When you think of diapers today, the first thing that comes to mind are Pampers, Huggies and other similar disposable diaper brands. But fact is that not too long ago, cloth diapers were the “In” thing, and were the go to choice until disposable diapers came into play in the early 1940’s. However, disposable diapers when first introduced were considered a luxury and weren’t that cheap. Considering that, people still continued to use cloth diapers, only that today there are several different types of cloth diapers to choose from. Needless to say, cloth diapers today are also more advanced in that they eliminate the use of safety pins and plastic pants, and are designed to be as easy to use as throw away diapers. In this article, I will not only explain the 9 different cloth diapering models and the best types of cloth diapers but also cloth diaper extras so you’re not lost in the crowd.
Flat Cloth Diapers
Flat cloth diapers or simply flats are probably what your grandma used back in the days, and are the most inexpensive way to cloth diaper your baby.
These truly old fashioned cloth diapers are made up of flat pieces of single layer absorbent material, generally made from Birdseye weave cotton.
This type of 100 percent cotton contains small diamond shape openings that resemble a bird’s eye hence the reason for its name.
Birdseye cotton right out of the box can be stiff, but does attain its softness and absorbency over time.
Birdseye cotton is also considered to be extremely durable, and has been used to craft flat cloth diapers for years. But there are a few flat cloth diapers that are made of blend of hemp and organic cotton such as Hemp Babies flats.
With regards to size, most flat cloth diapers measure approximately 27″x27″ after pre-washing, but some manufacturers will list the dimensions before they’ve been pre-washed.
It is also important to note that both Birdseye cotton and hemp do tend to shrink considerably so the size of the flats will reduce after a few uses.
Flour sack tea towels aren’t just good mates in the kitchen, but are also a great alternative to flat diapers. Although they aren’t as absorbent as some flats, they are easily available on Amazon and for a nominal price.
Hemp vs. Cotton Flats
If you don’t mind spending a bit more, then hemp flats are a great choice for several reasons. First hemp is a highly absorbent material that breathes better because it is more porous than cotton.
Next, it is extremely tough and durable so great chances are that you’ll be able to use them to diaper more than one child. And lastly, help possesses excellent anti-microbial properties so the chances of mildew and bacteria breeding on the fabric are greatly reduced.
Pros of Flat Cloth Diapers
- Extremely affordable diapering system
- Dries up quickly both in the dryer and clothesline
- Good option from birth until potty training and can be used for more than 1 child
- Highly customizable for a comfortable fit
- Easy to clean with just one piece of fabric to rinse out
Cons of Flat Cloth Diapers
- Requires pins to combine with diaper cover
- Requires folding
- My Recommendations
OsoCozy – Unbleached Birdseye Flat Diapers – this set includes a dozen unbleached Birdseye cotton flat diapers. Each measures 27″ x 30.5″ and are easy to clean and dry quickly.
Gerber Birdseye Flatfold Cloth Diapers – made of 100 percent cotton, this set of 10 flats feature finished edges to prevent fraying. Each flat measures 24” x 27”’, and is comfortable, recyclable and reusable.
Imagine Baby Products Flat Diapers – crafted of 100 percent Birdseye weave cotton, each of these flats measures 27″x27″ and are very easy to clean and dry.
Prefold Cloth Diapers
Prefolds are basically flats, with the only difference being that unlike having to fold them several times, they have more layers in the middle and require minimal folding.
They can be ordered in two variants – brownish/tan unbleached and white bleached, where the former possess natural oils and take longer to prep to reach optimal absorbency.
The first thought that came to mind when using prefolds is boy that’s not going to be easy, but they are a joy to use once you get your feet wet.
Prefolds just like flats can be folded around a baby with the help of diaper pins or a Snappi. This makes them a great option for newborns owing to their comfortable fit.
You must use a cover on top, which can be as simple as old school pull ons or waterproof and quick drying diaper shells.
Apart from being great cloth diapers, prefolds can also be used as burp cloths, household cleanups, and are extremely popular among parents on a budget or simply those who travel frequently.
Pros of Prefold Cloth Diapers
- A highly affordable cloth diapering option
- Extremely durable and can take a beating.
- Make great dust rags after wearing off
- Easy to wash and not much detergent buildup
Cons of Prefold Cloth Diapers
- Might take some time to get used to
- Bulkier than other cloth diaper systems
- Need to be prepped compared to other types of cloth diapers
Bummis Organic Cotton Unbleached Pre-fold Diapers 6-pack – it is recommended that you wash these prefolds 3-5 time before use in order to get rid of the natural oils.
These prefolds arrive in a beautiful organic cotton packaging complete with a colorful snap closure.
OsoCozy Bamboo Organic Prefolds – this 6 pack of prefolds are made of 50 percent bamboo and 50 percent organic cotton. They are extremely absorbent incredibly soft and luxuriously strong.
