Types of Diapers

There are several types of cloth diapers, both the outside pieces and the inner pieces.  This might sound overwhelming at first, but you’ll learn to love it, because it will give you the flexibility to pick the pieces of your diaper stash to best fit your needs.

By the way, we offer one-on-one consultations to help you sort through the fluff and build your perfect stash.  It’s kind of our thing.  Contact us to set one up!


Let’s start with the part that goes on the outside of the diaper.  These typically do not provide the actual absorbency, the inner piece (get it?) will do that job, but we’ll get to it in a minute.


Covers are the most straightforward way to use cloth diapers.  The cover is a waterproof layer that goes on top of an absorbent inner piece.  Covers are usually the cheapest way to cloth diaper.  The biggest benefit is you can use a cover with any type of inner piece you choose.   And if there’s no poop, you can keep using it without dirtying another diaper cover.  They are typically pretty easy to put together and to use.



A pocket diaper has a pocket for the inner piece.  Pockets are separate from inner pieces (like a cover) but they get dirty every time you use it (like an AIO, below).  They are still very customizable, because you can stuff them with any kind of inner piece you want. But they take a little extra work, because you have to stuff the pockets and make sure the inner pieces lay flat and don’t bunch or wrinkle.


All In One (AIO):

These are a cover and inner piece all sewn together.  They are the most convenient to use, because it’s all one piece, like a disposable.  But they are also typically the most expensive. Also, they have to be washed each time they are used.  They are the least customizable option, but you can add layers for extra absorbency.


All In Two (AI2):

These are basically a cover or pocket that has an inner piece that attaches to the outer piece, usually with snaps.  Your inner piece will stay in place and won’t shift or bunch, which is a benefit. Also, once your diaper is snapped together, it is essentially one piece, like an AIO.  But you have to use the same brand for both pieces, which can make them more expensive and less customizable.  However, you can usually unsnap the branded insert, and use any kind of insert you want.  These are sometimes called hybrids because they can behave like an AIO, or a cover or pocket.


Now, let’s talk about the inner pieces that give the diapers their absorbency:


These are a pad that goes in the center of the diaper or in a pocket.  The come in a variety of materials that will vary in absorbency and thickness.  They are most commonly microfiber, bamboo, hemp, cotton, charcoal bamboo, or a combined layering of these.


Flats (or flour sack towels or FSTs)

These are a large square that can be folded down to lots of different shapes and sizes.  They are what you may think of traditionally when you think of cloth diapers. They are usually cotton and are very easy to wash.  They can be folded very simply (half, then half, then thirds) or in more intricate folds that may take a learning curve to use.  They can be very versatile and are a very low cost alternative for inner pieces.



These are several flats sewn together, with additional layers in the center.  They can be folded into a simple pad shape or into more fitted shapes.  They are also a very versatile and low cost piece to have in your diaper stash.



These are flats material sewn into a diaper shape that fits snug to baby’s bottom. These are highly recommended for newborns.  They are not waterproof and need will need a cover.  However, they can be worn without a cover, if you want to air out baby’s tush, without leaving them completely unprotected in case of an accident.


One final note on the types of materials that make up inserts.  As mentioned above, the inserts are made of various materials, each with different characteristics.  They can be chosen depending on what you need (light wetter vs. heavy wetter, daytime vs. nighttime) or layered for a custom solution for your particular baby.  Below is a quick breakdown of the types of fabrics and their pros and cons:

  • Microfiber– A lot of diapers, especially pockets come with microfiber inserts.  They are a synthetic fabric that absorbs quickly and are inexpensive.  However, they are thick and don’t hold liquid well when squished around.  A very important thing to note is that microfiber CANNOT be used directly against baby’s skin.  It is SO absorbent, that it will dry them out and cause a terrible rash.  They can go in pockets though or be wrapped in flats, prefolds, or FSTs.
  • Hemp– These inserts are touchably soft, and thin.  Hemp is a natural fiber, making pieces that hold wetness really well, but don’t absorb very quickly.  Also, since they hold deeply onto wetness, they take a long time to dry after being washed.
  • Bamboo- Bamboo is made from a processed form of rayon so it actually behaves like a synthetic fiber.  It is the thinnnest material for inserts and is soft as well.  Like hemp, it doesn’t absorb wetness very quickly, but it holds onto it very well. 
  • Charcoal bamboo– These tend to be pricey but work extremely well.  They are not a natural material.  They absorb wetness quickly and hold onto it over time and wiggles.  They also dry very quickly after being washed.


It can be a lot to process, but we’re here for you!  Contact us to set up a one-on-one consultation to find the best solution for you, your baby, and your life!  We also have a one-month rental package, which has a range of diaper types and brands, so you can give them a test run and see what you like best!

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