Choosing the Right Types of Cloth Diapers: Styles, Sizes & Brands

By April Duffy •  Updated: 06/26/24 •  17 min read

In your great-grandmother’s day, there was one way to diaper, cotton flat diapers with diaper pins. Today, there are what can seem like a million cloth diaper choices available.

While it all might sound overwhelming at first, it’s actually a great thing. Not only are the diaper choices we have today incredibly adorable and easy-to-use (with a day or so of practice) it’s incredibly helpful to have the variety so that you can use cloth diapers in any situation.

In fact, I often tell cloth diaper beginners who are shopping for cloth diapers to not think of them as a uniform, using all the same style all the time, but to think of them as a wardrobe — sometimes you need a gown, sometimes you need a pair of sweat pants.

Understanding the Different Types of Cloth Diapers

So which type of cloth diaper is right for you? Let’s start by taking a quick look at the options.

If that is all a little confusing still, here’s a video I did before explaining the cloth diaper types and styles in a bit more detail and showing you the parts:

Understanding Cloth Diaper Sizes

Once you’ve chosen some diaper styles to look into, you may want to then think about sizing. Here are the sizes you are going to find:

How to Choose a Brand of Cloth Diapers

Once you have a style or two in mind and know if you’re going to invest in newborn diapers or are just going to jump to one-size diapers, it’s THEN time to think about brands.

I’ve mentioned above what I consider to be some of the best brands for each style of diaper and for newborn diapers based on my six years of diapering my own child, reviewing cloth diapers with my network of diaper testing moms, and helping the tens of thousands of parents in the Cloth Diapers for Beginners community. But of course, there are literally hundreds, even thousands of cloth diaper brands available today and many of them work well.

This is where a cloth diaper community, like the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook group, can really come in handy. By being informed and knowing what type of diaper you’re looking for, you can ask the community for their preferred brand of XX diapers and get a lot of great recommendations.

I do strongly suggest knowing exactly what kind(s) of diapers you’re shopping for first though, as just popping in and asking, “What brand of cloth diapers is best?” will get you a million recommendations for cheap pocket diaper brands and they are NOT the best for most folks who take the time to research and test different styles.

One Kind of Cloth Diapers, or Several?

And this brings me to my next point: the importance of choosing a variety of cloth diapers when you haven’t used them before.

Until you use cloth diapers in real life and use them on your unique baby, you won’t know what you really like. This of course makes it super frustrating and scary when you need to invest in cloth diapers before your baby is even here. The best way, in fact, the only way, around this is to buy a small variety of styles and brands, and don’t buy your whole cloth diaper wardrobe upfront.

Click here to know how many diapers you’ll need based on your baby’s age and how often you want to do diaper laundry. My advice is for the first few weeks using cloth diapers, wash more frequently (but do at least have enough for one full day and night), and test things out. Once a winner or two emerge from your “stash” invest in more.

What cloth diapers to choose, for beginners: a list

I know how hard it is to trust your research and just jump in and get some diapers once and for all. To help, I’ve put together this list of cloth diapers to buy as a sampler pack of sorts.

All the diapers on this list are perfect for a cloth diaper wardrobe, wherein every diaper will serve some specific needs and situations. All the brands/styles are also tried, tested, and true, delivering positive reviews from the Cloth Diapers for Beginners community more often than not.

This list is only big enough for one full day of cloth diapering a baby as well. So you will get enough exposure, without blowing your entire budget before you know what you like best. The basic idea here is you will test everything for a few days, and then once you have some favorites that you like and use the most in your lifestyle, you’ll know what to invest in further.

Please note that some links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a qualifying purchase through one of those links (at no additional cost to you). 
Read the full disclosure.

Here’s the list:

For the newborn stage (two stores: Amazon & Green Mountain Diapers):

  1. A two-pack of Lil Joey newborn diapers
    These will let you experience all-in-one easy changes, which will be great for night feedings and when Grandma needs to do a diaper change.
  2. One Thirsties newborn natural AIO
    This will let you experience a natural hemp and cotton mix early on so you can see how different fabrics absorb differently.
  3. One package of Alva Baby newborn pocket diapers
    Every cloth diaper newbie wants to try out some pocket diapers. This package is inexpensive, but still a trused brand (as far as inexpensive pocket diapers go).
  4. A package of one dozen newborn Cloth-eez prefold diapers
    This bulks up your stash with some great natural cotton prefolds you can use as “boosters” later on. Green Mountain Diapers offers their buyers a free pack of pins with your purchase, add those to your cart!
  5. One package of Boingos
    These are not necessary, but they are a much easier alternative to diaper pins if you want to play with securing your prefold diapers around baby. Boingos are easier and going to work better at the newborn stage than Snappi’s the other alternative.
  6. One OsoCozy newborn diaper cover
    You’ll need to use diaper covers over your prefold cloth diapers, this is a nice, inexpensive but good one to try.
  7. One Thirsties newborn/premie diaper cover
    You will likely need more than one cover for your six prefold diapers, this will let you try out another solid brand of cloth diaper covers and make sure you get to use all of your prefolds.

Total Diapers: 21 diaper changes (enough for about a day and a half during the newborn stage – remember you’re changing often during this stage, but it will slow down).

Infant Stage,or approx. 3 months of age on (two stores: Amazon and Bungies):

Total Diapers: 14 diaper changes (including two overnight diapers – the EcoAble fitted and the GroVia O.N.E).

What if you choose the wrong diapers?

What to Do If You Choose the Wrong Diapers

Maybe you’ve already purchased your diapers before reading this and maybe bought up one kind of cloth diapers and discover you hate them and want another brand/style. Or maybe you tried a bunch and there are for sure one or two you hate. Well, all is not lost.

If absorbency (or lack thereof) is your issue, you can try adding new and better inserts to the diaper. I have information on choosing cloth diaper inserts here.

If the problem is bigger than that, you can try to sell them and buy new diapers with the funds from that sale. There is still a huge used market for cloth diapers and for diapers in almost new condition you can usually recover most of your money.

Check out my used diaper guide here for some resources on where to sell them (bottom of post).

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.