Blueberry Organic Cotton Prefolds – this 6 pack of prefolds is made of 100 percent 4”x8”x4” layers of 100% organic cotton and gets more absorbent as you use them.
Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted diapers hold a weird position in the cloth diapering space in that they aren’t prefolds or a ready to wear diaper.
They can be confusing especially to new parents since they look like a waterproof diaper, but really aren’t (I learnt this the hard way). For waterproofness, you will have to combine a fitted diaper with a waterproof diaper cover.
The difference between fitted and flats is that you do not need to fold them or use diaper pins as they come ready to fit your baby and with Aplix, Velcro or snap enclosures.
Fitted diapers are similar in shape to disposables, where the wings attach in the front under your baby’s belly. Adding to this, fitted diapers can be ordered in several sizes XS, S, M, L, XL.
The interior of fitted diapers is made of highly absorbent material and some parents claim they are much more breathable than other cloth diapers.
Pros of Fitted Cloth Diapers
- Cheaper than other types of diapers
- Highly absorbent because entire diaper is made of absorbent material, making them a great night time option.
- Available in several sizes so good option from birth to toddlers
Cons of Fitted Cloth Diapers
- Can be expensive especially when you add a cover
- Multiple steps involved especially when adding a cover
Kissaluvs Fitted Diaper – made of organic cotton and natural hemp fabric, the Kissaluvs fitted diaper boasts a trim design yet is highly absorbent. It features robust plastic snap closures making it easy to use for parents.
Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted Diaper – designed to fit kids between 18-40 lbs, the Thirsties Duo Fab fitted diaper can be ordered in a variety of colors and features a unique a tunnel design for better washing and quicker drying.
Heavy Wetter Fitted Diaper – this soft fitted cloth diaper features two absorbent snap in inserts and is made completely of natural fibers – 30 percent organic cotton and 70 percent bamboo fiber.
Hybrid Fitted Diapers
A hybrid fitted diapers basically slots between an all-in-0ne and a fitted diaper. What makes it a Hybrid is that it features a hidden layer of polyester fleece, tucked away between the inner velour and outer print.
This essential layer of fleece makes the diaper water resistant, but there are some companies that do not use a printed cotton outer, but instead use heavier weight poly fabric as the outer layer of the diaper.
I was first confused about this layer of poly fleece because I didn’t quite understand how this layer of fleece worked differently in hybrid diapers than in stay dry pocket diapers.
After digging a bit deeper, hybrid fitted diapers function much differently than regular fitted diapers. The extra fabric in the middle of fitted diapers quickly becomes saturated when your baby pees.
For heavy wetters and to make them night worthy, some manufacturers increase extra layers of fabric to this middle zone, which results in more bulk.
Adding to this, fitted diapers need to be worn with diaper covers, but this is not the case with hybrid fitted diapers.
The poly fleece in hybrid fitted diapers directs the liquid back up to the diapers insert, and buys time to wick away from the central zone of the diaper up to the ends of the insert.
Until the inserts of hybrid fitted diapers become completely saturated, they basically function very similarly to AIO diapers.
The fleece in the hybrid fitted diaper makes it more breathable and without any PUL just like in an all-in-one cloth diaper makes it a great choice for babies with sensitive skin.
Pros of Hybrid Fitted Diapers
- Easy to maintain
- Highly customizable and unique
Cons of Hybrid Fitted Diapers
- Limited availability
- High prices
Snappy Greens “Controller” Hybrid Fitted Cloth Diaper – designed for kids between 10-15 lbs, this hybrid fitted diaper features a trimmer fit, and a soft wooly nylon stitch on the edge.
Contour diapers are cheaper than their fitted diaper counterpart, but are made of the same materials for the most part. They are an economical cloth diapering alternative and designed as an hourglass shape.
This non-waterproof cloth diaper is made of highly absorbent material, but unlike fitted diapers that have snap or Velcro enclosures, contour cloth diapers need to be secured with diaper pins or a Snappi.
They can also be made at home with little sewing skills and are easy to get a custom fit around the waist. Depending on the brand you chose, they can be highly absorbent especially for heavy wetters and nighttime.
Pros of Contour Cloth Diapers
- Cheaper option than fitted diapers
- Fold over rise results in great fit
- Highly absorbent option for nighttime diapering
- Easy to achieve a custom fit around the waist using diaper pins or a Snappi
Cons of Contour Cloth Diapers
- Only available in most stores n newborn sizes
- No snaps or Velcro
- Some contour diapers only have a few layers of fabrics so you will have to add a doubler
Kissaluvs Cotton One Size Contour Diaper – boasting a one size design to fit babies between 7-35 lbs, this contour diaper features an onsite microfiber soaker topped by comfortable fleece for optimal absorbency.
