Types of Cloth Diapers

This is actually a post I wrote for my daycare a few years ago. Although there are many new brands of cloth diapers out there now, the information is still valid.

Here’s another big question I had when I first began cloth diapering. What kind should I get? How many should I get? There are so many types of cloth diapers out there. It makes it very difficult to identify which ones will work best for you and your baby.

When I started looking at the different options available, I had no idea what I was looking at. Let alone what I was looking for. I knew I wanted something easy to use without a lot of moving parts. I also wanted something that I could potentially have multiple uses throughout the day.

The cost played a big factor, too. I didn’t have a lot of money to put towards diapers right off the bat so I needed something for a reasonable price. It’s crazy how much cloth diapers can cost. At least starting out. You could easily spend $200 to get started, or more!

Overall, it still less expensive (for us) to cloth diaper than it was to use all disposables. We used disposables for probably the first 3 months because I couldn’t find a cloth diaper that would fit her little baby bum. Well, that’s not true. There are options out there but I wasn’t willing to spend $20 on 1 diaper that she’d only wear for a few months. It made more sense for us to spend $20 a week on disposables. Right?

Cloth Diaper Types

I found several resources that told me about the “types” of cloth diapers. It was still pretty confusing until I started researching how to make cloth diapers and did more research when I purchased more diapers. I found this post by Dirty Diaper Laundry with a graphic that’s pretty nice. She was a great resource I used when I got started.

Pocket Diapers

I consider these to be the most common. When I was searching typical retailers (I consider Amazon, Babies-R-Us, and Buy Buy Baby typical), this was the type of diaper I saw.

These are the diapers that you stuff an “insert” into them. Some have an opening with elastic along the back seam. Others have a flap inside toward the back. They both function the same.

I prefer the style without the flap but overall love the Pocket Diaper style since I can experiment and choose between absorption options. That means I can have a thinner diaper during the day, use it to potty train or add more absorption for use overnight. The versatility of the Pocket Cloth Diaper is absolutely wonderful.

Since these are readily available at the retailers I shop, these are what I purchased. I actually really like them. There are different types of “inserts” you can use with them and depending on how you use the inserts, you can get multiple uses out of the diaper.

Absorption Options

There are two main types of inserts. Prefolds and Inserts. Both are great in their own ways. It’s been very helpful to have both types on hand through our cloth diapering journey.


These are also a more classic type of cloth diaper and handy for LOTS of things. When I first started using cloth diapers, I’d lay these just inside the diaper. They were perfect to soak up the potty and allow me to use the cover multiple times. That meant less laundry and less diapers needed.

These can be used with just about all the different types of cloth diapers out there. If you go with Gerber, the package even says what all they can be used for. They’re the perfect size. If you want them to look fancy, just sew on a strip of cotton down the middle and you have a cute burp cloth, kitchen towel, wipe, changing mat, nursing rag, whatever you need. Very versatile and well worth having a package… or three.


These usually come with the pocket diapers when purchased. They are generally a long rectangle and made with several layers of micro-fiber. Some brands make them out of charcoal (extremely absorbent), some are out of hemp and others are made out of bamboo or even minky. Bum-Genius makes a one-size micro-fiber style, which I had purchased. They work but one side folds down and can be a little bulky.

When I first started cloth diapering, I would just lay these inside the diaper similar to the prefolds but I just pre-stuff the diapers now. They take much less room so the diaper is slimmer on the baby. I soon learned that if left against the skin too long, a dry skin rash can occur. That’s when I use my Amazing Cream and clear up the skin irritation pretty much overnight.

My last round of diaper purchasing came with the charcoal inserts and they have been incredible! I’ve heard good things about the bamboo ones as well. As you can see, the charcoal are a little more expensive but they’ve been well worth the cost.

Prefold + Cover/Shell

Here’s a type that works wonderfully if you choose to go with the prefolds as your only absorption option. The fitted cover is exactly that. It has no lining, just the PUL (that’s the waterproof material used on the outside of the diaper). They may have snaps or Velcro and are meant to use with a lining of some sort.

I haven’t seen many of these around and haven’t personally used one. I can see the benefits to this type, though. Since they don’t have a built in lining aka fewer layers, they’re probably more slim.

Fitted + Cover/Shell

This is another type I have not tried. They seem to be bulky and redundant to me but the graphics below show some good reasons why you might choose this route.

A fitted cloth diaper looks like a pocket diaper but it requires a cover. The material the fitted cloth diaper is made of is not water proof. It acts like a prefold but it’s already prefolded, so to speak. Basically, it is setup like an All-In-One or a pocket diaper with the snaps or Velcro but then needs the cover to go over it to keep the wet in. Some use Velcro and some use snaps to close them so you wouldn’t need the snappy or pins that you need to hold the prefolds together.

