Types of Cloth Diapers

One of the things that people find most confusing about researching cloth diapers is that there are so many different types of diapers that it can be hard to know where to start. With such a wide variety of diapers available, figuring out what type of diaper system you are interested in is a great first step. We recommend starting out by watching our video below on the different styles of cloth diapers.
If you'd like some more information, the following article will offer a description of the different types of diapering systems and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

One Piece Systems vs. Two Piece Systems

2 piece diapers systems require 2 separate pieces that work together to create a complete cloth diaper. At change time, you will be putting each piece on your baby seperately.

  • The first piece is the absorbent component– this is the part of the diaper that is going to absorb liquids.
  • The second piece of a cloth diaper is the waterproof component - this is the part of the diaper that is going to go over top of the absorbent component to stop liquid from escaping

1 piece diaper systems mean that the absorbent and waterproof components of the cloth diaper are put on the baby at the same time. 1 piece diaper systems include a range of different types of diapers.

  • In some cases, the absorbent components are completely attached to the waterproof cover.
  • In other cases, the absorbent component is stuffed or snapped into the cover ahead of time, making putting the diaper on your baby only one step at change time.

Flannel Squares (2 Piece System)

Flannel squares are the most basic type of cloth diaper. This system is literally a single-layer square of 100% cotton flannel that you fold into a diaper around your baby. The flannel square is the absorbent component - with this system you need to purchase separate waterproof diaper covers to make a complete diaper. Fold the diaper around your baby, secure it and put a waterproof diaper cover on top. Make sure that all pieces of the flannel square are tucked inside of the diaper cover to create a leak proof 2-piece cloth diaper.

Advantages of using Flannel Squares:
  • They are inexpensive. Flannel squares are one of the most economical diaper systems available.
  • You don’t need to purchase as many diaper covers as you do flannel squares. You won’t need to use a new diaper cover every time you change your baby’s diaper. When messes are contained effectively, you can often use the same diaper cover through multiple diaper changes. This can significantly decrease the cost of your diaper system, and means you can do less laundry.
  • They dry quickly. Flannel squares are only one layer of cotton, which means that after they have been laundered, they dry very quickly. This can be a great advantage when trying to make sure you have enough clean diapers for your baby.
  • They have multiple uses. Flannel squares are simple and durable, which means they can be used in a variety of ways. Flannel squares work wonderfully not only as cloth diapers, but also receiving blankets, burp cloths or rags.
  • They fit a range of sizes. As your baby grows and changes, you can change the way that you fold your flannel square so that it continues to provide a snug fit.
Disadvantages of using Flannel Squares:
  • They can be perceived as complicated. Some people are intimidated when they look at a flannel square and try to imagine how it will function as a diaper. Flannel squares do take a bit more of a commitment than more advanced diaper systems. While we’re confidant you’ll get the hang of it, we understand that it can seem a little bit daunting.
  • They require more than one step at change time. With any 2-piece diaper system, you have to first put on an absorbent component and then also put on a waterproof component. If you are looking for a one-step system, or something that might be more comparable to the ease of putting on a disposable diaper, flannel squares might not be the system that you’re looking for.

Prefolds (2 Piece System)

Prefolds (or pre-folded diapers) are one step up from flannel squares in the advancement of cloth diapering. Prefolds are another variety of flat diaper; they lay flat until you fold them into a diaper. Prefolds are often made of organic unbleached cotton and have multiple layers of fabric prefolded and sewn in. This means that folding the diaper is less complicated, while still ensuring that there is plenty of absorbency in the places that need it most. In a prefolded diaper system, you need to first fold and secure the diaper on your baby and then put a waterproof cover on top. Together, the 2 pieces form a complete cloth diaper.

