An In-Depth Guide to Cloth Diapers

An In-depth Guide to Cloth Diapers

Amanda Nicole SmithBaby, Lifestyle Leave a Comment

Are you thinking of trying cloth diapers and have a million questions? Hopefully this guide will provide you with answers.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had no idea what to expect or what I needed to be prepared. If only I had this guide to help me through!

The first thing that had me confused was the many different kinds of diapers.

Pocket Diapers

Pocket diapers have a slot in the back of the diaper that allow the inserts to be put in and taken out. So when you go to wash the diapers you take them out, and when you go to put the diapers away you put them back in.

You can adjust the standard size diapers from small to large. My girl could fit in them from 6 months all the way until she was potty trained at 2.5 years old. She could probably still fit in them at 3 years old.

They also have newborn sizes for babies under 12 pounds.

There are different kinds of inserts. You can choose from 3 layers to 5 layers and there are also different materials to choose from. We’ll go over the inserts more in-depth in a moment.

The material that touches your baby is generally a soft microfiber like material. The description says suede but that doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not a leather-like material.


We call them daytime diapers because the “suede” that touches your babies skin wicks away the moisture and can withstand multiple small pees so your baby stays comfortable. The pocket also keeps the inserts in place.

Diaper Covers

Diaper covers are just the PUL/TPU material, like the pocket diaper, without the pocket and “suede” inside. The inserts are the only thing touching your baby’s skin.

What I like about these are that if you choose the organic cotton or bamboo fleece inserts, that is the material touching your baby’s skin, not the “suede” microfiber man-made material. However when your baby becomes more mobile, the inserts will move around with your baby and not stay in place as well. Also when your baby pees the insert will be wet and not wick away moisture as well as the “suede” material.

Disregarding that fact that the inserts can move around, I do like the fact that you can reuse the diaper cover and just change the insert, which is a lot easier when it comes to washing. Pulling soggy diaper inserts out the pocket diaper is not fun.


We call these nighttime diapers because the double leg gussets offers better protection. The inserts, such as Naturally Natures, absorbs pee much faster than the “suede material”. They are also larger and thicker than most inserts and fit the diaper covers perfectly.

My daughter always had a lot of pee all at once in the nighttime and the pocket diapers always leaked. As she got older we doubled up on liners. The Naturally Natures at the bottom and the Thirsties liner on top, it was the perfect no leak solution.

I recommend looking at the leg hole stitching. If it’s gathered it should work well, but some of them are straight stitched and do not form to legs as well, thus creating space for leaks. Also double gussets are much more reliable in creating a seal against baby’s legs.

I also found a more natural diaper cover option, which I have not tried, wool diaper covers. The one above is GOTS certified, which stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. I read they need to be washed a dozen times before they actually stop leaking through.

A Closer Look at Cloth Diaper Inserts

There are many different types of inserts to choose from. Look at what type of material and how many layers. Here is a list of the most popular inserts and inserts that I have personally tried.

A closer look at diaper inserts

Microfiber Inserts – Alvababy

Microfiber inserts are my least favorite because they are not as absorbent as others but they come with the Alvababy diapers. They are thin with only 3 layers. If you have any microfiber cleaning rags, this is exactly the same material but with 3 layers.

I used them underneath our changing pad cover on top of a waterproof changing pad liner to absorb any pee during diaper changes so the pee didn’t travel like a river to my baby’s head.

Bamboo/Microfiber Hybrid Inserts – Nora’s Nursery & Wegreeco

Bamboo inserts are softer and more absorbent than the straight microfiber inserts. Nora’s Nursery and Weegreeco comes with a thin 3 layer bamboo/microfiber hybrid which is a bit better than the Alvababy inserts.

5 Layer Bamboo Fleece/Microfiber Inserts

The Naturally Natures 5 layer inserts are much thicker and by far my favorite insert of all. They absorb the most pee. These aren’t the greatest option for newborns because of how large they are but they fit perfect in the standard size pocket diapers and diaper covers.

They also have a version with gussets, which are gathered in the middle, I’m assuming these are better for boys but I honestly have not tried them for effectiveness.

And lastly they have a charcoal version. I believe the only difference is the color which could be better for hiding stains. I didn’t have any problems with our inserts being badly stained though.

Organic Cotton/Hemp Inserts

The Thirsties inserts are the most absorbent and softest of all. They were perfect on top of the Naturally Natures inserts for nighttime use in a double gusset diaper cover. Your baby will have a very thick diaper butt, but trust me as they get older and produce more pee, these will be your life saver.

These inserts are very “flexible” whereas the Naturally Natures are more “sturdy”. So I wouldn’t use these by themselves as they would get bunched up in a diaper cover. I also wouldn’t use them in a pocket diaper just because they are more expensive and you really don’t need that much absorbency during the day.

100% Cotton Pre-folds

We started with pre-folds when our baby girl was a newborn. At first I tried them by themselves. You fold them a fancy way and then you use either safety pins or these handy dandy diaper fasteners.

