What kind of cloth diapers should I get?

by Amanda Hearn · 11 comments

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When you think about cloth diapering the options are seemingly endless.  Everyone has a favorite, which means that you will get lots of very different opinions.  For those new to cloth, it can be very overwhelming.  When it comes down to it, you want the system that is going to work best for your lifestyle.

There are four main categories of diapers.  All-in-one diapers, pocket diapers, hybrid diapers (sometimes called all-in-twos) and diapers that require covers.  The confusing part comes in the fact that there are countless brands of diapers and most offer some sort of special ‘feature’.  The bottom line is that as long as the diaper works (read reviews!), the choice is up to you!  The biggest three questions you want to ask yourself are #1 Does it fit your lifestyle?  #2 Is it in your budget? and #3 Is it your style?  That brings me to the point of this post. When you’re done here, you’re going to have a better idea of what you want!

The most important question here is #1 Does it fit your lifestyle?

Cloth diapering is easy, but not every style of diaper is for every family.  You want a diaper that is going to be convenient and easy for you to both use and wash.

In my opinion All-in-one Diapers are going to be the easiest diaper to use.  They include cover and absorbency all in a single piece diaper – much like a disposable.  You simply put the diaper on, and when baby has soiled you remove it and toss it into the pail.  From there it can go directly into the wash, assuming you don’t have solids to rinse away first.  All-in-one diapers typically cost $20+.  I recommend a minimum of 24 diapers, though more is truly advised (36 is a great number to give your stash some rotation).  Look for package deals to save!

If the simplicity of an All-in-one appeals to you, you might consider these from bumGenius (a new all-in-one coming soon!), GroVia, Itti Bitti and Thirsties (coming soon!).

Close behind All-in-one Diapers would be the Hybrid Diapers (sometimes called All-in-twos).  Hybrid diapers offer parents the simplicity of a Cover or Shell and some sort of simple insert.  Most inserts require no folding and are either rectangular or hourglass shaped.  Inserts can be made of cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber and any combination thereof.  They can come with or without a stay dry top layer (to keep baby feeling dry).  There are many choices, but basically you’re going to choose a natural fiber or a synthetic, the fiber content will simply vary by brand.

In addition to washable inserts, most Hybrid systems come with the option to use a disposable insert.  Due to the eco-friendly nature of cloth diapers, many companies choose to make their disposable liners biodegradable.

Hybrid systems are simple to use.  Simply toss in and insert, put it on baby and when they have soiled you remove the insert and toss it into the pail.  Most covers can be wiped off and reused unless they get soiled.  They typically cost $18+ and because these utilize a cover or shell, you can typically get by with less covers than inserts, saving you more money when you consider your diaper stash as a whole.

If you feel like Hybrid Diapers are for you, you might consider these from GroVia, Flip or gDiapers.

Next up are Pocket Diapers.  I am placing these after Hybrids because the insert on these diapers is not simply laid in.  It must be ‘stuffed’ in to a pocket, and generally removed before washing.  Pocket diapers are great in that they are typically very affordable costing anywhere from $13 to $18 on average, though some go higher.  In general, most pocket diapers come with microfiber inserts (a synthetic fiber).  All pockets have a stay-dry layer that is typically micro-fleece or suedecloth.  Pocket diapers are easy on, and somewhat easy off.  You will need to remove the insert before washing on most all pocket diapers.  There are a few ‘sleeve’ style pocket diapers that have an opening at both the front and back of the diaper.  Generally these inserts will come out in the wash.  I suggest having a pair of rubber gloves in your laundry room to remove the inserts before washing.

If you think that Pocket Diapers are your thing, you might consider these from Applecheeks (which can also be used as a cover), bumGenius, Thirsties, Fuzzibunz or Smartipants.



We’ve discussed All-in-one diapers, Hybrid diapers and Pocket Diapers.  Each of these types includes a cover.  Now I want to talk to you about diapers that Require a Cover.  These types of diapers are great for many reasons, but usually because they can be quite affordable, though not always!  There are some super cute Fitted style diapers that many ladies just love to collect – oh yes, it’s practically a sport!

To get started I should probably discuss covers.  These are not rubber pants.  They have come a long way and are super soft, easy to use and boy can they hold in messes!  Most are made from a polyester fabric with PUL (or polyurethane laminate) to keep it from leaking.

Some great cover options are ThirstiesBummisApplecheeks (which are also envelope style ‘pocket’ diapers) Flip or Econobum.

If you’d like a more natural route, you can go with wool covers.  Wool is more expensive, but it looks great as part of an outfit, and if you’re the crafty type you can even make it yourself – knit, crochet or repurpose an old wool sweater!  Wool comes in wraps (similar to the PUL cover shown above), soakers (to your left) and longies – which look like pants.  If you’re like to know more about wool, check out this post all about wool covers.

I love wool and if you think you might too, you may consider these soakers from Sustainablebabyish or their longies (they come in great colors – love SBish!!!) or these from soakers from Kissaluvs.



