DISCLAIMER: No compensation was made for the mention of any particular brand names below. These are only made by my own observations and experiences.  There are several brands I have never seen, nor tried, that may or may not be better than those listed below.  New brands are being introduced every day!  Names are only mentioned and photos are only linked to give an idea of the term being defined.

When I was pregnant with #1, we decided we were going to use cloth diapers, both because of the environmental, as well as cost, factors.  No one we knew was using cloth.  I did a lot of research online and even purchased a “trial package” to use when #1 was born before making our final commitment purchase. We used a combination of PF & fitteds, plus covers, and AIOs when #1 was small and once she was 10#, moved into the one-size BumGenius. BGOS was the only one I could find on the market at the time.

Fast forward 2 years to #2 being born.  Still have our newborn stash and the BGOS that #1 is wearing, so we thought we were pretty set. Maybe a few more just to stretch use between washes.  Then come to find out #2 is really sensitive and has to be changed sometimes 1-2x an hour and needs a breathable cover most of the time (I even switched to disposables for a week to try and clear up her terrible diaper rash and that didn’t help! Only the frequent changes, use of lanolin, and breathable covers). Now I’ve branched into fleece and wool covers over PFs and fitteds, with the occasional AIO. So, what works for one child won’t work for another.

Now I am being asked all kinds of questions from friends who are considering the switch to cloth. And, like I was at first, they’re very confused with what they’re seeing online.  I have written this information out so much, I decided to post it as a way to have it all in one place for reference.

If you have any questions that these don’t answer, let me know!

Cloth Diapering Terms


  • CD – Cloth Diapers, Cloth Diapering, etc.
  • PF – Prefolds
  • AIO – All-in-Ones
  • OS – One-Size


Flats – a large, rectangular shaped piece of fabric that, once folded, can be used as a diaper. These are the diapers that were used for generations (think grandma, great-grandma, etc). These are still used by many because of the simple, SIMPLE care routine. These can be fastened with pins or a Snappi. They require a cover. See pictures here. My experience: I have not purchased these specifically. But I have been known to use old receiving blankets in this manner as a diaper when I’m desperate. Hey, it works. Not what I would recommend to a novice.

Prefold (PF) or Diaper Service Quality (DSQ) – a large, rectangular shaped diaper that, despite the name, still needs to be folded to fit into a cover. These look like flat fabric when purchased, but after prepping (washed 2-3 times on hot) they will look like they were snagged somehow. This is NORMAL.  The puffier it looks, the more absorbent it is.  These are the kind of diapers most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. These are what most of us were diapered with pre-1980. 🙂 If you are looking at using a Diaper Service (they pick up the used diapers, clean them, and drop of clean ones), these are the diapers you will most likely be using.  Can be tri-folded into a cover, or fastened with pins or a Snappi. Requires a cover.  See pictures here. My experience: Every diaper stash, especially for newborns, should contain PFs. They are the cheapest and the easiest to care for. They can be simply tri-folded and laid in covers for the easiest system.

Contour – a diaper that requires no folding because of its hourglass shape. Require pins or a Snappi to be fastened. Requires a cover.

Fitted – a diaper that usually snaps or Velcros™ onto baby, and has elastic sewn around the legs. These diapers require no folding, however, they do require a cover. My experience: All the convenience of an AIO or disposable, but they are less expensive and dry faster in the laundry. The two piece system (diaper + cover) make them slightly more complicated than an AIO.

All-In-One (AIO) – This diaper requires no cover, because the diaper and cover are sewn together. (hence the name “all-in-one”) The easiest of all diapers to use, they usually Velcro™ or snap on. These are easiest for dads, grandparents, and child care workers to use.  My experience: Basically a disposable diaper that you wash, these are the 1st thing DH reaches for with #2. BUT they take the longest to dry in the dryer, are the most expensive, and are sized (meaning every time the child grows, you have to buy more diapers).

Pockets – This diaper requires no cover, because the diaper and cover are sewn together. However, the diaper has a pocket (hence the name) which you stuff with doublers (see below) or PFs to create the absorbency you want.   My experience: Because they are 2 pieces, they wash and dry much easier.  Once stuffed, these are just as easy to use as AIOs. It’s just the actual “stuffing” that’s a P.I.T.A.

Hybrid – This diaper is exactly what the name implies: a hybrid between cloth and disposable diapers.  It consists of a cover that you either lay or snap an insert into (similar to a doubler). The insert can be either cloth (reusable) or disposable/compostable/flushable. For many, this is the best of both worlds. My experience: These are a relatively new phenomenon. The first of which was the gdiaper, followed by the Flip, and the GroBaby (which offers an organic insert also).  I’m sure more will come, because of its high appeal to the masses. I have used the gdiaper system briefly and so far am very impressed.  Would like to use the Flip, but its sister line – the BumGenius (BG) – didn’t fit #1 very well around the thighs and I’m afraid to invest in something that won’t fit.

COVERS(for any of the above diapers that require a cover. AIO, pocket and Hybrid diapers do not require an additional cover.)

Diaper Wrap – a diaper cover with touchtape or snap closures.  Can be made of wool, fleece, or a PUL fabric (waterproof plastic). Touchtape (Velcro is one brand) will give a better fit, but Snaps seem to last longer. Wraps can be hung out to dry after each use, requiring less covers per child (reuse and then wash after a couple of days or if the cover gets dirty). My experience: Essential if you are using flats, prefolds, contour or fitted diapers.  With #1 we had all PUL covers. But #2 seems to require a more breathable cover, so I have added several fleece ones and am working on crocheting a wool one.