I was new and so I didn’t think to use a diaper cover, which was big mistake because pee would leak through onto me, no fun.

There is a whole array of pre-folds made from 100% cotton. You can choose from 1-ply to 6-ply. You can also choose the unbleached version. I love unbleached organic cotton because it is the most natural and environmentally friendly. However these do not wick away moisture at all. Just imagine a wet rag.

Put a newborn diaper cover over the pre-fold and you’ll be good to go.

Newborn Cloth Diapers

Most new babies are tiny and need tiny diapers. Look for newborn cloth pocket diapers or diaper covers with pre-folds, or insert of choice to start. With pocket diapers don’t worry about which inserts, just use the ones your diapers come with, as your newborn will most likely not be a heavy wetter yet.

If you do by chance have a heavy wetter or you’d like a better nighttime no-leak solution, they have newborn Thirsties inserts and pocket diapers. Always look at the size of diapers before buying.

They also have sticky mushy tar poo in the beginning, so you’ll want to stock up on diaper liners and double them up. They can either be flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash depending on what brand you get and what type of toilet system you have.

How Many Diapers Do I need?

You’ll use about 10 diapers a day and 2 diapers a night. You’ll want to do laundry every 2-3 days. So you’ll need about:

20 daytime diapers

5 nighttime diapers

You may want 5 more extra diapers as backups in case you’re too tired to do laundry and you run out.

What About The Poo?

I’m sure everyone’s first thought is, “I don’t want poop in my washing machine!” No one does, trust me. That is why you’ll want diaper liners for at least the first year.

Diaper liners catch the mushy poo but allow the pee to pass through. Then you can either throw the poo liner in the trash or flush it down the toilet.

The only downside to diaper liners is that it does absorb some of the pee which can lead to rashes. But don’t worry I have the ultimate rash prevention method. See the reusable wipe section for more information.

When your baby gets to be a toddler, they will have mostly solid poop so you could go without a diaper liner. But there will be that off day of mushy poop and that’s where you’ll probably want to invest in a sprayer for your toilet, or if you’re really lucky a laundry sink.

Now I will warn you, when you spray be prepared for everything to get sprayed, so you may want to invest in a diaper sprayer shield.

Reusable Wipes

Many wipes have ingredients that I am not comfortable using on my baby. The synthetic fragrances alone are enough to deter me.

Behold the greatest wipe alternative I found that lead us to have virtually no rashes and a clean healthy bottom.

A quart of purified water with a tsp of apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar neutralizes the ph of pee so rashes are rare.

We stored ours in a quart sized mason jar and dipped a cotton cloth rag in it for the perfect pee wipe.

For messy poo we used Viva Paper towels so we could just toss them.

Traveling Wipes

Obviously bringing a jar of wipe solution in your diaper bag is not a good idea, so you’ll want to use a reusable wipe container. Just fold your rags to fit in and pour a little bit of wipe solution on them to dampen. Because there are no preservatives, you’ll only want to keep damp rags stored for 1-2 days.

Butt Cream

Instead of a butt cream, paste or other commercial product we opted for a natural oil like castor oil (my favorite), coconut oil, olive oil or my homemade shea body butter.

When you’re on the go, try storing it in a small glass jar. The best part is, you can use it too for your lips, hands, or wherever!

Dirty Diapers – At Home

A diaper pail keeps the stink concealed. Using the plastic diaper bags that they come with is counter productive to the goal of being environmentally and budget friendly. So you’ll also want to get the reusable diaper pail liners.

If you don’t want or don’t have space for a diaper pail, you can also look for a zippered hanging diaper bag.

Also something I didn’t expect to need was some gloves. Like mentioned previously, pulling out soggy inserts out of a pocket diaper is disgusting. You’ll want something to cover your hands. Trust me.

Dirty Diapers – When Traveling

When traveling you’ll want a wet bag to put your dirty diapers and wipes in until you get home to your diaper pail.

You can also use it for your breast pump parts.

In Conclusion

There is a lot of work involved in cloth diapering, but the environment will seriously thank you! We throw away billions of diapers per year, and they take a lifetime to decompose. Read more about The Effect of Diapers on The Environment and Human Health.

The only qualm I have about cloth diapers is the synthetic materials used to make them waterproof. There is the GOTS certified wool option, but is an animal source really more sustainable and eco -friendly? I can say with certainty it is not budget friendly.

Seeing that we only need about 25 cloth diapers every year or so (figuring in replacements), as opposed to, let’s just say a below average 10 disposable diapers a day, which would equal about 7,300 diapers for one baby in 2 years. I’d say 45 cloth diapers for one baby is a much better option.

So thank you Momma, for considering a better option for not only your baby’s bottom but also the environment. Your hard work and dedication is much appreciated.

Do you have any questions or anything to add? Let us know down below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *