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Demystifying cloth diaper types: which is which?

This list will explain the ins and outs and the pros and cons of the most common types of cloth diapers.

  • All-In-One: These popular diapers are what they sound like: no covers, no inners; they’re all-in-one. The upside: they are easy to use, absorbent, and are usually size-adjustable. The downside: they can be bulky. The material selection varies but often features organic, all-cotton, or natural blends. Most are one-size-fits-all (with lots of snaps so you can adjust as the baby gets older). The average cost is $20–$35 each.
  • Pocket: Also popular, these diapers can be made of a polyester, bamboo, or hemp blend, or, at the high-end, are organic and all-cotton. The major brands are either one-size-fits-all (with lots of snaps to adjust as the baby gets older) or are sized (S, M, L). Use with inserts or doublers — to make them more absorbent — that come with the diapers. No diaper covers needed. The average cost is $16–$35 each.
  • Prefold: These are what most people think of when they think cloth diapers. Despite the name, prefolds do need to be folded. Most diaper services use prefolds. They are almost always made of all-cotton, and organic is available. There are two basic styles: the Chinese prefolds tend to get fluffier and bunchier than the Indian prefolds. They are available in two sizes: small and large. Use with diaper covers. Pins (or their modern equivalent, Snappis) are optional. The cost is about $2–$5 each.
  • Contour/Fitted: Contour diapers are a step up from prefolds. You don’t need to do any folding, they tend to be more absorbent, and they are less bulky. Fitted diapers are similar but usually have a few additional features — like snaps — and more bulk. Contour diapers are basically one-size- fits-all (although a preemie or newborn option is available), and fitted diapers usually come in sizes XS, S, M, and L. Use with diaper covers. Pins or Snappis are optional. The cost is about $10–$15 for contours and $22–$24 for fitted.
  • Flat: The flat diaper is almost never seen anymore in North America. It is a big piece of cotton that you fold, fold, then fold some more, and then pin and cover. One size fits all! They are used with a diaper cover and Snappis or pins. The average cost is $1 to $5 each.
  • Training Pant: These are padded underwear for the potty-training baby. They can be found in all-cotton or even lined with a waterproof fabric like a diaper. No covers or pins. They will run you anywhere from $12 to $16 each.
  • Hybrid Systems: These systems include a washable outer and a disposable (usually comostable or flushable) inner lining. The best known of these is likely the gDiaper. It has an all-cotton out layer, with a washable, waterproof liner that snaps into the cover and holds the inner lining which is the disposable (nonbleached, biodegradable) part. The covers and liners run $15-$25 each and the inners are approximately .30 to .50 each.

In most cases, I have found that people are happy with any of the above choices: they all do what they are supposed to do, and you and the baby will grow to like whatever style you choose.

With my first baby, I really liked the contour diaper with covers. I could reuse the covers many times and the cotton inners were easy to wash. For my second, all I wanted were the organic cotton all-in-ones. I loved them. In hindsight, I would recommend having your diapers be of a similar material, because how you care for them varies just a bit.

Polyester-blend diapers need to be washed with gentle detergent, are better off not washed with cotton things, and should never be treated with vinegar and baking soda. They dry super fast on the line.

All-cotton diapers are extremely forgiving, can be washed with nearly any- thing, and can more easily be stripped of detergent buildup and bacteria with the occasional hot water wash or vinegar rinse. Although I find the all-cotton diapers easier to wash, they typically take longer to dry.


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2 responses to “Demystifying cloth diaper types: which is which?”

  1. […] and easier than ever. But keeping them all straight isn’t easy. Read this article to Demystify Cloth Diaper Types to understand what prefold, all-in-one, pocket, hybrid, and all the other terms mean and what might […]

  2. […] and easier than ever. But keeping them all straight isn’t easy. Read this article to Demystify Cloth Diaper Types to understand what prefold, all-in-one, pocket, hybrid, and all the other terms mean and what might […]