Pooters One-size Contour Diaper – this one size contour diaper is made of 100 percent organic cotton and is designed to fit kids between 8-40 lbs.
Bumkins Reusable Cloth Diaper Contour – made from 100 percent cotton and brought to you by one of the leading names in the kid’s arena, the Bumkins cloth diaper is designed to fit kids between 7-32 lbs.
One of the biggest benefits of pockets diapers is that you can adjust the absorbency as you see fit. More inserts? Baby wearing the diaper overnight? Pockets diapers are the ultimate solution.
So for those times when you just want to be in control of the diaper such as for heavy wetters or simply when you need a diaper that is more absorbent, pocket diapers make sense.
Although this is a complete cloth diapering system, it is not to be confused with all-in-one cloth diapers in that pocket diapers need to be stuffed with the insert.
The diaper comes with an integrated pocket that is not meant for your baby’s cell phone (not just yet), but to insert a soaker pad of your choice to increase absorbency.
Pocket diapers are easy to use on your baby as disposables only that you just need to change the inserted soaker pad when it gets wet and use the same pocket diaper all through the day and night.
Most pocket diapers even come with a microfiber insert or two so you don’t have to go and buy them separately. These of course in most cases are made of highly absorbent fiber for great absorbency.
Prepping a pocket diaper is a cinch, where you simply slide the absorbent insert into the dedicated pocket of the pocket diaper, move the insert into the right position, place your baby over the diaper, secure it together with Velcro or snap closures and you’re all set.
Pros of Pocket Diapers
- Basically an all in one system
- Extremely easy to use
- Waterproof outer shell
- Ability to add additional inserts as you see fit
Cons of Pocket Diapers
- Requires one extra step of adding an insert
BumGenius 4.0 Pocket Cloth Diaper – designed with snap closures for a great and snuggly fit, the BumGenius 4.0 is by far my favorite pocket diaper. For starters it boasts a patented leak proof cover complete with a lining opening to protect your baby from moisture. You can read my complete review of the BumGenius 4.0 here.
Reusable Baby Cloth Pocket Diapers – this 6 piece set of pocket diapers includes 6 pocket diapers and 6 inserts, where each one features an anti-leak exterior and waterproof and breathable TPU lining.
Nautical Baby Cloth Pocket Diapers – this pocket diaper bundle comes with 7 pocket diapers and 7 inserts so you don’t have to buy them separately. The package even includes a wet back and is backed by a 100 percent money back guarantee.
Sleeve Cloth Diapers
A sleeve cloth diaper is more or less the same as a pocket cloth diaper, but the difference is that it has two openings – one at the front and one at the back of the diaper.
One of the biggest perks of sleeve cloth diapers is that you get all the advantages of a pocket diaper such as fast drying times and adjustable absorbency, but without the hassle of removing the insert at the time of maintenance.
But just like a pocket diaper, you will still have the additional task of stuffing it with an insert, which comes out automatically when you put it in the wash.
So basically there’s no un-stuffing the insert, making this type of cloth diaper great diaper bag diapers especially when they’ve been in your diaper bag for a few hours and have ripened up a bit.
If you prefer washing and stuffing inserts, but don’t like the idea touching soiled diapers, sleeve cloth diapers are what you need. They are extremely popular and can be had in several colors and brands.
Pros of Sleeve Diapers
- Highly adjustable absorbency
- Available in several colors and big brands
- Inserts exit automatically in washing cycle so no soiling of hands
Cons of Sleeve Cloth Diapers
- Extra step of stuffing inserts still exists
Thirsties Snap Duo Wrap – Designed to fit kids between 6-18 lbs, the Thirsties Duo Wrap sleeve diaper is crafted on the exterior of 100 percent polyester mated with a urethane coating. Made in the USA, this sleeve diaper features dual leg gussets for leak protection grows along with your baby so you will only need two sizes from birth to potty.
Alva Baby Sleeve Cloth Diaper – this all in one size diaper features dual rows of snaps to fit well and dual gussets to prevent leakages. It boasts strong absorbent material for superior breathability and hip snaps for a great fit on your baby.
Blueberry Simplex Pocket Diaper Set – each sleeve cloth diaper in this set features back and front pockets that allow the insert to agitate through the laundry. It features stretchy tabs for a super comfortable fit, and the package even comes with a handy Dainty Baby reusable bag.
All-In-Two Diapers or Hybrids
All in two Diapers aka AI2 or hybrid cloth diapers is a two part diaper system in which an absorbent layer or soaker pad needs to be laid. The best part of this design is that the cover can be used as long it’s clean and with a fresh insert similar to pocket diapers.
A hybrid cloth diaper system is similar to AI2 cloth diapers, but the difference is that these manufacturers offer include the inserts that are compatible with their cover/shell.