Pull-on Cover – a diaper cover that must be pulled up onto baby like shorts or pants. These are easiest when used with fitted diapers. If prefolds are used with pull-on covers, the diaper must be pinned or Snappi’d.  These can be made of wool, fleece or PUL (see above). My experience: A bit of a pain with a baby that can’t stand, but it’s the same with regular clothes, so… Your preference.

Wool Cover: – Wool diaper covers were used for centuries to keep babies dry and comfortable. Then rubber and plastic pants were invented and wool was abandoned as old-fashioned and messy. Now wool is back! Especially among those who want only natural fabrics.  They are available as wraps, or pull-on covers known as “soakers”.  Also come in knit or crochet “longies” (i.e. long pants), “shorties” (shorts), “skirties” (soakers with attached skirts). These are very breathable diaper covers and are serious workhorses. Many mamas swear by these for nighttime covers.  My experience: Just branching into this myself, so my opinion is limited at the moment. So far I’m happy.


Just a note about one-size systems. When I started CD’ing #1, there was only ONE one-size diaper out there: the BumGenius one-size 3.0 pocket diaper (BGOS 3.0).  Now there are many, MANY, one-size options.  What is a one-size diaper? This is a diaper that has some way of adjusting its size so that it will fit a baby from 10-35lbs, approximately (varies by brand).  Usually these adjustments are done by snapping up or down the rise in the front of the diaper. This is a great way to save money while CD. One diaper stash can theoretically fit the same child from birth through potty-training.  It is also a great option if you have 2 in diapers at the same time.  The same diaper can fit either child, depending on how it’s snapped down. And now there are one-sized fitted diapers (GoodMamas, KiwiPie, among others), one-size AIOs, one-size diaper wrap covers (Blueberry, Kissaluvs, among others), one-size pocket diapers (BG, Happy Heinys, Thirsties, among others) and even a one-size prefold system (Econobum). Both the GroBaby and Flip hybrid systems are one-size systems.   My Experience: a one-size system of some kind is the way to go once your baby reaches 10 lbs. I have small babies at birth, so I need a separate system for newborns, then I use the one-size system.  Money saving and simple all in one. I just wish all of the brand options had been available when I was buying originally.

ACCESSORIES “All the little extras…”

Doubler/Insert – multiple layers of fabric sewn into a rectangular or hourglass shape. They are then laid into any type of diaper or into the pocket of pocket diapers to increase its absorbency. Many people will use these at night, especially. The hybrid diapers also have disposable/flushable/compostable inserts available. My experience: These are a necessity.  Until we started adding doublers to #1’s night diaper, she would wake up in the middle of the night because her sheets were wet.

Liner – one layer of fabric (usually fleece) cut into a rectangular or hourglass shape that can be laid into any type of diaper to a) wick moisture away from baby’s skin without adding any absorbency or bulk to the diaper, or b) act as a barrier against diaper creams, etc that can affect a diaper’s absorbency (especially those made of synthetic fabrics).  Disposable/Flushable liners are also available for those who want to just flush solids, rather than spray them off. Peal off the liner and bye-bye! My experience: Essential.  They’re a bit of a pain to deal with putting in, taking out, etc. But to protect our diapers, they were necessary. I am now considering the flushable liners because #1’s dirty diapers are getting to be a bit much for me.

Wetbags – These are waterproof bags that hold dirty diapers under laundry day.  They come in many sizes: large enough to line a trash can, medium for a whole day’s worth of diapers (like from daycare or a day spent out and about), and small (hold 1-2 diapers. good for a trip to the store, etc). My experience: A variety is best. Make sure to have at least 2 of the large bags.  This will let you have something in the diaper pail while you are doing a load of diaper laundry.

Diaper Sprayer – This is probably one of the most useful tools for CDing. It looks similar to a vegetable sprayer like you would find on your kitchen sink, only bigger. It is attached to your toilet and you use it to rinse your diapers of any solids. My experience: Essential.  Dunking etc just doesn’t do it for me. This gets nearly every piece of yuckiness of the diapers and helps prevent them from staining. I have also been known to clean muddy shoes and spray the shower down using this!

Cloth Wipes – These are just what they sound like. Diaper wipes made from cloth.  You can buy these, or use washcloths, etc.  My experience: Softer on baby and they tend to hold more “stuff”, letting you use less wipes per messy change.  However, you will need to keep them either in a) a wipe warmer with solution or b) have something nearby to wet them with. This can be a bit of a pain.

Diaper Cream My experience: Every CD Mama will tell a different story about what creams work with CD and what doesn’t.  Obviously, at some point in a baby’s CD life, they will need to use cream.  And most creams result in a residue on the diaper, especially those made of synthetic fabrics. This residue reduces the absorbency, sometimes completely. Use a liner (either cloth or disposable) as a barrier between the cream and the diaper and just be done with it. Read my latest post about diaper cream.

Snappi – This was invented by a dad who didn’t want to use diaper pins any longer. It’s a plastic piece in a T shape that has “teeth” on its ends. The teeth grab flats, PF, or contour diapers and keep them fastened. My experience: These are not difficult to use and essential if you want a snug fit, but don’t want to use pins.

Have a question I didn’t answer? Let me know!

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