CLOTH DIAPER SYSTEM COMPARISON
Cloth Diapers have come a long way from the ones our mothers and grandmothers used. There’s a large selection of styles now to fit a variety of tastes and needs.
While it’s wonderful to have all these choices, it can be hard to decide what will work best for you. Below you’ll find the different styles available along with their
advantages and disadvantages. First as a quick overview, you need absorbent fabric close to baby to absorb bodily fluids: fabrics like flannel, hemp, cotton fleece,
sherpa, birdseye, velour, terry, and knit – we always prefer sticking to the most natural fibres possible to reduce the risk of skin reactions. Then, you need a
waterproof or water resistant cover to keep baby’s (and yours) clothes dry. Covers are generally made from wool, polyester fleece, PUL (polyurethane laminate),
or nylon. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call all covers “waterproof” in the table below, though technically wool and fleece are water resistant.

                                          Description                                            Advantages                                       Disadvantages
Flat with        Flats are the most basic diaper you can buy. It’s simply     Flats are the most economical choice. Since          They do take more time to learn to use and
waterproof       one large layer of fabric. You have to fold it quite a bit   they are a simple design, they don’t have elastic    while some people can get a great fit,
cover            to get it to fit baby. (There are many types of folds) It    to wear out, snaps to break off, or Velcro to lose   others never get the hang of them. You do
                 must be pinned or Snappi’ed on (A Snappi is a rubber         its stickiness. They dry very, very quickly, so      have to fold them and changes will take
                 device that has three arms with small hooks on the end.      you can skip the dryer altogether to save a little   longer than with an AIO or pocket diaper. 
                 You hook two arms into the diaper fabric at the waist        money. 
                 and one into the fabric at the crotch. It will look like a
                 “Y” when you’re finished.) 
Prefolds with    Prefolds are made of absorbent fabric and are                One of the biggest advantages is cost as these       They do take more time to learn to use
waterproof       rectangular in shape with extra layers of fabric down        are much cheaper than fitteds, pockets, or           them than it does to learn to use some of
cover            the middle. They have no elastic and must be folded to       AIO’s. Another huge advantage is longevity as        the other styles. Some people never do get
                 the correct shape to fit on your baby. They do not have      with flats. People who are really good with          quite as good a fit, so they have more poop
                 snaps or Velcro/aplix, so they must be pinned or             prefolds get as good a fit as fitted diapers.        blowouts, which means more soiled
                 Snappi’ed on. Some people simply lay the prefold in a                                                             covers. You do have to fold them which
                 tight fitting cover, though they don’t always stay in                                                             can take longer.
                 place on active toddlers.
Fitted with      Fitteds are entirely made of absorbent fabric, with the      As a general rule, fitteds cost less than AIO’s or   The main disadvantage is that it takes
waterproof       exception of a few that come with stay-dry inners.           pocket diapers. Fitted diapers are very good at      longer to change your baby since you have
cover            They have snap or Velcro/aplix closures. They have           containing messes. If poop leaks out of the          to put on a separate diaper and cover. It’s
                 elastic at waist and legs to give you a good fit. After      diaper, then the cover acts as a back up to keep     only a few seconds, but it can seem longer
                 you snap the fitted diaper on, you then have to put a        it in. (Disposables don’t even have that!) You       when trying to change a squirmy or
                 diaper cover over it to keep anything baby sits on dry.      get complete coverage with a fitted since the        protesting baby.
                                                                              fabric goes all the way around baby.

