Cloth Diapers Part 2: Different Shapes for Different Babes

In part one of the Cloth Diapers series, I talked about the “ew” factor (how cloth diapering is not as dirty and gross as people think).  This week’s post is about the different types of cloth diapers available today.

Ah the complicated world of the modern cloth diaper.  Flat diapers?  Prefolds?  Pocket diapers?  All-in-one’s? It’s enough to make your head spin.  If you know that you want to use cloth diapers with your little one, but are unsure of what kind you want to try, take a look below.

Flat Diapers

When you picture the cloth diapers of the past, a flat diaper is what you are thinking of.  This involves using a square piece of cotton gauze that is folded and then pinned before a waterproof cover is worn.  This is not a very popular option these days, but this remains the most cost-effective cloth diapering system.

In 2011, dirtydiaperlaundry.com had a one week challenge for parents to hand wash flat diapers in order to raise awareness of this affordable method or cloth diapering.  When the challenge was over, the participants (400) completed a survey on the practicality of using flat diapers out of (cost) necessity.  Surprisingly, most people said that flat diapers were practical, though the hand washing part of the experiment was not something they wanted to continue to do after the challenge.

Prefold Diapers

Prefold diapers are a little like flat diapers but the woven square is not the same thickness throughout.  Instead, the middle 1/3 of the square is thicker than the side thirds.  The thickness varies from 2x4x2 to 4x8x4.  The thicker the middle panel, the more absorbent it is.  With a prefold, you must still use a waterproof cover.  A great company that makes prefolds is Bummis.

This is what I wanted originally because of the positive reviews I read, and the ridiculously cheap price (so much cheaper than pocket or all-in-one diapers).  I am not sure how prefolds hold up to leaks in general.  However, I would love to know if anyone else has tried this type of diaper on their little one, and what they thought of them.

Pocket Diapers


Pocket diapers are what we use for Little Man.  There is a waterproof outer layer with snaps or velcro for fastening and an absorbent inner layer of fabric.  The inner fabric includes a pocket that can be stuffed with extra absorbent pads.  This is one of the more popular styles because you can vary the absorbency by adding or removing inserts, and the diaper itself has a snug, contour shape.

Little Man’s uses Canadian company Applecheeks, which we have really liked so far.  Like a lot of parents, we had to play around with the fit when Little Man was very young.  He woke up wet a lot until we found which snaps to use on the diaper cover (there are two rows of snaps on our allowing you to make a tighter fit near the leg and a looser fit near the belly).  Although they were not as cheap as the Bummis prefolds I originally wanted, I am really happy with pocket diapers.

All-In-One Diapers (AIO)

If you want to use a diaper without any extra work, then all-in-one diapers are what you need.  They have all of the features of disposable diapers, with the added benefit of being eco friendly.  No stuffing pockets or folding fabric necessary here.  If you are interested in AIO diapers, take a look at BumGenius.

Pricewise this is the Ferrari of cloth diapers.  You will not have to get dirty removing wet/soiled liners, but you will pay a premium for that privilege.  For me, personally, I am willing to do a little more work to save a little cash.  If anyone has used or is currently using AIO cloth diapers, I would love to see a review.

With the many different types of cloth diapers, it can seem overwhelming to make a decision.  Add to this that cloth diapers now come in a wide variety of bright colours and funky fabric.  Really it just comes down to what is more practical for you.  Do you want to save the money and go with the prefold or is your time at a premium making the AIO a better choice?  Ultimately it is up to you.  One thing is for certain, cloth diapers will save you money (and the environment) in the long run.

If you have a favourite type or brand of cloth diaper, I would love to hear about it.  Feel free to leave your comments below.

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9 thoughts on “Cloth Diapers Part 2: Different Shapes for Different Babes

  1. Pingback: Cloth Diapers « Enjoying Each Moment

  2. My mom cloth diapered my brother and I when we were babes, and when I was pregnant with my first, I just assumed I would do the same. I knew that disposables were incredibly expensive, and I was planning to stop working after having my baby. I ended up buying a package from a local company of pre-folds. There were enough diapers/covers/wipes for infant through toddler, and it only ended up costing about $250. Well worth the up front investment 🙂 I never had a leak or blow out with pre-folds, in fact, I had an easier time with those than some of the pocket diapers that I also had (for when we were out and about). I have used my original pre-folds through 2 babes now and think they could continue through several more children. I think they are difficult in the beginning because baby knows as soon as they are wet, but once I got into a rhythm it was totally fine. And my oldest was potty trained at 18 months, my youngest, well he is still working on it (20 months). He is all about taking his diaper off to use the potty…he just doesn’t go to the potty to do it 🙂

