If you've done even one internet search for cloth diapers, you were probably overwhelmed by the avalanche of information. Below, we demystify the various types of cloth diapers and give you the pros and cons of each.
Flats: A flat is a square piece of fabric that serves as the absorbent portion of your diaper. Flats need to be folded and fastened with a diaper pin, Snappi, or Boingo, then covered with a diaper cover made of PUL (Polyurethane laminte), Vinyl, Fleece, or Wool. This system allows you to replace the soiled flat and reuse the cover without washing.
Pros: Flats are cheap and very easy to wash.
Cons: Diaper changes take a bit longer when you have to fold, fasten and then cover. Learning to fold flats takes some practice.
Popular Brands: Geffen Baby (Hemp), OsoCozy (Cotton), Sustainablebabyish (Bamboo)
Prefolds: Prefold diapers are most often rectangle shaped and multi-ply. Most have a thicker and more absorbent section in the middle third of the diaper. They will also need to be folded and fastened and a cover is necessary. You can find prefolds in a variety of fabrics, but the most common is cotton (bleached, unbleached, or organic). They are not “one size fits all” so you will need to rebuy as baby grows. You can reuse your covers with a pee-only diaper change.
Pros: Prefolds are also very inexpensive and an easy starting point for newbies.
Cons: The diaper change is still a multi-step process and is therefore more labor intensive than other options.
Popular Brands: OsoCozy, Green Mountain Diapers, Geffen Baby
Fitteds: Fitteds look a lot like disposables in shape. The contour shape fits babies securely and they usually fasten with applix/hook & loop (diaper speak for Velcro) or snaps built onto the diaper. No pins or Snappis necessary. Fitteds can also be found in a variety of fabrics from cotton to hemp to bamboo. A cover is used to keep messes in the diaper, but the cover may be reused if no poop is present. They are often sized so you will need to buy more once baby outgrows them.
Pros: The leg elastic in the fitted along with the elastic in the cover provides double layer protection against leaks and blowouts.
Cons: Fitteds can vary greatly in price from under $10 to over $25 per diaper. Since a cover is also required, they can be pricey.
Popular Brands: Thirsties, Kissaluvs, Baby Kicks, Mother-ease, OsoCozy
Hybrids: Hybrid diapers are usually composed of a waterproof outer layer and some type of absorbent layer inside. They are called hybrids because you can use a washable cloth inner layer or an absorbent, disposable inner layer. Most of the disposable inserts are flushable and/or compostable. Hybrids work well for travel when you may not have laundry access or if you are still on the fence about the laundry aspect of cloth diapering. Most hybrids allow for reuse of covers on pee-only diaper changes.
Pros: Hybrids are versatile and may serve as a gateway to full time cloth diapering.
Cons: Disposable inserts will need to be purchased regularly and may not be as absorbent as some of the cloth options available.
Popular Brands: GroVia, gDiapers, Flip
Pockets: Pocket diapers are really the innovation that has helped move cloth back into the mainstream. Pocket diapers have a contoured shape and include a waterproof outer layer (PUL) and a fabric inner. A pocket is sewn into the inner fabric and an absorbent insert is stuffed inside. Most inserts are microfiber, but cotton, hemp and other fabrics can be used. The inner layer of the diaper is most often polyester fleece which helps wick moisture away from baby’s skin and into the core of the diaper. The whole diaper is replaced at each diaper change. You can choose snap or applix versions. Many “one size fits all” options are available that will fit baby from approximately 10-35 pounds.
Pros: Pocket diaper changes are quick and easy and feel a lot like changing a disposable. The ease of the diaper makes it very user friendly.
Cons: They are more expensive than flats and prefolds. You need to remove the absorbent insert brefore laundering which can be a bit messy.
Popular Brands: BumGenius, FuzziBunz, Tiny Tush, Oh Katy
All-In-Ones and All-In-Twos: All-In-Ones and All-In-Twos are diapers where the inner absorbent layer and waterproof outer layer are combined into one unit. All-In-Ones have the absorbent layer sewn in whereas the absorbent layer of All-In-Twos snap or Velcro into the diaper. There are no pockets to stuff in these diapers so they are very easy to care for. The whole diaper is replaced at each diaper change. Sized and one-size options are available.
Pros: These diapers are supremely easy. One-step diaper changing is quick and convenient for even the most cloth-hesitant users (dads, grandparents, daycare).
Cons: The inner layer is attached so they may not be as adjustable in terms of absorbency. They also take a longer time to dry and are more expensive than other chioces.
Popular Brands: GroVia, Thirsties, BumGenius, Swaddlebees, Softbums
Hopefully, this helps you sort through the heaps of possibilities and gives you an idea of which type of diaper may be right for you and your baby. Our next article will give you the skinny on starting a stash that will last you for years. Happy diapering!