Now that you have a cover you need something to put in it.  First up we have a Fitted Diapers.  Fitted Diapers look like a normal diaper (pictured to the rigt) yet they require a cover because the body of the diaper does not contain any sort of waterproof layer.  They are almost always a natural fiber, though some have a natural fiber outter and a microfiber inner.

Fitteds are great because they offer a lot of absorbency and are notoriously good for heavy wetters and nighttime use.  Due to their high absorbency, they can often be used around the house without a cover to let baby’s bottom get some air.  Fitteds are easy to change and in my experience, are pretty great at containing messes.  Another benefit of fitteds is that they are great to use with wool covers (which I’ll mention in a moment).  Fitteds run anywhere from $10 to $35+ and require just a few covers or more depending on your baby’s age.  Fitteds make a great addition to any diaper stash!

If you want to try out Fitteds you might consider these from BlueberrySustainablebabyishThirstiesKissaluvs or Kiwi Pie.

Last but not least we have the plain old Prefold Diaper.  Prefolds are very basic diapers.  They are most commonly cotton, but can also be bamboo, hemp or some combination.  Typically prefolds are fit onto the baby with various methods of folding, you can see how to do that here.  Prefolds are the single most economical option when it comes to cloth diapering.  A dozen prefolds can run you anywhere from $25-$35, toss in a few covers and you’re good to go!  These diapers require the most skill and time when it comes to cloth diapering and generally these are not consider ‘easy’ for Dad, grandparents or day care centers

There are several brands of prefold style diapers, but you might consider these from Bummis, OsoCozy or this hemp/cotton option from Thirsties.  I do NOT recommend Gerber prefolds, they are usually a very light weave fabric and are not nearly as absorbent as high quality prefolds.

One you decide what type of diaper fits your lifestyle you’ll want to buy a few to try out, and maybe try a few of your next favorite style just to see how you like them.  This is where cost and style are going to come in.  I’ve listed several brands of diapers here.  I have had experience with most and overall they are all very popular and well rated.  Take a look around and just see what appeals to you.  It might be that it’s snaps or hook and loop closures, or perhaps you like the cute print of a certain brand.  As long as you buy quality diapers, you’re going to be happy with what you get.  Now not ever diaper will fit every baby, but if you try a few you’re bound to find one you love!

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to post here or email me!  I’m happy to help and there are many cloth diaper pros around that can chime in too!

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Amanda Hearn

Amanda Hearn

Founder of The Eco-Friendly Family, design geek, serial tanktopist, content creator, mother, coffee addict, & lover of fun. I am also a partner at Green Child Magazine & Put A Cup In It!
Amanda Hearn
C Squared October 17, 2011 at 11:34 pm

To add a post to get another entry into the Planet Earth Giveaway…

We use the gDiapers, applecheeks, fuzzibunz, and bumgenius.

We go back and forth on the cost of each kind, but in reality the gDiapers may be the best for us. Having the ability to use cloth while home, and disposable on the road is a great thing for us. My husband will sell these to his friends who will listen, so to get the "dad vote" is a big deal. He won't consider using the prefolds, so we compromised with the stash of the above mentioned diapers. I don't find any of them more work than a different brand. I do prefer to have snaps over hook & loop (velcro) closings though. The snaps are a little less fine tunable, but last significantly longer from what I can tell.

Uncannycanuck January 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm

For the budget conscious, Kawaii pockets are excellent. They run $6-$10 each (depending where you buy) and last very well.

Casey B. February 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm

This is such a great tool! My husband and I are looking into doing this with our children and It’s so great that you have this to help! Thanks so much!

Laura March 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for the info! I have only used pockets so far and they have worked great for me. Prefolds and covers are next on my list to try!

Katie J March 8, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Thanks for the info. I’m expecting Baby #2 in July and am a SAHM. Cloth diapering will save us lots of money. I’m still unsure, still learning, but this is a great help.

Beth Rees March 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm

It is honestly amazing that after cloth diapering for several years I am changing what some of my favorites were just covers and prefolds. Not necessarily because of price but they are easier for me. But I think it also depends on your lifestyle

Lianne March 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Thank you for this! I love seeing the breakdown of all the different styles with their benefits!

Carrie May 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm

My thirsties pocket diaper inserts come right out in the wash. I’ve never had to pull one out of a dirty diaper πŸ™‚

Anonymous January 16, 2014 at 1:17 am

thanks for the info

jules March 6, 2015 at 2:22 am

I use and recommend the prefolds/flats type of cloth diaper, with the caveat that you have to be OK with baby poop. πŸ˜‰
The prefolds work for me because they are not microfiber, but cotton or hemp, and so are much easier to wash since they don’t require any real special maintenance. They dry quickly, don’t need to be stuffed beforehand, and come in super cute cover prints. I love how soft and absorbent the prefolds are and I see the difference when I switch to disposables and my baby breaks out in diaper rash. πŸ™
I also love the savings over the aios and pockets!
It’s true though that my husband is very intimidated by the prefolds (and esp the flats!) and much prefers the familiarity of the disposables. However, I just ordered some fitteds and am hoping the ease will give him the confidence to try cloth diapering her himself. Here’s hoping!

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