Cloth Diapers Explained: A Guide On How To Choose The Right One

With all the overwhelming amount of choices out there, it can make it very hard to know how to choose a cloth diaper that is right for you and your baby. Even for those of us who are experienced using cloth diapers can get overwhelmed sometimes! And there are new diapering systems coming out all the time! It's OK to be overwhelmed - I know I was my first time. And relax! Once you get started you will be ready to start experimenting and trying them all!

First things first - it's best to think about what you want from a cloth diaper. Are you looking for something super easy? Stay dry? Or maybe you are on a budget and want the cheapest option. Once you have an idea of what your needs are it will be easier to narrow down your choices.

Setting Up A Cloth Diapering System

A cloth diapering system can be made up of just one type of diaper, or many. You may want to have a little of this or a little of that (or if you like me a lot of this and a lot of that). If you have a babysitter or use daycare, it's always great to have something super easy on hand for those occassions. Lot's of moms make sure they have a 'daddy stash' - something their husband likes to use and makes him enjoy using cloth diapers.

I highly recommend trying one to three of a diaper before you buy a whole stash of it. Many a mama have sunk a lot of money into an expensive system only to find the diapers were not going to work out for them. Then it was all about selling them to try to find something else. I know it's easy to want to jump into buying a bunch of one kind of diaper because you want to build your stash up, but it is best to experiment a little to make sure you get the best fit for you and your baby. Once you know you love it (better try it for at least a week!) then go ahead and shop away. There is just too much too loose if you make a big investment into something. It may not fit right, it may not be absorbent enough, it may be cheaply made, etc.

There are some great cloth diaper trial programs you can look into. That way you can try a bunch of different things and see what you like, then return the things you don't. Kelly's Closet has a great One Size Trial Package, Sweet Baby Bottoms has a nice variety in their Trial Package and Moms Milk Boutique has a great Trial Package (with a free wet bag!). With a trial you usually put a deposit down, get the diapers of your choice for a month, then send back what you don't like for store credit or a refund. Pretty cool!

Cloth Diapers Explained

Here is a little mini guide on each of the different types of diapers. This should help you to understand what each type of diaper is and what's it's best use is. For more in depth information on these diapers, please seel our Types of Cloth Diapers page.

Pocket Diapers

A pocket diaper is a diaper that consists of a water proof outer layer, a stay dry inner layer and a pocket opening to stuff the soaker part into. Most pocket diapers come with an insert usually made with microfiber.


• Very easy to use: Just pre-stuff your pockets and have them ready to use as needed.
• Easy to put on baby: Velcro and snap closures make it quick to put on and give a custom fit.
• These diapers almost always have a stay dry inner.• Great for going out of the house because they are easy to use and you can add more absorbency for longer periods of time.


• You have to remove the soiled insert before washing.
• Pockets always need to have the insert put in before using.
• Usually are not made with any natural materials.

All In Ones

AIO’s consist of a water proof outer layer, a stay dry inner layer, and a soaker sewn in. Out of all the cloth diapers, these are the most like disposables because they require no extra work adding inserts or a cover.


• Easy to use. These are perfect daycare and daddy diapers.
• No extra steps involved, just fasten on baby and go.
• Often have a stay dry inner.


• May not be as absorbent as other types of diapers.
• Not a good choice for nights because you cannot add extra absorbency easily.

All In Two's

AI2's are very much like the AIO’s, but have two pieces instead of one. An AI2 consists of an outer water proof layer and a soaker that either snaps in or lays into the outer shell. Some AI2’s come with soakers that are topped with a stay dry material or can come with your choice of material to use for the soakers.


• Soakers often come with a choice of stay dry, natural fibers or disposable.
• Very easy to use, just lay in or snap in soaker and put on baby.
• Can often reuse cover and just change insert, saving money on buying more diapers.


• Sometimes inserts can shift around.
• Some systems have soakers that don't cover the entire inside of the shell, which can allow poop to get on it.

Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers consist of a body of fabric, usually made with natural fibers such as cotton, hemp or bamboo. They have a soaker which can either be sewn internally into the diaper or that is separate and snaps onto the diaper. You can choose either snap or Velcro closures, or snapless fitteds that allows you to use Snappi’s or pins to fasten. Fitted diapers require some sort of water proof cover.


• Best choice for heavy wetters and over night.
• The most absorbent of all the types of diapers.
• Can be used coverless for a breathable option.


• Takes the longest to dry of all the types of diapers.
• Requires a water proof cover.
• Can be costly when made out of more expensive materials such as bamboo.

Prefold Diapers

Prefold diapers consist of several layers of an absorbent material, usually cotton, sewn together. A prefold has three sections, with the middle being the thickest and most absorbent. They are a two-step system and require a water proof cover. Prefolds can be fastened with either a Snappi, pins or can be trifolded into a cover.


• An economical choice. Prefolds cost considerably less than other types of diapers.
• Wash easily and dry quickly.
• Can add absorbency by using a doubler or folding an insert inside of it.
• Customized fit on your baby.


• Have a bit of a learning curve, so prefolds can be intimidating at first.
• Not very daycare and daddy friendly because of the learning curve.
• Require a cover.

Flat Diapers

A flat diaper or more commonly known as flats, consist of one layer of an absorbent material, usually birdseye cotton. Flat diapers are like a prefold that hasn’t been sewn all together. To use a flat diaper, you fold it so that it takes on a shape to fit around your baby, making an absorbent layer where it’s needed.


• Wash very easily and dry very quickly. No worry about stripping or special washing techniques.
• The most economical diaper.
• The original “one size” diaper.
• Can be “trifolded” into a cover like prefolds for maximum absorbency.
• You can add a doubler or layer two flats together for added absorbency.
• Flats make great, inexpensive doublers and pocket stuffers.


• Have a learning curve to use, even more so than prefolds.
• Are not very daddy and daycare friendly.
• Often times require added absorbency, especially for toddlers and heavy wetters.
• Require a water proof cover.

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