    • Wow, $250 is a great price. That is one of the reason I wanted to go with Bummis (roughly the same price). Our pocket diapers ended up costing just over $800, with a discount because the store we purchased them from was closing. It’s quite the price difference. It’s good to know your experience with pre fold was positive. I will have to throw a few “I told you so’s” at the Dreamboat later. 🙂

      I have heard that cloth diapers in general can help children potty train quicker than those in disposable diapers, because they feel the wetness immediately. In Europe, where cloth diapering is more common, apparently children are potty trained much earlier. This might be due more to the difference in attitudes towards potty training (it seems in North America we believe that potty training is difficult, and push it off as long as possible). Thanks for your comment Heather.

  3. Great round-up, Catherine! We have been using AMP pocket diapers (made in Winnipeg!), but usually do not stuff the liners. We also use Gro-via “all-in-2″s, which have a snap-in gusseted insert. I love the AMP ones for how soft the fleece-lined covers are. And I love the Grovia ones for how slim they are and how the liner is amazing at not leaking, so we tend to reuse the same shell a few times cause it’s still clean (also makes the whole system cheaper). I agree with the other comment about the downsides of all-in-ones (we tried a few of these): they take forever to dry! And if you tumble dry them, it means putting the waterproof (pul) outer part in there too, which shortens the life of the diaper.

    • Thanks for the input Kalli. I will have to add the AMP link to the “Canadian Made” page (I love hearing about eco products made in Canada). I have heard great things about Grovia too.

      Good point on how drying covers in the dryer affects the lifetime of the diaper. Without a clothesline, we have been drying our pocket diapers in the dryer. Although we won’t be having another little one, I did want to pass the cloth diapers on to someone new eventually. Hopefully using the dryer doesn’t affect the covers too badly in the long-run.

  4. Thanks for the insight. I have been wondering and overwhelmed with what was what with the cloth diaper situation. Back in the day we had flat diapers that we could fold in three and then fold down again (depending on the age and size of baby). I had one mom from Chile show me their method, which was a folded triangle and a couple of tucks with no pins. That was for the oldest. The disposables had to be no perfume only (one brand at the time worked). By the time the third came I had made new diapers with yards of flannel cotton, and turned them into pre folds (which was a newer concept 30 some years ago). These took much longer to dry, and there was no flexibility (as well as pinning was a bit of an issue). if I recall. The plastic pants were the important feature and what keep things as dry as possible.
    I much prefer the variety that is available now, and the fact that it is not my job any more.:-)

    • It is ladies like you that used cloth, despite the relatively new disposable diapers available, who are the reason we have easier cloth diapering systems today. Just think, all that trial and error (not to mention effort) paid off in spades for your great nephew.

      I smiled when I read that you sewed your own diapers for son #3. It’s rare to hear people today say that they didn’t have the right thing available today so they made it themselves. There is a skill that we need to grow again. Thanks for the comment Aunty.

  5. I think the AIOs take forever to dry, which can be a problem in places where you don’t usually have lots of hot and sunny weather! We use bamboo fitted nappies from Baby Beehinds (an Aussie company). They are a bamboo diaper with snap in inserts and then a separate waterproof cover (either wool or PUL). They are fantastic – have NEVER had a leak in 15 months of use. I guess they are most like the pocket diapers, but with one extra step. The best part is how (relatively) quickly they air dry, since all the parts are separate. We have found cloth nappies to be way easier than we thought they’d be!

    • Thanks for the comment Sara. I hadn’t considered the length of time it would take for the AIO to dry. This is one of the reasons that some parents love pre fold or flat diapers. The flat diapers are one layer of fabric, so they would dry fairly quickly in the sun. The prefold has more layers in the middle, so likely the sides would be dry well before the middle was ready. As for our pocket diapers, I will find out this summer. The Dreamboat picked up all of the things needed for a clothesline. Is it nerdy to be incredibly excited to use the sun to dry my clothes? Consider THAT my version of the white picket fence. 🙂

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