Cloth Diapering 101: The Diapers

When I was considering cloth diapering my 4th child I went to a friend who had already been doing it for a year and knew her stuff.  She was a wealth of knowledge.  It’s hard to believe, but I am going on cloth diapering for a year so I guess it’s my turn to give back and help out the newbies.  Although, many days I still feel like a newbie.  There is always a new abbreviation in the world of cloth diapering that’s popping up that I’m like, what does that mean?  Good thing I still have my friend to ask so I don’t feel so foolish.  But let me give you the basics that I was given when I started.  There’s a lot of information so I’m going to break this up into four parts.

Different Kinds Of Diapers

Cloth diapers have come a long way over the years.  I know everyone who hears cloth diapers thinks oh yeah pins and folding.  Who would want to go back to that when there are these convenient disposable diapers?  There are many reasons.  The money savings, the saving the earth aspect, and even health aspects that cause people to switch.  But there is so much out there.  Don’t bother asking Grandma either because it’s just not the same as when she was using cloth.

Flats and Prefolds

These are the most like what grandma used to use.  Flats are a square of fabric that you have to fold up and pin on the baby.  You don’t have to use safety pins anymore though.  You can use what’s called a Snappi.  That’s a Y shaped thing that goes on similar to how you would secure an ace bandage.

Pre-folds are a flat already folded and sewn together so you just put baby on the prefold and fold it up around her.  Hold it on with pins or a snappi.

Both need covers.  There are different covers you can use that range greatly in price.  So you need to consider your budget and what your preference is.

Wool: This is the most expensive.  You can get pants or shorties.  These are nice because they are breathable and can be worn over and over again and not smell.  They also are great at preventing leaks.  And I know you think of wool in the winter, but this is something that is great for the summer time as a cover.  They pull on though which can be a turn off to some because it’s a little more work to get them on and off.  Especially off, if baby has pooed.  They need to be prepped before with Lanolin to help with absorbency too.

Fleece: This is less expensive than wool, but similar to it.  A little less work in that it doesn’t have to be prepped.  They breathe, but not quite as well as the wool does.

PUL: This is made with polyurethane laminated fabric.  These covers go on like a disposable diaper.  It’s like rubber pants really and they come in many different colors and designs.  The prices can also range greatly, but for the most part they are cheap.  They can be hand washed and they dry very quickly.  It can be worn over and over again until poo gets on it which is really what makes this method perfect for newborns.

What’s the difference?  Well, pre-folds limit you to where you can place the absorbency.  With flats you can use different folds to get the best fit and absorbency for your baby.  Both of these are great to start out with because they are cheap.  Flats are the cheapest.  If you are going to start cloth diapering from birth, then you know newborns are always peeing and pooping.  As they say, baby’s eat, sleep, and poop.  So you need plenty of diapers to start out with.  3 dozen flats can be purchased for less than $100.  Then you’ll need about 4 covers.  This of course varies in price too, but you can easily get enough diapers to cloth diaper a newborn for under $200.  Some continue on using the flats and/or prefolds as baby gets older and has a little more control over his urination, but some don’t like wrestling a wiggly little one into a flat or pre-fold.

I assure you it’s not so bad.  I started out with flats and that’s still the majority of what I use today with my 16 month old, but there was a time there where I would have loved a stash of diapers that I could just slap on her and go.


These seem to be becoming extremely popular.  They have a waterproof shell with a stay dry liner like fleece and come with some sort of microfiber insert.  The appeal of these is that they go on the baby very easily.  Much like a disposable you just put the baby on and snap it shut.  You can stuff it as much as you want though for greater absorbency.  If you stuff too much though then you end up with a very fluffy tush that does not fit in any pants.  Of course baby’s can get away with walking around in just a diaper, but the weather doesn’t always allow that.  They are expensive too.  Starting at $18 for one diaper.  There’s no reusing these until poop gets on them either.  Once baby pees in it it has to be changed.

This is why I said that it’s not the greatest to start out with a newborn.  To have enough to get you through 2 days of cloth diapering you would need at least 24 diapers.  That’s probably pushing it.  At $18 a diaper though that would cost you over $400 to start.  That is the bare minimum of diapers you would need to start out diapering a newborn.  And that doesn’t include purchasing any extra inserts that you might want for greater absorbency.  Like hemp inserts are extremely absorbent and great for over night, but also very pricey.  So unless you get someone to give you a whole bunch of diapers I don’t know too many that this would be an expense they are able to have with all of the other things needed for a new baby.  If you just love the idea of pockets, then starting your stash early and buying used will help create your stash.

AIOs (All In Ones)

These are similar to pockets, but the insert is sewn right in.  So you don’t have to stuff which is great for time saving, but you also can’t adjust the absorbency.

These can be a laundry nightmare.  Because the insert doesn’t come out washing and stink can become an issue.  Also drying takes a while.  I have a couple AIO’s.  I thought these would be great for just quick diaper changes.  I have found that the insert gets bunched up when I wash it.  It seems like it’s uncomfortable on my daughter too.  One of the ones I have I swear it leaks.  The inside won’t feel wet, but yet on the outside she feels damp.  They are priced about the same is pockets with a wide range of prices.


