Cloth Diaper 101

We recommend attending one of our CD 101 classes but until then we hope this helps!


This is easy to use fastener for cloth diapers that take the place of the traditional safety pins.  Only one is required at a time and they eliminate the risk of pinpricks.


Flat diapers, commonly called flats, are truly the old-fashioned cloth diaper.  These are large squares of single-layer material, typically Birdseye cotton.  Material such as a receiving blanket could also be used as a flat.  They can be folded a number of ways in order to fit your baby and require fastening with either diaper pins or a Snappi.  There is no waterproof layer so a diaper cover is used over a flat diaper.


These are the most basic version of the modern cloth diaper.  They are folded and secured using a Snappi or pins.  A diaper cover is used over a pre-fold as there is no waterproof layer.  They are the cheapest and will last forever.  As with flats, there may be some trial and error until you learn how to fold them so they won’t leak.  Prefolds are also commonly used as burp cloths or inserts for other diapers, although they are a bit bulky.

Contour Diapers

These diapers also require a cover and Snappi or pins but are easier to use than pre-folds and flats because they are shaped so you will not need to learn how to fold them.  They are also generally cheaper than fitted diapers.

Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers are designed with snaps or hook and loop closures so that they are put on your baby the same way a disposable would be, however, they are not waterproof and require a cover.  These diapers come in a variety of styles with some featuring snap-in inserts or pockets.

Diaper Covers

Diaper covers are the waterproof counterpart to all of the aforementioned styles of cloth diapers.  They can be reused through multiple changes as long as they do not become soiled.  Diaper covers are made with a variety of materials, but commonly polyurethane laminate, (PUL).  Fleece and wool diaper covers are also available and provide a breathable option that is still water resistant.  PUL and Fleece covers can be washed with your regular diaper laundry while wool covers need to be hand washed and lanolized.


A diaper insert is a multi-layer piece of absorbent fabric which is stuffed into a pocket diaper.  Prefold diapers can be used in their place, however, inserts are generally less bulky.  They are made with a variety of materials, including microfiber, hemp, and bamboo.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket Diapers combine the absorbent and waterproof components of cloth diapers.  Like the fitted, pocket diapers are made with either snaps or hook and loop closure so there is no learning curve.  They have a pocket between the waterproof shell and inner lining where you stuff the absorbent insert so you can customize them based on the protection your baby needs.  This is particularly helpful for heavy nighttime wetting.  The outer layer of these is traditionally made with PUL.

All-In-One (AIO)

This style combines the outer shell and absorbent layer.  These are very simple to use and are good for people that might be intimidated by cloth diapers, but do not allow for customization in absorbency and may have an increased drying time.  This style is most similar to a disposable diaper in that it comes in only one piece, but they are washable, and therefore far more economical and eco-friendly.

All-In-Two (AI2) / Hybrid

AI2 is a cross between an AIO and a pocket diaper.  An AI2 typically consists of a waterproof outer shell and an absorbent insert that snaps or lies in the shell.  The shell can be reused by replacing the insert when the other becomes soiled.  These are different from pocket diapers because there is no barrier between the absorbent layer and your baby’s skin which is why the shell can be used through multiple changes.  Some hybrid diaper companies make disposable inserts that are easily biodegradable or flushable.

One-Size Diapers

All of the aforementioned styles can be one-size diapers.  These are adjustable so that they are adjustable in size so they will fit from infancy through potty training, (although in some cases, newborns or larger toddlers may require a different size).  Depending on the brand, they have different adjustment systems, such as elastic leg and waist adjustments or snaps along the front cover.  One-size diapers are popular because they are economical since you will not need to purchase new sizes as your child grows.

What kind of cloth diaper should I use?

This is something that depends on your personal preference.  Each diaper is made a little differently and each baby is shaped differently.  Washing, folding, and storage is going to differ slightly for each option, as well as the changing routine.  We highly recommend that you try out a few different options and see which one you like and which fits your baby best before making an investment.
Your budget may also be a factor in deciding which style of diaper you decide to use.  In general, the styles that require a cover tend to be cheaper than the ones that have the waterproof layer built in, and the tradeoff would be in the level of convenience.

Come see us at Ecobaby and for information about our diaper service.  You also have the option of doing a diaper trial where you will be able to try out different styles before you make a purchase.

How many diapers should I buy?

Again, this is going to be a personal decision, largely depending on what type of diaper you select and how often you plan to do laundry.  For newborns, you should account for 10-12 daily changes.  For older babies and toddlers, that drops to 7-9 changes.  If you plan to do laundry daily, obviously you will be able to get the minimum number of diapers.  Likewise, if you decide on a style that utilizes a cover, you’ll be able to only purchase a few since they are only washed when they become soiled. We generally recommend 24 diapers and 6 covers if you go the route.