Friday, March 21, 2014

Lessons in Cloth: Cloth Diaper Types

From blog readers to real life friends, I have lately been approached often by those who are wanting to start cloth diapering, but are confused by it all! So many types of diapers, inserts materials, brands, washing instructions...where does one even begin to start? To make things a little easier, I am going to bring you a little series I will call, 'Lessons in Cloth' in which I will try to answer some of those questions in a way that makes sense to everyone. If you have questions you would like answered, please feel free to send me an e-mail or Facebook message, or just leave it in the comments!

First up, types of cloth diapers.

When you begin looking into cloth, one of the first things you're likely to discover is that there are a LOT of options available. We're not talking brands here, but the actual types of systems- pockets, all in ones, all in twos...what do they all mean and which is best. Today, I will share what each type is and the pros and cons of each.

Pocket Diapers

Pockets are perhaps one of the more common types of cloth diapers it seems. Pocket diapers feature an opening in the diaper in which you 'stuff' your absorbent material. Inserts can be made from microfiber, hemp, bamboo or a combination. Prefolds can also be used as stuffing.

The Pros
  • There are a LOT of options available. Nearly every cloth diaper company seems to make them, so you're sure to find one that offers a great fit for your little one.
  • They are fairly budget friendly- with so many brand options, they can really fit into any budget. 'China cheapies' can even be purchased for under $5 each!
  • You can adjust the absorbency to your liking. Because the inserts can be removed, you can switch them out for materials that work better for you, or even double stuff for added absorbency. 
  • They are easy to use. If stuffed before diaper changes, it goes on just like an all in extra work while dealing with a wiggly baby.
The Cons
  • The require a little more work at wash time. In most pockets, soiled inserts must be removed before washing. After they are dry, you must then stuff them. This is not an overly difficult or time consuming task, but does take a little more effort than other options.
  • Personally, I have found pockets are not great for nighttime. There are a few exceptions, but in general we have not had great luck there. (Of course, this is only in our personal experience, many use for overnight with no problems at all. They work well for regular daytime use however.)

All-In-One Diapers

An all-in-one is just as it sounds- the absorbency layers and waterproof outer are all attached. No stuffing requiring!

The Pros
  • They are probably the absolute easiest cloth diapers to use. (Very dad/grandparent friendly). Because everything is already attached, there is nothing to prepare. They are always ready to go. 
  • For that reason, they make for an easier transition for those who might be on the fence about cloth diapering.
  • In my experience, they tend to be quite absorbent, and work well.
The Cons
  • You have less control over the absorbency/materials used.
  • Typically, all in ones do take longer to dry. (The diaper pictured above is a Bumgenius Freetime, in which the absorbent layer flips open so this is one exception to that.)
  • They cost more. You're definitely paying for the convenience of less work, but for those on a tighter budget, they may not be the best option. (Though they DO still cost less in the long run than disposables.)
  • Depending on brand, some all in ones do seem to be more bulky, in my opinion.

All In Two Diapers/Covers & Inserts

 All in twos are system in which you can reuse the cover throughout the day and change only the soiled insert. 

The Pros

  • VERY budget friendly. Because you can reuse the covers, you typically will need less covers and more inserts, which are generally cheaper. You can also use cover with prefolds for an even cheaper option.
  • No unstuffing at laundry time. Some inserts do snap into the cover (Buttons Diapers, for example), but others like the Flip (pictured above), just lay in, so you can just toss the whole thing into the wash.
  • Covers dry super fast. If you're like me and on occasion procrastinate a bit too much on the laundry, this is a definite plus!
  • They take up less room. This makes them great for the diaper bag as well. Rather than several full diapers, you simply need an extra insert or two, and maybe an extra cover just in case.
  • Many companies offer disposable insert options as well, perfect for travel. I've never personally tried these myself so I cannot speak to their effectiveness, but they do exist.
The Cons
  • They require a bit more work at diaper changing time. I typically have an insert ready in the cover to start, which makes it a bit easier, but changing it does require a bit more effort at the time... which can be a bit of a hassle with a wiggly baby!! It also requires you to deal with the soiled insert at that time (I usually pick up with a wipe if needed- or just wash my hands right after anyway!
  • Some have issues with inserts sliding and/or revealed PUL touching baby's skin. Personally, these are not issues we have personally experienced, but they do exist for some.
  • If you have a breastfed baby that poos often, you may find you have to change the cover more often. They'll contain the mess...but the cover tends to end up soiled. For my daughter, we don't have any issues with this- she tends to only have one poo diaper a day- if not less frequently. My son on the other hand had one after each feeding for a LONG time. I'm not sure this type of system would have worked so well for him.

My personal thought/preferences:

Honestly, all of these options are great. All have their pros and cons, but it all comes down to finding the solution that works best for your baby and family. If you have a little one in daycare or a daddy not sold on cloth, all in ones may be your best option. If you want something easy at diaper changes and don't mind a bit more work when doing your laundry, pockets are wonderful. If you're on a tight budget or travel a lot, all in twos are perfect for you. Or do as I do, and try a little bit of each.

Personally, my go to tends to be all in twos. We started cloth diapering to save money, and I found this type of system allowed us to get more for our money, as well as making laundry pretty easy as well. Those make up probably half of our stash. The other half is primarily pockets. Again, these are great for during the day, but aside from our Thirsties, I tend to go for other options when I know we're going to be out and about for a bit or for overnight. For Finley, they just don't tend to do as well as other options. And finally I have my one and only all in one. Honestly, I'd tried other brands of all in ones in the past with my son and was not a huge fan- they didn't seem to get as clean, took forever to dry and were just bulky. So when Finley came along, we just avoided them altogether...however, the Freetime definitely changed my mind on that. If I could start my stash over, I'd likely replace a few of our pockets for those instead- that tends to be the one I hand over if someone who isn't used to cloth diapering, such as a grandparent, is going to be doing the changing.

Regardless of what type of diapers you choose, there truly is something that can work for everyone. Figuring it all out can be a bit overwhelming, but I hope that this will help make the decision a little easier- or at least give you a better idea of what to be looking for!

Already cloth diapering? What is your favorite type and why?
Have more questions? Again, feel free to contact me and let me know what other cloth diaper questions you would like answered!


  1. These look so much better than the ones I had for my kids which involved a regular diaper and cover.

  2. This is a great overview. Thank you! I've been researching for months and feel pretty well-versed but in all of my research, I found very little about AI2s. It sounds like it would be a great option for us, since we're primarily planning on using prefolds and covers anyway!

  3. Hi! Thanks for breaking this down. It is timely for me because I was just thinking about how to do AI2s for my two boys. We snagged a lot of brand new covers from craigslist. Come May, I will have 2 in diapers and have the oldest in a mix of pocket diapers and covers and prefolds right now. The smallest one will do prefolds with covers for a while, but I will probably then use the covers to do an AI2 system for him.

    Do you recommend/prefer any type/brand of insert? Is it true that you can't put microfiber inserts in covers?

  4. This is an awesome and VERY VERY helpful post! when I first started I was so confused & didn't know what was what! same goes for when i convinced my friends to start! will be sharing!

  5. Great post! I don't need this yet, but I am totally pinning it to come back to when I need to :)

  6. Thanks for this post! I love reading about cloth diapers. We've been using cloth since June 2013 - love it!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


"Pleasant words are as a honeycomb: sweet to the soul and health to the bones." Proverbs 16:24