This is another great diaper for newborns or going out and about.  They need a cover just like the prefolds/flats do.  They are good for at night because they are easier to change than the prefolds/flats.  It also goes on like a disposable.  They are sized though so it’s something that won’t last throughout cloth diapering.

The prices on these actually vary greatly.  They can be inexpensive, but then when you get the Goodmamas like someone so generously gave me recently it gets very pricey.  I do love my fitteds though.  The ones I have are very absorbent.  I haven’t had any stink issues with them.  They are very fluffy though.  My usual covers were hard to get good coverage so I have added a few wool covers to my collection and they work great over the fitteds.

AI2s (All In Twos)

This is similar to the AIOs (All In Ones) only the insert isn’t sewn in.  It just snaps in.  So that is a slightly better alternative to the issues with the AIOs, but then again you do still have the extra step of adding the insert.  No stuffing like with pockets, just snapping.


These are very similar to AI2s.  They require a snap in insert.  You use the shell over and over again until you get poo on it.  So you only need a few shells and then a bunch of inserts.  They also have a feature known as a biosoaker.  A disposable liner you can use for traveling.  I have a few GroVia shells that have the snaps in them.  I do not have any inserts.  I use the GroVia as covers over my flats or fitteds.  But I have used biosoakers and it came in handy when my husband had to do diaper changes (because he refuses to do cloth).  I’ve also used them when we have had to be out and about for the day.  This way I didn’t have to carry around wet diapers wherever we went.

My friend who gave me all of this awesome information hated her biosoakers.  Her son wets a lot and she was constantly having to change them.  So as with everything what works for some doesn’t work for others.

There You Have It

So cloth has come a long way over the years.  I have to an extent used each different kind.  Well, not pre-folds and AI2s.  My stash consists of mostly flats.  I have a couple WAHM (Work At Home Mom) pocket diapers and those Goodmamas fitted diapers.  And I love my GroVia hybrids as shells for my flats and then for use with the biosoakers.  My reason for sticking with the flats has a lot to do with cost, but I also like that I can adjust the location of the absorbency.  And lets not forget, that with using covers it’s easy to coordinate with an outfit.  Since the cover can be used over and over again before being washed there’s no problem keeping your child nicely coordinated.

I started cloth diapering when my daughter was 4 months old.  So I missed the newborn issues with diapers, but through trial and error I have found what works best for us.

Check back tomorrow to learn about use and care of your diapers.

What is your top pick for cloth diapers?

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  1. Oh the joys of diapers! I did one with cloth and one with disposable. I have to admit, the cloth was so much better for my son’s skin vs. my daughter’s disposables. They have come so far! It’s been 5 years since I had a diapering kiddo and I can’t believe all the new cool things they’ve come up with! Stoppin by from the Green Moms Network :)

  2. What a great post! I wish this was around when I started to do clothe diapers. I was so confused and you make it sound so easy as it is!! Thanks, Clancy

  3. It can be so confusing when you first start out! And now there are so many wonderful options.

    • One size diapers are kind of slppoy/bulky on newborns. They are just bulky for how tiny a newborn is. I personally used newborn rubber pants since their dipes aren’t messy (as in volume of poo or anything) and the rubber pants are cheap & then you can use Chinese prefolds or flatfolds inside. I only bought 2 pair of rubber pants too since they are only tiny for such a short time & you can literally wash those out in the sink & dry them & put them right back on. So there is no need for “wait time’ in the laundry. Even a bigger newborn of 9lbs or 10 lbs will look like they have a HUGE bottom in a one size diaper. Once you hit 11lbs or so it starts to look a bit more proportional. You can buy a pack of flatfolds for like $10 new & a couple pair of rubber pants for many $5-10. So if you buy two packs of the flatfolds & the pants you are talking maybe $30 & that is cheaper than buying sposies still. You do wash about every day that way, but frankly I was doing a load of wash every day with or without that. LOL

  4. I love your tidy set up. Simple, old school I love it. I love how ehryetving is in its place, out of the way, yet easily accessible. You’ve really gotten back to the basics with CDing- how inspiring. Too many CD moms get caught up in spending all this money, just for FUN, on all the cute prints/modern diapering systems, half of which don’t even work. I think babies look cuter in their old school prefolds & flats than in all the crazy prints and high-end style diapers. lol

  5. We just use the prefolds on their own b/c with execlsivluy breastfeeding the solids aren’t very solid. I do sometimes use simple fleece liners I made with the kissaluvs and the pocket diaper to help prevent stains. Stains come out of prefolds easily, but don’t come out as well from the thicker fabric in my experience.


  1. [...] to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!This is part 2 of my four part series on cloth diapering.  In part 1 I discussed the different kinds of diapers there are today.  If you haven’t read that yet, [...]

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