There is one particular person who I still find to be one of my favorite go-to people to answer any questions on cloth diapers: Michelle from Green Diaper Demos. She knows so much about all kinds of diapers, which is why I asked her to give all of you her overview of the different types of cloth diapers (Thanks Michelle!).
So you have entered the world of cloth diapering. Welcome!! There are many styles out there and there is no right or wrong here, everyone has their favorite and all are well supported in the cloth diapering community. Let’s go over the basics though. We will start from the simplest sewing wise to the most complex.
Prefolds are a step up from flats. They are also rectangular (usually cotton but there are also Hemp and Bamboo) and are a couple layers thick but in the middle third, they are several layers thick (this is why they are called “prefolds” because they are like a partially folded flat). However, they do still require some folding to go from a rectangle to a diaper around a baby. With wrap-style covers nowadays though, many mamas simply fold the prefold into thirds any lay in the cover instead of wrapping around baby and securing with pins or a Snappi but both are common even today.
Fitteds are shaped like a diaper, contain leg elastic, and have their own closures (usually Velcro or snaps). A cover is still required to make this waterproof but with the two together, this combo is bulletproof when it comes to runny poo!
Pros: Already in the shape of a diaper so no folding required. It is unlikely that messes will escape both the fitted diaper and the cover and produces a leak-free diapering system. Covers can be used across multiple diaper changes.
Cons: still a multi-piece diapering system and is thus more complicated than other methods out there. This method can also be pretty spendy for an entire stash of fitteds in each size.
Covers are what keep your flats/prefolds/contours/ and fitteds from getting your baby’s clothes wet. Covers can be made of various fabrics from polyurethane laminate (PUL) to wool. They can be pull-on, side-snapping, or a wrap-style.
Pocket Diapers are made up of generally a waterproof outer layer sewn directly to a stay dry material lining (this wicks the wetness away from baby’s bottom ) with a removable absorbent core that gets stuffed in-between the two layers through an opening either in the front, back, or middle which gives it its name of a pocket diaper.
Pros: This method is one of the most practical methods of modern cloth diapering. These are great for grandparents, daycare, and babysitters as the diaper goes on just like a disposable but with hooks, Velcro, or snaps. Drying is also quick since the absorbent part of the diaper is separated during laundry. You can also customized how absorbent you want the diaper (like for overnight) by adding additional absorbent inserts.
Cons: My husband says the only thing he dislikes about these diapers is that you have to pull the insert out prior to placing the used diaper in the pail or wet bag. There are exceptions though as some pocket diapers are made such that the insert falls out on its own in the washer machine. Also, the repeated stuffing of the absorbent core (also called insert or soaker) into the pocket diaper annoys many mamas and you only get one use out of entire diaper before it needs to be washed again.
All-In-Twos (AI2s) A waterproof material for the outside forms a cover over an insert (the trifolded prefolds with a diaper cover would be considered an AI2). Some have a snap to keep an absorbent liner in place.
Pros: This method is great because you can reuse the cover (as long as it is not soiled) and just switch out the insert. Drying is quick since the absorbent part of the diaper is a separate piece. This makes for a pretty inexpensive yet convenient diapering solution.
Cons: For newborns with explosive runny poos, you need to have extra covers on hand since the covers will get soiled more often.
All-In-Ones (AIOs) Similar to the pocket diaper except the absorbent inner is sewn in. There are no separate pieces to this diaper, all are sewn together. (Some AIOs have the absorbent piece snap in, but it would not be considered an AI2 because the cover part is not designed to sustain more than one use between washings)
Pros: The ultimate in convenient easy cloth diapering. Simply put on baby and then when used, put in a pail or wet bag. No inserts to stuff, no folding, no bunching etc. These are great for grandparents, daycare, babysitters and are completely Daddy-Proof!
Cons: These are usually pretty pricey and take a long time to dry and you only get one use one use out of the diaper before it needs to be washed again.