AIO’s (All‐in‐   These diapers have the absorbent layers of fabric sewn       They are especially great for babysitters,           As with disposables, you do have to ensure
One’s)           to the waterproof cover, so the diaper and cover are all-    grandparents, or others who don’t regularly          a really good fit, or leaks are more likely
                 in-one. They use either snaps or Velcro/aplix (a brand       change baby’s diaper since they are so simple.       than with systems that use separate covers.
                 of hook and loop closure) to close the diaper. There is                                                           True AIO’s generally take longer to dry
                 elastic at the waist and legs. AIO’s are the easiest                                                              than other cloth diaper systems since the
                 diapers to use and most resemble disposables in style.                                                            waterproof layer doesn’t allow air to
                                                                                                                                   circulate very well, and drying the
                                                                                                                                   waterproof layer can shorten its life span
                                                                                                                                   (it will lose its waterproofness over time).
                                          Description                                               Advantages                                       Disadvantages
AIO’s with         The soaker is the middle part of the diaper that has the      These diapers are very easy to use, but you will    One problem is that most soakers have no
lay-in or          most layers of absorbent fabric. In this case, the entire     need to explain the importance of the soaker and    elastic, so if you have a poop blow out, the
snap-in            absorbent part is called the “soaker,” and it’s usually       how it needs to be in the correct place to work     shell will get soiled and can’t be reused (so    
soakers            either rectangular or hour-glass shaped. Basically, you       to those who aren’t familiar with them. (If the     pack two if running errands). Also, since
                   have a waterproof outer shell that snaps or velcros on.       soaker is folded down with a boy, for example,      the soaker only covers baby through the          
                   The soaker is separate and completely removable. It           you’ll have major leaks since his wet zone          middle of his or her body, if your baby
                   snaps onto snaps at the back of the outer shell, so it’s      won’t be covered.) Since the soaker is              sleeps on his side, you’re more likely to        
                   lying on top of the cover or outer shell.                     detachable, this set up has a shorter drying time   have leaks than with a system where the
                                                                                 than true AIO’s and solves the question of how      diaper goes completely around the body.          
                                                                                 clean the AIO will get. Also, you can reuse the     Especially, if you have a little boy – his
                                                                                 outer shell more than once as long as it isn’t      aim can entirely miss the soaker if the
                                                                                 soiled. You just snap in a clean soaker.            diaper is loose and he’s sleeping on his

Pocket (or         This is similar to the snap-in soaker AIO. However, the       Once stuffed, this set up is as easy to use as a    Stuffing the diaper can be a little bit of a     
envelope)          absorbent part of the diaper is an insert that goes           true AIO and is as good for babysitters and         hassle, though, since you need to be sure to
diapers            between a stay-dry layer of fabric which is the inner         others. Baby’s bottom feels nice and dry            cover the width of the diaper well to            
                   and a waterproof layer of fabric which is the outer. The      because of the stay-dry inner layer. Also, you      prevent leaks. Some people do not like
                   inner and outer are sewn together like a cover except         can stuff it with as little or as much fabric as    pulling the wet insert out for washing. The      
                   there’s a hole in the back or front waist where you           you need depending on the situation. Pocket         inserts do need to be pulled out for
                   insert the absorbent fabric. The inner is usually made        diapers are also nice for long car rides since      washing in order to get clean. For side          
                   of either polyester fleece or suedecloth. Both fabrics        they keep baby’s bottom so dry.                     sleepers, you have the same potential for
                   allow liquid to pass through while giving your child a                                                            leaks as you do with a snap-in soaker AIO,
                   more stay-dry feeling than cotton. You can stuff the                                                              and you need to be sure to get a good fit in
                   pocket diaper with the manufacturers’ inserts or use                                                              the legs to avoid poop blowouts.
                   any absorbent fabric you have on hand – dish towels,                                                                                                               
                   microfiber towels, prefolds, old t-shirt, etc (if fabric is
                   a cotton and polyester blend, be sure to keep polyester                                                                                                            
                   content to 25% or under, or the fabric won’t absorb

We highly recommend buying a few diapers in different styles or taking advantage of a Try Before You Buy program to find out what works best for you and what
you enjoy using the most. If you decide against prefolds or flats, you can always use them in a different system as a night-time doubler. If you decide against
fitteds, AIO’s, or pocket diapers, there’s a large market for used cloth diapers online which has only grown every year. Also when buying fitteds, AIO’s, or pocket
diapers, buy from a few different manufacturers as each brand will fit differently. What works for a short, chubby baby may not work for a tall, slender baby. And
keep in mind that you can always use fitteds or prefolds at home and AIO’s or pocket diapers when going out for a long period of time. Also, be sure to price
compare over the “life” of your system rather than the price of individual diapers.

    Once you find your system, you’re set! Your baby will appreciate the softness of his or her cloth.


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