Advantages of using Prefolds:
  • They are inexpensive. Prefolds are often sold in packages of 6 and are very reasonably priced.
  • You don’t need to purchase as many diaper covers as you do prefolds. You won’t need to use a new diaper cover every time you change your baby’s diaper. When messes are contained effectively, you can often use the same diaper cover through multiple diaper changes. This can significantly decrease the cost of your diaper system and means you can do less laundry.
  • They dry quickly. Prefolds are flat and not attached to any other diaper components, which means they dry quickly after being laundered. This can be a big advantage in times where your baby is going through a lot of diapers.
  • They have multiple uses. Prefolds are simple and durable, which means they can be used in a variety of ways. They work wonderfully not only as cloth diapers, but also receiving blankets, burp cloths or rags.
  • They are extremely durable. There are no straps or Velcro to wear out and the multiple layers of fabric seem to make prefolds nearly indestructible. Many people find that they often survive cloth diapering multiple children and then can be used as spill rags.
Disadvantages of using Prefolds:
  • They can be perceived as complicated. Prefolded diapers do take a bit more of a commitment than more advanced diaper systems. While we’re confidant you’ll get the hang of it, we understand that it can seem a little bit daunting.
  • They require more than one step at change time. With any 2-piece diaper system, you have to first put on an absorbent component and then also put on a waterproof component. If you are looking for a one-step system, or something that might be more comparable to the ease of putting on a disposable diaper, prefolds might not be the system that you’re looking for.

Fitted Diapers (2 Piece System)

A fitted diaper is a structured and contoured cloth diaper that functions as the absorbent component in a 2-piece diapering system. Fitted diapers can come in a couple of different forms – they can be adjustable one-size or they can be sized to fit trimly. Fitted diapers feature elastic in the leg openings to ensure a snug fit and can be secured with either snap or hook and loop closures. They are as easy to put on and fasten as a disposable and when a waterproof cover is put on over top, function as a complete and leak proof cloth diaper. Fitted diapers can come in a variety of fabric choices, such as cotton, organic cotton, bamboo, and cotton with a stay-dry lining.

Advantages of using Fitted Diapers:
  • You don’t need to purchase as many diaper covers as you do fitted diapers. You won’t need to use a new diaper cover every time you change your baby’s diaper. When messes are contained effectively, you can often use the same diaper cover through multiple diaper changes. This can significantly decrease the cost of your diaper system and means you can do less laundry.
  • There is no need to fold or use additional fasteners with fitted diapers. Fitted diapers are already contoured to fit your baby easily, so you only need to secure the attached snaps or hook and loop closures to get a nice tight fit.
  • Fitted diapers are snug and comfortable for your baby. With fitted diapers you have nothing but the softest fabric up against your baby’s skin and their gentle contours make it easy to get a nice snug fit at the waist and legs.
Disadvantages of using Fitted Diapers:
  • They require more steps. With any 2-piece diaper system, you have to first put on an absorbent component and then also put on a waterproof component. If you are looking for a one-step system, fitted diapers might not be the system that you’re looking for.
  • They are more expensive than flat or prefolded diapers. However, although fitted diapers are the most expensive type of 2-piece diaper system, they are still quite affordable.

All-in-One Diapers (1 Piece System)

An all-in-one diaper is a diaper that comes with the absorbent liner completely attached to the waterproof cover. Sewn together, an all-in-one diaper is a complete cloth diaper that functions just as easily as a disposable at change time, All-in-one diapers do not require a separate insert or soaker pad. They can come in either a sized or one-size option and with either snaps or hook and loop closures.

Advantages of using All-in-One Diapers:
  • They function as easily as a disposable, but without the waste. For people who are hesitant to use cloth diapers, all-in-ones look and work just like a disposable at change time, making the transition into the cloth easy.
  • There are no extra pieces required. You don’t need to buy additional waterproof covers, soakers or doublers. Everything you need comes in a neat, inclusive package.
  • Preferred by some daycares and nannies. For people who have to consider not only their own willingness to use cloth, but also the willingness of their caregivers, all-in-one diapers are often a good choice.
Disadvantages of using All-in-One Diapers:
  • Longer dry times. Due to the fact that all-in-one diapers have all the pieces attached, it can often mean that they take longer to dry after laundering.
  • When your diaper is dirty, so is your diaper cover. Due to the fact that all-in-one diapers have all the pieces attached, it means that every time you change a wet or dirty diaper you change the cover as well. This increases both the amount of diaper covers you must own as well as the size of your laundry load.
  • All-in-ones are one of the most expensive types of cloth diaper. All-in-one diapers are convenient, easy to use and functional. The price of all-in-one diapers is an accurate reflection of their features.

