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How-To: Modern Cloth Diapers


When you think of cloth diapers, what comes to mind?

For many people, the first image they think of is a baby wrapped in a white diaper, pinned on at the sides, with it all tucked under a pair of uncomfortable, hot, rubber pants. While those types of diapers still exist, modern sewing has made today's cloth diapers super easy!



Fitteds and "Hybrid" fitteds



All-in-Ones (AIO)

All-in-Twos (AI2)

Other Diapering Accessories

"One-size" Diapers


The Flat

This is probably what your grandmother used. Flats are a single 'flat' spread of fabric, normally cut in a 28" by 28" square. They can be made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo, and can be bleached or unbleached. These diapers need some fancy handwork, because you have to fold them before you can use them. Flats are not waterproof. To be waterproof, flats need to be covered by a PUL/TPU cover or wool. You also need a fastening device such as pins, a Snappi, or a Boingo.


- Inexpensive

- Very easy to wash and dry

- One-size, fits all sizes of babies


- Folding can be complicated for beginners

- Requires a cover to be waterproof

- Wet diaper is against baby's skin, no 'stay dry' layer - some babies may fuss



The Prefold

Prefolds are similar to flats, only half the work has been done for you. They are sewn to have a thicker middle 'panel', which ends up sitting right where your baby pees the most. Prefolds come in a variety of materials, but the most common is cotton. They are sized, so make sure when purchasing you know what size you need. Like flats, prefolds need to be folded, have a fastener (pins, Snappi, or Boingo), and are not waterproof without a PUL/TPU or wool cover.

(Prefolds from


- Easier to use than flats, folding is easier

- Easy to wash and dry

- Fairly inexpensive

- If you 'upgrade' to pocket diapers, prefolds can be easily folded and stuffed to be used as inserts


- Requires a cover to be waterproof

- Sizing can be tricky (different companies may make different "infant" sizes, for example)

- Wet diaper is against baby's skin, no 'stay dry' layer - some babies may fuss



The Fitted

(Alva bamboo fitted pictured)

Fitted diapers are diapers made of absorbent material like cotton or bamboo. Most have fasteners like snaps, velcro, or ties already on the diaper and fit around the baby with no folding required. There are two types of fitteds - regular fitteds, which require covers to be waterproof, and 'hybrid' fitteds, which often have a layer of PUL/TPU hidden under the outermost fabric. Fitteds often come with "soakers", or extra inserts. Fitteds can be one-size with rise snaps or sized individually.


- Very absorbent

- Easy to put on

- Lots of people use them for night-time diapers because of the increased absorbency


- Fitteds tend to run very expensive because they are the easiest to customize

- May take longer to dry

- Most need a cover to be waterproof

- No 'stay dry' layer - some babies may fuss



The Cover


Covers are essential if you use flats, prefolds, or most fitteds. They are made of PUL or TPU, which is a waterproof barrier that is also porous and allows air through to the baby's skin.


- Cheap

- Lightweight, dry quickly

- Can be reused if not soiled


- No absorbency, needs something under it like a prefold or fitted




The Pocket

Pocket diapers are the most commonly used modern cloth diapers. They consist of two main parts - the pocket 'shell' and the insert. Most pocket cloth diapers have an outer layer of PUL or TPU, space for an insert, and an inner layer of a wicking fabric such as microsuede. This inner layer wicks moisture away from baby, leaving them feeling dryer. Pockets come with snaps or velcro (aplix, hook-and-loop).


- No folding required

- Can be 'pre-stuffed' with inserts to they are ready to go

- Easy to put on (snaps or velcro), easy to wash, quick to dry

- Already waterproof, no need for a cover

- Stay-dry layer is more comfortable for some babies

- Fun prints and solid colors

- 'One-size' options, where rise snaps can be adjusted for small/medium/large



- Almost always synthetic fibers (microfiber, microsuede, PUL)

- Have to 'un stuff' before you can wash them

- PUL can break down, peel from the fabric ('delaminate'), or get holes




All-in-ones, or AIOs, are the closest thing you can get to disposable diapers. They are single pieces, no need to stuff or fold or pin - toss them up, do up the snaps or velcro, and go! AIOs have a waterproof PUL/TPU outer and can have either sewn in soakers, attached soakers, or both.


- All in one. Single piece, no need to extra accessories or covers. Easiest for babysitters or people unfamiliar with cloth.

- Cute prints and solids.



- Can take forever to dry, since they are so thick.

- Sometimes hard to get completely clean because water has to penetrate the thick layers.

- Can be very expensive




All-In-Twos or "Systems"

All-in-Two systems usually consist of some sort of shell and either a re-usable or disposable insert. Examples of these systems are the Flip and gDiapers systems. The covers are waterproof, much like regular PUL/TPU covers, and can be wiped clean between each change and re-used. The inserts can lay in the cover or snap in, depending on the system. You can use disposable inserts or washable inserts (warning: Never put microfiber inserts directly against baby's skin! Make sure they are topped with microfleece or another type of skin-safe material).



Other Diapering Items


Fasteners for flats, prefolds, and some fitteds are old-style diaper pins, Snappis, and Boingos.


(Snappi fastener from

(Boingo fastener from



With cloth diapers, solids need to be knocked into the toilet before washing, but all moms know that not all solids are... well... solid. Many moms have a diaper sprayer, which is a hose and sprayer attachment that is hooked up to the toilet plumbing.


There is a variety of diaper liners available on the market, such as Alva's flushable biodegradable liners. You may need liners for many reasons, such as using a diaper rash cream not safe for cloth diapers. These liners lay in the diaper and are disposed of before washing.





One-size Diapers

Many diapers these days come in what is called "one-size", or "OS" diapers. These diapers snap around the waist and also have a row of snaps up the front. These are called rise snaps and shorten or lengthen the diaper so you can adjust it to fit your growing baby. Many one-size diapers advertise working from around 8 pounds, up to around 30-35 pounds. All-in-Ones, covers, pockets, and fitteds can all be found as one-size.