Modern Cloth Diaper Types Demystified!

Modern Cloth Diaper Types Demystified!

I was a guest on a series called “God’s Design” with Lize-Mari Arthur of Kingfisher FM. During this series we covered some basic topics and I realized how helpful they are to other parents. The cloth nappy community can be very confusing with all its acronyms. So I am going to make this very easy. 

Most modern cloth diapers come in two sizes:

  1. Newborn – fits from around 2.5kg-7kg depending on the build of the baby.
  2. One-size-fits-most (OSFM) – fits from around 5kg until potty training.

Below are some size comparisons, as well as a video to show you how to get a OSFM diaper to fit a newborn.

There are two main groups of cloth diaper types, one-step and two-step solutions.

My flat lay below shows the basic types and where they fit into these categories.

Bear in mind that there are new designs coming out very regularly so I might not have covered all the ones you have heard of.

Please do send me a message if you hear of a new type. I love seeing and trying the new designs.

One-Step Solutions

The most widely used type of one-step solution is the Pocket diaper. They have a waterproof outer layer, usually made of polyurethane laminate (PUL) and a lining that is either made from synthetic fabric (stay-dry) or natural fibres. There is an opening between the PUL and the lining where you can stuff the absorbent inserts. Inserts can be made of a variety of fabrics, the most popular being microfibre, bamboo and hemp. More information on inserts in the accessories section.

The All-in-one (AIO) has an outer waterproof layer and sewn in absorbent fabric. The inserts of an AIO can either be sewn into a pocket or they can be loose and flap out for easy washing and quick drying. This is a good option if you don’t want to stuff pockets.

A Snap-in-one (SIO) is similar to an AIO but the inserts snap-in. It can only be used once as the cover is not wipeable. This type of diaper dries quickly, but you have to sort and attach inserts before use.

The All-in-two (AI2)/Hybrid diaper consists of a cover (that is waterproof, usually PUL or TPU) and inserts. The inserts either snap on to the cover or lay in the sewn-in sleeves of the cover. The covers of some AI2s are wipeable and reuseable which means you can just switch out the inserts and hence use it as a two-step solution. You would have to use the AI2s that have a sewn in sleeve as a one-step solution as the lining can absorb urine and is therefore not wipeable.

An All-in-three (AI3) is a new design, three-step system. On the outside you have a cover (that is waterproof if it is not PUL then it has hidden PUL) and inserts. Inserts are the absorbent part of the cloth nappy, it snaps on to the cover.

The Hybrid Fitted is usually a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) diaper that is custom made. They have a water-resistant layer (fleece/ soft shell) sewn in, so they can be used as a one-step system on an average wetter or during the day. But they will need a cover to be fully waterproof. They are a popular two-step night solution.

Two-step solutions

A Prefold is old style cloth made easy. They are usually rectangular shape with extra absorbent layers sewn in the middle and wings sewn on for easy attachment. It can be padfolded and laid in a cover or stuffed in a pocket cover. Usually it is snappied onto baby and covered with a waterproof cover. Prefolds do come in different sizes.

A Trifold is my favourite type of two-step solution! J It consists of multiple layers of cloth sewn together in a square shape… once folded in three it is the size of an insert with many more layers. These can be used to boost nappies or they can be laid inside a cover for a quick and easy “folded” type nappy.

A Contour diaper is a type of snapless fitted diaper. They are usually elasticated to aid in fitting the diapers on easily. They can be fastened with snappies or nappy pins. They need a cover to be fully waterproof.

A Fitted diaper is fully absorbent and tailored to fit baby. They are attached by either velcro or snaps and need a waterproof cover to be fully waterproof.

A Cover is waterproof and made out of PUL or TPU. They can either be snapped on or velcro on. The Pep covers are pull-up and come in sizes so they are not adjustable. Some WAHM’s make softshell, fleece or wool covers.

A Soaker is made out of wool or fleece and generally has an extra layer of absorbency in the wet zone. It functions as a cover with extra absorbency sewn in.


Snappis/ safety pins are used to fasten on two-step solutions before covering them.

Wetbags are made of waterproof material (usually PUL) and they are used to put wet nappies in when not at home. Some people use them instead of a bucket or washing basket. They come in various sizes.

Inserts/ boosters are the absorbent layers of the nappy. These can be bought separately to add absorption should you need it. They come in a variety of different materials. The most common materials are microfiber, bamboo, hemp, charcoal bamboo and cotton.

Some people like using re-useable cloth wipes, they are commonly made out of flannel or terry. You can use face cloths or cut up old receiving blankets as well.

A handy addition to any wardrobe is Vest Extenders. They can be used if you have a heavy wetter and a particularly big diaper on, or if you have a tall baby.

There are different types of Liners. They can be made of synthetic materials, bamboo biodegradeable materials or even re-useable fleece.

A Swim diaper is made out of a PUL outer and has a mesh lining. This gives baby a covering when swimming as well as preventing poo leaking into the pool.

Pull-up Trainers are cloth nappies used during potty learning. They have an absorbent layer sewn-in, this is usually only sufficient to absorb a small accident and is not as absorbent as a standard cloth diaper.

Another term you might hear a lot is Flats. These are old style cloth diapers that are a flat piece of material that needs to be folded to fit to the baby. Flats can be made out of terry, hemp and flannel. They most commonly come in two sizes, Newborn 50x50cm and OSFM 70x70cm. They can be pad-folded and used as boosting in covers or pockets.

I hope this post and the videos have helped to demystify the modern cloth diaper world. Please do contact me if you need any help navigating the terminology and keep and eye out for more cloth diaper posts.

If you would like to listen to the podcasts of the Kingfisher fm sessions, you can find them here:

I hope you will love cloth diapers as much as I do. 🙂

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