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Simple Tip to Reduce Waste | Different Types of Cloth Diapers
If you want an easy way to reduce waste, cloth diapering is a great place to start! If you have a baby (or have ever been around a baby) you know that they go through a lot of diapers. Although I am fortunately not changing diapers anymore, all three of my kids used cloth diapers to some extent (my daughter was pretty much fully cloth diapered.)
When my oldest was a baby, cloth diapering was a lot less common than when my younger two were babies. I didn’t use cloth diapers with him as an infant, but I wish I would have! I bought gDiapers first (don’t recommend) but then learned about the different types of cloth diapers later. When my daughter was born, I was much better prepared.
This is a pretty comprehensive list of the different types of cloth diapers along with how to start cloth diapering.
Different types of cloth diapers
Flat diapers are basic one layer diapers. They are normally made out of 100% cotton. They dry very quickly and fit a large range of sizes. While they may be considered “old fashioned” as they have been around for a very long time, but they definitely do their job.
They are one of the most affordable cloth diapering options. Flats can be used under any type of cover or even folded inside of pocket diapers. A flat diaper can also be folded up and added inside another diaper for nighttime protection.
Prefold diapers are a popular choice because they are both economic and moderately simple to use. They are very similar to flats but have multiple layers with even more layers in the middle section. Prefolds are sized by infant, newborn, regular, and premium with coordinating numbers (2x6x2, 4x6x4, 4x8x4, etc.).
The numbers refer to how many layers are in each section. So, if you have a 2x6x2, it means you have 2 layers on the left side, 6 layers in the middle, and 2 layers on the right side. Prefolds used to be very commonly used and they are making a comeback thanks to being cheap and simple.
Warning: Don’t purchase Gerber prefold diapers at Target or Wal-Mart, they are better used as burp cloths. Higher quality prefold diapers can be purchased on Amazon, or anywhere that sells cloth diapers.
Prefolds can be folded and pinned or snappi’d and used underneath a cover. They can also be tri-folded and used inside a cover. They come in bleached or unbleached and you can even purchase them in a more absorbent hemp material.
Prefold diapers may not be the best choice if you want something as close to a disposable as possible. However, prefold diapers and flat diapers are certainly the most economical.
Fitted diapers are a very popular choice in cloth diapering. They have elastic around the legs and back and pretty much look like a disposable diaper. Of course, they come in a variety of colors and prints, so they’re much cuter.
They often have aplix (Velcro) or snap closures and can be made out of various fabrics. They
come in a huge selection of sizes depending on where you purchase them from, and can even be found in a one size diaper.
Fitted diapers generally range from sizes Newborn to Large. It is very important to remember that fitted diapers require a cover (more about covers below.) They are very absorbent but not water resistant!
The majority of pockets diapers are made with a layer of fleece or flannel (inside) sewn onto a layer of PUL (outside), with an opening in either the front or back to stuff an insert into. You can stuff pockets with microfiber inserts, prefolds, hemp prefolds, terry cloth, or even old towels.
You can lay a prefold or flat inside of a pocket and use it as a cover, but never put microfiber directly against the babies skin! Pockets are usually less expensive than AIO’s or Fitteds, and slightly more than prefold diapers or flats. Pocket diapers are a great option for those who want to save money but don’t want to break the bank with an initial investment.
Also known as all-in-one’s, AIO are one of my favorite types of cloth diapers. AIO’s are a popular option because you don’t need to use a diaper cover with them. They have the most absorbent part of the diaper and the cover combined into one.
Similar to fitted diapers, most all-in-one diapers have snap closures, but some use aplix (velcro) closures too. These are a great choice for parents who are scared to venture into cloth diapering. This is probably the closest thing you will find to a disposable diaper.
The downside to AIO’s is that they are normally a more bulky diaper since everything is wrapped into one. Since everything is sewn into one, there are many inner layers that take a considerable amount of time to dry. They are the most expensive option, but will still save plenty of money over using disposables.
The first type of cloth diaper that I ever bought was a hybrid variety. Hybrid diapers can be a cross between many of the options listed above and sometimes include disposable inserts too. I wasn’t a fan of the gDiapers, but Grovia has a nice hybrid diaper if you are wanting to do cloth most of the time but have the option for disposables without purchasing actual disposables diapers.
Personally, I would just buy disposables for whenever you need them instead of going the Hybrid route, but you do you! I found that it was pretty easy to use cloth diapers anywhere, but I understand that not everyone wants to do this.
Extra cloth diapering accessories
The following 4 items are not actually types of cloth diapers, but they are things that you might want to know about.
Unless you exclusively use pocket or AIO diapers, you are going to need covers. Don’t go running to Wal-Mart for plastic pants (please don’t!) Those aren’t the kind of covers that I am talking about! The good thing about diaper covers is that you don’t have to wash them after each use. Unless they get visibly dirty, or they start to smell, you can get through the whole day using only 1 or 2 covers.
There are two primary types of covers, PUL or wool. PUL (polyurethane laminate) is a very water resistant plastic-like material. Wool is, well, wool. If you’re vegan, you will probably choose to stick with PUL covers which work very well. You can also use fleece covers, but they aren’t my first option since they never worked well for me. If you are just starting out, PUL covers are the easiest option. My favorite is by Bumgenis (list
Doublers are also not technically one of the types of cloth diapers, but they are great for adding extra absorbency to a diaper. They are especially handy for heavy wetters and are good overnight or nap-time option.
Liners are similar to inserts in the sense that they can be various materials; a tri-folded prefold, microfiber liner, or even suede cloth or terry cloth. The only difference between inserts and liners is that liners go directly against baby’s skin instead of inside a pocket.
That is the number one reason why parents choose to use liners. It helps protect baby’s skin from irritating fabrics. Liners can also be used if the baby has a rash and you aren’t sure of the diaper cream is cloth diaper safe. Liners aren’t meant to add a layer of absorbency, but rather a barrier.
How to start cloth diapering
Now that you know the different types of cloth diapers, where do you start? I recommend starting with the AIO because it’s very similar to a disposable, only washable. If you want to save a little money but are still looking for a simple solution, pocket diapers are affordable and fairly simple.
If you need a really affordable option and are open to a learning curve, prefold diapers and flat diapers are the way to go! I still have plenty of prefolds and flats that I use for cleaning, they last forever!
Don’t forget to check out the next installment in this series, cloth diapering a newborn.
I hope this answered any questions you might have about the different types of cloth diapers or how to start cloth diapering. There will be plenty more to this series, so keep an eye out for more! Want to get more tips on natural parenting, plant-based food, and healthy lifestyle? Join my email list to stay in touch!