Cloth Diapers for Beginners: Understanding the Types of Cloth Diapers

Today Nicki's Diapers has a guest post on understanding the different types of cloth diapers!

You already know that disposable diapers are filling up landfills and take hundreds of years to decompose. You already know that they are full of chemicals that are going on your baby’s sweet bottom. And of course you certainly already know what disposable diapers are doing to your budget! It’s easy to know all of the reasons why cloth diapering might be the right route for your family, but knowing where to begin your cloth diapering journey is a different story.

AIO, AI2, EBF. There are so many cloth diaper acronyms, let's break it down and give you some tips on where to start. Knowing the different types of cloth diapers available will help you decide which ones are the best fit for your family. For a full visual comparison of the common cloth diaper types and favorite brands check out this simple comparison chart. You’ll often hear the reference, “not your grandma’s cloth diapers” in reference to the modern cloth diapers available. It’s true, no matter which option you choose, they are cute and easy to use.

Prefold and Fitted Diapers

Prefolds and flats are the most traditional cloth diaper types. Flats are a large single layer of fabric and prefolds are a rectangular shaped cloth made up of several layers of fabric. Both types can be folded and either laid in a cover or held in place with a fastener. They are some of the most economical cloth diapers and dry extremely fast, but learning to fold them can be intimidating at first. They also require a separate cover as a waterproof outer layer.

Another option to use with a waterproof cover outer layer are fitteds, which have the added benefit of no folding required. These are already contoured to baby with gentle elastics at the leg. Just snap or fasten the fitted on first, then add the cover on top, and you're ready to go. So simple! Fitteds are known to be extremely absorbent but take longer to dry and generally cost more than prefolds or flats.


Pockets are another cloth diaper favorite because you can easily adjust the level of absorbency in them. They consist of a waterproof outer cover with a pocket inside for inserts or prefolds to be placed in. Extra inserts can be added to increase absorbency while out and about or overnight, making them very versatile. However, the entire diaper must be changed after each use, instead of just the insert. Many families like to use these at daycare because they can be set up ahead of time and changed just like a disposable.

All-in-Two's and All-in-One's

All-in-Two's are the best of both worlds. Simply lay or snap one or more inserts into a waterproof outer cover. At a diaper change, you simply remove the soiled insert, wipe the cover if needed, and insert a new insert. Not having to put a new cover on at each change saves time and money and these tend to be very trim fitting.

All-in-One's are another favorite because they are so easy to use and are the most like a disposable diaper in terms of how they function. They consist of a one piece waterproof exterior with an attached absorbent cloth interior. Just snap the entire one piece onto baby and you're ready to go. These are another daycare and babysitter favorite because they are so simple to use, but the entire diaper must be changed each time and they take longer to dry.

Caring for Your New Diapers

So many great options that you are sure to find one that works for your family. Each type also comes in whimsical and adorable prints, which just adds to the cloth diaper fun. But what about the poop!? When considering cloth diapers, the thought of dealing with baby’s solid waste can scare some families away before they realize how easy it is. However, once you've chosen your favorite type, caring for them is relatively simple since they can be washed right in the washing machine. An added bonus is that even waste from an exclusively breastfed (EBF) baby is so water soluble, that they can go directly into the washer with no extra steps. If baby is on formula or old enough to be eating solids, you'll want to discard the solids in the toilet before washing. Installing a simple diaper sprayer or using disposable cloth liners to catch the solid waste can make the removal of solids even simpler.

So you think you might want to give cloth diapers a try, but don’t want to fully commit yet? Many cloth diaper retailers offer a “Wash and Return” policy, giving you the chance to try out a few options before settling on a favorite. With so many flexible options and the opportunity to save your family money, what's holding you back from trying cloth diapers? To learn more about cloth diapers and accessories, visit

Types of Cloth Diapers

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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