All-In-One (AIO)

Just like it sounds, an All-In-One cloth diaper is a cover, a liner, and an absorbent all in one diaper. I’ve found it to be the most expensive type so this is another one that I have not tried.

I did attempt to make one, though. It was nice but my absorbent wasn’t correct so I ended up turning the diaper into another pocket diaper, which works best for us.

Anyway…. I have read from various sources that the All-In-One style takes the longest to dry since everything is in the one diaper. It is the closest to a disposable since it doesn’t have any moving parts. A very nice option if you don’t have an issue with the drying time and want the easiest style.

All-In-Two (AI2)

So this style is similar to an All-In-One in that the absorbent layer does not go inside the diaper. It’s similar to a Pocket in that you have a separate (removable) absorbent layer.

The difference with this one, the absorbent layer snaps or Velcros into the main body and lays directly against the baby’s bottom.

I do have a style like this diaper. I like it but it’s not my favorite, probably because I only have the one diaper. I only have one insert that will work with it so I had to change the diaper during each change. You could purchase additional liners and not have to do that. Mine was also a sized diaper. I’ve preferred the one size.

It took me a while to really understand the difference between the Pocket, All-In-One and All-In-Two diaper styles. Lots of research. I didn’t fully understand until I started looking up how to make my own diapers.

What about size?

I’ve seen all these diaper styles come in a few different size options. The most common is a one-size fits all style. Great once your babe gets old enough to use them but not so great for a newborn. All ours, except one, are the one-size style and I love it. We’ve been able to use the same diapers since she was around 3 or 4 months old.

Most diaper companies provide sizes based on weight. From a newborn size (xs), small, medium and large. Some even have an extra-large size. Just read the packaging or description on the ones you’re looking at to get an idea of how long you’ll be able to use them.

How many do I need?

Oh boy. This is a loaded question that I never fully answered for myself. Since we started with disposables for the newborn stage, I had a decent idea of how many diapers we went through during a day.

I’ve read from various places (I can’t remember since it was throughout my research faze about a year and a half ago) that most newborns go through 10-12 diapers a day. As they age, the number drops to 8-10 diapers a day. I can attest that this is pretty true. I would send around 8 with our daughter to the sitters. Sometimes she’d use 5-6, sometimes she’d use all 8. Plus the morning diaper and the evening diaper before bedtime.

For our first diaper stash, during the newborn stage, I had purchased 6 diapers. I quickly realized we would need many more. I then purchased another 6 through and app for CHEAP. Of course, they are also a cheap quality and the elastic is not lasting but they still get the job done.

12 diapers is decent for a day and a half but I was doing laundry every day. I couldn’t keep that up so I’d scour the consignment shows and resale shops and added enough that we had around 24 diapers on hand. That meant I could do diaper laundry every 3 days! Fantastic but still difficult when working full time.

On Amazon, I found a set of 12 diapers from Baby Goal for about $80. They came with the charcoal inserts, 4 cloth wipes and a wet bag. Can we say SOLD! That is a phenomenal deal you guys! It even let me choose the patterns on the covers. I couldn’t pass it up. After that purchase, we could go the entire work week without doing diaper laundry. Heaven.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Minimum: 10 Diapers – 1 day
    • Nothing on hand while you do diaper laundry
  • 12 Diapers – 1 day
    • You’d have a few on hand while you do diaper laundry but you’d have to do laundry every 1.5 days
  • 24 Diapers – 2.5 days
    • This is enough to diaper for 2 days and do laundry on the 3rd day; leaves enough to have baby wear a cloth diaper through the morning while you do laundry.
  • 36 Diapers – 3.5-4 days
    • Our magic number. We were able to get closer to 4.5 days with my husband doing diaper laundry while he was home on Mondays.

How do I clean my cloth diapers?

Check out this post on how I clean my cloth diapers. It has some great tips as well as a recipe to make your own detergent.

Here are my two favorite graphics on Pinterest. They clearly detail the cloth diaper types. One even gives great overview information.

What’s the Easiest Cloth Diaper to Use Compared to Disposables {Chart} | Dirty Diaper Laundry:
A quick overview of the main types of cloth diapers available. Found at Dirty Diaper Laundry

Cloth Diaper Types:
It looks like the website this graphic was found is no longer available but it’s still a great depiction of cloth diapers.

Have fun on your diaper journey! I’ve enjoyed learning about the different types and materials.

Do you cloth diaper now? If so, what is your favorite style?

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