a large diaper stash. Line dryed inserts feel rough as well but they do not touch baby's skin. It also is a downside to some to have to remove the insert(s) to wash the diapers.

I recommend Kawaii Baby, Fuzzibunz, BumGenius, Thirsties  and any other double row snaps. Gussets are also good especially in the under 6 month babies who have blow-up poopies.

All-in-One (Ai1) Diapers

All in one diapers are the most like disposables. It is one single item, there is no stuffing, no folding and no removing anything to wash. The absorbent layers are sewn into the diaper already. You put on the baby, remove it, and wash it. That's it. There are some that have a pocket option to add absorbency or a snap in booster. It all depends on the brand. Most have a PUL exterior. You can get a variety of colors, and patterns, and fabrics for the absorbent layers.

Easy to use. Everything is ready to go all the time. Variety of materiels and colors, patterns, etc.

It takes a long time to dry. It is hard to remove stains. It is the most likely in my experience to get a stink issue since everything is together. Did I mention it takes a long time to dry? You cannot put them in a dryer, line or laid flat only. As well, cost tends to be more, especially when shipping as they're heavier diapers.

If going for something with no pocket option, I recommend Monkey Doodlez or GoodMama Ones. If going for a pocket style, I recommend BumGenous, Thirsrties, DryBees or SwaddleBees. Again, gussets on the legs are good!

All-in-Two (Ai2) Diapers

All in two diapers are a cross between pockets and all in ones. They are an outer later of PUL (or occasionally, fleece) with a snap-in absorbent layer. They again come in many brands, styles, colors and patterns. The inner layer is usually bamboo, help or a combination of them, and sometimes has a layer of other fabric like cotton or "minky" fabric. You can also get booster layers.

Easily washed and dried (like the pocket, the outside cannot go in the dryer, but the inside can). Not common to have stink issues but sometimes stains on these diapers are harder to remove. They have the convenience of the all in ones as there is little time spent on prep. Hemp and bamboo are among the more absorbent materiel.

I personally do not find these diapers have a good fit for the babies I've tried them on. The cost of them can also be more then other styles. There is also less variety in brands in these. I find the inserts also lose shape after so many washes, though they do still work, they're not as appealing for reseale.

I do not have a particular brand to recommend, but I do recommend you only buy one of a brand and see how it fits your child before buying in bulk.

Fitted Diapers

These are similar to all in one and all in two diapers - only these do not have a cover. Like the prefolds, they require a PUL, fleece or wool cover as they have no waterproof layers. Fitted diapers have a wide variety of colors and patterns, and alot of them are simple white diapers. The fabric has a wide range, as does the price. There are many brands you can purchase, or you can make your own pretty easily if you have good sewing skills.

Better for heavy wetting babies, especially ones with snap-in boosters or extra layers. They wash easily, and dry easily. There is usually snaps or aplix, so there is no pins or snappis needed for most brands. There is a variety in colors and patterns. The leg elastic helps with leaks. They are better options for babies who are allergic to mand-made materials.

They can cost quite a bit. Removing yeast is the hardest in this style of diaper, in my experience. You need a waterproof cover. They can take a while to dry if not put in the dryer and sometimes stink issues or stains are harder to remove. The covers also hide the cute patterns.

My favorite has to be GoodMama diapers. PiddlePoddle and similar ones are good as well. I recommend the ones with snap-in layers, basically.

Contoured & Flat Diapers

These are basically a mix between a prefold and a fitted diaper. They are made the same as a prefold but are shaped to better fit a baby, so there is less or no need for folding. Some of them also have snaps to close them instead of pins or a snappi.

Flat diapers are similar to prefolds, but are a single or double later usually made of hemp, bamboo, or cotton. They do not have the extra absorbency in the middle. But they can run pretty low cost and are the least bulky of all options.

I personally do not own any flats, and only one home made contoured diaper. So I am not the best for advice on brands, washing, etc. It is basically the same as prefolds for care.


Prefold, contour, flats or fitted diapers all need covers. This is due to the material being only absorbent and not waterproof. You can use them without covers, but you would have to change more often (very time they eliminate). you do not need to change the cover with each diaper. You only need to change it when it's soiled or smells.

PUL, or Polyurithane Laminate, is a man-made materiel. It is a lot more technical than just a plastic backing on fabric. It  is actually a fabric developed for the medical industry. It is soft, pliable, and waterproof. It can withstand hot and cold temperatures (though I do not recommend drying it in the dryer often, as it delaminates faster) and a lot of use. It comes in twp grades, one and two, and each has it's advantages. The first grade is a little more breathable and softer, but is more likely to delamainate or leak. (Again, my opinion.)  My recommendations are Thirsties, Bummis, and anything else that has gussests! You can get aplix or snaps for these as well or pull on style.

Wool covers are just that - covers made of wool. You can get them as covers, shorties, or longies (pants). they need to me lanolized before use to give them the waterproof layer and cannot go in the dryer or they will felt (or shrink). It is a good option for babies who are allergic to other materiel, and can be very good for overnights as it is the most breathable of cover options.

Fleece is another option. In my experience it has to be thick multilayer fleece to work, but when it does, it does well!

That about does it for today. I hope this has helped you in your diapering quest. If you have recommendations, think I missed something, or just want more advice, feel free to contact me via facebook or email or attend one of my workshops in you're in the area!
That concludes my briefing. Feel free to

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About Me

Owner of Darolotty's. Mother to 3 young children and wife. Believer in stength, love, compassion and passion.