Cloth Diaper Types Explained

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Confusion on Cloth Diaper Types 

I was so confused when I started researching cloth diapers a couple of years ago. The benefits of cloth diapering had already intrigued me, I knew I wanted to cloth diaper our children for financial reasons, environmental reasons, and – let’s face it – the cuteness factor, but I didn’t realize the massive amount of options and opinions there would be out there. The top confusion I faced was the difference between all the cloth diaper types out there. The lingo out there was immense, and if I hadn’t been so determined and stubborn, I probably would have given up.

So, let’s clarify the differences in diaper styles in the simplest way possible. Here is a straightforward explanation of cloth diaper types.

cloth diaper types

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Cloth Diaper Types

Although this list is not going to be all-encompassing, I believe it gets pretty close to all the top options you will have as a cloth diapering parent. There are always new variations being made, but these cloth diaper types will give you a summary of what to expect when you start researching your options.

Flat Diapers

Flat diaper implies exactly what is says, the diaper is a flat piece of cloth that is folded in different ways depending on the sex of the baby and your preferences. There are endless options for folding these on Pinterest. Then you use a snappi or fastener to close them shut and cover them with a waterproof diaper cover. Tada! Easy and by far the cheapest. 


Prefolds work almost the exact same way as flat diapers. You may need a snappi or fastener, but definitely a cover. The major difference is that they are section into 3 parts. The middle section is the thickest part and the two outer sections are thinner. You can either fold them around the baby and use a snappi, or lay them flat in a cover. 


The fitted diapers are super absorbent but do not come with a waterproof cover. but they are like the hybrid version of the flats and prefolds because you don’t have to fold them and add a closure. 


I’ll be honest, Hybrid diapers are a little bit insane to me. The first time someone was explaining them to me I kept thinking, ‘that’s not a cloth diaper!’ 

Hybrids are a cross between disposable and cloth. You basically have a waterproof outer shell and the inner part is disposable. 

Granted if they work for your family, I say go for it! 

This type of diaper style would also work great for vacations and families that travel a lot. 

Hybrids are commonly confused with All-in-Two diapers, which we will get to below. 


Pocket Diapers are probably what 90% of the cloth diapering population uses. They are super absorbent, easy to use, easy to explain, the ‘biggest bang for your buck’, and adorable. 

These are daddy, daycare, church, and family-friendly with no messy cleanup. Our favorite pocket diapers are Mama Koala, which is a small company that sources production in China. However, they take great care to not have chemical additives and are third-party tested. The pocket does not have elastic, which is what makes it so great for large daddy hands to place an insert inside. 

Their facebook page is actually quite active and they host frequent giveaways.

Types of Diaper Inserts

Pocket diapers basically come with an insert that you put into the ‘pocket’ of the diaper. The insert slides into the center of the diaper and you place it on the baby. The pocket usually has adjustable snaps which makes it a ‘one-size’ diaper. You can adjust the snaps according to the size of your baby. 

The inserts are usually microfiber, cotton, bamboo, or hemp. My personal favorite is the bamboo charcoal inserts and we use those during the nighttime. However, the reason I love them the most is that there are no nasty stains because they are already so dark! 

Sleeve Diapers

Let me be honest, these things are fantastic and I wish more companies made the. They are essentially like pocket diapers, but with two openings for the insert. The idea is that you stuff the diaper, but then don’t have to touch the soiled insert because it agitates out in the wash. 

The only true company that I have found that makes these is Smartipants, although I’m sure there are more out there. 

I personally do not have any of the Smartipants diapers, but the reviews are phenomenal. They may be going in my shopping cart soon. 

However Babyville Boutique also has some amazing patterns for sewing your own sleeve diaper. 


All-in-two diapers are basically pre-folds except that they have a cover that the insert or pre-fold snaps into.

The price point on these starts getting up there. They are convenient because the insert typically agitates out in the wash. That is a huge perk in the cloth diaper world. 


These are the top-of-the-line dream diapers. No snappis, no fasteners, no inserts, no pre-folds, no nothing. Literally, you put it on the baby’s bum and throw it in the wash.

You’ve also reached the top of the price point on diapers, with most All-in-One diapers ranging around that $18-$20 (and beyond) price point. If you want to wash diapers every 2-3 days that means you’ll need around 30-40 diapers, which is a lovely price tag of $600-$800. However, they say that an average child will need $7,000 disposable diapers in their lifetime, and at $.20 a piece you are right around that $1,400 price point.


Which Cloth Diaper Types are Best?

Now we are asking the golden question. Which cloth diaper type is right for your family? That’s going to depend on your price point, the age of your child, your convictions, and much more. 

I can tell you what works for us. We invested in pocket diapers. Mostly because of financial reasons. 

We didn’t want to buy disposable diapers. I knew I could use amazon and other resources to get our price point down.

I used amazon lightning deals, gift cards, and buying packages instead of individual diapers to cloth diapers for our first baby. My point with showing our costs for initially diapering our son is to encourage you that it’s possible to do this effectively and still ethically. You can go much more expensive if you wish, but you can also keep costs down and save a lot of money. 

Do you really save money using cloth diapers?

  • 42 diapers consisting of pocket newborn and one-sized adjustable diapers. Therefore, I wash diapers every 3 days on average. 
  • I bought mostly Mama Koala, Alvababy, and Lilbit diapers. In retrospect, after researching the companies a bit more thoroughly I can only recommend Mama Koala as a safe diaper without chemicals or poor ethical practices. To be honest the information out there is just not clear. Mama Koala’s (website) practices however are clear.
  • Update: I now prefer a company called Simple Being Diapers. Although Mama Koala is still a fantastic company. Simple Being has truly made their diapers top-notch.
  • I also bought dry-wet bags (small) (large) and a sprayer for our toilet. 
  • Grand Total without gift cards $290.24 
  • Grand Total with gift cards $239.24 

Read more about cloth diapering for Under $400 here. 

Which type of cloth diaper is RIGHT for me?!

I can’t answer that question, only you can. Do your research and continue to learn. My favorite continues to be pocket diapers because they are easy to find and purchase at a decent price point. They DO require the extra step of taking the insert out. Which can be a little bit ‘icky’. Here are a couple of other things to consider besides financial aspects. 

  1. How does my spouse or partner feel about the amount of work each style takes? 
  2. How does my spouse or partner feel about the costs? 
  3. Will I be cloth diapering more than one child in the future? 

Good luck Mama! It can be hard to pick which cloth diaper types to use. Maybe you want to try a couple to get you started. We love cloth diapers! Don’t hesitate to join me on our facebook page or email me your questions about cloth diapering, I would love to hear from you. 

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