The Ultimate Cloth Diaper Guide

Choosing the right cloth diaper for baby’s bottom!
stack of colourful cloth diapers
© Can Stock Photo / Ha4ipuri

With so many diapering systems and styles to choose from, the whole thing can seem a little overwhelming—especially for new parents just figuring the whole baby poop thing out!

Diapering expert Karen Charron to the rescue! Study-up using this easy chart before you hit the diaper store, and you’ll be more likely to leave happy and confident in your new eco (and baby bottom!) friendly purchase.

Must-haves and little luxuries

Here we’ve broken things down into two categories for quick and easy reference. The first are items we consider to be necessities. It would be extremely difficult or even virtually impossible to cloth diaper without them. The second are not absolutely necessary, but products that can definitely improve the cloth diapering experience and make your life that much easier or more pleasant.

Must-Haves

  • 12-18 cloth diapers

  • 2-3 diapers covers (not necessary with pockets or all-in-ones)

  • 1 diaper pail or large

  • 2-3 dozen cloth baby wipes

  • 2-3 doublers (or extra inserts) for nighttime

Little Luxuries

  • 24-36 cloth diapers

  • 4-8 diaper covers

  • 4-8 doublers (or extra inserts) for nighttime

  • 2nd large wet bag (to use while first is washing/drying)

  • disposable diaper liners and/or a diaper sprayer (to make poopy diaper clean-up easier)

  • 1-2 small wet bags for storing dirty diapers while out and about.

  • 2-6 newborn diapers—Often trimmer than one-size or even size small diapers, these may be convenient for outings and to use with tiny newborn outfits that are so quickly outgrown!

  • cloth diaper safe bottom cream—Many ‘commercial’ or mainstream diaper rash creams are not recommended for use with cloth diapers as they may cause odours and leaks.

Karen’s handy-dandy diapering systems at a glance

Diaper styles

Flat

  • Single layer of square or rectangular fabric

  • No built-in fasteners or elastics

  • Requires separate waterproof cover

  • Extremely versatile (also use as a pocket diaper insert, burp cloth, or cleaning rag)

  • Washes very easily and dries extremely quickly

  • Limited absorbency; may require more frequent changes or doubling-up

  • Can be made exclusively from all-natural and/or organic materials

  • Cover may get soiled more easily when baby has a bowel movement

Prefold

  • Multi-layer fabric rectangle with thicker centre panel

  • No built-in fasteners or elastics

  • Requires separate waterproof cover

  • Can be made exclusively from all-natural and/or organic materials

  • Cover may get soiled more easily when baby has a bowel movement

Pocket

  • Two pieces to put on baby, requires preparation

  • Can be made from all-natural and/or organic materials

  • Built-in fasteners (snaps or Velcro)

  • Pocket to stuff absorbent insert

  • Elastic at legs and waist

  • Waterproof outer, stay-dry inner

All-in-one

  • Can be made from all-natural and/or organic materials

  • Hourglass shape

  • Multi-layer with elastics at legs and waist

  • Built-in fasteners (snaps or Velcro)

  • Absorbant inner, waterproof outer

  • May take longer to dry

All-in-two 

  • Can be made from all-natural and/or organic materials

  • Built-in fasteners (snaps or Velcro)

  • Absorbant inner (removable when soiled)

  • Waterproof outer (can be reused several times)

  • Less convenient than AIOs or pockets; two pieces to put on baby

  • May take longer to dry because diaper is all one piece (depends on design)

A few expert tips

  • Hang your diapers in the sun to lighten or even remove stains

  • Folding two or three washcloths/cloth wipes in a Velcro wrap makes a great newborn diaper

  • An old towel or t-shirt can make a great pocket diaper insert or doubler

  • Only one pocket shell left clean? Lay a natural fabric insert on top instead of inside the pocket and reuse the shell 2-3 times!

  • Check out some more tips and tricks and some more cloth diaper buying advice!