All-in-Two or Hybrid Diapers (1 Piece System)

All-in-Two (commonly called Hybrid) diapers are similar to all-in-one diapers in function, but the inserts are removable – most commonly by snapping in and out of the cover. Hybrid diapers are often sold as a complete diaper, with both the absorbent and waterproof components included. Absorbent components can also be sold separately, allowing you to purchase more inserts than covers. Some hybrid diapers also offer the option of an interchangeable disposable insert.

Advantages of using All-in-Two Diapers:
  • They function as easily as a disposable, but without the waste. For people who are hesitant to use cloth diapers, hybrid diapers look and work just like a disposable at change time, making the transition into the cloth easy. Liners can be snapped into covers ahead of time.
  • The absorbent insert snaps in and out of the waterproof cover. This means that you won’t need to change your cover at every diaper change. Sometimes you will be able to snap out the wet or dirty insert and snap a clean one into the same cover. Hybrid diapers allow you to have less covers than inserts, which will save you money and make your laundry load a little bit smaller.
  • You can interchange inserts. Many hybrid diapers come with multiple insert choices. You can choose the fabric option that you like best or have a varied selection on hand to customize absorbency. Often a disposable option is available as well, making hybrid diapers a good option for when you aren’t at home.
  • They dry fairly quickly. Hybrid diapers generally have faster dry time after laundering than an all-in-one diaper because the inserts and covers can be snapped apart, allowing each piece to dry quicker on it’s own.
Disadvantages of using All-in-Two Diapers:
  • They aren’t quite as simple as all-in-one diapers. They require more than one step either before or at change time – you have to snap your insert into your cover. Some new parents find that keeping track of diapers and inserts can be tricky, especially if you are interchanging brands where all the pieces may not work together.
  • They are more expensive than flat or prefolded diapers. While hybrid diapers are often less expensive to invest in than all-in-one systems, they are more expensive than some two piece systems.

Pocket Diapers (1 Piece System)

Pocket diapers are similar in concept to all-in-one and hybrid diapers – they are made to function as easily as possible at change time. Pocket diapers feature a 2-layer diaper cover – the outer layer is a waterproof shell and the inner layer is a soft and gentle liner, which is often a synthetic stay-dry material. The inner liner creates a pocket space between the liner and shell that you stuff with absorbent liners. Absorbent liners can be purchased either as a package or separately, depending on the brand of pocket diaper you choose. You can interchange inserts to customize absorbency and the soft cover lining will pull moisture away from your baby’s skin, leaving them feeling dry.

Advantages of using Pocket Diapers:
  • They function as easily as a disposable, but without the waste. For people who are hesitant to use cloth diapers, pocket diapers look and work just like a disposable at change time, making the transition into the cloth easy. Inserts can be stuffed into covers ahead of time.
  • They are very customizable. With pocket diapers you can choose from a variety of absorbent inserts, allowing you to customize the absorbency and trimness of your diaper as you see fit. You can add more absorbency at night time and as your child grows.
  • They dry quickly. Pocket diaper covers and inserts can be separated at wash time, meaning that your diaper components will dry more quickly than they would if they were attached to each other.
  • They provide a trim fit. Since you are choosing your inserts, you can opt to use smaller inserts at times when your baby needs less absorbency. This means you can achieve a nice snug and trim fit.
Disadvantages of using Pocket Diapers:
  • They aren’t quite as simple as all-in-one diapers. They require more than one step – you have to stuff your insert into the pocket of your cover, either before or at change time. Some new parents find that keeping track of diapers and inserts can be tricky and prefer a diaper that is only one step.
  • They can be messy to unstuff. However, some pocket diapers claim that you don’t need to separate your insert and cover before putting them in the washing machine because the insert will work it’s way out of the pocket in the machine.
  • They are one of the most expensive types of cloth diaper. Pocket diapers are functional, customizable, snug fitting and cute. Their price is an accurate reflection of their features.
  • The pocket lining is designed to keep your baby feeling dry instead of wet. While this is certainly an advantage at times, one of the benefits of cloth diapering is that your baby will likely potty train at an early age if she feels wet in a diaper. Always using a stay-dry fabric can make your baby more comfortable in a wet diaper, which can cause you to change less frequently. This can result in increased potential for diaper rash and doesn’t actively promote early potty training.