If I’ve said it once, I haven’t said it enough: cloth diapers can be super confusing when you’re just getting started. All-in-ones, pockets, covers, it’s a lot to work through. One topic that regularly comes up is pocket diapers vs diaper covers; the differences, which is needed, and so on.
So, what exactly is the difference between a pocket diaper and a diaper cover? The main difference between a pocket diaper shell and a diaper cover is simply a piece of lining that pocket diapers have sewn into them and diaper covers don’t. That’s it, although that piece of lining makes a big difference in how you use and care for them. Both need absorbent inserts to be put inside them, and both are water-resistant.
Let’s take a closer look at each:
Pocket diapers look exactly the same as diaper covers on the outside. They are colourful, made of PUL, have snaps and/or velcro, and elastics.
On the inside, pocket diapers have a sewn-in lining, that’s usually made from microfleece or microsuede (you can take a look at the difference between those here). That lining has one or two openings at the front and/or back of the diaper. This opening is a gap, where the lining is not sewn to the PUL layer of fabric that you see on the outside.
Pocket diapers are made this way so that absorbent inserts can be placed inside the pocket that’s created between the lining and the PUL layers. Placing inserts in that opening is called “stuffing” your pocket diaper. I’ve written about how to stuff a pocket diaper, with instructions and information on types of inserts. etc., you can check that out here.
Here’s what it looks like, with an insert half-stuffed into a pocket diaper:
If you were to remove that white lining, a pocket diaper would look pretty much the same as a diaper cover inside. It’s the only difference.
It follows then that diaper covers, again look just like pocket diapers on the outside, with the cute prints made from PUL, snaps and/or Velcro, and elastics.
But on the inside, you get nothing but the wrong side of the PUL fabric and the backside of the snaps (if it has snaps instead of velcro), though sometimes the PUL will be wrapped around and left long, to create some flaps, like this:
So, Why Does the Lining Matter?
So, apart from giving pocket diapers their name, what does the lining making up the pocket part of a pocket diaper shell do?
A few things:
- It provides a nice “stay dry” layer for baby, as the synthetic fabrics usually used to make the lining are wicking (they pull moisture away from baby) and easier to clean than most insert fabrics.
- It keeps your inserts in place.
- It gives the diaper’s elastics a nice soft layer against baby’s skin (if the elastics are wrapped in the lining fabric, which they aren’t all of the time).
- Once the inserts are stuffed inside the diaper, the diaper is essentially ready to go, and easy to use like an all-in-one. This makes it more friendly to grandparents, caregivers, and others who need things simplified at change time.
So, Are Pocket Diapers Better? Why Would You Choose a Diaper Cover?
Pocket diapers may have the benefits above but diaper covers also have their benefits, including:
- Diaper covers can be wiped clean on the inside if baby has only wet it (and hasn’t soiled it) and reused with another prefold/flat/fitted/insert. This means you can use just a few per day vs. needing a new diaper at every change because the lining must be laundered to be cleaned. This makes diaper covers more cost-effective even though they are usually a few more dollars per piece.
- Diaper covers can hold more inserts and more types of inserts in them because you don’t have to cram them into a pocket created for a couple of specific inserts.
Can You Use A Pocket Diaper as A Diaper Cover?
It’s usually after pointing out the benefits of diaper covers that I’m asked if pocket diapers can be repurposed into diaper covers. The answer is yes, you can use a pocket diaper as a diaper cover, but don’t expect to be able to reuse them like you can a diaper cover.
To explain, you can absolutely use a pocket diaper as a cover to eliminate the pain of “stuffing” (putting the inserts into the pocket on laundry day, or before putting it on baby). To do that, you just fold up a flat, prefold, or whatever and lay right in the shell or pin the diaper on your baby first before fastening the cover on top. You can use inserts in this way too, just remember that it’s not recommended to put microfiber directly on baby’s skin as it can cause irritation and rashes (read more about microfiber here).
Unfortunately, because the pocket diaper lining often wraps all the way around the diaper, and because most babies will wet enough that the insert will be soaked through, the lining will often become wet on at least part of it.
I’ve written a whole post about if you have to wash a pocket diaper after every use, which you can read here, but the gist is that if the lining gets wet, then the pocket shell can’t be re-used.
If by some miracle the lining stays completely dry, go ahead and try to reuse it with a new insert, but once it becomes wet, it MUST be changed to prevent moisture and bacteria problems.
Don’t worry, even though fleece is a “stay dry” fabric, you can tell when it’s wet by touch.
Can I Cut the Lining of My Pocket Diaper Out to Make it a Cover?
I mean, you can do whatever you want, they are your diapers, but there are a few things to consider before you get the scissors out:
- If the lining wraps around the elastic of your pocket diaper (instead of pul, or just plain elastic) it will likely still get wet there and therefore need to be changed more frequently than a diaper cover).
- Cutting the lining out of a pocket diaper may mean you forfeit any resale value of that diaper after you’re done with it.
So what’s the difference between diaper covers and pocket diapers? Just a piece of microfleece or microsuede that lines the inside of pocket diapers.
Which is better? Well, that’s up to you. While diaper covers come with more adjustability and the ability to reuse them, pocket diapers are slightly easier to handle at change time and have a stay-dry layer built-in. Both can be a part of any successful cloth diaper routine.