Cloth Diapering 101 – Types of Cloth Diapers

types of cloth diapers

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Cloth diapering can get very confusing, especially when you’re just starting out. There are so many different types of cloth diapers, it can be overwhelming. The most important thing to remember is; every parent is different, and every child is different. Something that works great for someone else may not work for you and your baby.  Try not to get too overwhelmed by all of the information out there. Just take it one day at a time. For those of you that have heard about different kinds of cloth diapers but aren’t sure what is what, here is a simple breakdown. I am also including a link to each type of cloth diapersfor further reference.

Part 2 is here now! Cloth Diapering 101 | How to wash cloth diapers

  • FLATS: Flat diapers are basic one layer diapers. They are normally made out of 100% cotton. They dry very quickly, and fit a large range of sizes. These diapers can be considered “old fashioned” as they have been around for a very long time, but they definitely do their job. They are one of the most affordable cloth diapering options. I like using flats under wool covers, but they can be used in any type of cover or even inside of a pocket diaper.
  • PREFOLDS: Prefold diapers are a popular choice because they are both economic and moderately simple to use. They are very similar to flats, but have multiple layers with even more layers in the middle section. Prefolds are sized by infant, newborn, regular, and premium with coordinating numbers (2x6x2, 4x6x4, 4x8x4, etc.). The numbers refer to how many layers are in each section. So, if you have a 2x6x2, it means you have 2 layers on the left side, 6 layers in the middle, and 2 layers on the right side. Prefolds used to be very commonly used and they are slowly making a comeback. Warning: Don’t purchase Gerber prefolds at Target or Wal-Mart, they are better used as burp cloths. Higher quality prefolds can be purchased on Amazon, or my personal favorite, Green Mountain Diapers. Prefolds can be folded and pinned or snappied and used underneath a cover, or they can be tri-folded and used inside a cover. They come in bleached or unbleached and you can even purchase them in a more absorbent hemp material. Prefolds may not be the best choice if you want something as close to a disposable as possible, but prefolds and flats are certainly the most economical.

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  • FITTED: Fitted diapers are a very popular choice in cloth diapering. They have elastic around the legs and back and pretty much look like a disposable diaper. Of course, they come in a
    variety of colors and prints, so they’re much cuter. They often have aplix (Velcro) or snap closures and can be made out of various fabrics. They
    come in a huge selection of sizes depending on where you purchase them from, and can even be found in a one size diaper. They normally range from sizes Newborn to Large. It is very important to remember that fitted diapers require a cover made out of either PUL or wool. They are very absorbent but not water resistant!

Cloth diaper 101 | Types of cloth diapers

  • POCKETS: The majority of pockets diapers are made with a layer of fleece or flannel (inside) sewn onto a layer of PUL (outside), with an opening in either the front or back to stuff an insert into. You can stuff pockets with microfiber inserts, prefolds, hemp prefolds, terry cloth, or even old towels. You can lay a prefold or flat inside of a pocket and use it as a cover, but never put microfiber directly against the babies skin! Pockets are usually less expensive than AIO’s or Fitteds, and slightly more than prefolds or flats. Pocket diapers are a great option for those who want to save money but don’t want to break the bank with an initial investment.
  • cloth diapers 101 types of cloth diapersAIO’s: Also known as all-in-one’s, AIO are one of my favorite types of cloth diapers. AIO’s are a popular option because you don’t need to use a diaper cover with them. They have the most absorbent part of the diaper and the cover combined into one. Similar to fitteds, most all-in-one diapers have snap closures, but some use aplix (velco) closures too. These are a great choice for parents who are scared to venture into cloth diapering. This is probably the closest thing you will find to a disposable diaper. The down side to AIO’s are that they are normally a more bulky diaper, since everything is wrapped into one. Since everything is sewn into one, there are many inner layers that take a considerable amount of time to dry. They are the most expensive option, but will still save plenty of money over using disposables.
  • Cloth Diapering 101 | types of cloth diapersCOVERS:  While not technically one of the types of cloth diapers, unless you exclusively use pocket or AIO diapers, you are going to need covers. Don’t go running to Wal-Mart for plastic pants, those aren’t the kind of covers that I am talking about! The good thing about diaper covers is that you don’t have to wash them after each use. Unless they get visibly dirty, or they start to smell, you can get through the whole day using only 1 or 2 covers. There are two primary types of covers, PUL or wool. PUL (polyurethane laminate) is a very water resistant plastic-like material. Wool is, you guessed it, just regular wool! I will do a more detailed post about wool later, because there is so much more to talk about in the world of wool! You can also use fleece covers, but they aren’t my first option since they haven’t worked as well for me as PUL or wool. If you are just starting out, PUL covers are the easiest option!
  • DOUBLERS: Doublers are also not technically one of the types of cloth diapers, but they are great for adding extra absorbency to a diaper. They are specially handy for heavy wetters and are good overnight or nap-time option.




  • LINERS: Liners are similar to inserts in the sense that they can be a various materials; a tri-folded prefold, microfiber liner, or even suede cloth or terry cloth. The only difference between inserts and liners is that liners go directly against baby’s skin instead of inside a pocket. That is the number one reason why parents choose to use liners. It helps protect baby’s skin from irritating fabrics.  Liners can also be used if the baby has a rash and you aren’t sure of the diaper cream is cloth diaper safe. Liners aren’t meant to add a layer of absorbency, but rather a barrier.

There are also hybrid diapers which can be a cross between many of the options listed above, and sometimes include disposable inserts too. I know that all of the different types of cloth diapers can be overwhelming, so for today we will stick with the basics. I have used cloth diapers on all three of my children to some extent, about 42 months total. Do you use cloth diapers, or are you considering using them? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

Cloth Diapering 101: different types of cloth diapers. I know that looking into cloth diapering can be extremely overwhelming. In this series, I am breaking everything down step by step. In this post, learn about the different types of cloth diapers. There are many types of cloth diapers, and with this post you can figure out the perfect fit for your family and lifestyle.

P.S. This “Types of cloth diapers” post is the first of a cloth diaper series, make sure to check out part 2 next! Cloth Diapering 101 | How to wash cloth diapers. This series will include tips on how to wash them, how many you need to have, some of my favorites, and more! Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter so that you don’t miss out!

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