The inserts for all in two cloth diapers either can be tucked or snapped in the cover, making it extremely easy to customize for heavy wetter or bed time diapering.
One of the noteworthy features of all in two cloth diapers is they aren’t as bulky as pocket and all in one diapers and much more trim fitting.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly, economical and long lasting cloth diaper option, AI2’s are worth a second look.
Pros of All-In-Two cloth Diapers
- Made of waterproof outer shell
- Two part diapering system
- Lighter than some other types of cloth diapers
- Easy to customize
Cons of All-in-Two Cloth diapers
- Two part diaper system means you will have to buy cover and inserts separately
- A little more expensive option
HappyEndings AI2 Diaper System – this all-in-two cloth diaper system comes with a snap in insert and extra pocket for heavy wetters. Designed for kids between 8-35 lbs, this AI2 cloth diaper system features a leak guard on the front and leg gussets for containing messes.
LilBit Baby AI2 Diaper Bundle – each of the 6 pieces of covers in this diaper bundle features a waterproof insert, and is made of 80 percent polyester and 20 percent polyamide.
Alva Baby AI2 Cloth Diaper – this AI2 pocket cloth diaper features double rows of snaps for a great fit, and boasts strong absorbent material for superior breathability.
All in One Cloth Diapers
Just like the name suggests, all in one cloth diapers are basically a one wash, one wear system that requires no further steps apart from putting the diaper on and taking it off.
This one piece diaper system has the absorbency layer built right into the waterproof cover so there’s no stuffing whatsoever. This style of cloth diapers are a great fit for night time and great for quick diaper changes.
These cloth diapers can be fastened with snaps, hook and loop or Velcro/Aplix closures and are the same as disposable diapers, only that you can wash and reuse them.
Pros of All-in-One Cloth Diapers
- One piece diapering system
- Adjustable closures at the waist
- Insert stitched right into the diaper
- Fit better under most baby clothes
- Caregivers, babysitters and daycare centers may be more comfortable using AIO cloth diapers
Cons of All-in-One Cloth Diapers
- Can be a pricey cloth diapering option compared to other types of cloth diapers
- Embedded dual layers can increase drying time
- Design might be similar, but still bulkier than disposable diapers
BumGenius Freetime – with over 500 superb reviews on Amazon alone, the BumGenius Freetime is definitely an all rounder in the AIO diaper department. It boasts a patented leak proof outer cover and stay dry inserts for customized absorbency.
Thirsties Snap AIO Cloth Diaper – this one size AIO diaper is convenient, trim fitting and absorbent, and features 4 layers of microfiber terry inserts. It provides a customized fit for most babies from birth to potty and is made of high quality.
HappyEndings “Night, Night” AIO Cloth Diaper – this all in one diaper features 3×3 rise snaps and is designed to fit babies between 8-35 lbs. It features a soft bamboo fleece lining, and is an excellent choice for babies who are prone to rashes from wetness of sleep well through the night.
Cloth Diapering Extras
Regardless of the cloth diaper you use, it is a good idea to invest in some liners. A liner basically wicks moisture away from your baby’s skin and into the actual diaper.
They are generally made of fleece, paper or other fabrics and some are even flushable, making it easier to flush the poop. Cloth liners need to be washed separately from the diaper since they can reduce diaper absorbency.
Also known as a booster or double, inserts help with absorbency and are an essential component of several types of cloth diapers. Owing to this, I’ve written an entire guide on getting the best inserts in order to make the best choice.
Although a regular garbage can will suffice, diaper pails mostly come with touch top lids and some even with swing lids. Others have odor control technology that locks odors in and some can even be accessed with a foot pedal. Some great choices of diaper pails are Playtex Diaper Genie Complete Diaper Pail and the bestselling Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail.
A cloth diaper sprayer does exactly what it’s supposed to do, i.e. rinse the poop right from the cloth diaper into the toilet. It is somewhat similar in design to a traditional kitchen sink sprayer, and is generally installed on the side of the toilet tank. Some great choices in the diaper sprayer department are SmarterFresh Cloth Diaper Sprayer and Bumworks Cloth Diaper Toilet Sprayer Kit.
Cloth diapers have several advantages over disposables including being an extremely efficient and inexpensive cloth diapering system.
Diapers have definitely come a long way and today you have several diapering options. One of the notable ones undoubtedly are cloth diapers and for several reasons. Choosing the right cloth diaper completely depends on the one that your baby will be most comfortable with. Flat cloth diapers although an old fashioned way of diapering is still a good choice if you use them right. Hemp and cotton cloth diapers are highly absorbent so they are your best choice for bedtime diapering. In order to ease your buying decision, I’ve recommended several types of cloth diapers that each have their own share of pros and cons.